hour 2: guest Joy on Service dogs

by Jen on November 13, 2010

We all know that dogs are wonderful companions and that one’s quality of life is greatly increased when one has a furry friend in their life, however the distinction between a therapy dog and a service dog is important.

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Generally speaking, both types of dogs have similar outcomes: to increase quality of life, increase independence, and ultimately enable a person to participate more in their daily activities.

So what exactly is the difference between a service dog and a therapy dog??

Service dogs are specifically trained to assist in meeting the needs of a person with a disability who may have limitations related to mobility and/or mental health. Service dogs are legally defined by the Americans with disabilities act of 1990 and are protected by federal laws that enable them to accompany their owners into public places where dogs-as-pets are not allowed. I’ve seen service dogs do amazing things like open doors,

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dial 911, pick up small pills off the ground with their teeth, and turn lights on and off. These dogs have a very important job, no doubt.

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They can even do things like warn about impending seizures or detect when a person with type 1 diabetes has a severely low blood sugar level by smelling their breath, and then indicating that the person needs to drink juice or eat.

Service dogs are sometimes known as guide dogs, skilled companions, and hearing dogs. With organizations like 4 Paws for Ability and Canine Companions for Independence, people with disabilities have more access to participating in their own communities.

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One thing to remember is that these dogs have a job and that they aren’t necessarily “pets.” So talk to the owner first (make eye contact with the owner, not the dog-I know, hard to do!) and ask them if it’s ok to greet the dog before assuming that you may do so. If it is ok, then the owner can “release” the dog from their work before you pet them. If it’s not ok, simply talk to the owner (mention what a beautiful day it is!) or just walk away. In either case, all parties will be enlightened and the service dog and owner will appreciate your mindful actions. You will be able to recognize a service dog by a vest or a badge that indicates that it is indeed a service dog. 

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A therapy dog is exactly what it sounds like. A dog that provides a therapeutic experience to those who interact with it. Geez, given that definition all dogs could be therapy dogs, right?! Nope. Therapy dogs must go through a vet check, discipline/obedience course and evaluation, and be affiliated with a group that organizes visits to hospitals, clinics, and facilities. In fact, most domesticated pets can become a therapy animal, and organizations like Furry Friends Pet Assisted Therapy Services assist with this process.

I have seen therapy dogs work in multiple ways. some examples include: having the client brush the dog to increase their strength and range of motion in their arms; having the client direct the dog to do certain tricks, thus having the client work on giving commands and praise when executed well; and lastly having the client walk the dog a few feet initially and gradually increase the distance over time, thus working on strength and endurance. Here are some pictures of therapy dogs in action!

this post from Joy, of Joy Biscuits, appeared in its original form in her biscuit blog. Keep donating for a chance to win some of these delicious biscuits for your beast!!