Image by Terje Ansgar Eriksen

Being able to distinguish between therapy and comfort dogs will help us understand their roles well. But since they both provide the same love and care, let’s break them down below.  

Traumatic events will leave anyone in shock and confusion. What more could be comforting than the touch and companionship of a dog? How can we differentiate therapy dogs from comfort dogs, and how are they similar?

Reassurance is the best thing that a dog can bring. In stressful situations where you’re involved, there are times when you don’t know what to do. In comes a four-legged friend that will offer a helping paw and sit with you; zero judgment is needed.

Dogs like this are typically known for the following: therapy dogs, comfort dogs, and emotional support animals (ESAs). However, slight differences between these terms will confuse anyone with surface-level knowledge about these dogs’ roles.

Defining Crisis Response Dogs

Stressful situations within a crowd can cause distress among people. Crisis Response Dogs are there to calm people down and relieve their stress. Being a Crisis Response Dog takes a lot of patience and level-headedness, which not all therapy dogs have.

Crisis Response Dogs assist people who are caught in the following:

  • Natural disasters
  • Fires
  • Epidemic
  • Flooding
  • Tornadoes
  • Earthquakes
  • Mass shootings

Each of them has designated handlers, just like law enforcement dogs. They each deploy themselves in teams and aid all those affected by disasters. For example, you may have heard of these canines heading into schools to comfort students after a horrific shooting.

Crisis Response Dogs also help victims of terrorism recover and get back on their feet. In this scenario, the government and private sector have their certified teams, reaching out to each other collaboratively to provide help when available.

How are they different from therapy dogs?

Contrary to the role that Crisis Response Dogs play, therapy dogs are mostly private-owned. Although CRDs and Therapy Dogs volunteer at schools, nursing facilities, and hospitals, they are not considered Service Animals.

The owners of these canines enjoy different legal accommodations than certified and highly trained service and guide dogs. Despite their differences, nothing beats the joy and comfort they provide every visit.

Therapy dogs generally require certification, training, and a license to practice, which will be done by the non-profit organizations that handle them. Therapy dogs must have a calm temperament, so they should not be easily startled by unfamiliar noises. If they are slightly surprised by sudden movements, they pose a risk to the people they serve.

Therapy dogs should also be okay with being handled by various people and be happy to be around humans. If your dog has all those traits, it can join the therapy dog title program conducted by the American Kennel Club.

A book about a therapy dog named Piper

If you are interested in reading about a therapy dog book that sheds more light on what therapy dogs are like, check out ‘Piper Finds Her Special‘ by Alison Keenan. Dogs, in general, have always been the best companions for children and make great family members.

The book ‘Piper Finds Her Special,’ tells a heartwarming story of unconditional love which aims to help children improve their reading ability. This book is also best read alongside a therapy dog, which enhances the joy and experience of increasing cognitive skills.

What distinguishes Crisis Support Dogs from regular therapy dogs?

Aside from having a handler that watches over them as they go and comfort people, Crisis Support Dogs have a fine line towards being a working dog. Close, but not enough to be one. While therapy dogs can be good company in an intimate setting, they won’t fare well in crowds, primarily in distress.

That’s where a Crisis Support Dog fits right in. These four-legged ambassadors assure those in a panic state that there is nothing to fear. CSDs are used to being simultaneously pet by various people in a highly intense setting. Meanwhile, therapy dogs can only handle one person at a time.

Humans who have felt the comfort of these fantastic dogs often find themselves opening up, recalling the most horrible moment they just experienced. All while petting and stroking the dog who is comfortably sitting and listening in silence – which is sometimes all we need more than anything.

Now, are therapy dogs considered Crisis Support Animals?

The magic of a dog’s touch can be felt when these dogs are deployed to provide a different level of comfort that not even fellow humans can provide. What makes humans comfortable around them is that they never ask anything. Even with minimal effort, these dogs decompress tense situations as long as they’re close by.

Therapy dogs may not be on equal footing with Crisis Support Animals, but no one can deny the peace, love, and joy they give to everyone who needs them the most. Their bright smiles and pleasant demeanor allow distressed humans to loosen up and feel safe around them. Dogs are genuinely unique, and they are the light in our lives we never would have expected.

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