There are many skills we can teach dogs to prepare them for therapy work. Basic obedience, how to go to and stay on your place, how to walk calmly on a loose leash, how to lie down when asked to, how to wait and wait and wait to be asked to do something.
We can teach them blocking and positioning,. How to move around equipment, how to safely get into easy position for petting, how to back up or go forward. We can teach them to be comfortable walking on a double leash, slowly or quickly.
But there is one thing we can’t teach the dogs. We just can’t teach a dog how to love.
They have to want to be held, closely, by anyone, anytime.
They have to want to make eye contact and hold a sweet look.
They have to thoroughly enjoy being stroked, petted, embraced.
They have to want to walk alongside someone at their pace.
They have to enjoy being close to a human, any human.
To become a Love Dog they have to relish in the thought of being touched and the thought of touching someone, a human.
To become a Love Dog they have to understand that looking at someone is as loving as touch.
To become a Love Dog they have to turn towards whoever calls their name, to recognize that person with true interest.
To become a Love Dog they must love with a full, honest heart.