Over the past 6 months Athena has come a long way and has become tolerant of many of the things that she once found fearful. When we first brought Athena home, there were times when I literally hugged an orange construction sign, talked to our garbage can, and gently pet the vacuum cleaner, all in an attempt to show Athena that "if I can do it, you can do it too." Often Athena would gain the confidence to approach these fearful objects after lots of encouragement and tasty treats.
|You gotta do whatcha gotta do|
As part of our New Year's Resolutions, B and I agreed to teach Athena a few tricks during 2013. So, we bought the book 101 Dog Tricks to get us started in our endeavor. After scouring the pages for "Athena appropriate" tricks (i.e. not too difficult), we found a handful of tricks that we want to try out in the coming months. One of these tricks is 'jump through a hoop'.
|Athena attempts to |
But, Athena is not the jump through a hoop type of dog at this point in her life. I swear that she thinks her paws will be eaten off by an invisible monster if she lifts them too far off from the ground. So clearly 'jump through a hoop' is the trick that we decided to start teaching Athena. Well, sort of...
Athena is actually really afraid of hula hoops. She will not go near one, or heaven forbid step through one. How do you teach a dog to walk through a hoop if you can't even get them within 5 feet of the dang thing?
|Is that hotdog you have there, mom?|
Well, you offer looooooooooots and lots of hotdogs, cheese, and mini pepperonis is what we found out. This food encouragement helped Athena to successfully zoom through the hula hoop (meaning that she walked super duper fast through it just in case it tried to eat her on her way through). She was then motivated to go through it (very quickly) over and over again as long as there was hotdog on the other end. We added the 'hup' command each time Athena went under the hoop and she seemed to be more confident in the situation.
|Ok, I'll go through this portal to another world if there's hotdog on the other side|
But then something happened. Athena decided that she was afraid of the hula hoop again. After tons of success, Athena digressed. We have tried bringing out the hula hoop again on multiple occasions only to have Athena run to the opposite side of the room and shut down completely.
|Noooo way am I going through that thing again!|
So, here we are taking a break from 'hup' training. We never expected Athena to learn how to actually jump through the hoop, we simply wanted to set up a positive experience to build her confidence by simply walking through the hoop. Clearly something went wrong. But, on a better note, we found out on Sunday at our first flyball practice that Athena is not at all afraid to jump over the hurdles....go figure.
Does anyone have any tips for training a fearful dog and helping them to build confidence?
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