For the purpose of Healing Pause, a therapy dog is a dog that we produce for the purpose of aiding a facility in their services to create elevated feelings of well being, comfort, confidence building, and thereby decrease undesirable behaviors and increase preferred emotional, physical, and mental goals for a patient.
Below are some general information about the topic of a therapy dog and how they relate to the topics of a service and emotional support dog.
A therapy dog is a dog that provides support, comfort, and hands on therapy in a variety of situations to many people. These places can range from college campuses, assisted living facilities, hospitals and more. The dog is required to be appropriate in the applicable situations including sound, surfaces, and interactions. They are not covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act and do not have public access rights. Typically these dogs and their handlers work with a local approved therapy group and undergo temperament and obedience testing as well as handler training.
Services dogs are dogs that provide services to one person, normally the person that is handling them. They are protected under the ADA and must be given public access and housing rights with their human counterpart. These are highly trained dogs that provide specific tasks solely for the human and must be steady in all situations. Service dogs are not to be approached by other humans or dogs when working.
Emotional Support Dog
An ESA is a dog that provides comfort and affection to their human in situations of anxiety, depression, and other such conditions. These dogs do not have to be specially trained nor perform specific tasks but are granted rights under the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) which allow for the ESA to accompany their human on flights and to be allowed in housing. A medical recommendation is required to gain these benefits with an ESA.
How Healing Pause Therapy Dogs Are Different
There is not a single overseeing certifying organization for therapy, service, or ESA dogs currently so it's a bit of the "Wild West" out there right now. Everyone has witnessed or heard about an outing where a dog is in a public access situation and completely untrained for that situation. These interactions cause a lot of issues within the working dog world and can cause a ripple effect of issues in for those that need dogs (in the case of ESA and Service) or have well trained and appropriately performing therapy dogs visiting facilities.
Healing Pause has developed our own certification process within the organization that applies to all dogs we utilize as facility therapy dogs. After intense temperament, physical, and health testing by our head trainer, approved dogs are then placed into training foundations and learn our therapy dog program tasks and skills.
When they graduate, they will have earned several American Kennel Club (AKC) titles to ascertain their obedience, ability to perform in public, therapy dog visitations, as well as other supporting titles as needed. This package of titles provides third party documentation (AKC) of these skills under a very strict testing guidelines and with evaluators and judges that have a longstanding history of evaluating for these titles.