Service dogs, therapy dogs, and working dogs, oh my!

Bethanie Gengler, News editor

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No longer are dogs just a pet used only for companionship. Nowadays, dogs perform all kinds of tasks. That includes drug sniffing, guiding the blind, search and rescue, item retrieval, bed bug searching and more.
Read on to learn about the different types of tasks these dogs perform as well as rules for approaching these dogs.

Service dog

A service dog has received specific training to help individuals with disabilities. These dogs are certified and protected through the Americans with Disabilities Act and are allowed entrance to places that companion dogs are not allowed.
Service dogs include guide dogs, psychiatric service dogs, hearing dogs, mobility assistance dogs, diabetic alert dogs, seizure detection dogs and more.
Because a service dog has a task to perform, it can be distracting to have a stranger approach and pet a service dog. While you may ask to pet a service dog, it is generally frowned upon and you must be respectful if the owner declines.

Therapy dog

A therapy dog visits people in certain settings such as at schools, nursing homes and hospitals.
Therapy dogs are used for companionship and have a much different skillset than service dogs. They have a psychological and physiological effect on the people they visit.
Generally, the owners of therapy dogs are volunteers who bring them to different places specifically to allow people to pet them. You should always ask for permission to pet a therapy dog, but it’s often encouraged.

Working dog

A working dog is a dog that has been specifically bred to perform a job that helps humans.
Examples of working dogs include police dogs, explosives detection dogs, search and rescue dogs, cancer detection dogs and bed-bug sniffing dogs.
If a working dog is wearing a vest, it indicates they are working and you are asked not to approach the dog as they have a job to perform. If a working dog is not wearing a vest, you can ask its handler if you may pet the dog as this varies depending on its temperament.

All dogs

You should always ask for permission to pet any dog. The best way to approach a dog is to first put your hand out for the dog to sniff. Pet the dog on the top of the head and down the back as these are the least sensitive areas. Just remember, some dogs have a job to do, and no matter how much you’d like to snuggle them, sometimes it’s better to let them perform their job.