Difference Between Emotional Support Animal and Therapy Dog (Benefits of Both)

By: | Updated: Dec-18, 2023
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Since the dawn of humanity, the companionship of dogs has been a regular occurrence across all corners of civilization. In a world that has seen most objects, jobs, and services going fully digital, the love and loyalty of our favorite fuzzy friend is still second to none. Even more surprising, dogs still serve invaluable purposes in several people’s lives.

Whether people need physical assistance, companionship, a well-trained guide, or even a dog that can detect when your blood sugar is low – there are dogs of every kind.

While most people are familiar with service dogs, there is a good bit of false information and mystery surrounding emotional support animals and therapy dogs. To give more insight into what each can offer a person, we will see how emotional service animals and therapy dogs compare.

Difference Between Emotional Support Animal and Therapy Dog

Emotional Support Animals vs Therapy Dogs

No one is a monolith, and almost everyone will have times when they are sick, mentally unwell, despondent, or even experiencing anxiety and panic attacks. Thankfully, the last century has made incredible strides when it comes to caring for people with mental health concerns and has resulted in several worthwhile treatments.

One of the more interesting and unique methods of treating emotional disturbances or mental conditions has been including a pet in the lives of those affected. While certain pets have been chosen to live with a person permanently, others specialize in working with a wide variety of people from different walks of life.

Benefits of Emotional Support Animals

An emotional support animal can be any domesticated pet so long as it is certified to be an emotional support animal. Emotional support animals are useful for people dealing with feelings of anxiety, isolation, and melancholy, as well as those with intense irrational fears or phobias.

Unlike service animals, there is no training that needs to be done for an emotional support dog. Conversely, they are not considered pets, and depending on the state a person lives in, they can be allowed permission that other pets cannot.

The benefit of an emotional support animal is that it is entirely dedicated to one person and not as temporary as a therapy dog. The downside is that due to its lack of training, it cannot provide as much help in public situations and may have behavioral issues with others unless it is independently trained.

Benefits of Therapy Dogs

Including therapy dogs and other animals in hospitals, prisons, and schools has been incredibly helpful to those in less-than-desirable circumstances. Therapy dogs are lovely; they help calm people in stressful situations and are nearly universal in their amiability. Humans can be judgmental, challenging, and hurtful, but a dog just wants you to pet them.

Therapy dogs can help people with social anxiety or who struggle to interact with others, offering companionship without the concern of being assessed, observed, and criticized. Studies have concluded that anxiety is measurably lessened when exposed to canines, which is why therapy dogs in high-stress environments are so profoundly beneficial.

The downside to therapy dogs is that they are a temporary aid. People must pursue other options (such as an emotional support dog) when the therapy dog or the individual leaves their environment. People who have grown attached to a therapy dog can have negative emotional responses when they have to part with their attentive, affectionate friend.

Similarly, they can also be an issue in large public spaces as it may be hard to remove pet dander and fur, which can irritate those with allergies.

Final Verdict on Emotional Support Animals Vs Therapy Dogs

The truth is that both serve an invaluable purpose and can be used to benefit people in ways that humans may fail to. A dog can get close to a person with emotional issues, trauma, or social anxiety in ways that most people never could.

Because of their usefulness and effortless charm, people must have access to dogs in institutions (hospitals, prisons, schools, etc.) and at home. For instance, someone leaving prison with therapy dogs could adopt a canine and get it certified to have an emotional support animal. The new companion allows for similar emotional support outside of incarceration.

To say one is better than another may miss the point, although therapy animals tend to come with more training. Both types of dogs (or animals) are an excellent aid to those of us who are in a tough spot and should be utilized by anyone who may need them.

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