What Makes Indiana a Service Dog and Not an Emotional Support Dog (Know the Difference)

There’s always a confusion on the difference between a service dog, an emotional support dog, or a therapy dog.

This blog post will hopefully clear up any confusion for those who don’t know the differences and what their legal rights are based on the dog’s status of a service dog, emotional support dog, or therapy dog.

Here’s the biggest way to know if the dog is a service dog.

Is the dog trained to perform tasks based on the handler’s (owner’s) disability?

If yes, then it’s a service dog.

If no, then it’s an emotional support dog, a therapy dog, or a pet dog


Here are some examples of Service Dog tasks Indiana has been trained to do based on my PTSD

  • He will circle me if people are getting too close to me.  Due to my PTSD I don’t like people crowding me.  It gives me anxiety & sometimes can lead to a panic attack.
  • He will stand right in front of me “blocking” me if someone comes at me aggressively.  Indiana act’s as a buffer making sure that other person knows not to get any closer and that he’s protecting me.
  • He will stand beside me but reversed so he’s able to watch my back when I’m standing in lines, like at the grocery store.
  • He will jump in my lap when I’m having anxiety or get my attention to help me get out of an anxiety or panic attack.
  • If I’m having a nightmare Indiana will wake me up.

These are just some of the things a trained PTSD service dog can do.


If the dog isn’t trained… and it’s just there for support (you pet it if you have anxiety) then it’s an emotional support dog or a pet dog.

*The main difference between a pet dog and an emotional support dog is the fact that the owner of the emotional support dog has documentation from a doctor stating the owner needs the dog for emotional support.*


Therapy Dogs: These are dogs that are trained  to have a very good temperament and go into hospitals so they can provide emotional support to those in recovery.

They do not have the same rights as a service dog as far as being allowed to go anywhere with the owner since the owner does not have a disability.


Differences between Service Dogs & Emotional Support Dogs

Service-Dog-vs-Emotional-Support-Dog-Laws
Service Dog vs Emotional Support Dog Laws

Service Dogs:

  1. Are covered by the ADA (American Disabilities Act). Please click on this link to read more about what requirements the ADA has for service dogs – ADA Site
  2. Each State is different when it comes to service dog laws on needing a vest or paperwork.  Know the states laws but also know that the ADA does trump a lot of the state laws.
  3. Cannot be denied access at restaurants, hotels, hospitals (not operation rooms), airplanes, trains, buses, boats, national parks, and on military bases (depending so do research).
  4. Airlines do require proof that your dog is a service dog.  For me I have a letter from the trainer stating Indiana is a trained service dog, a letter from a lawyer saying I cannot be denied access, and a letter from my therapist stating Indiana is my service dog for PTSD.
  5. Your landlord cannot charge you a pet fee or discriminate against you by not letting you rent or evict you from the apartment if it’s not a dog friendly complex.  You will need a doctors note for needing the service dog since most complexes require proof.

ada-service-dog-law-rights-handout-cards-business
ADA American’s with Disabilities Service Dog Rights handout card

Emotional Support Dogs:

  1. Not covered by the ADA (American Disabilities Act).

  2. Denied access to restaurants, hotels, hospitals (not operation rooms), trains, buses, boats, national parks, and on military bases (depending so do research).

  3. Allowed access to planes only if you have a note from your doctor stating you need the dog for emotional support, (each airline is different so research it prior to flying).

  4. Your landlord cannot charge you a pet fee or discriminate against you by not letting you rent or evict you from the apartment if it’s not a dog friendly complex as long as you have a doctors note stating the dog is an emotional support dog.


The more you know the easier it will make it for service dogs like Indiana to not get denied access because of fake service dogs or people with emotional support dogs thinking they are service dogs.

Emotional Support Dogs are not trained and are one step higher than a pet dog.

***Again, Service Dogs are trained to preform tasks based on the owners disability.***


 Indiana’s Final Thoughts

Service-dog-comic-german-shepherd


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3 thoughts on “What Makes Indiana a Service Dog and Not an Emotional Support Dog (Know the Difference)

  1. I have a bassett pointer mix that i got in feb. He was 13 months at the time. I wanted to get him trained but ya know that price of 10-20 thousand is pretty steep. I have intractable epilepsy that i am going in next month to have my second brain surgery to help cure hopefully or even relieve some of these episodes and grandmals but none the less even without training since i got sanders i had a grandmal on the couch and he laid on the floor next to me and WOULDN’T budge. The next one i was going into my room and he was acting weird but i wanted to sleep. As soon as i closed the door i had my aura sat on my bed and started to grand mal. My mom said he started to pace in her room so she checked on me and i was in full blown convulsions. Sanders hopped right up on my bed and put his body on my torso. He seemed to identify on his own the seizures and protecting his owner. He’s still a puppy and im trying to train him in other ways while getting ready for surgery. Are there organizations that may help with the financial aspect?

    1. I remember meeting your mother and gave her my card! Thanks so much for reaching out! Like I told your mom right off the bat if your dog is trained to preform even one task based on your disability by the ADA standards it’s a service dog. It doesn’t need to go through an extensive training program unless you really want to put your dog through that. From what it sounds like from you and from her, your dog is already trained to anticipate your epileptic episodes and notify someone or lay on you to let people know that’s what’s happening. You can train the dog yourself to preform more tasks you might need him to preform for you. However, it sounds you me you can put a service dog in training vest on him and start getting him ready to go into stores and get him used to being out in public. That would work on his temperament as well. You can’t have an aggressive service dog and they must be good around other animals as well as people. So go to dog parks as much as you can to get him socialized as well. Also if out in public and he lays on you I would put a patch on his vest that says call for help if I’m on my owner and a patch saying seizure service dog. Also, if you check out this website you can see that really your dog is pretty much naturally trained in the biggest task that’s required for your disability. http://www.epilepsy.com/get-help/staying-safe/seizure-dogs. But if you truly want the dog to go through extensive training, when it comes to organizations to help with the finances on training I would honestly try GoFundMe.com. There’s a lot of people there willing to help donate money to your cause so you can afford the training for your dog. Other than that I’m not really aware of any loan or financial aid programs that help people fund service dog training. Also I’d check youtube because sometimes theres videos on there on how to train your dog to do certain tasks or “tricks” that you might be something that could help you avoid having to pay for an expensive training program.
      Hopefully I helped answer your question but if you have anymore feel free to reach out to me! I will try to respond as soon as I can!
      Also good luck on your surgery!

  2. https://www.yahoo.com/news/woman-goes-rant-over-veteran-000319876.html

    I didn’t know how to cOntact you. I was wondering If you saw this and if sadly this has happened to you?

    Hope all os well.
    -rebecca

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