Cherry Valley resident Dana Rochat is no stranger to dog training. She grew up traveling to dog competitions and her experience has certainly paid off.
Rochat and family dog Emit, recently appeared in A&E’s show, “America’s Top Dog.”
The show features furry friends alongside their handlers facing off on a massive canine obstacle course de-signed to test their speed, agility, teamwork, and trust as they navigate a series of challenges over two rounds of competition. Award-winning veteran studio and sports broadcaster Curt Menefee and actor and comedian David Koechner serve as hosts and break down the action, while sideline reporter Rachel Bonnetta catches up.
“I got involved with dogs and training at a very young age,” said Rochat. “My mom brought home our first purebred show dog when I was just 8 years old. Instead of a soccer mom, I had a dog show mom who drove me to dog shows all over California, Nevada and even into Mexico in the early 1980s.”
Rochat also had a special reason to train dogs. Her daughter Dairian suffers from epilepsy and requires a service dog for assistance.
Emit, an Australian cattle dog is pretty remarkable to the Rochat family.
“My daughter and I bred him,” said Rochat. “This was her second service dog. We both train dogs as a side job. Because Dairian is an epileptic, she doesn’t like to compete. But I do the competitions with Emit and he’s earned a lot of awards.”
Emit comes from a good line. His mother is 13-year-old Roxy, and her father is Maverick, 12, two-time National Versatility Winner at the Australian Cattle Dog Club of America and the most versatile titled dog in the breed’s history, with seven total championships.
“Emit and I have such a connection, so special, we were able to guide him with his strengths and he has a such a bond with my daughter that made him a wonderful service dog and companion.”
Rochat never thought Emit would appear on TV. But it just so happened that a close friend from the high desert was featured on “America’s Top Dog” Season 1 and Rochat trained with her. She also attended the watch party, pre-pandemic in January 2020.
Rochat was notified that Emit qualified and plans were set in motion. Filming occurred on Sept. 11, 2020.
“It was amazing and challenging,” recalled Rochat. “They filmed two seasons at once. We quarantined for 48 hours at a hotel with strict COVID-19 precautions.”
There were about 100 crew members and Rochat said competitors were treated like royalty.
Unfortunately, Dairian wasn’t able to go, since she would have been a huge distraction for Emit. However, the TV producer interviewed Dairian over the phone.
“As a service dog he wants to be next to her,” explained Rochat. “He licks her to make sure she’s breathing … he barks and alerts us.”
They filmed all night and Emit did an amazing job.
“There were hours and hours of filming and he was ready and willing to do anything I asked and that was the highlight of it all,” said Rochat.
Emit was skilled at agility from being a service dog and it made for a great team.
After four days and three nights, a 48-hour quarantine with rapid results, and two days of filming in Simi Valley, the episode was complete.
Each of the two nights of filming, there were six competitors, including two canine police, two working dogs and two underdogs. Underdog is a sport or hobby dog.
Without giving away the outcome of the show, Rochat said, “I thought the experience was wonderful. I didn’t know what to expect and I went with the flow. I was there to have a good time, show off Emit’s talents and to be competitive.”
There were many challenges during the taping.
“You had to know how to perform something on the spot,” said Rochat. “Being a service dog, he has such a vocabulary. I could trust that he was going to perform and he certainly didn’t let me down.”
Emit is still training and competing in herding and scent work events and working on his protection apprehension. All of this continues to be in preparation for an even better performance on “America’s Top Dog,” Season 4.
To check out Rochat’s episode, Season 2, episode 2, “Cute But Means Business,” watch online for free at: https://play.aetv.com/shows/americas-top-dog/season-2/episode-2