Reply To: Annie & Ashley

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Alana McGee

So Bill and I have been doing a lot of talking about our training in
general and what we do when we mushroom including things we
should consider in training and how to adjust our routine in the forest
for Ashley.

Bill video-taped hide sessions today and that was really helpful.
I am working on putting notes together of our sessions.

Commands we are using:
find mushrooms! = begin search & occasionally to encourage
mushroom! (good girl, etc, lots of praise) = when she finds one
show me! = re-alert
all done! = done for the day

Are there other commands specific to the truffle hunt that are helpful?
Also, I am using commands in both english and german for this and
for basic obedience. She is doing fine with both.

Visual cues & verbal cues
I noticed that everything is being done with verbal commands. Do you ever use
visual cues? If not, why?

kind of a continuation of above….
Guided Training
With many of the mushrooms we hunt, there are places where they tend
to grow – such as near downed wood. We have some logs in our yard to
use for hides to mimic where mushrooms grow. Is it better to just let her
discover on her own these places or can we start by guiding her on where to search?
For example: pointing towards the downed wood in our initial training
We figure some of this will work itself out on it’s own when we are hunting the forest and
she is with us.

Rewarding Try
If the dog has caught the scent and they are a foot away or so, and they are zeroing
in on it,
1. do I praise that they caught a scent of the target (rewarding try) and then party when
they locate it and alert on it?
2. or do I let her alert on the target before rewarding/party – so I don’t break her concentration

I guess what I am looking for is, if I should engage with the dog when she first gets a hint of a target before she alerts?
If I engage prior to the alert, how should I engage without interferring with her process?
So far, our pattern has been, I walk in when she has a good find.
So when I walk towards her, she thinks she has a good find and looks for her treat (similar to what
Spring was doing).
I know to some extent it will depend on the team, but are there some things I could try?

For item 1: this seems like it would be good when we have increased difficulty.
For item 2: for an easy hide.

Down Time while Collecting
With mushrooms, when we are lucky, we might hit a good patch and be picking for 5 minutes or more.
Wonderful areas can be 30 mins and our record was one hillside for 4 hours of picking. WooHooo!
What is a good way to let her know she doesn’t need to search while we are collecting.
I would give her a ‘free’ command and allow her to just relax. I’m guessing she might watch us
pick and interact and we will make that fun. Or if she wants to take a break while we
pick that’s also fine. Any recommendations? We would like to start building this into the training.

An idea for gauging praise time after a find
We know sometimes it can take a while to get a mushroom out that has a good
portion underground. Perhaps the following will help people calibrate how long
to praise. Have a friend bury one of your training truffles or a raw quail egg or a
marble or two to the average depth of a truffle. Then you get to go in and dig it out.
Time yourself and see how long it takes while you are being careful. This could help
you determine a good amount of praise time after a training find. From our videos, I was
able to get a praise time from 45 to 75 seconds.

Adding New Scents
At what point do you consider adding a new scent?

Learning new scent – scent with a meal?
When I did our initial scent imprinting, I had the scent in a tin and we had a ‘working lunch’.
Ashley had to sniff the tin, then click and got a few pieces of kibble. This was a great
game. We still hand feed kibble almost daily just for the nice time spent together.
For starting her on new scents, should we use the same imprinting method and
then proof with blank tins?