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.
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).
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!
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...).
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!