Therapy dogs are becoming more and more popular in schools, hospitals, and more. In New Jersey and Oregon, they are being used in Libraries to help children read. "By listening intently, the therapy dogs give kids an experience they may not get otherwise," a journalist for KVAL.com writes. Dogs are also being used in the children's care and critical care units at hospitals. It has been known for decades that petting a dog can release stress and help patients or victims take their mind off of their current situation, even if only for a few moments.
From time to time, we all become stressed. Many of us release this stress by taking our dogs to a dog park, for a run, or just down to the park to play fetch. When we are scared or nervous, we tend to hold our dogs and confide in them. So, in reality all of us have our own "therapy" dogs. However, there are certain requirements that must be met for a dog to be considered a licensed therapy dog. These requirements include; listen to their handlers, not jump on people when interacting, be able to walk on a leash without pulling, and more. For a complete list of requirements and more information you can visit TherapyDogs.com.
There is a difference between therapy dogs and service or assistance dogs. Service and assistance dogs directly assist humans and have a legal right to accompany their owners in most areas. Therapy dogs have no legal rights to accompany their owners and are left up to institutions to decide if they are allowed in or not. The other main difference lies in the training. Assistance dogs are rigorously trained (typically by a specific organization) and fall into the three classifications which are: Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs, or Service Dogs. Many of these dogs are even trained to press a button located on their handler, which will send an alert call to send an ambulance, in the instance of an emergency. Therapy dogs are typically used in hospitals or at disaster scenes, and most recently schools to provide a happy face and listening ears.
So every dog may not be qualified to be an "official" therapy dog. However, we all know that in our hearts our dogs are whom we come home to every night, can tell anything to and they will listen, and put a smile on our face when we need it most.