I am oh so incredibly glad we included this exercise as we think it will prove extremely useful for all! Thank you for your excellent and detailed response! This is fantastic to see, as it really gives us an idea of what you are thinking, how you may operate in the field, and how we can nudge you to think about your environment and how you interact from a different perspective.
To note (although this may be giving away some info before others have completed it!), both of these photos are of producing summer truffle sites I visited just last week. Notice how different they are. They are wild sites, but everything from ground cover, to slope, to leaf litter, to host tree is different! Same species of truffle, different environments.
I like how you talk about sitting on your plastic bag so your bum doesn’t get wet. It is the little things like this that really give us a good indication of how you work in the field. And yes, the environments are almost always wet. For where you will be hunting eventually, slightly less so.
You mention tethering Monza while you work your other dog. We are not saying ‘don’t’ do that (and we know this is just an exercise in how to approach environments), and we have no way of knowing yet if Monza would be comfortable in that situation, but be cautious with the expectation of having two dogs in the field at once.
This area is not that large, but consider the stress you might be adding to Monza (or your other dog) if you are working your other dog in her vicinity but are not engaging Monza herself. This may then manifest when it is her turn to work. It may also be a distraction to your other dog. Your attention is also split in such a scenario.
Some handlers can hunt with more than one dog at a time, but in general we do not recommend it as your attention and intention is also split between the two dogs. You will miss cues, subtle responses, hazards, etc.
Monza being tethered would likely be a distraction for you and Speed. In some environments it may also not be safe to have her tethered.
As you mentioned the extra gear, great, always be prepared! We cover this topic in FE 530 when we are going over practical application and hazards teams encounter in the wild. Also EXCELLENT on your use of working the dogs for about 10 minutes at a time and switching. Eventually you will be able to build much longer duration, but we think it is fantastic you are thinking about taking this approach of rest.
Great on the mention of carrying water! Truffle hunting is thirsty work, and we always encourage teams to have plenty of water for themselves and their dogs!
You say you would walk figure 8s around the trees and avoid the grass. In truffle producing environments (especially wild ones) truffles are not necessarily fruiting within any kind of distance from the tree. Doing a figure 8 does allow you and monza to attempt to hit a scent column effectively covering much of the ground, but ideally you would be following Monza as she executes a search pattern cutting across the wind, like you were suggesting.
Grass is not necessarily bad, and many a truffle are found under grass, quite far from the tree on which they are connected via their mycelial network. Harvesting truffles from under grass can be complicated depending on the type of grass and soil conditions, but don’t avoid those areas. Odor will actually travel up the wet blades of grass and give off odor higher up closer to Monza’s nose in a relaxed posture.
GREAT you know what the conditions of buggies are like in your area. Some places even in cold temps can be overrun with ticks (I’m looking at you California and Parts of England), and it is good to be protected and be aware! Again, we cover much of this later, but it is always good when coming back from being in the field to check over yourself and your canine for bugs, wounds, etc. GREAT suggestion on the the Seresto tick/flea collar.
Again, great description. Really fantastic and gives us so much to work with. Again, we would likely suggest that one dog is left in the vehicle during this, however, making a centralized based out of the wind is a good idea. If it is a large area you will be searching, bigger than the picture indicates, I would mark it, or you may not find it again!
25 mph is pretty fast. If this was a constant 25 mph wind I would seriously consider not hunting at all, as aggressive winds can making odor location very difficult and frustrating for team members! We want to avoid that! In this scenario you also need to be conscious of the stand of trees you are in. In scene 1 with 25 mph winds, the trees are young and lower to the ground, so there is less likelihood of branches snapping and falling, and if they do, it is a few feet and their weight is not as great. In Pine/ Fir forests, where the trees are taller and often older, this is much more common. You do not want to contend with falling branches due to wind.
(We know you don’t know this, and we don’t expect you to! But these are the kinds of environmental hazards and challenges you will face)
As I mentioned, this is a producing forest. The truffles are usually not located right next to the tree as many think. It is rare to find truffles at the actual base of a tree, pushed up against the trunk. They are usually 3- 15 feet away form the trunk, sometimes quite a bit more.
Don’t worry yet about the actual transitioning and making it fun vs free dog time. By the time you are out in a forest both will be fun and Monza will love all of it! While Monza may love to ‘critter’ as we call it, it is actually great that she has confidence in the woods and knows how to move around and be comfortable on and off leash in wild settings. This will be a significant advantage to you later, when you do get to that stage. It is a gradual process and we build to the behaviors we want.
This is all very good, and very good to see what you are thinking and your interpretation or assumptions about how Monza may react in forested settings. You’re doing a great job. Keep practicing those hides!