Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Blooming Confidence

For those of you who have been following our blog since the beginning, you know what a scared pup Athena was when we first brought her home.  We were sure that she must have been locked in a closet for her first year of life, because she was afraid of just about everything.  Garbage cans, sprinklers, orange construction signs, skateboards, bicycles, vacuums, cameras, people, etc.  Thankfully, we've been able to overcome many of these fears through positive reinforcement and by exposing Athena to lots of new experiences.


Even though she has come so far, Athena still has her nervous moments and we continue to help her to overcome her fears everyday.  However, recently we've noticed that Athena has had an extremely large boost of confidence.

Bench practice:

For months and months we've been trying to get Athena to jump up onto a park bench.  She-would-not-do-it for the life of her.  Even with the tastiest of cheeses, Athena would back up at the sight of a park bench (she has no fear of jumping on our bed though...).  But, just last week we had a breakthrough.  While walking through the park, I asked Athena to "up" onto the park bench.  SHE DID IT!  And then she continued to do it over, and over, and over and will now gladly get up onto the park bench each time we are at the park (she will even do "down" and "touch" while sitting on the bench).


Roll over:

Has anyone out there struggled to teach "roll over" to their dog?  My goodness, I thought Athena would never get it.  We'd been trying to practice with her for months, but she would just whip her head around trying to grab the treat from my hand instead of following my hand onto her back.  I was completely shocked when Athena actually rolled over for the first time a couple of weeks ago!  Now we practice "roll over" in our training sessions and she continues to make me laugh every single time she does her floppity roll.


Walking on the wall:

Each time we walk with Respectabulls, there's a particular part of our walking route that has a short wall that many of the dogs like to jump up and walk on (see photo below).  Although we've tried time and time again to get Athena to "up" onto the ledge, she was always too afraid.  Much to our surprise, as we were walking during the last Respectabulls walk, Athena just jumped right on up there!  She had no cues from us and just decided that if the other dogs were doing it, she was going to do it too!


Swamp swimming:

If you read our post earlier this week, then you know all about Athena's fun swim in the swamp last weekend.  The girl who is afraid of everything jumped right into a swamp like it was her own personal swimming pool.  I'm still baffled as to why Athena even went into the muddy water, because she is definitely not a girl who likes to get dirty (or maybe that's just her mom...).


Flyballin':

As much as I was excited for Athena to get started in flyball, there was a part of me that assumed she would be too nervous to actually jump over the hurdles.  Of course, Athena proved me wrong on the very first night of flyball training when she jumped over the hurdles multiple times.  As we've progressed in flyball, Athena just keeps improving and she continues to show her confidence every week.


I'm still trying to figure out what it is that has made Athena blossom into such a confident dog recently.  Maybe she has finally realized that she's here to stay, or maybe all of our training and persistence has started to pay off.  I do think that Athena's confidence comes from a variety of things, but I think that flyball has been the biggest factor in building her up.  One of our main goals for starting flyball was to help Athena to gain more confidence and I dare say that I think it's working!

23 comments:

  1. I was actually going to comment a few posts ago -- she LOOKS so much more confident in her photos!

    We just finished an agility class with Ed (that he rocked because he's the most confident dog I've ever met) that I think would be great for Tess -- not because she'd be good at it, but because I think it'd do wonders for building up some confidence.

    I love the idea of practicing with getting up on things in the neighborhood. I bet the group walks help - it seems that dogs give in to peer pressure pretty easily!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Aww, you guys are providing so much love, care and attention how could she not bloom?

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is so great, I'm so happy Athena is becoming more confident, it's the best feeling in the world!

    By the way if you could teach Dottie to roll over that would be great, every time we've tried she ends up getting too exciting and starts nipping.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dottie's attempt at roll over sounds very similar to Athena. She used to just nip and nip at my hand to try and get the treat out while she whipped her head around! Good luck with Dottie =) I seriously have no idea what finally 'clicked' for Athena in learning how to roll over, so I really don't have much good advice! I love watching YouTube videos to see how the pros teach tricks, so maybe you could start there!

      Delete
  4. I've always thought flyball could do wonders for helping dogs gain confidence. It helps teach them how to work in the middle of noise and hustle and bustle, and is something really fun for them to do in the middle of it all. Koira still has fear issues in daily life, but when doing flyball, she doesn't even notice stuff like the train going by our practice building.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's great that Koira is in total work mode at flyball and can forget about all of her fears. Going into flyball I also thought that Athena would be nervous about having so many different people handle her (especially men), but she has shown ZERO fear towards anyone at practice or when we went to the flyball demo at the expo center. I think that having so many people handle her during something that she really loves has really helped her to be more accepting of people in general.

      Delete
  5. I was really surprised when I met her last weekend that she didn't show any signs of fear. You guys have done an amazing job with her!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right, Sarah, she did great meeting you! And I was just noticing this past weekend when we went to a different event that Athena accepted everyone who approached her for some pets and she actually seemed to be enjoying it!

      Delete
  6. I too agree that you guys have done a really good job exposing her to a lot in a safe way and helping her build confidence. It's so great you started the blog with her now so you can really track the progress...I always wish I started earlier because no one can believe how crazy Miss M really was.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow, way to go! Athena and the work you've done with her remind me so much of Maggie and the work I've done with her! Isn't it just the best feeling to see them blossom like this? Congratulations!!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. You take such loving care of her, how could she not blossom? Athena gets more love and attention than many children. I'd bet you'll make an awesome "human baby" mom, too!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm repeating what everyone else has said - what a great job you have done! With love and attention she's a confident young lady. The blog has become something special as well - it is one of my favorites for so many reasons. It's cool visually. You always add new posts. Lots of useful information and tons of beautiful photos. Love it!

    ReplyDelete
  10. That is so exciting about Athena! I am pretty sure one of the first posts I read on your blog was about her fear of traffic cones and how you would hug them to make her see that they weren't so bad! You guys are rockstars at exposing her to all sorts of new things!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh yay!! Athena always had the rockstar look so she was just growing into her destiny. :-) We'd love to have Maggie do flyball or something but she just goes crazy still that close to other dogs. Maybe one day!! So glad to read about more of Athena's progress.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Yay! That's so awesome. I'm glad Athena is gaining more confidence. Nola still is hesitant about new objects. You should have seen how she first acted when I put a colander on the counter to drain pasta. It was like there was a murderer in the house or something!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great job Athena (and you guys, too!) You guys have done a great job exposing her to new things.

    I love the photo of Athena on the bench! Toby still refuses to get on a bench if it has slats (you'll probably notice none of the "Toby on bench" photos I've posted on the blog are ones with slats!) It's something we're still working on. He'll put his front paws on, but that's it so far. I think he'll jump up once he realizes he won't fall through. :-)

    Oh and I love that she's swimming, too. Swimming is the best! A pit mix actually taught my lab mix to swim when he was a puppy.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is awesome! Good for you and Athena:D

    ReplyDelete
  15. You guys are doing such a good job giving Athena all the things she needs to be her very best, happiest self :) She definitely got just the right family! It must be wonderful to see her enjoying the world so much now!

    ReplyDelete