Reply To: Tim Rinaldi & Molly

Alana McGee

In response to your first Post Tim, you were doing a great job with those ball toss rewards. You can build to a longer staying at source, but no need to jump too hard and fast into it to get that end result- much like you said 🙂

In the last video Molly was offering a re-alert of feet down, lying down nose touches on source. That is great and something to build to. Remember she won’t offer the exact same alert every time at this stage. That’s okay. Pick one (or two) skills (for you or her) to work on in each session. Example: During session A you’re going to focus on nose touches on re-alerts with duration. So you reward for nose touches, and heavily reward for anything that is over 2 seconds in duration. Say you set up 3 hides. 2 of the 3 you’ll accept any criteria for success on a re-alert which involves a nose touch. 1 of the 3 you’ll push and wait a few extra seconds to see if you can’t build duration…. and so on.

Session B you’ll be focusing on YOUR reward delivery- meaning your ball handling, treat delivering/ clicker timing skills. You’ll follow the same kind of model as above but your focus is on the reward sequence and less on what alert Molly is offering. You’re not ignoring the alert, but you are allowing her more leeway in criteria, because that’s not the focus of your assignment during session B. Make sense?

You ask what are you looking for (Re: the alert) at this stage- Just what you have been- the Initial foot tap, then Nose touches, repeated nose touches, staying at source. Just build that history.

Clickers are great for precision, but some of it is your timing, you are correct and she’s a smart cookie and yes, if you’re off it’ll be confusing to her. It’s not irreversible though so don’t freak out, it’s okay if you’re slightly off some days. No one is perfect 😉 It’s not ideal, but you realize you are doing it, which is key. If you’re having a day where you struggle with this- ditch the clicker for that session. Part of truffle hunting is adapting to the moment and what you and your dog need to do together for improved communication. You can use a verbal marker in these instances.

Because you are very technically capable we would like to see you try to still keep working with the clicker occasionally as it can be so helpful later when honing precise behaviors.

If you want to practice precise alerts/ behaviors in general with a clicker (and work on YOUR Timing) you can even do it in a game that doesn’t involve truffles at all, and those skills will translate. I believe Kristin mentioned this, but use a yogurt lid, or some small object you can move around and teach Molly to touch it. Click the moment she touches. This way if you are nervous about clicking in environments involving truffle related games and sending the wrong message, you can do it in another arena wherein the stakes may not be as emotionally high or weighted. You’ll start to notice that you may be clicking a moment too late- when she is pulling her face away. Try to self analyze. Video it, and watch the exercise, you’ll be surprised at what you may see. If you take it out of the truffle arena, it make make you more comfortable. Another thing is tricks. Molly is obviously very seasoned when in comes to understanding training and cues, but try shaping something new.

Have you ever heard for 100 things to do with a box? Have a small box, set it outside and see how she interacts with it. Click initially for any interaction. Then pick a behavior she offers in the course of being around that box, such as putting a foot in the box, click and mark that, and so on and so forth. Skateboards or Big soccer balls are also good for this. The idea is you to work on your timing. We think you are very savvy and capable of using a clicker, so play other games with it and work on you, Tim, being more comfortable with it.

You’re doing great as you are though in terms of alerts. Just keep building history. You’re doing awesome.