Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

What’s the Difference Between a Service Dog v. Therapy Dog


It seems these days there is a lot of confusion about the difference between a Service Dog and a Therapy Dog. Hopefully, we’ll be able to clear up the confusion for you.

A Service Dog is a dog who has been selected for the health, temperament and ability to do specific trained tasks to assist a person with a disability. This is done to facilitate the disabled person with his/her activities of daily living for the sake of their safety and their independence. It takes many, many hours of specialized training for a Service Dog to accomplish this training and be secure in these tasks. After all, he/she will be responsible for the safety of their handler. This is a job that the professional Service Dog takes very seriously.

Disabled handlers are granted access with their Service Dogs to restaurants, theaters, stores, cabs, trains, airplanes and other places the handler may frequent. The dogs are permitted in places marked *No Pets Allowed*, including housing, because they are not pets. They are, in fact, an extension of the disabled handler; adaptive medical equipment, if you will.

Service Dogs may wear harnesses, vests or bandanas and are usually clearly marked with ID patches.

Therapy Dogs, on the other hand, are pet dogs that have been trained to meet a set standard of behavior which allows them to enter hospitals, hospices, schools, and nursing homes to bring the joy and comfort that only a warm, loving dog can bring. Therapy Dogs do a wonderful work helping people in stressful situations, and encouraging those who need a little extra comfort. They have been instrumental in helping children learn to read, in helping people with rehabilitation therapy, in helping our veterans as they return home from war and in easing the pain of a long hospitalization. Therapy Dogs have a calm and secure nature that fosters trust and comfort and brings joy to many people.

A Therapy Dog may wear a vest when it is working, but it is still considered a pet dog, and as such, is not granted the same access as a Service Dog.

By Shirley Minatelli, Service Dog Handler


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