Dogs are incredible animals. We love them because they’re cute, playful, and are loyal companions. However, they aren’t just pets.

Dogs can be trained to do amazing things.

They can perform tasks like detecting bombs or seizures, finding missing people, guiding those who are blind, and more.


There are many different categories of help that dogs provide. They are:

  • Service Dogs

  • Emotional Support Dogs

  • Therapy Dogs

  • Working Dogs1


Not all of these dogs have the same legal rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).2  What are the differences between these dogs that help so many improve their lives?


Service Dogs 

According to the ADA, a service dog is “a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.”2 The work they do must be connected to the disability the person has.2


Examples of this are:

  • Guide dogs helping blind people navigate their way around

  • Detecting seizures or blood sugar levels1

  • Assisting with psychiatric issues like PTSD or schizophrenia.3


Because these dogs perform specific tasks for these people, they are considered service dogs and have full rights to go anywhere with their owners, under the ADA.1


Emotional Support Dogs 

These dogs are not considered service dogs, because they don’t perform a specific task in relation to a disability.1 They are comforting to be around, but since they aren’t trained to respond to a specific situation or event, they don’t qualify as service dogs and so don’t have the same rights.3


They have limited rights to public spaces and a doctor or psychiatrist needs to provide a diagnosis letter. According to the Fair Housing Act, accommodations must be made for Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) in buildings that don’t allow pets and the Air Carrier Access Act allows ESAs to be on flights, but a letter is needed.1


Therapy Dogs

These dogs also aren’t considered service dogs. These dogs are usually used to cheer up and provide comfort to people in hospitals, college students during exams, people who have experienced traumatic events, and more.3


These dogs are usually owned by someone else who volunteers to come in and bring their dogs to people. Because they also don’t perform a specific task in response to a disability, they don’t have the same access to spaces as service dogs.1


Working Dogs 

These are the dogs that help humans in accomplishing tasks, but not related to a disability. These are the dogs that help with hunting, searching for missing people, detecting bombs, and work with police or the military. Sometimes these dogs can also detect allergies or cancer in people.1


Regardless of what category a dog falls in, isn’t it incredible what dogs can be trained to do?


If you love learning about dogs, head over to our blog to read more, like this post on Working Dogs or this post on the Sporting Group.