Reply To: Annie & Ashley

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Alana McGee

Ashley dug a
hole about 4″ wide, 8″ deep and at least 12″ long

I have a dog like this as well. So I speak not only from a instructor standpoint, but personal firsthand, handler experience. What happens is they become overstimulated by the envionment and the digging. The digging (regardless of odor) becomes a rewarding outlet. Enthusiasm and parties are great, but when the dogs are digging like this it is actually a frustration maneuver and turns to play. Yes, they may have detected odor, and it can be part of an alert, but it starts to go beyond that.

We?d encourage you to try to curb this behavior and channel it into precision alerts. That doesn?t mean control, but pull the focus away from the roto-tilling action. You are not going to want her to do do this on mushrooms, or on truffles frankly. Also if she does alert on a truffle this way a) she?ll be kicking it behind her (we do cover an exercise for this later) b) it?s going to be a lot harder to find it c) she will probably break it. Precision alerts we cover more I think in week 6 of this course. I would spend some time, even inside working on nose touches.

Again, you are correct you don?t want ?ruin? her good time- and parties are great! but if she starts to exhibit this behavior, we would strongly suggest you move away from the area, and lure her away. if you have the target with you (have extracted it from where she alerted like this) have her do a re-alert away from the hole. She likely is not digging for alert purposes of ?hey I found odor? but the digging has become self-rewarding. We?d have to see it to be really sure as her body language would say a lot about if she is actually looking for targets or not, but I strongly suspect that is what?s happening. Watch the video again and see if you actually see her scenting in the hole or just digging away. Even if they appear to be scenting in the hole (they often are- but it?s not for what you want) the aggressive digging is a redirection of their energy. It can be subtle- but I speak from personal experience on this one. The digging becomes play. *Again play is great, but we would suggest you redirect that to some other form of play (that can?t be confused with alerts)- whether it is a stick, a ball, you, cookies, etc.

The dig is ok for an alert- but try to get in there and reward her before she starts making trenches 🙂

We are really glad you feel like you guys are in sync! That?s fabulous! It?s more about the handler than people think! (Also glad you?re feeling better!)

As for your training plan:

I would, for the moment, avoid putting the tins close together- especially if she is doing the big digging maneuvers like you suggested. I?d put them at least 6 to 10 feet apart. Deeper is ok, but keep building value on the hides that are about 1 inch down. You could do two or three at about 1 inch and one at about 2 inches- and throw one on the surface for her still just for fun. Remember incremental!

Another thing you could do would be to put more tins out. You?re right, build value, but right now I would recommend that it is more important to build value finding multiples than finding deep.

If you wanted to practice deeper hides, bury 1 deeper (just one target), decrease the area you are searching, and make sure to have a hide on you so you can manufacture success if she starts to get frustrated. Make sure to let the one target cook a decent while in that scenario and be liberal with how often you manifest a success for her if she is having trouble. Don?t feel like you HAVE to find the deeper buried one. if she is struggling a lot, stop, with a success and end the session.
For now we will have have a mix of a few easy ‘normal’ hides and a few buried- not close and build on this.
This is good- keep working on this.

We will have exercises in FE530 designed to mimic dense environments, but it can be very stressful for some dogs at this stage, and hard to pick out one single odor cone, so we would recommend building value on the light to medium buried hides (surface ones still to) but avoid putting them really close to one another 4 to 5 feet away from each other is ok. Depends on the area you are working in. Around obstacles can be ok to, we just don?t want them too close.

It sounds like it is going really though!

Also do consider what we said about the digging. We can?t see it, so we can?t know for sure, but after the alert and the first digging it out, consider luring her away and having another party/ play not at the hole.