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What’s the Difference Between an Emotional Support Dog and a Service Dog?

The main thing that emotional support dogs and service dogs have in common is they enable people with certain health issues to live more complete and fulfilling lives.

But there are some key differences between emotional support dogs and service dogs. Let’s find out more.


What is an emotional support dog?

An emotional support dog is a type of emotional support animal. ESAs can be any type of animal, including cats and rabbits, but dogs are the most common type of ESA.

Emotional support dogs help people who have emotional or mental disabilities. Common disabilities that can be helped with the aid of an emotional support dog include anxiety disorders, depression, panic disorder, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, and seasonal affective disorder, to name just a few.

The key difference between emotional support dogs and service dogs is the former are not trained to perform certain tasks.

ESDs simply provide their owners assistance through qualities like companionship, comfort, and unconditional love.

For instance, someone who suffers from social anxiety will find it easier to go to new places and meet new people when they have an emotional support dog as a companion, and people with depression will find it easier to get out of bed when they are responsible for looking after a pet that needs feeding and walking.

Also known as assistance animals and companion dogs, emotional support dogs are prescribed by licensed mental health professionals or physicians.

If you suffer from a mental or emotional disability, you can be given an emotional support animal letter by your doctor that qualifies you to own a certified ESA dog.

Your existing dog can then become an emotional support dog or you can get a new dog to be your ESA.

When you have a certified emotional support dog, you are entitled by law to stay in accommodation with your dog that would ordinarily not be available for owners with dogs. You may be able to travel with ESDs with some travel providers, too.

What is a service dog?

Service dogs help people with physical disabilities to lead more independent lives.

They are trained to perform certain tasks as required. The tasks that the dogs are able to perform are related to the owner’s specific disability.

For example, guide dogs help people who are blind or have visual impairments to navigate environments, and hearing dogs assist people who are deaf or have hearing impairments by identifying important sounds, such as doorbells and road crossing bleeps.

Service dogs are not limited to helping people with visual and hearing disabilities, though. Service dogs can also be mobility dogs that assist people who have balance issues and use wheelchairs or walking devices and medical alert dogs can alert their owners about things like the presence of allergens or low blood sugar levels.

A psychiatric service dog is another type of service dog. Although psychiatric service dogs can help people with emotional or mental disabilities like PTSD and obsessive-compulsive disorder, they differ from emotional support dogs because they perform specific tasks to make life easier, rather than simply providing comfort and companionship.

For example, a psychiatric service dog could remind its owner to take medication or enter a dark room and turn on the light.

Summing Up

Dogs are loyal, loving, and intelligent. So, they make the ideal emotional support animals and service animals.

Whether you have a mental health condition or a physical disability, you could qualify for a dog to help make many facets of your life easier and more manageable.


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