Service Dogs vs. Companion Dogs: What’s the Difference?Pilar Clark
Anyone who has a cold-nosed companion will agree. Their joy is boundless, their devotion absolute, and their free smells easy to ignore when compared to the slobbery happy wrapped in furry awesome they bring to anyone who wants some.
And I so want some for William. Because he’s kind of alone in the world.
Sure he has us and his sister, but he doesn’t have a best friend. Or just a regular friend. Someone who truly gets him. Someone who won’t ever judge him based on his challenges and delays. And it gives me the big sad.
So yes, dog research is happening. And it’s overwhelming. Mainly because it’s hard to decide between Autism service dogs (yep, this is a thing), therapy dogs, or down-on-their-luck rescues waiting to be taken home and turned into playful companions, considering all three are capable of giving any child the companionship they crave.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, service dogs are considered working dogs, not pets, which means each dog must be trained to perform specific tasks for their human. Service dogs have public access to any place their person goes that is open to the general public.
Autism service dogs are trained to serve children on the spectrum, and not only provide a physical and emotional anchor for bolters and shouters, but can also sense outbursts before they even happen, allowing for easier transitions at school. They’re also a built-in conversation starter, which is a big positive for children working on social skills and language development.
However, waiting lists are years long, the placement process is exhaustive, and the fees are crazy steep. And, since they’re still new to the world of accepted therapy animals, Autism service dogs are not yet allowed to accompany their owners to all the same places established service dogs for the blind, deaf or wheelchair-bound are.
A therapy dog is a pet that’s been trained to provide affection and comfort to their people, making it a quasi-service dog. These are the dogs you see visiting hospitals and nursing homes to interact with the children and adults staying there. They’re not mentioned in the ADA and don’t have public access without an invitation.
A companion dog is exactly what it sounds like. A furry member of the family meant to be a loyal friend and playmate.
So is one of those dogs better than the others? Maybe. Are all equally capable of providing love and a sense of security to a child? Undoubtedly.
So how do you choose?
Photo source: morguefile
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