top of page

Paws and purpose

Learning More About Working Animals

A Brief History of Service Dogs

Service Dogs have a deep-rooted history spanning thousands of years, stemming from the profound bond shared between humans and canines. Across ancient civilizations, dogs were esteemed for their unwavering loyalty and remarkable intelligence, leading to their involvement in various tasks. Evidence dating back to ancient Assyria, around the 7th century BCE, illustrates dogs aiding visually impaired individuals, indicating an early acknowledgment of their potential to assist humans.


In Canada, the history of Service Dogs intertwines with the nation's development, with notable advancements occurring in the 20th century. The formal training and widespread recognition of Service Dogs gained momentum during World War I, as dogs were trained to assist soldiers on the battlefield, offering vital support such as message delivery and emotional comfort amidst the chaos of war.


Post-war, Canadian organizations like The Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, established in 1984, played a pivotal role in shaping the country's Service Dog landscape. These organizations pioneered the training of guide dogs for individuals with visual impairments, laying the groundwork for the broader inclusion of Service Dogs in assisting individuals with various disabilities across Canada.

Today, in Ontario and throughout Canada, Service Dogs partake in rigorous training to fulfill an array of roles meticulously tailored to cater to the diverse needs of their handlers. They serve as indispensable companions, enhancing the independence, safety, and emotional well-being of people with disabilities. They embody the enduring partnership between humans and canines in Canadian society.

Alongside Service Dogs, a variety of animals are now trained for specialized roles. Operational Stress Intervention Dogs (OSID) assist in institutional settings such as hospitals and schools. Therapy Dogs offer emotional support, while Emotional Support Animals, including cats and miniature horses, provide companionship and reassurance. This diversity showcases the effectiveness of trained animals in meeting various human needs.


deepening your understanding of these terms

Service Dog

What is a service dog?


Definition: Service Dogs are highly trained animals that assist individuals with disabilities by performing tasks tailored to their handler's needs. These tasks may include guiding blind individuals, alerting them to sounds for the deaf, providing mobility assistance, offering support for mental health conditions, retrieving items, pulling a wheelchair, providing assistance during a medical emergency, and many more. They are recognized as essential aids for individuals with disabilities, similar to other prescribed medical devices such as wheelchairs or mobility aids. Individuals seeking to utilize a Service Dog require a signed letter from a medical professional confirming the necessity of the Service Dog to assist with their dissability. 

Training: Service Dogs undergo extensive training, typically lasting a minimum of two years, to master tasks, skills and behaviour so their handler is able to rely on them in various situations. This training includes advanced obedience, socialization and desensitization to multiple environments, and specialized task training to fit their handler's needs. Upon completion of their training, Service Dogs must pass a rigorous test to ensure they are qualified and ready to work. 

Exceptions: In Ontario, Service Dogs are protected under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), ensuring their access to public spaces when accompanied by their handlers. However, it's important to note that privately owned venues or locations where the presence of dogs may pose health or safety risks reserve the right to deny entry to Service Dogs, despite the provisions of the AODA.

Places Service Dogs are allowed may include, but are not limited to...

  • Public transportation (buses, trains, taxis, etc.)

  • Restaraunts and cafes

  • Hotels and accommodations 

  • Hospitals and medical facilities

  • Retail stores and shopping centres

  • Government buildings 

  • Parks and recreational areas

  • Libraries

  • Theatres and entertainment venues

  • Sports stadiums and arenas 

  • Banks and financial institutions 

  • Gyms and fitness centres 

  • Museums and galleries 

Therapy Dog

What is a therapy dog?


Definition: Therapy Dogs are trained to provide emotional support, affection, and comfort to individuals in various settings. Their gentle demeanour and friendly nature offer therapeutic benefits, helping improve mood, reduce anxiety, and promote healing. With special exceptions, puppies in training may also participate in certain therapy events to gain exposure and experience under the supervision of experienced handlers. 

Training: Therapy Dogs undergo specialized training to ensure they are well-behaved, calm, and comfortable in various environments. They are also trained to interact positively with people of all ages. After their training, Therapy Dogs must pass the Pet Partners test, which assesses their behaviour, obedience, and suitability for therapy work.

Exceptions: Therapy Dogs work under the supervision of handlers, and they must be invited to specific locations or events to provide therapy sessions. They do not have the same legal access rights as Service Dogs under the AODA and are not permitted to accompany their handlers into public places where pets are not allowed. 

Places Therapy Dogs are usually invited may include, but are not limited to...

  • Hospitals

  • Schools (including colleges and universities) 

  • Courtrooms 

  • Assisted living facilities 

  • Nursing homes

  • Community centres 

  • Senior living communities 

  • Community centers

What is a Operational Stress intervention dog?


Definition: Operational Stress Intervention Dogs (OSID) are trained to work in institutional settings to provide support, comfort, and companionship to individuals in need. They work alongside professionals to assist in therapy sessions, reduce stress, and improve the overall environment. While Therapy Dogs go to places as needed, OSIDs often have consistent schedules and are integrated into the daily activities of the facility where they work. 


Training: Operational Stress Intervention Dogs (OSID) undergo specialized training to develop the skills necessary for their roles in the institution where they are employed, including obedience, socialization and desensitization, and interactions with various individuals and settings. Following their training, OSIDs must pass a test that assesses their obedience, behaviour, and engagement tasks. 

Exceptions: Similar to Therapy Dogs, Operational Stress Intervention Dogs (OSID) do not have the same legal access rights as Service Dogs under the AODA. Their access to public places is typically restricted to the specific facilities where they are employed. 

Places OSIDs are usually employed may include, but are not limited to...

  • Hospitals

  • Schools (including colleges and universities) 

  • Courtrooms 

  • Assisted living facilities 

  • Nursing homes 

  • Rehabilitation centers

  • Senior living communities 

  • Community centers

What is an Emotional support animal?


Definition: Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are well-trained pets that provide companionship, comfort, and emotional support to their owners. Their presence and friendship offer therapeutic benefits to their owners in the comfort of their own home.


Training: While Emotional Support Animals may receive some obedience and good behaviour training, they are not required to undergo specialized training like Service, Therapy, or Operational Stress Intervention Dogs (OSID). 

Exceptions: Emotional Support Animals are not considered Service Dogs under the AODA, do not have the same legal access rights, and do not have the same qualifications as Therapy or OSIDs. 

Appreciating the diversity in assistance animals


Understanding the distinctions between Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Operational Stress Intervention Dogs (OSID), and Emotional Support Animals is crucial for creating inclusivity and support within our communities. Learning about these terms not only allows us to acknowledge and respect the unique roles each animal plays in enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities or emotional needs. This knowledge empowers us to advocate for the rights and appropriate utilization of these animals, ensuring they continue to positively impact the lives of those who need them. 

With this knowledge, we become better equipped to advocate the rights of these animals and ensure their respectful treatment. By advocating for their proper training, access, and recognition, we can

guarantee that they continue to positively impact the lives of those who rely on them for assistance, companionship, and emotional support. Through education and awareness initiatives, we can create a society that values and celebrates the invaluable contribution of all individuals, including our four-legged companions. 

We at K-9 Country Inn value and appreciate your interest in understanding these terms and the jobs of working animals. Thank you for taking the time to educate yourself about these terms and their significance in our community. 

bottom of page