Since we started training Boo Boo as a service dog, there have been some questions about the different types of support dogs. There are three types of support dogs. Do you know the difference between a service dog, a therapy dog, and an emotional support dog??
Here’s a quick visual chart and explanation for each type.
Chankla was a therapy dog; she drove me to therapy!! And Dark Chankla might do the same! Ha ha, ha. But seriously, Chankla was a legit therapy dog. She caused a non-verbal lady to talk, but she could not go in public places like restaurants. Boo Boo is classified as a Service Dog, and she can go anywhere.
While none of this is required, emotional support and therapy dogs should have a minimum amount of training to allow them to pass a Canine Good Citizen test. A service dog should be able to pass a Public Access Test. Most everything we do with Boo Boo is in pursuit of that Public Access Test.
Here are some sample tests along with AKC training links.
AKC Canine Good Citizen Test
The Canine Good Citizen is a 10 point test. Want to get your dog ready to go be a therapy dog at a hospital or senior center? Here’s what your pup needs to be able to do:
This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation.
This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to touch it while it is out with its handler.
This practical test demonstrates that the dog will welcome being groomed and examined and will permit someone, such as a veterinarian, groomer or friend of the owner, to do so.
This test demonstrates that the handler is in control of the dog. The dog may be on either side of the handler.
This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places.
This test demonstrates that the dog has training, will respond to the handler’s commands to sit and down and will remain in the place commanded by the handler (sit or down position, whichever the handler prefers).
This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs.
This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations.
This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain training and good manners.
Sample Public Access Test (PAT):
1. Training/Controlling Aids
Throughout the test, no treats, leash corrections, or training aids were used.
2. Leash Tension
Throughout the test, team had an appropriate level of looseness in the leash/harness.
The dog should not continuously/repeatedly strain at the leash (normally forms a “J”). Harness tension is okay if actively needed for disability mitigation (e.g., mobility or guide work). Retractable leashes are acceptable only when needed for disability-specific work. In either of these cases, the handler should alert the tester to the need and always maintain control without excessive pulling or wandering.
3. Inappropriate Service Dog Conduct
Throughout the test, dog did not display any inappropriate behaviors bulleted below.
• growling or inappropriate, excessive barking
• nipping or biting
• showing or baring teeth
• lunging at other people or dogs
• being out of handler’s control
• inappropriately eliminating (urinating or defecating)
4. Working Position
Throughout the test, dog was comfortable and confident in its working position.
Each team’s working position will be different to meet their unique requirements. When the person is seated in place, a small dog may work exclusively from the user’s lap. When moving, dogs that are normally held or carried also need to be able to pass the relevant challenges from the ground.
5. Vehicles and Public Transportation
Dog enters and exits any form of transportation in a safe manner.
Dog is able to ride in any form of transportation in a controlled manner.
6. Parking Lot Behavior
Dog transits parking lot safely.
7. Controlled Entry into a Building
Dog enters building in a controlled manner.
Dog does not bump into shelves or interact with merchandise.
Dog does not interact with other people unless instructed to do so.
Dog does not lick or closely sniff food or other items in store.*
Dog maintains a working position while the handler uses a shopping cart.
9. Working with Distractions
Dog is able to work despite distractions encountered in normal working environment.
10. Obedience Training
Dog holds a sit, down, or stand stay on cue for 30 seconds.
Dog comes on cue from a distance of 6 feet or greater.
Dog walks past and leaves a food item on the ground.
Dog is able to ignore, greet, or get out of the way of a stranger, whatever the dog has been trained or cued to do.
Dog does not exhibit any inappropriate behavior when touched by a stranger.
Dog focuses on the handler on cue.
Dog does not beg or attempt to eat or closely sniff any food on the floor or on tables.*
Dog is positioned to cause the least obstruction to the flow of business.
Dog is not on a table, chair, or bench, but is always either on the floor or in a lap if required for disability mitigation.
Handler does not feed or water their dog from the table.
Dog should be able to load into an elevator and or an escalator and travel both up and down with the dog remaining confident and unruffled in a sit, down, or standing position.
If the handler uses stairs, the dog should maintain a working position. The dog should not cause the handler or others to fall or stumble. Teams that do not navigate stairways should be able to navigate wheelchair access ramps in the same manner.
14. Working around Other Dogs
Dog should be able to maintain a working mode while in the presence of other dogs.
15. Use of Public Restrooms
Dog does not cause a disturbance in the restroom.
As you can see here, the training for a public access test is intense. Whatever kind of dog you have, please do not ever fake ANY level of support dog – it ruins it for the people who really need these dogs. People’s health and safety relies on their ability to take their service dogs with them anywhere. Please do NOT abuse the system by faking a service dog and taking your dog into places they don’t belong.
Want to know about working dog etiquette?
Do not touch, pet, or distract these animals while they are at work or you could cost someone their life.
Two questions you can ask a person with a service dog:
- Is this a service dog? | Yes or no.
- What is this dog trained to do? | You can not ask what the persons’s disability is. An appropriate answer is, “This dog is a medical alert dog.”
Does the disabled person need to present credentials for their service dog? | No.
Does the trainer/dog handler have the same ADA rights as the disabled person? | In Texas, yes.
Now that you have a high level understanding of what is takes to have a therapy or service dog, let’s celebrate working animals by respecting and honoring them and all they do.