This lesson is designed to get you started with some basic skills and foundation work in preparation for truffle hunting. The goal of this lesson is to familiarize yourself with some of the tools and training aids you will use throughout this course.
Please read through the material, watch the videos, and when ready, move on to truffle training!
Below you will learn about
- the concept of clicker training and positive reinforcement techniques
- the tools and supplies necessary for this course
- how to use the discussion forum and navigate the site to get the most out of your online classroom experience
To make sure you receive all electronic communication from us here at the Truffle Dog Company, please add our email firstname.lastname@example.org to your safe sender list.
Tools & Equipment
Listed below are the tools and suggested equipment you will need to acquire to be able to take full advantage of the lessons taught during our courses. Some of these materials may be purchased directly from us, and you can find those over at our Online Store.
- Truffle scent solution
- Real truffles (frozen or fresh)
- Scent containers (scent buttons or scent tubes)
- Scent boxes or hides
- Cotton q-tips or cotton balls
- High value treats
- Your dog’s favorite toy
- Non retractable leash/ Long line
- A harness
- Treat pouch
- Digging implement such as a garden rake, trowel, spoon, or vanghetto
Truffle Hunting Aids
Also for later stages when you are out in the field the following additional supplies are helpful
- portable water dish
- protective clothing for your dog if appropriate (if appropriate for your canine & climate)
- warm layer for after truffle hunting (if appropriate for you climate)
- first aid kit
- container for truffles
- pack/ bag to carry supplies
Truffle Scent Source
A truffle scent source is required for participation. Students are responsible for acquiring their own scent source. We offer the following acceptable options:
Truffles – Frozen and seasonally available fresh samples can be purchased from Truffle Dog Company. Please email email@example.com
Starter Kit – The scent starter kit can be purchased from Truffle Dog Company for $20 plus shipping. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org. One starter kit consists of:
- one scent button to use during training
- one container for storing scent button to avoid contamination
- one dropper bottle filled with truffle scent solution (made from either domestic or European truffle species- please state preference)
- one clicker
Oregon Truffle Oil – our preferred oil for training (for native North American species) and may be purchased from Truffle Dog Company store.
If you have questions about the scent source/oil you are using for Orchard training, or access to specific species in your geographic region please send us an email at email@example.com and we can point you to acceptable sources to use.
Training for mushrooms not truffles?
Some students are interested in training for other species of fungi, not truffles. If you fall into this category, please contact us and we can consult about the best possible scent source for your desired mushroom species. This may include dried as well as fresh samples.
You can teach your dog to find other fungi by following our truffle training curriculum, but there will be some adjustments to various parts of the curriculum depending on the species you are intending to locate. Please consult us before beginning a training regime with that in mind.
Introduction to Clicker Training
For those of you who have never heard of Clicker Training, or how it can be applied, please take a look at the following video. It is not required but we recommend you practice these skills as they will be useful during training throughout the exercises in this course.
Why do we use Clickers and Clicker Training?
You do not “need” to use a clicker to be successful in truffle hunting. We like to use them as it allows us as trainers to provide very specific information to our dogs about what we are asking of them. Clickers are a communication tool. Clickers can be very helpful at later stages as well when perfecting precision behaviors and building confidence at distance. They allow us to communicate efficiently and effectively with our canines, leaving little room for confusion. This accelerates the learning process and strengths the handler- animal bond through effective and concise communication.
Do you ever look at your dog and think, “if only he could speak english!”? Clickers allow us to communicate in ways that take the guesswork out of training, and to communicate in a much more efficient and effective manner. They also teach the dog to problem solve and to think creatively and offer solutions to a presented problem.
The History of Clicker Training
Clicker training was first developed and put into action over thirty years ago by Keller Breland, Marian Breland Bailey, and Bob Bailey, but the foundations of clicker training go much further back in history to behaviorist B.F. Skinner ( a professor of the aforementioned individuals) and his experiments with operant conditioning and animal training.
It first reached wide acceptance in the sphere of marine mammal training, wherein using force to train is not an option. It also took the place of straight forward reward/ praised based training at this time as it proved to be a more efficient means of communicating complex ideas and tasks. It has taken some time for Clicker training (Operant conditioning training) to trickle down through to the general population, but clicker training is viewed by behaviorists all over the world as a humane, reward based, force free system of training.
Don’t worry, this does not mean your dog will only work for clicks and treats once they are trained to truffle hunt. It does however mean they will love to truffle hunt!
Simplified, clicker training is an application of behavior analysis and learning using positive reinforcement techniques to achieve desired results.
What if I don’t want to use a Clicker?
There can be a variety of reasons you may not want to, and as we said success in these courses is not dependent on using a clicker, but they can be extremely helpful.
Clicker training is a methodology. It is one we ourselves use and teach, but you can use a marking word instead. We discuss more specifics of how to do this throughout the courses.
Much of clicker training is about the mechanics of timing. Your dog begins to associate the “click” with a reward. The click acts as a secondary re-inforcer, food (or the reward) being the primary re-inforcer. In layman’s terms, the click tells your dog that something awesome is coming soon. The trick is the moment you “click” that is the exact moment the dog associates with the behavior you are seeking. Simplified: if you ask your dog to touch his nose to something and then “click” after he has touched it and is moving his face away, your dog will likely associate his face moving away from the object as the desired behavior.
Soon after some practice with clicker training your dog, you dog will learn that the “click” means that behavior they just did is good and the behavior you wanted, so they will begin to offer it more, but practice your timing!
Further Suggested Reading
Getting Started: Clicker Training for Dogs by Karen Pryor