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The Differences between Therapy Dogs and Service Dogs

Dogs can be trained to perform many actions to help handlers or other people to tackle some difficulties. There are at least two types of trained dogs which are purposefully drilled to serve certain functions depending on the intention of the handlers; the types include service dogs and therapy dogs.

They are similar in some aspects, but also different in many things. Some organizations provide training centers and professional trainers to prepare both types of dogs for the people who need them. Since each type serves different functions, the training methods are logically different, too.

Below you will find the overview of both types followed by the most basic differences between them.

Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs are trained to visit public facilities such as hospitals and schools or wherever dog assistance is necessary. They are prepared to assist or encourage people such as patients or children with learning disabilities. In other words, the dogs are not drilled to perform certain activities only for the handler.

In the broadest sense, the animals encourage people to deal with difficulties, diseases, stress, and other mental/psychological conditions.

It is believed that when patients pet dogs, the health conditions can be significantly improved. It also reduces patient’s anxiety before surgeons perform surgical operations.

Besides hospitals and schools, therapy dogs often visit nursing homes and pediatric facilities. They are usually calm and greatly obedience even when they encounter strange environment.

The animals are as well willingly to accept strangers to pet them. Sometimes, therapy dogs have to encounter unpleasant sight or odors in hospital environment; however, the handler is also well trained to keep the pets under control at such situation.

Service Dogs

Service dogs are trained only to help the handler to perform some activities. The animals often accompany veterans, wounded soldiers, elderly, or people with partial disabilities. In many cases, each dog is trained based on the necessities of the handler.

Service dogs should go anywhere the handler goes. In other words, the animals are allowed to access public facilities or commercial buildings such as restaurants, churches, libraries, transportation systems, and more.

6 Organizations That Provide Therapy Dogs for Veterans

A therapy dog with a US veteran.

Image from

Dogs are really man’s best friends. People have been greatly helped by dogs to tackle many different difficult tasks. Dogs can even assist veterans in a wide variety of ways to handle some difficulties in life. Therapy dogs for veterans are trained in various places by some organizations listed in the following passages.

1. Hero Dogs, Inc.

Hero Dogs, Inc. is a non-profit organization that trains and provides the services of therapy dogs for wounded veterans. Some war veterans, who have served in US Armed Forces, are wounded, injured, or even partially disabled. All dogs trained by this organization are prepared to assist those war heroes, so the veterans may live their everyday lives more easily.

Even better, Hero Dogs, Inc. provides the services free of charge. Once again, this is a non-profit organization that depends greatly on donations.

2. Canines for Combat Veterans

Canines for Combat Veterans organization is actually a relatively new arrangement founded in 2006. Since then, it has matched at least 35 dogs with veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The organization is a part of New England Assistance Dog Services or NEADS.

Any war veteran, who wishes to accept dog services from this organization, needs to fill out an application and schedule an interview. Besides preparing therapy dogs for veterans, it also provides dogs for adoptions.

3. The Dog Tags Program

This organization actually prepares dog services for two purposes including for veterans and for law enforcement’s explosive detection. The dog tags program also only train mainly two breeds which are golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers.

An Overview of Therapy Dogs International

Therapy Dogs International (TDI) is a non-government organization or volunteer group with the main purposes of training, regulating, testing, and registering therapy dogs. Eventually, after a series of registration processes, qualified therapy dogs are allowed to visit hospitals, nursing homes, schools, or any approved institution where therapy dogs are needed.

TDI's homepageTDI was founded in New Jersey in 1976; by 2011, approximately 24,000 dog/handler teams are registered with the organization. Now, TDI-registered therapy dogs are spread all across the country in 50 states and Canada. It is a non-profit organization and it does not receive any financial support of any type from the government; TDI depends only on annual membership dues and donations.

The Importance of Therapy Dogs

Some studies suggest that the visits of therapy dogs to health institution play major roles in helping or improving patients’ overall health conditions. Therapy dogs provide comfort and affections to patients; in other words, the dogs help to create friendly atmosphere around the patients. Dogs’ visits are proven to be helpful in decreasing patients’ heart rates, lowering blood pressures, and promoting relief of stress/depression.

History of Therapy Dog

As the saying goes, a dog is a man’s best friend. This has led to the belief that dogs can provide company, affection and support to people who are going through a difficult time or who feel lonely. As a result, therapy dogs started to be provided to people living in retirement homes, nursing homes and even in hospitals. They are also in some schools and educational centers so as to assist children who have learning difficulties.

The effect that therapy dogs can have on such people is substantial. They can help people to relax and help in a therapeutic manner. This will then lead people to concentrate more, or to feel less stressed out. A therapy dog will help both emotionally and physically.



It is interesting to note that the first type of therapy dog goes back to the time of World War II. Corporal William Wynne had found an abandoned female Yorkshire Terrier. He named her Smoky, and started to take care of her. In time, Smoky started to take care of him too in her own way. In fact she used to accompany Wynne on combat missions where she helped to lift his morale as well as provide some comfort during such a difficult time.