The Role of Dogs in Our Community

Dogs have played a vital role in the lives of humans for roughly 10,000 years and they continue to do so today. From service and therapy dogs to beloved family pets, dogs hold a special place in our hearts. Here are some of the roles that dogs play in our lives and how we try to give back in the form of clubs and organizations.

Service and Therapy Dogs

If you’re not sure what the difference between service and therapy dogs is, you’re not alone. It is important to know the difference in case you do encounter service or therapy animals in the workplace or in every day situations so that you can be sensitive to their needs.

Service Dogs

According to, service dogs are those that are specifically trained to perform tasks or work in order to benefit the disabled person. These disabilities could include physical, psychiatric, intellectual, sensory, or mental disability.

Service dogs are not there to provide affection or emotional support for the disabled person (although the disabled person can give affection to the dog). According to, service dogs have more rights and are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), while therapy dogs have fewer rights.

Types of service dogs include:

• Guide Dog
• Seizure Alert Dog
• PTSD Service Dog
• Narcolepsy Alert Dog
• Psychiatric Service Dog
• Diabetes Alert Dog

Certification and training:

Unfortunately, many people try to pass their dogs off as service dogs as a way to reap the benefits such as taking their pets on planes or into restaurants. There are plenty of scams out there for fake registration, despite the risk of criminal penalties for this.

Training a service dog typically takes anywhere from 18-24 months and are usually done by professionals. There is no specific training required by law as long as the dog performs his duties and is responsive to the handler at all times.

There is no actual service dog certification. Handlers will enroll in programs and register in the event that they need to show the court or other authority figures documentation of the dog’s training. Enrolling in a training or certification program is helpful for this extra protection and they will usually provide a service dog vest and identification tag at the end of the program.


Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs are dogs trained to give comfort and affection to a person in long-term care, hospitals, mental health institutions, schools. These dogs can be used for people who may or may not have a disability. Additionally, therapy dogs do not have the same rights and special access that service dogs have because they are not trained to help disabled people perform certain tasks.

Therapy dogs are usually owned by the person handling the dog and they are considered to be a pet. However, therapy dogs are different from regular family pets in that they have been prescribed by a licensed medical professional for the person needing some kind of therapy.

Types of therapy dogs include:

• Therapeutic Visitation Dogs
• Animal Assisted Therapy Dogs
• Facility Therapy Dogs

Certification and training:

Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs do not need any special training. Therapy dogs simply need to understand basic obedience and are well tempered. A popular program that many therapy dogs enroll in is called the Canine Good Citizen Program by the American Kennel Club.

According to, therapy dogs do not have to be certified, but it is more helpful for therapy dogs to be registered. This is because therapy dogs do not wear vests or identification badges and are therefore more likely to be questioned by any facility they visit.

The Roles of Service and Therapy Dogs

Despite these key differences, both service and therapy dogs both significantly improve the lives of people every day. Service dogs make the lives of disabled persons much easier and allow them to perform tasks that they couldn’t do on their own. For instance, a service dog can guide a blind person across a busy intersection or alert a diabetic person when their blood pressure dips to dangerous levels.

Therapy dogs have an incredible impact all across the world. The tragic events in Nepal called on therapy dogs to help traumatized victims in the hospital. Other therapy dogs help reduce student stress before a final exam.

Family Pets

Most commonly, dogs are seen as beloved family members and are sometimes treated the same way we treat children. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that 70-80 million dogs are owned in the United States. Dogs clearly have a special place in our hearts. Having a family pet has been shown to reduce stress, loneliness, and encourage exercise.


Rescue Organizations

In order to help give back to dogs who make great pets, service animals, and therapy dogs, humans have banded together to return the favor.

Humane Society of the United States

Sometimes, the HSUS can get some flack for operating on such a large scale and not helping smaller-scale organizations. Keep in mind that as the nation’s largest animal protection organization, HSUS has a lot of power to sway legislation—something that smaller-scale organizations don’t have the power to do.

The San Diego Humane Society and SPCA

Why does this humane society make the list in particular? SDHS has been running since 1880, believe it or not. This shelter is exclusive to the San Diego area and has amazing programs that help pets in emergency situations or animal cruelty. Also, my grandmother has been donating to it for years and I naturally did my research to make sure she was giving to the right one.

Best Friends Animal Society

This organization based in Utah has been running since 1984 and has worked hard to maintain its no-kill status. BFAS has worked hard to reduce the number of euthanized pets from 17 million in 1984 to 4 million today, giving those adoptable pets homes.

Pet Social Organization and Clubs

We have plenty of organizations celebrating pets and they can be great ways for like-minded dog lovers to get together and share the love. Whether you want to get together for dog play-dates or celebrate a certain breed, there are dog clubs out there for everyone.

Local Kennel Club

Have a specific breed? Try your local kennel club. The American Kennel Club is the oldest national club in America that promotes dog sports and registers purebred dogs. Club membership can bring you a lot of fun benefits too, such as potluck dinners and barbeques with other members and fun events.

No matter where you are in the United States, there will most likely be a group dedicated for pets. You can find play-dates for big or small dogs, ones specific to your breed, or outdoor adventures like hiking with your pup.

The Association of Professional Dog Trainers

If you’re looking to increase your knowledge and connect with other dog trainers, the APDT might be for you. This organization provides certificate courses and in-depth education on certain topics. By enrolling in this club, members can have access to seminars and events free of charge.