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Hi All,
I will be training my puppy to be my service dog as well as an animal assisted therapy dog for my mental health practice. I would love to hear from others as to if they have successfully accomplished this and how they have gone about it. I am looking specifically for how they differentiate between when the dog is a service dog and when they are being a therapy dog (in session). I have been thinking of different mechanisms such as a harness and bandana or something like that, but am open to all feedback.
In case anyone is thinking this is not possible, I have researched it and have discovered that with a highly intelligent breed, it is possible to train your dog to do both. I will be getting my Australian Shepherd in three weeks, and training will begin immediately (basic puppy training of course).

Thanks in advance for your ideas!
Kierstin
 

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While it is certainly possible to do so, you should consider if it is a good idea. I have done this myself, and I would say it depends on what task your dog is going to be doing for you. If you need them to perform a medical alert task, it would be a really bad idea to allow them to engage with a lot of people which could potentially distract them from their role. A large part of how successful this endeavor will be is also due to the dog's personality, some dogs such as the aforementioned dog (a maltese mix) have no issue differentiating between the two roles. Other dogs such as my current service dog, a GSD, find that engaging with other people is really fun and distracting and would not be suitable to be a therapy dog as well. While the GSD is certainly better trained and intelligent than my retired SD was, he is also easily excitable much like an Aussie will be, such that I do not let him say hello to people often in public or he would attempt to say hi to anyone we encounter, which is not appropriate manners for a SD.

I found success with this by using a vest when I required her to act as a service dog, and just a flat collar when she was doing therapy dog visits. I would take her to a hospice as well as assisted living facilities, but we stopped due to COVID. She was more fond of working as a TD though, so to find a dog that thoroughly enjoys both and can do it will be a bit challenging, not to mention that most TD programs will not certify a dog that works as a service dog. The company I worked with had their own certifying program for their TD teams, but if I had wanted to pursue something like TDI or delta society, I dont think that would have been an option.
 
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