Reply To: Lois and Monza (August 2014)

Home Forums Best of Forum – Introduction to Truffle Hunting Lois and Monza (August 2014) Reply To: Lois and Monza (August 2014)

Alana McGee

TDC Instructor:

Hi Lois.

Question regarding this sentence: ” do I reward when the dog indicates or only when the truffle hasn’t been located?” Did you mean to say “when the trufflehasbeen located?”

Also let me address this topic of engagement, false alerting, and trust. Pandora’s box has opened. This will be a long post!

The short answer: When the truffle has been located.

Long answer (because this applies to actual field work which is more complex):

We cover it later (in more advanced classes) when discussing practical application, but you stay engaged with Monza the entire time you are searching. You are going to be digging, targeting, alerting together in the soil. We build duration in reward and duration in indication/ alert behaviors. It is an active conversation you and Monza will be having on where the truffle is. It isn’t a Monza alerts, Lois picks up truffle, Lois rewards Monza (although that will happen on occasion, just that fast).

Finding and extracting a truffle from the soil is not as always a quick endeavor and you will need Monza’s persistence and precision to help you get at it. In fact it can often take a few minutes (depending on species– some are deeper and are hard to see). This is one of the reasons for a chain of alert behaviors, and precision skills (eventually) and not just a single alert. The chain of behaviors resets after you have the truffle in your hand (put away– I am abbreviating her a bit), rewarded, and you both have moved on from that find to continue searching for more truffles.

We cover it later but you will stay engaged with Monza by drawing interest and asking for specific precise alert behaviors which will help you locate said truffle(s).

At the stage you are at right now, we are building and solidifying alert behaviors with successful identification of odor. The rest comes later, and you are doing a great job. This is why we emphasize solid foundational skills and very clear success criteria at this point, because you have to be able to trust in your dog, their training, your training as a handler, and trust they they will not false alert in the field.

If they indicate, and you can’t find the truffle, it doesn’t mean a)there isn’t a truffle there, or b)truffle vocs are not present. This is often relates to handler skills. Remember you are a team and if your foundations are are solid, it is highly unlikely you will ever false alert in the sense we mean it.

Truffles the dogs find can be TINY TINY TINY. I have attached a photo of one in such an instance. They can be smaller!

Also the mycellial mats (that’s where truffles actually come from) can, at times, give off the same truffle VOCs. So if your dog alerts on that, they are not wrong. In truffle hunting, you have to trust your dog, and again that is why we build very solid foundations so you can be confident in that notion that when your dog alerts, they are correct in location of odor, even if you as a handler cannot find it. According to Monza, in that scenario she is absolutely correct, and we manufacture a success for her with what we consider our criteria: Meaning we present a truffle in that hole we have dug together and have her target it and then reward. This is a very particularly complex scenario but it does happen. That’s the difference between hides, and practice and real field work. This is why when in the field you will always have a target on you, so if you need to in just such a situation, you can manufacture a success while trusting your dog has alerted on the correct VOC spectrum, and not damaging their confidence.

Depending on where you will be working, wild harvesting vs. orchard work, what you do will vary slightly, as orchard harvesting is a different process/ environment than wild harvesting at that stage and the alert/ reward sequence is generally truncated because orchard owners hire you for location services, not harvesting generally (actually pulling the truffle out of the ground). In those circumstances you will trust in Monza that when she indicates, she is correct. Orchard work (which is eventually what you are gearing for I believe) is a little more complicated than wild harvesting in terms of logistics.