Can Your Dog Become a Therapy Dog?

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another episode of Dog Sense! 

Today, Sarah and I (plus our superguest, Stacey Samela), will be discussing a subject near and dear to our hearts: Therapy dogs!

Therapy dogs are amazing! And if you've been thinking about training your best friend to become one, then you're in the right place. 

You might be asking yourself questions like, "Can my dog become a therapy dog?", "How can I train him to become one?", or even "Is my dog right for this?"

After all, you can't just take your dog on a visit to a school or a nursing home and call it a day. 

Therapy dogs need specific training that takes time and a lot of patience. 

So, if you'd like to do some good with your canine best friend, but don't know where to start, tune in now! 

Ready? Let's dive in!

Therapy Dog vs. Service Dog vs. Emotional Support Dog

Before we start discussing how (and if) your dog can be a therapy dog, let’s make a little distinction between therapy dogs, service dogs, and emotional support dogs.

What’s a Service Dog?

A service dog is a dog that is specifically task-trained to help mitigate a person's disability. That means that, primarily, the service dog is working for you, helping you keep your blood sugar balanced if you have diabetes, or helping you navigate the street if you’re sight impaired, etc…

Ok, So What’s an Emotional Support Dog (ESA)?

An emotional support dog doesn’t necessarily need to have any specific training. He’s simply there to provide comfort and be with you. In the past, people needed a doctor’s note to be able to take their ESA on a plane (but recently, rules have changed, and many airlines no longer permit ESAs), or have him live with you in a building that has a pet-free policy.

Then What Exactly is a Therapy Dog?

Therapy dog work has evolved a lot over the years. At first, it was just about visiting hospitals or nursing homes, but now, the field has become much more specialized, with, for example, dogs  being trained to do specialized interactions, such as educational support, hospice visits, or grief support. Therapy dogs need specific training and certifications to be able to do this work, and that’s exactly what we discuss today!

We dive into all this (and more!) in more depth in the episode above, so make sure to watch it to learn more!