Toka Trains Me

My eyes flew open just a few minutes ago.  I checked the time.  4:32 a.m.  The trigger for this early morning wake up call:  a thought about dog training.

Friday and yesterday Toka was apparently completely unmotivated to engage in the crucial part of barn hunt — the ‘hunt’ part.  He tunneled, he climbed, but hunting was not on his agenda.

In Trial 1 yesterday, out of desperation, I called ‘RAT!’ on a tube that just happened to be at his feet.  One that he had merely glanced at.  I was *nearly* desperate enough to have tunneled and climbed in order  to have earned that leg, too, but Barn Hunt rules designate that dogs must do that, not their humans.

I fell asleep last night, thinking serendipity and I had saved the day and earned Toka his novice title.

Instead, what saved the day was teamwork.  My dog was doing the best that he could at that moment.  It’s up to me as his handler to help him so that the team succeeds.

That’s the thought that popped into my head and yanked me awake.

That’s a crucial lesson.  Kiyo, my brilliant, talented, lovely 5 year old Akita, has bailed me out time after time after time.  I have – unfairly – expected her to succeed, and do the right thing despite my poor (though improving) and inconsistent (though again, improving (I hope!)) training skills.

Toka is an entirely different dog.  He’s smart, funny, clever, and handsome, as well as  boisterous.  I think he’s closer to the breed’s standard temperament than any of my other Akitas, most of whom have been friendly and outgoing.  Akitas are supposed to be stubborn, and if I were to use that word on any of the Akitas that have graced my life, I would with him.  (I won’t but that’s for another story).

I’ve been taking classes through Denise Fenzi’s on-line dog training school.  I’ve had fabulous instructors: Denise, Julie Symons, Hannah Brannigan, Deb Jones, Loretta Mueller, to name a few.  The FDSA instructors are all great.  Each one stresses this:  you and your dog are a team.  Set the dog – and your team – up for success.

My clever, clever Red Dog set me up to understand this lesson.

Toka and I were a team yesterday.  I set us up for success by calling the tube (which happened to the the correct one – PHEW!) and we earned his novice title.  I’m the one who wanted the darn thing, after all!

I also set him up for success in the afternoon and for today.  I set him up to succeed by not setting him up to fail.  I scratched him from his additional runs. Running him in open would have been all about me, not about him. I got my ego fix – we got the title.  He doesn’t want to hunt rats for whatever reason.  I’ll see if I can figure out what that reason is, work with him to fix the hole(s), and try again.

And if he doesn’t want to be a Barn Hunt dog, that’s OK.  If he doesn’t want to engage in *any* performance events,  and ends up wanting to be a pet, that will be fine with me.  He has that choice.  I won’t force him do what I want.  Even as ‘just a pet’ we’ll be working together.  We’re a team no matter what we do.



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