Thursday, May 12, 2022

Pet Pointers: Therapy, Service, and Emotional Support Dogs

I had a chance to interview founder and co-owner of Paw & Order Dog Training, Elissa Weimer-Sentner, about the important differences between therapy dogs, emotional support dogs, and service dogs. 

These 3 types of service dogs are each respectable in their own right. It can help owners know which type might be the best fit for them. Elissa Weimer-Sentner is a Certified Therapy Dogs United Evaluator and is excited to discuss the differences.

Can you share a little bit about the differences between therapy, service, and emotional support dogs?There are 3 types of service dogs and it can help owners know which type might be the best fit for them and their families.

  • First, there are service dogs, which aid handler’s with disabilities. They help them attain safety and independence. These dogs should not be petted or distracted while on duty.  
  • Then there are therapy dogs, whose purpose is to provide psychological or physiological therapy to people other than their handlers. Interaction with the public is encouraged for therapy dogs. 
  • Lastly, there are emotional support dogs who support individuals suffering from a non-physical disability, or emotional disorder. They don’t perform specific commands, but rather provide handlers with a sense of safety, love, and comfort. 

Why is it important for dog owners to know the differences?

If someone is considering getting a service dog, it’s important to understand the utility of each dog and which might be the best fit for their needs. Otherwise, if someone is in public and encounters a service dog, it’s important to know which ones you can approach and which you should leave alone because they’re on duty. Additionally, service dogs and therapy dogs require specific training and certifications to perform their duties. So if someone wanted a service or therapy dog, they'd have to take into consideration the necessary steps to do so.

What are some things people may not know about how to behave around therapy, service, and emotional support dogs?

Therapy dogs are trained and certified to interact with and be approached by strangers so they’re not going to react. An on-duty service dog might not take too kindly to strangers petting them or approaching their humans. So if you think you’re around a service dog of any type, ask before you approach or pet. Emotional support dogs aren’t individually trained to provide any service to their owners, but that doesn’t mean they should be treated differently from the other service dogs. Always be respectful of the handlers and their wishes for their dog and the service they are providing. 

Paw & Order Dog Training was established in 2013 by military police veteran Elissa Weimer-Sentner and has developed it into an established top-tier dog training company with the help of her husband and co-owner, Steve Sentner. They offer programs that are tailored to each individual dog’s needs and focus areas. Paw & Order specializes in all levels of dog training, including puppy training, basic obedience, and intense behavior modification, including working with dogs that have been deemed impossible to train. Paw & Order currently has locations in Western Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh, Washington, Harmony/New Castle, Erie, Westmoreland); Central, Ohio (Columbus); Southwest, Florida (Fort Myers/Naples); Upstate South Carolina; and Houston, TX. 

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