Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘dog behavior

Why Bother

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Feel like making a guess? What the heck do you think is happening here?

If it wasn’t already obvious, here’s a clue:

Yes, we are trying to dissuade Asher from drinking out of the landscape pond. Unfortunately, he will move right past a clean bowl of water to the pond and ignore the blockade by stepping through the reeds to lap up anyway.

I don’t know if my perception is accurate or simply a figment of my imagination, but the fact that Asher tends to drink from any puddle he comes upon no matter how gross it looks might be echoes from the life he led as a stray before being rescued. One morning we came upon tall grass that bent over our path due to the weight of water droplets from dew. Asher began licking the water droplets off the blades.

He lived in a foster home for six months and I’m confident they provided as much water from a bowl as he would ever want. It strikes me as odd that he shows this tendency to act like he must drink any water he comes upon.

Our pond is probably attractive because there’s just SO MUCH water but Cyndie puts chemicals in it to control algae and enhance pond health so we’d prefer he not automatically resort to this option whenever we are romping around in the backyard and he is off leash.

The way he moved past the patio furniture as if it wasn’t even there has me thinking I may not bother trying that again. We’d really rather not put up a fence but it may come to that for a while during the retraining period. Right up until the time we give up trying and put our energy toward more achievable dog obedience goals.

I was trimming tall growth around the rocks in the labyrinth yesterday and discovered the deer had chomped all but a few leaves of the hosta down there. I don’t know why we bother expecting it won’t happen this year. It happens all the time.

I asked Cyndie if they’ve eaten the ones up behind the house yet. Nope. One year, she tried putting some nasty smelling repellent on the hostas. It was bear or coyote pee or something like that. She doesn’t remember. We don’t know if it worked because it smelled so bad we quit walking around back there and never saw whether the plants got chomped or not.

We are now more inclined to use Irish Spring bars of soap or any other variety of scents we can tolerate.

Too late for the hosta in the labyrinth again this year.

Maybe I should have stacked some patio furniture around them.



Written by johnwhays

June 7, 2023 at 6:00 am

Telling Trail

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Our darling puppy was up to mischief while I was showering yesterday. When I opened the curtain I discovered a trail of evidence strewn across the floor. Somebody was nosing around in a waste basket where they weren’t supposed to be. Who would do such a thing?

Well, our little troublemaker wasn’t smart about hiding his tracks. Asher left behind a critical piece of evidence that gave away his presence.

On Monday, it will be three weeks since we brought home our adopted pup. Cyndie shared a graphic with me that refers to a general 3/3/3 guideline of the adjustment period for a dog after adoption. Three days to decompress/three weeks to learn our routine/three months to start to feel at home.

I didn’t really notice Asher needing to decompress during those first days, but I did wonder what he must be thinking about the change. He is definitely learning our routine and adjusting to it very well, for the most part. There have been several times when he has tested our boundaries. In a couple of months, he will feel at home and hopefully by that time he will have accepted all the boundaries we established.

Today, I am on another kind of trail. I will be joining some of my cycling friends for a ride on the Dakota Rail Regional Trail, heading west out of Wayzata. I need to get serious about putting in saddle time in advance of my annual expedition on the Tour of Minnesota which happens in the middle of June.

In just a couple of blinks, June will be here. I hope the ground dries up enough by then that I will be able to mow the areas I’ve been skipping because they’re too wet.

Here’s hoping the smoke from Canadian wildfires won’t make breathing difficult for bicycling today. I rarely find myself riding with friends at the beginning of my cycling season and I’m looking forward to the chance to visit with folks while pedaling along.

At least we finally have a weekend with pleasant weather to be outdoors without a raincoat.



Written by johnwhays

May 20, 2023 at 7:00 am

Mastering Backspin

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Watching Asher play with balls yesterday, it became apparent that he totally understands backspin and uses it to draw them back to him in the absence of having an opposable thumb that would allow him to grasp.

There are glimpses of him employing this trick in the video I posted three days ago. It shows me a level of intelligence that clouds my understanding of what he is smart about and what his puppy-ness has yet to learn. He seems to know so much and so little all at the same time.

Thankfully, he continues to demonstrate progress in comprehending and appropriately obeying the commands we are working on.

He acted a little like Jekyll & Hyde with me on a walk last evening. I couldn’t tell if he was being playful or trying to outsmart me by suddenly becoming intolerant of being leashed. I feel as though every time we show inconsistency, he quickly claims ground that conveys it is he who is training us, not the other way around.

