Reply To: Tim Rinaldi & Molly

Alana McGee

In regards to the ball, Yeah we saw that 🙂 Molly needs to learn that she’ll get to play with the ball a few times. We don’t want her to start to get the association that you’re always going to take it right away!

That can eventually create a dog who will run away with the toy (or truffle), because they do value it so much. It’s not just ‘Tim gives me ball and then takes it away (OH NO!)’. It’s ‘Tim gives me ball, I give it back, Tim gives it to me again (WOWeee!), I give it back, Tim gives it to me AGAIN (WOWZA!’) Vary the amount of times you do this.

Example- I play this game at home sitting on the couch with two of my dogs- but it directly translates to what you are doing: They stand looking at me (these two share/play well together- one is often even sitting next to me). I ask one to do something *back up* he does he gets a ball toss right to him. A short lob (the speed varies). Then I ask the other one to do a trick * touch* let’s say. He does, he gets a lob toss. I ask Dog A again to do something and he gets two tosses in a row. Then Dog B gets one, and so forth. Unpredictable but fair. You want Molly to come away form giving you the ball back with a positive mentality, not a resource guarding instinct. Molly is one of those sweet dogs who will give you that ball eventually regardless if she really wants to. We want her to want to give it back- so make it a game. Make it a few tosses she gets while you are at source.

Kristin has a great trick in the field she uses with her border collie Callie that incorporates this. Callie gets a squeaky tennis ball as a reward for a truffle find. Kristin does a few tosses for Callie and then she asks Callie to put the ball away in her backpack. Genius. Why? Because it creates an entire, closed loop behavior sequence of events. Callie knows when the ball is back in bag it’s back to hunting, but Callie gets to be part of the entire process, and every aspect of truffle hunting is a game. From the playing with the ball, to putting it in the bag, to finding the truffles.

Remember alert sequences take time to develop, and it’s something that will continue to evolve and you’ll keep working on and honing. Our own dogs are this way. There are always things to tweak, and every dog is different. BUT we want Molly to want to give you that ball back. She’s a such a sweet natured sensitive thing, it shouldn’t take long just giving her a few tosses for that mini guarding behavior to extinguish. She has oodles and oodles of drive, and occasionally we want to indulge her 😉

Great that she instantly re-alerts. Again, that drive.

Questions are great— that’s why we are here!

Cooking odor is great (how are your truffles holding up?), and Molly is doing just fine with it- but do know that 24 hours cooking from short increments (a few hrs) is a big jump. Again, you’re doing just fine with it, but when you switch environments we suggest not jumping right into those long cooks. You are progressing fast through the foundations (which is fine) but we just want to make sure the reward histories are strong as in later stages it becomes apparent.

Let me put it this way- some of the best dogs/teams we have ever worked with in a recreational and a professional sense have been those teams who spent ridiculously long amounts of time doing simple hides in slightly different scenarios, building value/ history before they ever set foot in the woods or an orchard. Getting the details down now will help dramatically later. Every dog/ team is different, and Molly is perfectly capable we are sure of handling probably pretty complex above ground scenarios at this point, but we urge caution because in the long run (which is your goal for orchard hunting/ harvesting) you’ll be a more reliable solid team then if you push fast through the basics. (*Just to be clear- we don’t think you’re pushing too fast-we just want to let you know why solid foundations are so crucial).

Varying size/ material of tin/container is good. Good instincts on your part. You can use all kinds of things to hide odor in. You’re going to get to the stage of burying very soon with Molly, which will change the game. We’ve already seen you obscure under grasses. That’s going to continue & build….

Some dogs have the tendency of “get on odor—> follow odor——> look for shiny object.” So, using different containers is a semi way of proofing for that. We do get to proofing for containers in later lessons, but we don’t think this will be an issue with Molly at all.

Also, again, good instincts on your concept of avoiding an area you have used previously. Doing that (using the same area) does add complexity. Something to try now with Molly. Again, we don’t think it will phase her, but your reasoning IS spot on. Some dogs are extremely sensitive to this, as well as “run order” (if you are working multiple dogs- basically contamination of an area). Some are not and can work through it. Remember how we said truffle hunting is a scent messy sport? This is one of those real world scenarios you will encounter when truffle hunting. Especially on your orchard. You will be rechecking areas you have previously been in. Some of that will depend on the size of the orchard in question.

Try it and see what happens.

This is a huge topic. The short answer is: It depends.

On many things (which include but are not limited to, and in no particular order:)
Species being grown
-on which host?
Climate/ harvesting season
-Soil conditions
Orchard vs. wild
commercial sales
ownership of property
Size of property & expected yield

Longer answer:
If it’s your orchard, frankly, you can do what you want, and based on what we know in your situation, it’s fine. You are growing Summer truffles, which of all the truffle species I have encountered in my life, they are by FAR the most hardy/ resistant to damage by dogs. BY FAR. They are called scorzone (tree-bark in Italian) for a reason. That being said, OF COURSE we don’t want dogs to damage truffles! It’s going to depend a bit on how vigorous Molly is when digging. This is one of the reasons why we like “nose touches” as precise alerts. More precise & eliminates the risk of damage.

That all being said….. Digging is just fine, and definitely has it’s place and it’s uses, so it is a good skill to teach. It’s a great tool to have in your tool box. Some dogs (one of my own included) are so intense when digging it becomes something to manage more heavily- but it is still a tool we use on occasion.

Again, it’s going to depend on Molly, and on you and you ability to teach her once the truffle is exposed to back off a bit. Which we have every confidence in, and which we will teach you. Digging is OKAY, and useful in many cases. Some orchard owners, for a variety of reasons, are not fond of it.That mostly has to do with overly assertive diggers who don’t have other mechanisms for alerts, or 10,000k ‘in production’ tree plantations such as in Australia where the dogs don’t dig at all because it would be too time consuming.

So it is fine to encourage that, but also we would suggest to work on nose touches. In a practical sense later when you are harvesting, that will be a good skill to have too!

*Summer truffles are really really tough* as truffles go. If you are growing Perigord (T. melanosporum) or Bianchetto (T. borchii) then yes, you’ll want to be a little more sensitive to Molly’s vigor.