Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘obedience training

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

City School

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We are enrolled in a dog obedience training series with Asher in St. Paul, MN. The guy gets a dose of the big city every Thursday and he seems more than capable of coping with sidewalks and city streets.

Asher showed no hesitation about adjusting to the city latrines that looked nothing like the trees and bushes he has become accustomed to at home. We are so proud of him.

The hour-long class has probably six other dogs and owners for Asher to ignore while we are trying to listen to the instructor and then practice the routines. It’s a misnomer to call it a dog obedience class because it is really a “hooman” obedience class teaching the time-tested tricks for establishing one-word commands.

You can lure a dog into the desired behavior with food but if you state the command while luring, that is a bribe. They don’t learn from a bribe.

Timing is everything. Commands are to be stated only once. If you repeat it, they tune it out. Successful responses to commands are met by a friendly “Yes!” and then a reward treat is given. For Cyndie and me, the chaos in the training room and the multiple repetitions of exercises lead to forgetting the command or repeating the command, taking too long to serve the treat, and too frequently forgetting the “Yes!”

Asher seems to be learning in spite of our inconsistencies.

The hour is rather exhausting for all of us.

The car ride home is pretty quiet.



Written by johnwhays

May 26, 2023 at 6:00 am

Obedience Training

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Asher’s first day of obedience training happened yesterday. Consistency and repetition will be a challenge for us but he is a smart enough dog I think he will find a way to overcome our shortcomings and get us wrapped around his paws in no time. The hour-long session was almost too much for my stamina but Asher did fairly well despite having ingested a meal’s-worth of treats by the end.

Some of the things we worked on were made a little more complicated by Asher’s historic pattern of behaviors and the variety of commands he’s already learned before coming to live with us. Still, the routines the trainer demonstrated produced results for us that will serve as a good foundation for the lessons to come.

Asher would perform the desired action but we were usually off in our deliveries of the gestures or verbal commands or treat rewards. He is definitely treat-motivated. Our challenge lies in effectively tying his behavior to our commands and not allowing him to figure out how to get treats by recognizing our unconscious signals and playing off of them.

We want him focused on our commands and not on the bag of treats.

One initial exercise that I found impressive was when the trainer said the word, “Puppy” and none of the dogs reacted. She then repeated the word but in a two-tone high voice like the “ding-dong” of a doorbell. I didn’t notice all the other dogs but Asher instantly turned his attention to her.

Asher already knows the “Sit” command but we made great strides in moving from that to having him lay down on his stomach at a “Down” command.

It quickly became apparent to Cyndie and me (when the trainer pointed it out) that we need to stop using “Down” when we are trying to get Asher off the couch or the bed or from putting his front paws on people’s shoulders. Using the word “Off” will become our goal.

Now all we need to do for homework is to practice today’s routines roughly a hundred more times in approximately 5-minute sessions throughout the week before next Thursday.

I’m trying to picture both Cyndie and me consistently delivering precise commands one hundred different times.




Written by johnwhays

May 19, 2023 at 6:00 am

CSI Wintervale

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The only crime to report lately is mud shrapnel showing up inside the house. This spring, it hasn’t happened as often as it used to. The primary traffic in and out of our house has been limited to just Cyndie and me. That is about to change with the plan to adopt Ash, a rescued Shepherd Mix. More mud in the house will be a small price to pay.

Cyndie recently showed me her solution for leaving her boots on while retrieving something from inside the house for a project we were working on outside.

Looked like crime scene booties to me. The tedious hassle of getting in and out of boots for a quick indoor trip finally drove her to bag the boots and forge ahead. Works in a pinch but I don’t think it will be the solution for having a dog living with us again.

Time to get the kiddy pool set up by the front door.

Yesterday, we brought Delilah’s crate in from the garage and set it up beneath the spiral staircase, trying two different orientations before settling on the way we had it before. We have been wracking our brains to remember how and why we chose to do things the way we did ten years ago when we brought Delilah home for the first time. We share a common yearning to catch things we might have done, or conversely, failed to do, toward establishing rules and a firm command of desired behaviors in our pet.

What would we like to do differently from the way we attempted to train Delilah to become her best self? We think there is room for improvement.

Our appointment to pick up Ash is set for tomorrow morning. Cyndie has registered for a class of obedience training for him that will start in a couple of weeks.

It would be a crime if we miss the earliest opportunity to train Ash to achieve the best-behaved potential his mixed breed is capable of after the rough start he may have experienced before rescue. The only obvious issue when he first arrived at his current foster home was food aggression related. Since we don’t have any other house pets right now, that won’t be a big struggle for us at the start.

One of my favorite behaviors Delilah mastered was her patient and reliably obedient adherence to waiting in a designated “Place” until a release command allowed her to approach her bowl of food. I fumble around with a desire to have a dog that behaves with a military level of discipline without us being good at establishing a military level of training.

Despite ever reaching the ultimate level of control we both would have appreciated having with Delilah, Cyndie and I achieved enough success teaching her that we are hopeful for that much and more with Ash. We look forward to discovering what differences his personality will bring to the process.



Written by johnwhays

April 30, 2023 at 10:26 am