It’s tough for us because we tend to lack a firm plan about what behaviors we intend to establish with absolute rigidity and which we have less concern over permanently enforcing. That rule about allowing him moments on the couch has already become more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule.

Asher’s powers with backspin apply to more than just his felt-covered squeaky ball toys. I don’t doubt for a minute his ability to take advantage of any inconsistencies we might be presenting in our expectations for his behavior.

My problem will always be that I desire military precision from a pet dog without going through the military training such behavior requires. My “sort-of-training” methods reliably produce “sort-of-trained” dogs.

I’m pretty sure that ‘difficulty in training a dog’ was on my 3-minute list of reasons not to get a dog I was reciting for Cyndie just over a week ago.

My, how time flies.



Written by johnwhays

May 8, 2023 at 6:00 am

Relatively Damp

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Am I prone to understatement? Not always. Sometimes I go to the other extreme. My natural inclination is to be contrarian, so instead of titling this post, “Soaking !#@$ Wet,” I settled on a genteel descriptor for current conditions. The ground around here is actually wetter than an entirely saturated sponge this morning.

I’m sure the trees are soaking this up with glee. Buds are sprouting from every stem and branch and noticeably increasing the hues of green emerging by the day.

Yesterday’s World Labyrinth Day event brought ten visitors to Wintervale, six of whom are family, four friends, plus a small dog. After some stutter-starts at the meeting of dogs, Asher settled into a wonderful acceptance of all the activity, people, and the one pet unfamiliar to him in his new home. All signs continue to hint that we will find success soon in Asher developing into the pet we are hoping he will become for us.

As long as he refrains from putting his nose on the kitchen counter, then his paws, and reaching for an unfinished scone on a plate, or shredding the cover of the pad in his crate, or getting back up on the living room couch again, or failing to recognize we are speaking to him and directing commands his way for compliance.

He appears to be relatively willing to suppress his natural instincts and behave exactly as we desire at all times.


Yeah, we got this.



Written by johnwhays

May 7, 2023 at 10:09 am

Training Begins

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First of all, yesterday’s antics dealing with our first day introducing Asher to our house and property were more tiring than I’m used to lately. Thankfully, it was all good. Asher’s energy is overflowing with playfulness and happy curiosity. Our reference for every situation quickly defaults to the way Delilah behaved differently. We discovered several things that Asher wants to do that Delilah never showed any interest in, like getting up on our bed.

The couch was allowed at his foster home.

We are leaning toward discouraging couch access and hope to hold out entirely against allowing him on our bed. Both Cyndie and I are wrestling over our tendency to refer to Asher with feminine pronouns after our ten years with Delilah. Maybe we should just switch to the non-binary alternatives.

He showed normal curiosity about our explorations on the trails in our woods. We very quickly discovered his ability to dig is magnitudes beyond what we were used to with Delilah. Three quick strokes created a massive canyon in the dirt. Asher dug up several old bones that Delilah had buried in and around the outdoor kennel.

Pulled from his usual surroundings to a world where every sight and sound was brand new, we were unsuccessful in even coming close to getting him to process and obey a “STAY!” command. Asher did great on the zip line in the backyard. He LOVES to play ball and is a great catcher. He got me laughing over the way he would nudge the ball with his nose so it would roll to me as a way to get me to play with him.

Ash showed little in the way of interest in the horses. They were more curious about the new canine leading us around than he was about them. Our treks through the woods revealed several new tree tops that have broken off and fallen to the ground. Yesterday was very windy. Today we may need to learn whether Asher is bothered by the noise a chainsaw makes.

The foster mom warned us he is not a fan of the vacuum.

Whether we intend it or not, training is already underway. It will be a contest to see if Asher is training us more than we are training him. The official obedience classes don’t start for a couple of weeks. Helping him to master the “STAY!” command before then would be a big surprise.

Last night before we retired to our bedroom, we heard a couple of snores coming from his crate. A wonderful end to a super first day.



Written by johnwhays

May 2, 2023 at 6:00 am

Squeaky Stroll

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How would you like to tag along virtually on a frigid mid-day walk with Delilah on some of our trails? In a rare (for me) instance of verticle orientation filming, I recorded nine minutes of our rather uneventful stroll yesterday to provide a glimpse of what has been a major part of my days since Cyndie has become hampered by a troublesome painful knee (the one that hasn’t been replaced by an artificial joint yet).

