Assistance dogs and Therapy dogs are two forms of highly trained dogs that work to improve the lives of people. Although both types of these working dogs have an amazing impact on the lives of their humans their roles are very different.
The term assistance dogs, is used to describe a variety of working dogs that assist their handlers with everyday activities, while also enhancing their quality of life and providing the means necessary for a sense of independence and freedom. There are three main subtypes of assistance dogs. The most wellknown and original role of the assistance dog is the guide dog. This type of assistance dog has been formally trained by organizations and placed with individuals for over 70 years. Guide dogs are trained to help their blind or visually impaired handlers navigate the world around them. The second form of assistance dogs are hearing dogs. These dogs are able to alert their deaf or hard of hearing owners to dangers, alarms, important noises, and perform many other vital tasks. The third form of the assistance dog is known as a service dog. Service dogs are specifically trained for individuals with a variety of other physical or mental disabilities. Service dogs can range from mobility dogs that assist individuals in wheelchairs, to autism service dogs and dogs that help those suffering from PTSD. Assistance dogs are guaranteed legal access to all public places that their owners go.
Therapy dogs have been providing comfort, support, and love to patients in hospitals, nursing home residents, school children, and many other people in need, for over one hundred years. Today the use of therapy dogs is also known as Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) and Animal Assisted Activities (AAA). AAT is a “goal directed intervention” where animals are used to assist in a specific treatment program of a patient. These animals are highly trained and work with professionals within their profession, such as in conjunction with therapists or doctors. In contrast, animals involved in AAA programs are pets of volunteers that visit with patients. These animals must also be highly trained to act appropriately and behave in these working conditions. Unlike AAT animals, they do not take part in a specific treatment program. All therapy animals however provide support, comfort, social experiences, and love. These therapy dogs are able to visit different facilities that allow scheduled visits. Unlike Assistance dogs, they are not guaranteed legal access to all public places and their visits must be approved.