Reply To: Shannon & Cricket (DRTDT)

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Alana McGee

This is a long post- I have put some key things in bold to make it easier to read.

We have a drill for you we would like to try. It will require some grass of medium height (ideally) enough to hide a tea ball loose above ground- as in you toss it and can?t see it.

This game is based on traditional Italian methods for truffle training. We don?t recommend it for all teams, nor is it the only tool Shannon & Cricket will be using. It is not appropriate for all dogs.

[i]You, Shannon, are going to play fetch with the truffle tea ball. [/i]

[center][size=2]*all students please note that while you may have heard of this method, it isn?t by itself a means to learn truffle hunting effectively. We state that point blank, and I will be quite upfront in my stipulation and comments in this regard because it is something we see used as a method all over the world, & when used by itself, frankly, creates teams with lots of knowledge gaps and problems locating truffles in the wild. We think this exercise is great in the right situation, but PLEASE don?t JUST use this as a means to teach your dog truffle hunting. *

**We know you are all Fenzi students here so you would never think that! but it is something we come across a lot. It is a great tool, and in this circumstance we think that it will help build a certain set of skills for Cricket & Shannon.

SO what we want you to do Shannon:

This takes place outdoors. Start with your priming. Then let Cricket watch you toss the tea ball a few feet in front of you and then ask her to find it. The goal here is a retrieve. But as part of that Cricket has to find it! If the retrieve comes naturally- encourage it, and praise it. If not, once she gets there go to her and reward at source. We suspect she will likely pick it up and fling it at you partially at least. She?s rewarded either way because she found it through olfaction (hence why you need grass of at least a little height to obscure it)

You will slowly increase the distance, but Cricket is still watching you toss it. Eventually you build to where Cricket won?t be watching you and she?ll be able to go find it for a retrieve.

Try it. The early stages anyway. We are curious to see how she reacts to it and we think it might be a fun game for her to play outdoors and also get her starting to search larger and larger areas with just one target but keeps the element of play associated with the tea balls and movement that she already has.

[b]Back to traditional hides[/b] you are doing as described for the lesson (not for this exercise of tossing the tea ball yet) we also would be curious to see you present the toy. She responds SO well to it. We know it may be more than Cricket can handle presently- but let us know how that is going as we think the element of play through movement and toys (either tea balls or frisbees)in the truffle ?finding? game for Cricket is something we want to build on and encourage.

We think you are doing great Shannon. I would never ever be able to guess you consider yourself an somewhat inexperienced handler. You?re doing such a fabulous job. We wholeheartedly commend you for wanting to take to time to train her in a manner that doesn?t induce stress and is fun, and we want to help you do just that. You guys are doing great. She is also young, 13 months is a babeh. We don?t think you need to go back to easier hides- but you can build value at this stage. And try some new exercises. I will explain a few things below.

Even with our experienced dogs we play the whole range of games. Yesterday Lolo was practicing finding targets in boxes in a row, today she was out actually hunting. You?re not always going to be pushing the envelope. If you feel like you want to do a set of easier hides because you?re just not ?feeling it? that day- go ahead and do that. But you guys look good, again we don?t think you need to do that.

*As a personal side for reference and perspective my Aussie is 3. He only this year started to really play the game. We went slow, still are going slow, but it will pay off hugely in the long run, and already has. Part of that is because ?I? finally learned what it was that was a strong reward for him. It wasn?t food, and it wasn?t toys. Once I accepted that, everything has come much easier. When he plays the game now he loves it. Ryu is very resilient, and precise, and a genius, and I?m anthropomorphizing, but as I have been told by other instructors we?ve worked with, he hates to be wrong. Not bombproof as you say, sensitive but in a weird way! So we are building on that and it has taken [i]me[/i] some time but I finally have a set of rewards he responds really well to and we now use it in multiple environments with Lots of success.

I mention it as an example because for you & Cricket It isn?t a lack of enthusiasm, or connection (you have GREAT CONNECTION and engagement)- it just might take some time! And that is perfectly ok. Kristin and I honestly think that the use of the toy may bring out a WHOLE ?nother side to cricket when playing this. But it will also take some time to have her not obsess about the frisbee and be able to transition from truffle finding to frisbee play. She seems so very much like Callie in that regard. Callie didn?t learn overnight either, and you guys are doing great.

[b]We thought the video was good. [/b]Cricket doesn?t always have to be keyed up to 155% to play. Ryu & Callie are both super serious when they truffle hunt but have different speeds- you?ll see more videos of Callie as we go on. You & Cricket are still learning working styles together and what works- but you are doing AWESOME. We really mean that and we love watching you guys.

We do think she is more comfortable searching off lead- but we have seen plenty of videos inside on lead where she seemed just fine, so it is good to practice when you can because that is the reality of the situation.

What I do in the field for my dog whom I do not feel comfortable having working completely off lead for a few reasons,(but whom works better off lead, generally) is she drags a long line. This isn?t for everyone, but it does work for us and allows us to work on things as they arise. It provides me an avenue to stay connected to her to help her remain at source for rewards while I can get a truffle out. I don’t use it for control. I also put it on and take it off frequently based on her body language as even though we have spent the better part of two seasons in the field working together, We are still learning.

[b]Back to the video and explanation of some things going on:[/b]

Cricket makes a map. I think that is very accurate.
Something that was really interesting to see is at 1:43. You ask her to show me. You can see right there (she has perviously done not only a ?map? but a subtle alert at each of those two locations ?it?s as little as putting her nose on odor source- or close to it- it is really subtle- but it is a recognition of source–)? and you can see her thinking which one to show you. She takes step one direction, and then back to the left. She knows two targets are there- but which one to show you? For us, the handler, we think it obvious: the one you were last at doggy! But Cricket doesn?t see it that way. That?s ok. It takes some practice and repetition in these multiple hide scenarios to really start solidifying behaviors.

This is why wouldn?t say go back to easier hides at all- what we want to do is [b]build value of staying at a hide once she has found it-[/b] and you are doing a great job of that by just trying to keep her engaged. Where there is a slight disconnect is after she initially finds it (not counting the mental map- because you can see her ?find it? there too) offering a more substainal and/or repeatable alert. This comes with time and practice. You’re doing everything great, we just want to keep building value at source and staying at source in all of these scenarios.

The other important thing, when you?re having a bad ?human? day, is don?t beat yourself up over it and don?t dwell. There are more chances!

The video is totally okay though! interesting to see this ‘pulling’ between two odors and what to re alert on- and the staying at source manifesting, but it was insightful, and not a bad session. I know many of us have that drive if we had a less than stellar training session, we want to do it again as soon as possible. (Hard for me too!) It’s hard not to want to, but try to remember it’s the long game we care about and to stop while we are a head. It’s always better to do less than more. And if you were going to do a training session after a first stressful one (for you or dog!), set yourself up for success and don’t make it too hard.