Screwing Courage to the Sticking Place

On Monday Pamela of Something Wagging shared her thoughts about confidence and how adding joy can make one brave. I’ve talked a lot about my cowardice, especially in comparison with my dog.

Shiva is the bravest creature I know. She never lets fear get in the way of achieving her goals. I think this inner courage is one of the biggest reasons our reactivity training has been so successful. All she needed was a little confidence. Given a little bit of time and a lot of encouragement,  Shiva thrived. Nowadays, she is practically infamous for her enthusiasm and almost death-defying stunts. She doesn’t worry about what may go wrong before she leaps onto the teeter. She just jumps and trusts everything will be okay.

And if she fails, she tries again until she gets it right.

It’s been stunning to watch. I’ll admit, sometimes I still cry when I see her soliciting pets from a stranger. I hope to shed even more tears for the same reason in the future.

As I’ve harped on incessantly, Shiva’s one last bastion of fear is the water. Considering that when we adopted her she wouldn’t even approach her water bowl without trepidation, she has conquered a lot. But we live in a province surrounded by ocean. And swimming is the one athletic activity I feel I perform with a modicum of ability. She has kicked fear in the butt so many times now that I hate to see her continue to struggle.

I had a moment of training brilliance this weekend at a local provincial park. While my PH hung out with his fishing pole, Shiva and I fooled around by the shore of Long Lake. The rocky beach was covered with sticks, which are Shiva’s favourite thing to fetch. I threw the stick closer and closer to the water until she was retrieving it out of the shallow end. After all this success, I threw it a bit deeper in, where the water was dark.

This is when Shiva hesitated.

Instead of going in to get the stick myself, or telling her it was okay and ending the game, this time I decided just to wait her out. Shiva is not only brave, but stubborn. When motivated, she doesn’t give up. I hoped that if I gave her some space, she would screw up her courage and go for it. Since I happened to have my camera on me, I shot this video of Shiva’s decision process.

Shaping wins again! It’s not easy for me to do, but perhaps I need to back off a little in the future. Encourage her to go for it and then let her wade out on her own.

Now if only I could channel a little of Shiva’s bravery in my own life…

21 thoughts on “Screwing Courage to the Sticking Place

  1. Love the bit where she looks like she’s walking on water. It does look scary dark and deep compared to our little sandy beaches. What a brave girl! YOU sound as pleased and happy as SHE looks!

    Have a great Easter weekend, Kristine and Shiva 🙂 x


  2. She is a smart pup using those rocks. It is as if she doesn’t want to get all wet. Have you tried a wetsuit? Or life jacket to make her feel warmer? Huge progress anyhow, Luna won’t go in anymore as she is too keen on hunting bugs and minnows along the shore. If I want to get her in (to rinse mud off etc) I actually throw in a bit of stick or leaf she can eat and that usually wins her over and she goes in after it lol. Can’t wait till it is warm enough to swim them again though. She likes to swim if I am in it. Hopefully the water won’t be all high like last year.


  3. I love how your voice is so up and positive. And the next best part is how she prances out of the water so proud of herself! Accomplishing something scary is empowering!


  4. Congrats! what a huge step 🙂
    one thing I found helped with getting Gwynn (though maybe when it’s warmer) to go all the way in was goign somewhere to swim. once the family was in the water, he didn’t want to be left behind, and he had a lot of fun swimming between us.


  5. Water is something a lot of dogs have a fear of. Koira eventually learned how to swim after seeing other dogs go into the water. Most other dogs were interesting to her, but when her best friend Possum the border collie went in the water, Koira decided to follow her. She is now such an obsessed water hound it is hard to believe she was ever afraid of the water at all.

    I do know that the canine swim therapy places in my area teach swimming lessons for dogs, so that dogs can learn how to swim safely and gain some confidence in the water. Maybe it is something you could look into doing with Shiva?


  6. That was awesome!! I love how she just went for it! You’re right, it would be nice if we could face our fears with the same kind of “oh, what the hell!” attitude – Shiva is an excellent teacher 😉


  7. Look at her go! What a smarty pants, exploring the shallower parts first. 🙂 Dante’s not a huge fan of water either, but he’ll at least splash in the shallows at the beach. He’s forever teaching me too. (And that rocky shoreline look so much like Norway, beautiful!)


  8. Kuster has confidence in spades, too! I am always amazed at his fearlessness, and so far, we’ve never come across anything that he won’t try. It does sometimes encourage me to try a little more than I normally would.

    I think you were robbed during that DNA test! Shiva is OBVIOUSLY part Greyhound! They are made of spun sugar, you know, and never risk getting wet. *snort* Well, never when it’s not their own idea! I’m glad Shiva’s getting braver!


  9. I love how she first looked back at you like “are you serious?” The way she tried a few different approaches showed her intelligence. Awesome job by the both of you!


  10. Nice work, Shiva! She may just do some summer swimming this year, eh?

    This is precisely how we got the first long swim out of Moses. We were at a decently-sized pond. I distracted Mo while the Husband snuck around through the trees to the other side. Then the Husband called Moses. And Moses’ recall is pretty darn good. He waded in until he realised what he had to do to get there. Then he looked back at me, looked at the Husband, and just made up his mind and went for it! Swam straight across. Got there, got lots of love, and then didn’t hesitate for a second when I called him back across to me. Courage, indeed!

    Looking at that location in your video made me very envious of NS, by the way. You’re very lucky with respect to your dog walking (and swimming) locations!


  11. LOL, oh, I love the part where she stands on the little rock. So adorable. I am impressed that the stick worked. We have been using chicken to lure Koly into the water…but it’s not very effective. I think he just hates it.


  12. That’s awesome, it brought tears to my eyes just watching her overcome her fears. We have so much that we can learn from them.

    One of my favorite sayings goes along these lines, “Courage is being afraid, but doing it anyway.”


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