Think your pup has a calm and caring demeanor? Would he or she bring joy to someone that needs support or a friendly snuggle? You may have considered sharing your pup’s abundance of love and affection with those in need by certifying her to be a service animal. Certifying your dog to become a therapy or service animal isn’t as simple as basic obedience, but with encouragement and motivation, your pup could soon be visiting hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other facilities where animal therapy is needed. Here are some things you need to know!

Therapy or Service?

There is a big difference between a therapy certified animal and a service animal, so make sure you sign up your pup for the correct courses.

Service animals are extensively trained to perform tasks for people who have disabilities, for example, seeing eye dogs.These animals are trained to work with their person as a team to ensure their safety and provide them with a sense of independence. These types of animals are usually bred to be trained into the service animal industry, so unless you got your dog from and are working with an organization to train service animals, you may want to consider the therapy route for your pup. Another important thing to know about service animals is that they take their jobs very seriously and have a “no petting policy”. The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) works to protect the rights of people with disabilities and their service dogs, especially in public settings.

Therapy animals, on the other hand, go through a lengthy training, but instead of providing a service to their person, they provide social and emotional therapy to people who may not be their owner. These animals have friendly personalities and a laid-back demeanor, which makes them get along well with people and animals of all ages.One of the perks of being a therapy dog, is that they can get all the pets in the world-the “no petting policy” definitely doesnt apply here! These animals can be used in schools or libraries to help children read, rehabilitation centers , nursing homes, and hospitals for people who need help with physical therapy, and sometimes just people who feel like they have no one and simply petting an animal brings them pure happiness. 

Certification

Ok so now that we know the difference between the two types of animals, let’s see what kind of training is required to get the necessary certification. 

Therapy Certification

Typically, organizations require that your dog is at least a year old and all breeds, sizes, and ages are welcome. A good place to start is with the Canine Good Citizens (CGC) tests and is required by many therapy organizations, in addition to other therapy training courses. A quick Google search will help you to find professional trainers in your area that are certified in providing the necessary therapy courses for your pup.  These courses usually require you taking your dog to various locations and working on commands, training, and getting comfortable with different types of machinery or noises. Once your pup has passed his training, you need to register with a national dog therapy organization in order to start visits.

Service Certification

Just like therapy dogs, service dogs can be any breed. Thanks to the ADA, these breeds cannot be discriminated against by any business or establishment. If you are training your dog for your own disability, trainers are a great help for teaching your dog the necessary skills for being a service animal, but trainers are not required. If an owner feels comfortable in their training abilities, they can easily train their dog for the specific service they are working toward. If you are working with a specific organization, like The Seeing Eye, may have a class schedule in which you need to attend to provide your dog with the necessary training required for their certification. After training, your dog will need to pass a Public Access Test, which basically proves that your dog knows how to behave in public, doesn’t react in an aggressive way, and is tolerant to sights, sounds, and smells. This means no getting distracted and begging for food from passers-by on the sidewalk! It should be known that in the United States, its not required to registered your service dog, have identification, or wear a vest. However, it may help to alleviate any confrontational situations  with businesses, public settings, or transportation services. 

If you think your dog has what it takes to become a therapy or service animal, do your research and reach out to facilities and trainers for more information. Be aware that some websites may claim that your dont wont require any training, this is not true and may be a scam. For more information regarding these two types of certifications, please visit Service Dog Certifications and The American Kennel Club Therapy Program.