Don’t Chase the Fox
Mika’s ears perked up when she spotted the fox. It moved like a shadow across the road ahead of us. It was dark, and the only way we knew it wasn’t a cat was because it was slightly too large.
Our Golden Retriever is a good girl. I’m biased, but my claim isn’t completely unfounded. My wife is a certified dog trainer. In every class we’ve taken Mika to — agility, nosework, tricks — she’s exceled. She’s a teacher’s pet outside the classroom, too. She excels at sports like FAST CAT (essentially sprinting) and barn hunt (sniffing rats out of the hay).
As a puppy she never once tore up a sock or chewed at furniture. She doesn’t whine, and she doesn’t snatch food off the table. Outdoors, she curls up under our legs whenever we sit at a bench or table.
No amount of training can eradicate instinct. Mika doesn’t chase after squirrels, but she certainly notices them. We play a game where, if she looks at us instead of the scary or exciting thing, we treat her. It’s a very fun game for everyone involved. Mika gets her beef jerky or freeze-dried shrimp, and we get to keep our arms.
There’s something about this fox on this particular moonlit night. Maybe it’s because, as we walk closer, we see there are actually two. They stand at the corner on our way home. If they turn left, we can go home in peace. If they turn right, we’ll be playing the “Watch me!” game all the way up until our door.
We play another game when Mika starts to tug. We stop, and Mika gets to walk again once she comes back to our side. No matter how many times it takes, we have to play this game till Mika stops tugging. Otherwise, we’d be essentially teaching her, through our behavior, that it’s okay for her to tug. This might be cute every once in a while, but it’s best to keep this behavior in check so that you don’t ever risk your dog tugging his/herself or you into traffic, or towards a potentially dangerous animal.
Once we notice there’s two foxes gliding under the streetlamps, we stop. The leash is taut. Mika looks like a prize dog, or a dog from some old Scottish painting. She leans forward, tail erect, face solemn. Usually she’s trotting, her tail wagging side to side, her tongue flopping out in a perpetual, goofy smile. We call her…