Therapy Dog or Service Dog

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Therapy Dog or Service Dog

by Sylvie Leochko

Years ago, I was sent in Southern Ontario to follow a course that would teach me all about Braille and visual impairments as I was about to welcome a visually impaired student in my class the following year. Let just say that my expectations were exceeded beyond belief.

You see, as I was living on campus for the month long summer course, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of great people but I also made two lifelong friends. Both were legally blind, one was using a white cane while the other had a service dog. She taught me a lot of things about service dogs which are also called guide dogs.

About 14 years later, being the mother of two young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, my older child being both non-verbal and suffering also from Epilepsy, my husband and I decided to inquire about getting a service dog for our children.

Needless to say that getting a service dog is both very expensive and the training process is long and demanding. Approximately a month later, my husband discovered an article in our local newspaper about a therapy dog training program.

While the amount of registered possible candidates was over extremely high, the acceptance and graduation levels were very low. Also, our puppy would have to pass a special test to be able to qualify to enter the program.

The price was more expensive than usual dog training programs but the fact that the person in charge of the provincial search and rescue unit was also training dogs for narcotics and the police units it reassured us. In addition, the price also included various specialized trainings and other benefits.

Our dog was accepted in the program and is currently doing well. When the instructor was asked about the difference between a service dog and a therapy dog, he gave us plenty of useful information.

A service dog is trained to guide the person that is legally blind and assist them in various ways to ensure both their safety as well as allowing them to keep a certain degree of independence. My friend?s service dog guided her through obstacles that could have otherwise affected her safety. He also would get things for her and warn her of potentially dangerous situations. He would give her the opportunity to get her from point A to B on her own without depending on others. Police dogs will also be trained for finding narcotics, tracking criminals, etc.

Other service dogs will be used to predict seizures and warn their owners such as for people dealing with Epilepsy or other seizure condition. Some will comfort and protect their owner from potential dangers such as for persons who are living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Some therapy dogs also heard the first words of a non-verbal child and became their motivation to develop their communication skills further.

A therapy dog is used in several ways. For example, it can be used in search and rescues of lost people or stranded victims in disasters such as hurricanes. For example, some members of the Elite therapy dog program which passed the course with a success rate of 75% or more were sent to rescue victims and stranded pets in Louisiana, where Hurricane Katrina hit the hardest.

A therapy dog is also used in hospitals and nursing homes to keep company to people and raise their morale. It can also be quite useful with victims of abuse, especially children, where the victim will be unable to talk to the police but will share that information and their feelings with the dog.

Either way, a therapy dog or service dog represents a precious source of help that can change people?s lives in the best possible way. I guess, you could say that the saying: ?Dog is man?s best friend? is once more based on the truth.

My name is Sylvie Leochko. As a mother, a teacher and the owner of a dog member of the Therapy dog Training Program, I have decided to share this information with you but if you wish to learn more information on dog training or Autism Spectrum Disorder, I invite you to visit the following sites, and .

Sylvie Leochko - EzineArticles Expert Author

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