A feature on the Navy Times differentiated therapy dogs from trained service dogs, for the benefit of disabled veterans and service members who may unknowingly think that both types serve the same purpose and provide the same benefits for their respective owners.
Cristina Roof, legislative director for AmVets, explained: “A dog with little or no training might be a great companion, but that’s all.” These are dogs that may have been rescued from pounds and matched with disabled veterans, by charitable organizations that unquestionably mean well. Roof says, “It is incredibly important to remember a service dog may not be a good fit for everyone. It is also crucial to remember that a service dog is in no way a replacement for your rehabilitation, either.”
Trained service dogs meet minimum training standards that are set by the Assistance Dogs of America (ADA). Ninety percent of the time, a service dog will respond the first time it is asked to do a basic obedience and skill task. It can sit, stay, lie down, come, and heel, through voice command or a hand signal. They should also be able to perform at least three tasks to mitigate a disability, such as picking up dropped items or pulling a wheelchair.
A service dog who is working is always calm and quiet, and is never distracted. It lies quietly, without blocking aisles or doorways, and is always within two feet of its handler at all times, unless commanded to do otherwise.
Veterans who have service dogs can be given financial help by VA in terms of costs for food and health care, a benefit that is not extended to emotional support and therapy dogs. Service dogs are also usually given access to public places and can enter military and veterans hospitals and clinics.