Know your dog

“There are three Akitas who have NACSW NW3 Elite titles. And two of them live with YOU!”

So said a friend yesterday.

Toka (AKA ‘His Redness’) earned his third NW3 title in Doswell, Virginia.  This means he also earned his NW3 Elite title, and we are no longer in the morass (or merde!) of NW3 trials.

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WHAT a relief!  A few weeks ago, one of my newbie students stated that “NW3 sounds terrifying!”  He’s right,  in part.  To start I did find it terrifying.  His Redness earned one his first time out, then we had a few more hiccups to get to his third NW3.

By the time we trialed yesterday rolled around, I was pretty calm. “If we get it, we get it, if we don’t, we have a trial in York, Maine next weekend.”  I didn’t second guess myself too terribly much.  I fretted far less than I have at past trials.

This is what I know now about His Redness.  He never leaves a hide behind when we are trialing. If something is there, he’ll find it.

I also (now) know that when he gets frustrated, he starts biting at things – containers, furniture, vehicles.  That’s what tripped me up when we had those hiccups.  The difference in his “I’m searching and this is my real indication” and “Goddamnit, I’m frustrated” behavior is pretty subtle.

Indeed, he put my ability to figure out the difference to the test yesterday with containers.  We checked everything: he found two hides. I took him back for a re-check, and he started mouthing another plastic box.  I waited (chanting “NW1, NW2, NW3” in my head).  He came off the box.  Took him back & he passed that box by after a quick sniff.

Called “FINISHED!” and got him out of there.

I’m not ashamed to admit I cried when I saw this:


This is the element sheet, which details how many hides were in each element or location, and where they were placed.

I cried because Toka had been spot on with every single hide, because he worked so hard for me despite being hot and tired, doesn’t leave a hide behind, earned his NW3 elite title after just turning 3 years old, and mostly because I’m so grateful for his trust in me.

And, come to think of it, because I’m INCREDIBLY relieved to be done with NW3.  We will totally have fun with elite trials!

Yesterday drove home the fact that knowing my dog and his behaviors – how he acts in a given set of circumstances – is crucial to our success.

Good boy, Toka! You rock.


It’s thanks to the following people that we got here:  Julie Symons for our rock solid foundations.  Holly Bushard for endless coaching, positive reinforcement and one-woman cheering section. Kim Holmes and John Newland, Toka’s breeders, for trusting me with this great working dog.  Can’t forget Lucy Newton, who figured out a way to curb Toka’s “I’m going to bite this to death” indication!

Here’s His Redness, catching up on sleep after a hard day of trialing:


One thought on “Know your dog

  1. Whizzo! Congratulations on you and Toka’s splendid accomplishment with his NW3 Elite title. Just splendid. Very very nicely done.


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