A lot of people who don't know us assume Itzl is a therapy dog.  This is probably because tiny dogs are often trained and used as therapy dogs.

There are surefire ways to tell the difference between a service dog and a therapy dog.

Therapy dogs are trained to respond to nearly everyone, to be friendly, to allow others to pet them, to play with others.  They are very social, friendly, outgoing dogs. They are interested in toys, food, people, other dogs, other animals. They do tricks and they respond to commands given to them by other people.

Service dogs are aloof.  Their focus is on their partner or their job.  They are well socialized, but not particularly social - in other words, they are calm when out in public, are not distracted easily, tolerate but don't seek to be petted, ignore toys and food unless their partner releases them or gives them a command to allow them to have the toy or food. They perform work, not tricks. They do not obey commands given by people outside their approved circle - usually their trainer, their partner, and any caregivers for their partner, and possibly (but not always) their partner's family.

Therapy dogs seek attention from other people.

Service dogs ignore others for their partner.

Therapy dogs may travel in packs of 2 or more.

Service dogs are generally solo, although sometimes a person may need more than one service dog - a dog that alerts on medical conditions and one that pulls a wheelchair or offers balance assistance, for example.

Therapy dogs are often small and portable, but there are large therapy dogs, too.

Service dogs are generally large and helpful, but there are tiny service dogs, too.

Therapy dogs have gotten very popular, for they are easy to train, so they may often be seen.

Service dogs take longer to train and are harder to train - many dogs wash out of service training and may become therapy dogs instead because they fail the tests and needs of a service dog.

I don't have any pictures of therapy dogs in action, but I have lots of pictures of service dogs in action because my dogs are service dogs.

I have 2 service dogs because I live alone and am hearing impaired.

Itzl was my first service dog:


He's a long haired Chihuahua, and his job is to alert me to all the sounds I no longer hear. Because he's so small and people would not see him, he was often stepped on, kicked, and had to pay far too much attention to other people instead of his job. To remedy that, we designed a special carry bag for him that protected him from careless feet and gave him the freedom to concentrate on doing his job - listening and alerting.

DE Itzl and Octo

He also spends a lot of time on my desk, because being on the floor means he can't see to show me what it is he's alerting on:


Xoco is my back-up service dog,


She usually takes over from Itzl when we get home, but sometimes she travels with us to act as back-up.  Because she's brain damaged, she didn't pass some of the socialization tests, didn't learn fast enough.  She's a slow learner, that's true, but once she learns something, it's hers forever. It takes her a long time to warm up to new situations. She also stresses out when we get into noisy crowds. Therefore, she stays home most of the time.

She does come to work with me on occasion to give her refresher courses in travel and alerting.

Itzl and Xoco

She mimics Itzl's every move as closely as she can.

Having 2 service dogs gives the other a rest.  I know I wouldn't like to work all day every day and even when I'm sleeping or sick, so it makes sense to have a second dog that can handle the work, or even a third.  Itzl appreciates having the help of Xoco, and Xoco is pleased to not be the primary dog, but still to be a working dog.

They both alert on the same things.

Itzl and Xoco on a Visit

When one is distracted, the other won't be.

Itzl, Xoco

They make a good team for me.

Don't let their tiny size fool you - they are full-fledged service dogs.

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