With the air temperature just below zero (F), my boots squeaking on the snow are the prominent audio component of the recording as I quick-step to keep up with Miss D. I won’t feel bad if you choose to turn down your volume to reduce the potential annoyance of the squeak but I hope you can turn it up whenever she allows me to stop so you can enjoy the sweet sounds of birds in the otherwise serene quiet of a mostly calm day.

I directed Delilah to make the first turn and then let her choose the route the rest of the way. Hopefully, my motion won’t make you feel car-sick as the girl pulls me around bends and I hustle to keep up with her pace. I turned twice to provide a glimpse of the horses, but they were lingering around the gate between the paddock and hayfield and at that distance weren’t much to see.

If you spend the full nine minutes to follow her along on this video like she’s pulling you on a dogsled, you will be presented with a pretty good perception of the experience of walking through parts of our woods to where this trail emerges behind the back pasture.


It ends rather unceremoniously at the point my phone battery got too cold and gave up on me. We were approximately halfway around the property perimeter at that point. It was simply more of the same to complete the trip, just without the trees. If you’ve watched the video, you’ve seen the best part of the trek.

Thanks for coming along!



Written by johnwhays

February 4, 2022 at 7:00 am

Twenty Questions

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I’m not going to number them, so you’ll have to count if you want to find out if there really are twenty. It’s just that a question came to mind during my morning commute yesterday and I found myself mentally careening down a rabbit hole of not-necessarily-related questions that went on for so long –pretty much the rest of the way to work– I figured it deserved to become a blog post.

Now, if I could only remember what it was I was pondering so deeply in that westbound commute at almost zero-dark-thirty. Oh, that sentence triggered a memory of feeling really grateful to have been able to drive west in the morning and east in the afternoon during most of my working life. I’ve avoided fighting the daily glare of sun in my eyes while driving.

Speaking of being triggered, a song lyric during the morning commute got me to wonder, do people know who it is that taught them how to love? Or how come some humans can play instruments faster than my ear is able to discern? Have you ever heard Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper play Tall Fiddler? Wow. Seems pretty fast, until they suddenly go even faster.

How come I’ve never been able to get my left and my right hand to work together at breakneck speed to hit the correct notes at the correct time on the strings of my guitar? That’s just black magic to play that unrealistically fast and actually produce recognizable melodies with every note presented, if only for a micro-fraction of a second each.

When it appears like our dog is trying to bite the cat, is it possible to know which of the two was the instigator? Does Delilah suddenly start barking at something outside our house because of a sound she hears or some canine sixth sense that tells her there is an invisible thing out there that needs to be barked at?

Actually, I think it’s become a learned behavior that she is unconscious about. There was once a squirrel up in the big tree towering above her kennel outside. She barked up at it, logically. Unfortunately, now she barks up at that tree every time we put her in the kennel, regardless of any squirrel sightings. Does she associate being in the kennel with needing to bark up at the tree? Apparently so.

Are digital HD subchannels radio’s best-kept secret? Is it weird that one radio or television station is actually multiple stations?

Is there a general age break where the reference of something being bigger than a bread box no longer makes any sense? Maybe it has been replaced with, “Is it bigger than a video game console?” Of course, I have no idea if game consoles have a general size at this point, but I have seen pictures of people opening wrapped packages of the latest impossible-to-get hot item that have me thinking there might be.

Have you noticed how Cyndie’s photos have been more interesting than mine for the last few years? I am very lucky that she shares them for use on my blog.

Does it matter if I don’t offer answers to all the questions I am bringing up? Can you tell when my posts run a little long? Who’s counting words, anyway? It’s all about how long it takes to read, not how many words there are. You just skim the sentences like a speed reader after all, don’t you? What words catch your eye enough to slow you down and really read a full paragraph?

Without knowing any of the answers, it still just boils down to the question that started it all, do you know who taught you how to love?

I heard the question in a song.



Written by johnwhays

November 18, 2021 at 7:00 am

Puppy Love

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While communing with Cyndie’s family over the weekend, I learned of a wonderful photo captured by one of my fellow Friswold in-laws, Sara (married to Cyndie’s youngest brother, Ben). They are the only other Friswold family with multiple pets in the house. In addition to their three kids, there are two cats roaming the house, (and multiple amphibians and reptiles in a bedroom), and two dogs. Mocha is a 3-year-old mix they got from the Humane Society and Hazel is a 4-and-a-half-month-old rescue puppy.

Given that variety of kid and animal energy, it is easy to imagine the perpetual hum of commotion from ongoing activity constantly underway in the background of their everyday lives. In that setting, it is any sudden absence of activity that causes a person to take notice.

