Reply To: Tim Rinaldi & Molly

Alana McGee

Kristin & I were chatting and we had a couple of questions about the whistle- just so we are on the same page and can provide appropriate comments.

When you blow it are you asking for a change of direction or a return to handler? Or a “you’ve reached the outer limits of where I want you to check”? I couldn’t tell from video but you may also have a check right, check left different whistle command. It varies from handler to handler. We are curious to know the intent of the whistle in how Molly interprets it in correlation to searching behaviors.

As for body posture- Your skill level shows and this will be to your advantage later- especially if you decide to work wild areas in Lincolnshire at all which are a bit different than maintained orchards.

Being in odor means means hitting the scent column, yes. But there is a difference between what we may call “being in odor” and “crittering”. When we say being in odor- we are referring to our target scent- in this case, truffles.

You did recognize it, and you even said at the end of the video that you realized she was tracking something else behind those cans. Which is well done. Those are the moments to pay close attention to and review. The more you work outside in complex environments (which you & Molly are doing right now) the more you will have opportunity to view this shift in scenting behavior. The differences in canine body language can be subtle, but at later stages (and especially for you on an orchard),it is critical for handlers to recognize this shift. Is your dog scenting truffle or grouse? On pre-production (commencing production) orchards you run into the complication of searching getting monotonous and it is key as a handler to know when your dog is off truffle and on something else so you can redirect. It is about your communication and connection with Molly more than anything else. And you two have a very solid connection- but just something to keep your eyes open for.

As for stress: Molly is incredibly sensitive. What we would suggest is to always have that extra target on you to manufacture success, and don’t be afraid to use it! There was a gap of time between successes and around the 2:17- 2:27 mark, wherein she was incorrect behind the cans and after which around 2:35 she starts to show stress. Luckily that other hide was close and it quickly settles her, but keep this in mind for the future, especially when you graduate to larger areas. Throw out a target for her to find far more often than you think you need to. We need to see more video of it but it seems she will work work through frustration, but her version of sensitivity to stress is to work faster and harder not necessarily more thoughtfully. If you can build that confidence it will settle her over time.

As for your question on Alerts:
Precision alerts take time. Your analysis of how to go about it, yes, is correct. However, based on what you just said we have another approach to try and that involves delays as well and works on keeping her engaged with you at source pointing it out to you, repeatedly- which seems a more natural approach for her.

Take a look at your video again. You had a good delayed reward at 1:11. The next step is target in hand before reward (tossing the ball).
It will look something like this: Molly gives the alert, and when you see it you click as you are approaching, also giving her enthusiastic verbal praise (as you have been). As you kneel down you can ask for a re-alert- again all while praising. You can even add additional elements such as parting the grass around the truffle to add to the delay. You then pick up the target and (then!) ball delivery to Molly. This whole process should only take about 5-7 seconds (at this point), but the delayed reward comes after the target is in hand. AND after a re alert. Eventually you can ask for multiple re-alerts. While this is not a duration nose on target, it can evolve to such.

So right now we would say work with the re-alert of the nose touch when you arrive at the scene while delaying reward. You can eventually turn that into a longer and longer duration hold (nose on target). It also takes some of the pressure off of timing with clicks, and you can begin to fade the clicker. The goal is to keep her engaged with you at the site of the truffle until you have truffle in hand. That is our end criteria.

Do keep in mind if it is a difficult hide, or she seemed to be overly stressed or distracted, lower your delay/ success criteria.