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What is a Therapy Dog?

We’re really excited to launch our new Therapy Dog Class in February! Taking and passing this class is the first step for your pet to become a certified Therapy Dog.

Many folks have asked what being Therapy Dog means. It’s important to know the differences between a Service Dog, an Emotional Support Dog and a Therapy Dog to understand the roles each play. Here’s more info on what each of these designations mean so you and your canine know what becoming a Therapy Dog enables you to do.

Service Dog

(From the ADA) Service animals are dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities, both physical and psychiatric. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.

Examples of such work or tasks include:

  • guiding people who are blind
  • alerting people who are deaf
  • pulling a wheelchair
  • alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure
  • reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications
  • calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack

More about Service Dogs: http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

Emotional Support Dog

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a companion animal that a medical professional has determined provides benefit for an individual with a disability. This designation allows the animal to:

  • travel on airplanes with its owner
  • live in housing otherwise designated as “no animals allowed”

The ADA website notes that “…the ADA does not grant emotional support dog owners the same right of access to public places that it gives to individuals who use psychiatric service dogs. That means that under the ADA, a movie theater, for example, must allow psychiatric service dogs to accompany their owners into the movie auditorium but can refuse to admit individuals with emotional support dogs.” Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

More about Emotional Support Animals:


Therapy Dog

(From the AKC) Therapy dogs are pet dogs who go with their owners to volunteer. From working with a child who is learning to read to visiting a senior in assisted living, therapy dogs and their owners work together as a team to improve the lives of other people. A Therapy Dog usually visits facilities such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes for about an hour at a time.

Locally speaking, an example of how therapy dogs interact with the community takes place at Jefferson-Madison Regional Library branches. They offer children time to read with a therapy dog through the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA therapy dog program. (Check out this article to see how reading to a therapy dog can be beneficial for struggling kids!)

Pampered Pets partners with Love on a Leash (LOAL), an AKC-recognized organization that provides Therapy Dog certification. In the 8-week Therapy Dog class, you will gain skills to work in the field and during the last class take the LOAL Control Evaluation. After passing the evaluation, you and your dog will complete 10 therapy dog visits that are supervised by a certified LOAL member.

If your dog is at least one year old, has been under your care for at least 6 months, has passed a Basic Good Manners class (which does not necessarily have to have taken place at Pampered Pets) and is friendly and calm with people and other dogs, consider taking this class! (You may register online or call 293-7387.)

More about Therapy Dogs:


Blog post written by Pampered Pets Lead Trainer Valerie Balwanz, PMCT, CPDT
Have a topic you would like to see covered in the blog? Email [email protected]

By | 2018-01-25T10:58:52-04:00 January 18th, 2017|Events, Pampered Pets Cville, Training|0 Comments

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