The Difference Between a Service Dog, a Therapy Dog, and an Emotional Support Dog

The Difference Between a Service Dog, a Therapy Dog, and an Emotional Support Dog

Dogs have the power to be a great source of comfort for those struggling with mental disorders. They feel soft and warm when you put their fur and always have a big smile on their face. To know whether or not an emotional support dog, a service dog, or a therapy dog is the right choice for your mental health, it is important to know the differences between the three.

Defining an Emotional Support Dog

Emotional support dogs provide mental health benefits for individuals. They can be useful for those with post traumatic stress disorder, people with anxiety, inmates with emotional problems, etc. Any breed of dog can be an emotional support dog. People with a mental health disorder can benefit well from an emotional support dog in that it can be hard to speak to a doctor or any human about your problems in fear of judgment or hearing something you are not ready to hear. Sometimes, all you are looking for is a companion who is willing to listen to you and will provide unconditional love to them. Emotional support dogs can qualify for no-pet housing as well as can fly on an airplane with someone with an emotional or psychological disability, but do not have access to all public areas.

Characteristics of Emotional Support Dogs

An emotional support dog is supposed to always be there for you and responds to your emotions and your commands. While ideally an emotional support dog should be calm and laid back, a hyperactive dog can also be an emotional support dog but will need more training to be obedient to their owner. Find a dog that is about one year old so that this dog can grow up with you and better build a relationship. It is best to find breeds that are good with people such as golden retrievers, poodles, golden doodles, labrador retrievers, etc.

The Legalities of Emotional Support Dogs

Emotional support dogs are not considered service dogs by the Americans with Disabilities Act since they have not been trained to do a specific job. Emotional support dogs do not require registration or certifications. To get an emotional support dog, speak to your therapist about the qualities you should be looking for in a dog and to get an emotional support animal letter from a therapist which will come in handy for a landlord or an airline. If you do not have time to obtain a letter from a mental health professional, you can get a letter online from Certapet or Emotional Pet Support. Be prepared for online sources will ask you to fill out a mental health pre-screening questionnaire to see if you qualify for an emotional support dog.

Defining a Service Dog

A service dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for those with a disability. The tasks need to be related to that person’s disability whether it is physical, psychological, sensory, intellectual, etc. People with mental health issues have service dogs to remind them when to take their medicine, let them know when a panic attack comes, or stop them from self-harming. Training can take at least a year involving basic commands and public access commands like ignoring people, other pets, and food. The focus for them should be their owner in case something medically wrong occurs. Service dogs can do things like pull a wheelchair, prevent a seizure, or calm a person done if they have post traumatic stress disorder.

The Legalities of Service Dogs

Service dogs need to be allowed in businesses. It is illegal for someone to ask you about your disability, but can ask if your pet is with you because of a disability or what tasks your dog does for you. You are not allowed to pretend to be disabled to gain access to an area. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not require registration for service dogs. Another thing that you should not do is pet a service dog when they are working. If you feel like a service dog is the right choice for you, speak to your doctor or therapist to see whether or not a service dog will benefit you.

Defining a Therapy Dog

A therapy dog is used in a facility to give comfort and affection to someone with a mental disability. Unlike a service dog, therapy dogs do not need to be trained to perform specific tasks. It is important for a therapy dog to be calm, affectionate, and friendly to strangers. They need to be obedient, well-groomed, and have check-ups.

Training a Therapy Dog

You can train your therapy dog by socializing him or her to new people, places and things. Your dog also completes obedience training being able to follow important commands such as not to jump on others, to look, or leave something alone. Then, you enroll your dog in a therapy dog class and register your dog with a national therapy dog organization. In order to earn a title through the American Kennel Club, you need to have a certain number of visits depending on the title you are acquiring. For example, for the AKC Therapy Dog Distinguished title, you need 400 visits from a therapy dog organization recognized by the AKC. These dogs can help you make a positive impact towards your mental health and will always stand by your side as long as they are there.

Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will be ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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Things Contributing To Negative Self-Thinking

Negative self-thinking is exactly as it sounds: the negative thoughts one thinks about themselves. Do you have negative self-thinking? Most people have at least one thing they hold high above their own heads, something that just isn’t...right. Whether a physical imperfection, emotional imperfection, or a work-oriented imperfection- one might think more highly of themselves, if only that one thing would change.

“Ego says: once everything falls into place, I will find peace. Spirit says: find peace and everything will fall into place.” The drive for some kind of perfection is a matter of acceptance. We often feel that we cannot be accepted and loved by others unless we achieve this expectation of perfection. It is true that there are thousands of messages being sold by the media each day to convince us of just how imperfect and unloveable we are. To absorb and consume those messages and make them into our own thoughts is a matter of ego. Our ego believes in perfection because our ego likes to think it might be achievable. Spirit, on the other hand, the spiritual soul by which we learn to live in recovery, does not need perfection. Spirit lives in acceptance, transcending the ideas of perfect or imperfect. While the ego is in constant struggle, the spirit is content with simply being.

Negative thinking is the result of beliefs and habits that form over time due to certain blockages we set up. The more we feed the ego, the more we block the spirit. One way we do that is by punishing who we are. The freckles on our face, the way we snort when we laugh, or our difficulty in certain school subjects makes us unique. Assuming and deciding that there is something defective with us is damaging to the spirit which sees everything with an unconditional love. Another way we block the spirit with ego is by refusing to forgive ourselves. Forgiveness means, by one definition, giving up all hope of a better past. Through addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders, and other harmful habits or ways of thinking, we punish ourselves for our faults. Somehow we think hurting ourselves in this way in the present will help change the way we’ve been our whole lives- the way we were meant to be. Forgiving means taking a weight off our own shoulders, being able to breathe, love, and accept who we are. Until we can forgive ourselves, we continue to have negative self thinking because, if for no other reason, we do not think we are worth being forgiven or worth living without punishment.


Recovery is a beautiful process of healing for mind, body, ego, and spirit. Enlightened Solutions uses the philosophy behind holistic and spiritual practice in conjunction with 12 step philosophy and evidence based practices to create a wholesome approach to treatment. Serving dual diagnosis needs of substance use disorders and mental health disorders, we welcome anyone to call for help. 833-801-5483