Over the years, there has been an increase in the number of assistance dogs. From service dogs to emotional support dogs and therapy dogs, these pooches have been trained to lend a helping paw to their handlers who suffer from a wide variety of disabilities or afflictions.


Service Dogs
These pooches have been trained to perform tasks for a person with a disability. Some examples of their tasks are guiding their blind handlers and alerting their deaf handlers of nearby obstacles. Their handlers are usually dependent on them and are with them 24/7.

Emotional Support
These dogs have been recommended by medical professionals to provide therapeutic benefits through companionship. For these dogs to be recognised, a medical professional would have had to state that they provide a benefit to the patient. Their handlers are can be those with a range of physical, intellectual, and psychiatric conditions.

Therapy Dogs
These dogs are registered by their owners to provide comfort to others. They are similar to emotional support dogs, except they do not ease a specific symptom in those they help. They are more often seen in retirement and nursing homes and hospitals.  

Allowed In Public

Service dogs: Yes, under the Environmental Public Health Act and the Rapid Transit Systems Act, service dogs are also allowed in food establishments and public transport.

Emotional support dogs: No. They are only allowed in medical or educational institutions.

Therapy dogs: No. They are only allowed into non-pet-friendly places by special permission.

Can Pet Them?

Service dogs:  No. Service dogs are at work and need to be completely focused. Any form of distraction could place their handlers in jeopardy.

Emotional support dogs:  No. This is similar to service dogs.  

Therapy dogs:  Depends. Do seek permission from their owners.

Are They Pets?  

Service dogs: No.

Emotional support dogs: No.  

Therapy dogs: Yes. They belong to someone.

Are They Specially Trained?

Service dogs:  Yes. They have gone through extensive training to perform specific services for their disabled handlers.

Emotional support dogs:  Not necessarily, but they need to be well-behaved and obedient.

Therapy dogs:  Before becoming a therapy dog, they should have been screened for temperament and should be obedience-trained.

*This article was updated on 31 Jul 2020. It first appeared in PetsMagazine.com on 10 Oct 2016.