I stood at the entryway to my brother’s house facing a common dilemma – how to slip pass their loving, but overly rambunctious Akita, Miley. When crowds are around my brother keeps her on a long lead outside. The lead allows her to make a full circle around the property and has just enough give for her to stretch to reach those entering the house by the front steps.
Akita’s can be formidable dogs. They are large and strong, reportedly once bred to take down bears. Miley’s problem is not that she’s vicious, just the opposite. Rather than taking down a bear, she’d rather lock you in a bear hug. Literally! If she can reach you on the steps, she stands up on her rear legs and wraps her front paws around you as if the two of you are about to dance. It would be endearing except she doesn’t like to let go and she is strong!
The solution is to have my brother hold her off or to try to climb the granite steps further up, so you are out of reach. Not an easy solution on the knees. As I tried to enter, hands full of bags, I realized my brother was inside and I could not easily get up the stairs. I was about to shout for my brother when his niece Tori, his daughter stepped in.
This tiny five-year-old stood in front of her dog and told her to sit and behave. “I can train her she announced,” and she went and got a snack. She stood in front of the Akita and said, “Miley, sit!” And, then she sat down. “Like this, Miley,” she said demonstrating. Amazingly, Miley eventually sat and Tori awarded her with a bone. Repeating this pattern a few times.
I was impressed, but more importantly I enjoyed watching these two creatures interact – the little child and the big Akita. There are many long and elaborate books on dog training, but in a few minutes this little girl was able to successfully get her pet to do her will. The key as it so often is, was food, but also Tori’s perseverance. I kept telling her that I didn’t think Miley was going to sit and that I could slip past. I was even worried that the dog would knock the child down, but I forgot that Miley was Tori’s dog and I didn’t realize the power in sticking with it. Something I could learn to apply in my training of my own dogs.
There was also something magical in the communication between the two – they couldn’t audibly convey their wishes to each other, but they were able to talk and relate. Their interaction was gentle, but firm. And, watching it, I could tell they were engaged in a deep and timeless conversation.