Dogs have an incredible, intuitive ability to make people happy. Call us crazy, but it might be their puppy dog eyes, soft fur, general cuteness and undying devotion. Some canines are so good at making people feel at ease, they are considered companion dogs. According to U.S. Service Animals, “Companion dogs function as constant partners in the daily lives of those who find themselves suffering from anxiety or emotional distress on their own.” Unlike service dogs, who are trained to respond in specific ways and perform specific tasks for a designated person living with a disability, companion dogs simply provide a reassuring presence to their human. They can be any breed or size, though the best companion dogs are intelligent, obedient and affectionate. As long as the dog effectively meets a person’s needs, they’re good to go!
It’s worth noting companion dogs are similar to emotional support and therapy dogs but are different in the eyes of the law. This is an important distinction when it comes to travel, housing and visiting public buildings or businesses. Pets for Patriots, an awesome organization that pairs shelter animals with veterans, notes that companion dogs do not have legal access to the same areas that emotional support, therapy and service animals do.
Emotional support animals are not legally recognized, but they are protected under the Federal Fair Housing Act, which says landlords cannot discriminate against tenants who have an emotional support animal. However, effective January 11, 2021, airlines are allowed to place emotional support animals and regular pets in the same category—meaning an airline can prevent you from taking your dog on a plane if you don’t have paperwork stating your dog needs to travel right next to you.
Therapy animals, on the other hand, provide many people with comfort on a daily basis. For instance, there is a horse in Calais, France, who roams the halls of a hospital with his owner, providing soothing experiences to cancer patients. Therapy dogs are common in courthouses, giving victims cuddly reassurance before and after difficult testimonies.