Hi there! I’m Laurie Swanson, a new peer advocate with Summit. As a native of Missoula, I enjoy what the area has to offer, especially the arts, markets and the outdoors. You will likely see me with my service dog, Kosha, a pretty little Australian Shepherd cross. Kosha and I have been a team for nearly four-and-a-half years. This brings me to the topic of my article: what is the difference between a therapy dog, a service dog, and a companion dog?
Therapy dogs are trained specifically to visit nursing facilities, care homes, group homes, hospitals, schools, and individual homes to provide socialization, therapeutic visits and comfort to those they visit. Therapy dogs are not allowed in public places such as restaurants, grocery stores and so on, and are not covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Service dogs, also called guide dogs or assistance dogs, undergo more training and are trained to assist with a task or tasks with which a disabled person needs help. Service dogs are trained to do tasks including: mobility assistance, psychiatric assistance, balance assistance, and picking up and retrieving objects. These dogs are protected under the ADA and are allowed in public places. Businesses cannot discriminate against someone on the basis of needing a service dog.
Companion dogs are not trained to perform specific tasks but provide emotional support to their owner. With a doctor’s prescription, or on recommendation from a therapist, companion dogs are allowed in housing units even when there is a “no pets allowed” policy, but are not protected under the ADA.
So, the difference between the three categories–therapy dog, service dog and companion dog–boils down to: purpose/job, and degree and style of training.
Thanks to Leanne Beers for her input on this article!
Hope this helps with any questions there may be out there. And it’s great to be a part of the Summit family!