Therapy vs. Comfort: Do you know the difference?

After stressful and traumatic events, people can seek relief in a variety of ways–talking with friends and loved ones, seeking counseling from professionals, or even through petting and cuddling with animals. You may have heard the term “therapy dog” or “comfort dog” and thought they were the same thing. There’s actually a distinction between the two.

  • Therapy dogs operate in non-emergency environments: think of a college library packed with stressed students during finals – an environment that is definitely tense, but different from an active emergency.
  • Comfort (or “crisis response”) dogs work during active crises and in emergency situations—both natural and manmade. They can offer a calming presence and a welcome distraction to those who have been impacted by disasters, often in shelters or in common public gathering spaces.

Children are often the ones most affected by disasters, but dogs can help kids calm down, smile, and find a little piece of normal in situations that can be very much the opposite.

Comfort dogs and their handlers are unique–both complete specific trainings so they can be a source of relief in rapidly changing environments and situations. These Certified Teams are activated after both manmade and natural disasters and FEMA works through HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response to activate them.

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Dog helps comfort working firefighter

Therapy dogs welcomed students of Parkland Stoneman Douglas back to class and participated in class with the students

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