Therapy Dogs and Service Dogs: What’s the Difference?

by Anjali Fortna

As a new volunteer with Roxy, I’ve been learning a lot about therapy dogs and the certification process.  One interesting thing that’s come up, which I think a lot of people may be interested to learn about, is the difference between service dogs and therapy dogs.  They aren’t the same; the simple difference is that service dogs are trained companions, whereas therapy dogs are usually pets who provide company and relief to people other than their owner.


Service dogs are the ones you see in grocery stores, on buses, and other places that are normally pet-free.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows service dogs to be in these places, as they play a key role in their owners’ health and functionality.  Service dogs may be seeing-eye dogs for the blind, alert their owners about oncoming seizures, help their owners cope with PTSD, or even alert diabetic owners about irregular blood sugar levels.  Service dogs are individually and specially trained to aid one specific owner and aren’t considered pets.  They are companions that help their owners live safer, more independent lives.


Therapy dogs, on the other hand, provide service to people other than their owners.  Therapy dogs are pets with naturally friendly, stable temperaments who participate in classes or tests to gain a therapy dog license, which basically states that they’re well behaved and safe to be in places like hospitals and schools. Therapy dogs aren’t covered under the ADA act but are allowed anywhere they are invited.  They aren’t task-trained for single owners like service dogs, but can provide therapy in a variety of ways to many different people.  Owners can get their dogs certified as therapy dogs in order to share the sweet, comforting personality of their pet with others.

Roxy dogs are therapy dogs. They belong to generous owners who want to share their time and furry companions with other people who will enjoy their company as much as their owner does. The wonderful thing about therapy dogs, especially Roxy dogs, is the same dog can provide services to many school students, hospital patients, and children in the court system.  The dog benefits from the appreciation and love of all the children it visits, and many different children can benefit from the companionship of one sweet dog.