Therapy dogs

Grace Park, Staff Writer

On October 24, 2019, five adorable therapy dogs came to Oakton High School during all lunches. They were so gentle and students loved them. A lot of students went to meet them and had a good, relaxing time. However, the majority of students do not know what exactly therapy dogs are. Plus, some students had confusion about the difference between service dogs and therapy dogs. So, what are they?

Image by:

What is a therapy dog?

A therapy dog is a dog that is trained to provide affection, comfort and love to people in several situations. They go with their owners to volunteer in settings such as schools, hospitals, and nursing homes to help people with learning difficulties and stressful situations. Therapy dogs come from a variety of breeds; there is no perfect breed or mix of breeds that make the best therapy dogs. All the dogs that are healthy, calm, and enjoy being with people can be therapy dogs. A good therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and at ease in all situations. Most importantly, they have to enjoy spending time with humans. 


How can a dog become a therapy dog?

Normal household pets that are trained by the family require no formal therapy dog training, certification, registration, or documentation. Dogs must be well mannered and their owners should always have control of their dog. Some dogs get specialized training, but usually, the dogs are trained by their owners. As mentioned earlier, there is no specific way to become a therapy dog, but the most important quality in a therapy dog is its temperament.

Image by: Zachary Wong

What do they do?

 A therapy dog’s job is to be with unfamiliar people and make a  relationship between them. Children enjoy hugging animals; adults usually enjoy simply petting the dog. For example, in school, therapy dogs help students to relieve stress and learn social and emotional values. Interaction with therapy dogs has been shown to reduce blood pressure, provide physical stimulation, and assist with pain management. They can also be used at professional animal therapy. 


Therapy dogs vs service dogs

Like I said, many Oakton High School students who came to meet therapy dogs were confused about therapy dogs and service dogs. A service dog is an assistance dog that focuses on its owner to the exclusion of all else. Service dogs are trained to support people with disabilities such as hearing or visual difficulties to live their everyday life with safety. To do this, they absolutely need specialized training only for their handlers. Unlike service dogs, the main purpose of therapy dogs is to provide psychological or physiological comfort to people in all different situations. Therapy dogs are actually trained to interact with all kinds of people, not just their handler. In short, the biggest difference between them is mental and physical. Also, therapy dogs and their handlers can be rejected from businesses, restaurants and many other locations because they don’t have the same rights with service dogs.