Reply To: Week 4 Instructor’s Assignment

Alana McGee

Really nice point and comment Jason and correlation on River carrying her ball in relationship to Salu’s behaviors. That likely will be a very valuable skill for Mary & Salu later. Nicely referenced with personal experience to show a point as an example.

As for this:
“You may want to avoid letting him alert after you are on the ground, unless it’s in your hand. Reason being, in the field, once you have found your truffle, there will be no more alerts, at least not on the ground….”

We urge caution here & perhaps clarification in addition to your comments. You are correct that “once you have found the truffle there will be no more alerts”- that’s generally what we call our ‘end criteria’- being “truffle in hand”. However, having a strong (even pushy) re-alert can be extremely helpful (which River does), and in many cases necessary for the completion/ extraction of the truffle. As you know not all truffles are easily accessible or visible after an initial alert. Truffles can be inaccessible (1 ft down, under a root etc) and novice teams don’t know that yet. Neither the dog nor the handler. That is exactly why persistence (and a very strong reward history) is key. Not all dogs naturally are pushy or precise, nor will stay at source.

Many leave unless taught through lots of reward history to stay. Salu seems to stay at source here with her via the re-alerts (in this environment). That may not be the case once outside, and so the more they can build value in this realm, the easier it will be once they are outside to keep it (in the event he is more likely to get up and move before the truffle is extracted). The more they can practice that now, the better.

We want to try to avoid habits that are less desirable later (leaving the truffle site after an alert too soon), and the best way to do that outside of an obedience command, which can add complexity and stress for some dogs, is to teach positive associations of staying at source through reward history. That make sense?

Repeatedly re-alerting builds persistence UNTIL the truffle is in our hands. We like pushy dogs who will show us where it is. If they can build that, great! Yes Handler skills at that stage are very important, but the more we can train the dogs to willingly desire to point it out to their handler, repeatedly, the easier it will be for many handlers, especially novice handlers. By the time they are out in the field doing this they won’t have to reward the dog every single time the dog nose touches what they cannot see, but they aren’t there yet.

The dogs are our best tools as handlers to finding the truffle. Not everyone has great eyesight either and finding the actual truffle is a handler skill in its own right.

You’re spot on and that behavior can be faded once out in the field, so you’d just want to add and clarify that that re-alerts are still important- and that is what we are considering those building too-