It’s no secret that our four-legged friends quickly become a part of the family and offer unconditional love to their owners. Dogs are also a great help to those with disabilities and to provide comfort for people in need.
With proper training, a canine can assist in facilities like schools, nursing homes, hospitals and even in-home care.
If you’re unfamiliar with the difference between a service and therapy dog, the Americans With Disabilities Act states, “service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” This can include blindness, deafness and even aiding some people through a seizure.
While therapy dogs aren’t supported under the ADA, their ability to provide psychological benefits to people during times of stress can be beneficial. Here is a more in-depth look at the responsibilities and benefits of both therapy and service dogs.
According to the American Kennel Club, therapy dogs are trained to volunteer in places like schools or nursing homes. Their mission is to improve the mood and invite their serene presence to a sometimes-stressful environment. The Mayo Clinic recommends people facing these situations to ask their health care provider about a therapy dog program. Therapy dogs can help:
• Those with dementia and cardiovascular disease.
• People receiving cancer treatment.
• Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
• Those in long-term care facilities.
If you or a loved one could benefit from a therapy dog, but programs are lacking in your area, contact officials about your desire to begin one. With community involvement and fundraising, it’s possible to bring this helpful service to your neighborhood.
While therapy canines are proficient in providing mental serenity, service dogs are highly trained companions who serve those with physically debilitating conditions. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, these specialized pups excel at:
• Assisting with navigation for those with low vision or blindness.
• Providing non-violent protection or rescue work.
• Alerting individuals to the presence of allergens.
• Providing physical support to those with balance or mobility disabilities.
Since service dogs are allowed in nearly every facility to assist their handlers, it’s important to treat them with respect and avoid distracting them from their mission. You can typically recognize a working canine by a specialized harness or vest.
Attempting to pet or call attention to a service dog may cause them to see you as a threat to their handler. Remember, they are highly trained canines with one thing in mind — protecting their person.