Sara reports just that scenario one day while she was occupied at her computer. She noticed it had gotten quiet and turned around in her chair to glance in the direction of the dogs. This is what she saw:

Puppy Hazel had her paws on Mocha’s chest and they were gazing at each other, nose to nose.

Sara quickly, but subtly, reached for her phone and captured the moment over her shoulder in the split second before it was over and Hazel moved on to other pursuits.

I asked how it might have transpired and Sara said it is not unusual for Mocha to sit upright in that spot and hang a front “arm” over the chair to look out the window. It is assumed that Hazel just took advantage of the position to stage an impromptu up close and personal puppy style greeting.

Everyone who has seen the image has enjoyed it so much, myself included, that I asked if I could share it with my readers, too. Let’s amplify and spread the puppy-love joy it brings.

It’s better than the “chew on everything in sight” puppy energy that is more the norm.

Congratulations, Sara, for the deft achievement of capturing this image in the moment’s notice!

It’s a winner of a photo. Thank you for letting me feature it and your pooch smooches.



Written by johnwhays

September 15, 2020 at 6:00 am

Duly Moved

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Last night I watched the award-winning documentary, Free Solo about Alex Honnold’s epic climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. What a masterpiece of a film! I highly recommend it. I was duly moved by the intimate glimpse into Alex’s life, and the inclusion of the emotional challenges of those around him coping with the immensity of the monumental risk he was facing in his quest to climb that granite monolith without ropes.

Alex points out that any of us could die at any moment, whether doing something risky, or not. I tend to avoid things with a high risk of death whenever possible, but it is true that my life could end at any time. One way I interpret his thinking is to frame myself as “free soloing” all the time.

It made my walk with Delilah a little more exciting than normal after the movie.

She suffered a bit of a panic inside her overnight safe-space crate yesterday morning when a rowdy thunderstorm rumbled over top of us at oh-dark-thirty. I didn’t have much success trying to assure her we weren’t in jeopardy as I prepared to leave for work, which made it rather stressful for me to walk out the door and leave her alone until Maddie was due to show up an hour or two later.

I soothed myself by considering how she would greet me when I got home at the end of the day, as if clueless that anything out of the ordinary had happened earlier, which turned out to be true. She did.

We then made the rounds on the property, hiking the perimeter trails and surveying the results of the wild weather. There were 2.5 inches of rain in the gauge and the ground is fully saturated, but no new-fallen trees or limbs, thank goodness. That much rain, or more, is expected to fall before this weather event is done and gone.

We will carry on and survive to the best of our ability, even though I now have this new sense that I am doing it all without the benefit of any ropes.



Written by johnwhays

September 12, 2019 at 6:00 am

Rural Pleasures

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We had the wonderful opportunity to drive through the cities to the rich countryside of Wayzata yesterday for the unfortunate occasion of a memorial service. Some of that time in the car spawned discussion about what might be next for us now that we no longer have horses. It is a complicated dilemma, although dilemma is too extreme a word.

It’s really just a question, one that could be simplified to the alternatives of continuing to live here, or selling the property and moving somewhere else. One of the first complications is that there is nowhere else I would prefer to be. We have become very accustomed to the space our little sanctuary provides.

Back home in the afternoon, Cyndie hung up the authentic Guatemalan hammock that our friends the Morales family gifted to us. In the shade beneath giant oak trees, I joined Cyndie to luxuriate in the open privacy of our little nature preserve. Then Delilah decided to join us, too.

We are truly blessed to live here. It is a real struggle to even conceive of leaving for something else.

Discussions have continued on the neighborhood group about our recent close encounter with a mysterious wild visitor. The fisher is too rare an occurrence for some to accept, so the opinion has shifted to a woodchuck.

That’s good news for us, as that would be much less threatening for our chickens.

Those hens seem to be luxuriating in the rural pleasures themselves. It’s pure luck that no predator has disrupted their ranks all summer and it seems to have inspired a dangerous, comfortable confidence in them.

One of them has decided she doesn’t need to use the nest boxes in the coop to lay her eggs.

This morning, Cyndie noticed a newborn cow in the neighbor’s pasture. Last week, she reported a group of five eagles soaring together, high in our sky. Delilah picked up a feather left on one of our trails by a wild turkey and carried it like a precious treasure for several minutes, ultimately dropping it with a vividly contrasting lack of interest.

Today, it is beyond my comprehension that there is any other place where I will be as happy living as our rolling hills in the rural countryside of west-central Wisconsin.



Written by johnwhays

August 18, 2019 at 9:39 am