Training The Beast

I believe that you get to know your animals through working with them. Good training opens up lines of communication that go both ways. To hone my skills, and to really think through what I’m doing, I’m enrolled in the KPA Professional Class. The course is geared for dog trainers, but we’re also expected to have one non-dog species to train. As you know, I have quite a few to chose from! I’m about 40% of the way through the course. Scooter is beyond delighted that after seven years of living here, with his only job that of being cute and pestering Lily, that I’m finally training him. Who knew he’d so eagerly whack his paw on a post-it note when I say target? I’ve also trained Caper, and a goldfish. (I’ve trained the chickens, too, but not for this course.)  I’ve been investigating how this positive reinforcement training applies to horses, so Tonka is learning almost all of the behaviors that I’m teaching Scooter (although Tonka is a tad too big to duck under my bent knee while I’m sitting on the floor!)

There’s one animal here at Little Pond Farm, in the very pond that the place is named for, that I haven’t yet trained. The Beast. My eleven year-old koi.

The Beast has recovered from her summer sunburn.  If anything, she’s larger and more active than ever.

fish in pond


She certainly has an appetite that suits her size. The fish get a couple of handfuls of floating pellets daily.

the Beast eating

I decided to get to know the Beast better and to let her get to know me. Asking for a complex trick isn’t necessary, nor is clicker training. I simply use that age-old technique of patience.

I bought some shrimp pellets. They don’t float, so I can hold out my hand underwater, with them in my palm. I wait. The Beast comes. She has big eyes. She looks at me. She looks at the food. I let a few trickle down to the rocks. She eats. She comes closer. She’s willing to say hello when there are shrimp pellets involved.

I wonder where the conversation will go.

feeding koi


(Steve caught this moment with his iPhone and the bird-spotting scope that’s in his office.)


  1. Your koi pond is absolutely beautiful! We had a manmade pond for a while on our previous farm, but it had so many issues we gave up on it.. leak in the liners, more than once or twice… overgrowth of pond flora, leaves piling up at an alarming rate… filter died, etc.etc. So we gave up on it. I love how natural and clean/clear yours looks! Must take a lot of work, good job.

    • Not a lot of work! Double liner, so it’s sturdy. Behind that big rock is four feet of gravel that the water filters through. Naturally cleans itself. I never use chemicals.

  2. Steve’s lovely photograph looks like a Japanese painting. I also enjoyed your August calendar photograph of the Beast and her minions in the lily pond – so very tranquil. I noticed in today’s blog that there was a little white fish, perhaps a Beast-Wanna-Be, in the pond. Does that happen very often? Or maybe I am just seeing something that’s not there!

    Now it is September and I glance up every day at Scooter and smile. Glad to hear that he loves school; we always knew he was Scooter the Scholar. Now Terry, see what you can do with Agatha!

  3. I love that photograph of the hand and the Beast. It brings to mind those “keyhole shots” in silent movies, meant to direct the audience to something small but important.