Are you wondering what the difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal is? Dog owners often get quite confused about the line between the two. But I’ll help resolve any confusion by discussing both at length. So let’s not waste any more time and start by reviewing everything you need to know.
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Everything You Need to Know About Service Dogs
The purpose of service dogs is to help people with disabilities be more independent. It’s vital to note before we continue that a service animal doesn’t always need to be a dog. You’ll also come across the occasional miniature service horses who help improve their owners’ lives! That said, the vast majority are dogs, so that’s what we’ll discuss here.
But how does a service dog differ from any regular pet? Service dogs are provided certain rights covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA states that a service dog is ” trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.”
Service Dog Requirements
Since you know what a service dog is, let’s now discuss how a dog becomes one. The first rule for a service dog is that they’re able to do one or more jobs for their handlers. In other words, they assist their owners in doing everyday tasks. Here are a few common examples:
- Reminding people with mental illness to take their medications
- Calming their handler who suffers from PTSD during an anxiety attack
- Helping a blind person walk through traffic or around people
- Retrieving essential items around the house
- Alerting nearby people to seizure or diabetes attacks
- Opening and closing doors
Service animals won’t only provide these actions but it offers a general outline. It’ll often vary based on their handler’s specific needs. But you can expect a service dog to be a necessity to help a person get through their daily lives.
As for the standard breeds, most service dogs are Labradors or Golden Retrievers. But ADA doesn’t have any rules against training any breed for these purposes. So there isn’t any reason why a Cocker Spaniel or Poodle couldn’t get the job done with proper training.
The video below is a great resource if you’re curious to learn more about how a puppy becomes a service dog:
Service Dog Training
Most people assume intensive training is always mandatory for service dogs, but that’s not the case. Some dogs can meet their handler’s needs without rigorous training. However, these circumstances are rare.
In most cases, you should expect service dogs to attend years of training. It’s necessary to meet the requirements of their handler’s condition. But the training will vary based on what type of service dog is needed. The most common types of service dogs include:
- Seeing Eye Dogs
- Mobility Assistance Dogs
- Hearing or Signal Dogs
- Autism Support Dogs
- Seizure Response or Alert Dogs
- Psychiatric Service Dogs
- Allergy Detection Dogs
To learn more about service dogs, check out “4 Important Things You May Not Know About Service Dogs.” It’ll offer some interesting tidbits about these amazing puppers.
Service dogs also have to pass certain tests once they complete their training. Check out the video below for an overview of the “public access test.”
Everything You Need to Know About Emotional Support Animals
Emotional support animals have become a trend over the last few years. It has led many people to wonder what this term means. Don’t we all consider our dogs to be emotional support animals? I certainly do.
However, there’s a specific definition of what animals fit the criteria. The USA Service Dog Registration defines it as any animal that provides therapeutic and emotional “benefit to those suffering with emotional issues, anxiety or psychiatric problems.”
So what does this vague definition mean? Well, ESAs provide owners with relief against conditions like depression, anxiety, or loneliness. They represent a means of getting through the challenging parts of our lives.
Emotional Support Animal Requirements
Of course, you can’t simply call your dog an emotional support animal; he has to become one. He must meet specific regulations before he is legally considered an ESA.
First, a therapist/psychiatrist must state that they’re needed for your mental health.
In other words, a mental health professional must determine that a dog’s presence is vital. One example of an ESA being necessary is helping a person with crippling anxiety.
Some people may assume an emotional support dog must be of a certain age or breed. But this belief is untrue. So if you want to make a chihuahua an ESA, there isn’t any legal statute stopping it with the required paperwork.
Anyone who wants to know the best breeds for ESA work should look at “The Best Dog Breeds for Emotional Support.” It’ll take you through some great options to see whether your dog’s ready for this work.
I also have to note that ESAs don’t get all the benefits offered to a service dog. For instance, owners can’t bring them to all the public areas. Airplanes are a notable area where your ESA may not be allowed.
Please check the airline’s regulations if you want to bring them on board a place. It’s a nightmare to arrive at the airport and realize your dog has to ride with luggage. So take time to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations before arriving.
Emotional Support Animal Training
One of the more common questions about ESAs is whether they require special training? The simple answer is no, as emotional support animals don’t need any formal training. There’s no prerequisite to being an ESA besides a mental health professional’s approval.
Many ESAs aren’t even what I’d considered well-behaved. But I’d recommend that anyone who needs an ESD to consider professional training. It’ll help them deal with situations that many other pups won’t have to experience.
Check out the video below for some tips on training your dog to become an emotional support animal:
The difference between a service dog and an ESA is if they’re trained to do tasks related to their handler’s disability. So, for instance, a dog trained to guide a blind person would be a service animal rather than an ESA.
But it’s essential to clarify what counts as a trained behavior. Cuddling or jumping onto you on cue is an excellent example of a behavior that doesn’t count. These comforting traits don’t qualify as a task related to service dog duties.
Instead, the task needs to be specific to the handler’s disability. It can’t be a natural or intuitive action that your dog would end up doing without any training. Otherwise, it’s just a pup noticing its owner in an unstable mood.
I hope these discussions answered all your questions about the difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal. But if you have any more, don’t hesitate to let us know in our comment section. I’d love to continue these conversations down below. Thanks for reading!
Do you have an emotional support animal? How about a service dog? Share your thoughts and experiences below!