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Well, we’ve had some interesting developments lately, to say the least.
First, we had a DISASTROUS episode last week where Dottie and I were practicing some outdoor hides. She was doing fabulously—better than I expected—when she got severely stung by a yellowjacket in the groin area. Based on her reactions, it was clear that she was stung repeatedly. The result: total avoidance of the truffle targets and containers, to the point of running away and hiding under the bed when I brought them out.
So I have been working with her to overcome this aversion and help her find the fun in the game again. I did a lot of straight classical conditioning with the truffle scent, basic alert exercises and simple box hides–all indoors. After a few days, she was excited to do truffle work again, so we have been able to take the box hide exercises outside. The first few times outside she showed some concern—acting kind of “gun shy” for lack of a better term—and was hesitant. She completed the exercises successfully, but had clearly lost drive and enthusiasm.
So I have been doing more outdoor box hides and a few very simple obscured hides (in a very small area) to try to create simple successes where I can reward heavily with liver treats and play rewards. This has been working with great success.
Yesterday evening, I wanted to practice outside and expand our search area, but the wind was blowing quite strongly as a front was moving in. So I placed some targets in the grass (small and obscured) along the edge of the field and walked her down the driveway, parallel to this edge. The wind was blowing across the field, perpendicularly toward the driveway. So our path along the driveway was downwind from the targets.
WOW did this work!! I was afraid the strong wind might make the session too difficult, but she quickly detected the scent columns when she walked across them and she found all 3 targets very quickly and easily. She was SO proud of herself, and I could see that each find was a major confidence booster. We had a party of liver treats and play (with a toy) after each find. She was definitely not ready to stop, but I did stop the session after she found the 3rd (final) target. I wanted to end the session with her thinking, “dang! I wish I could do more!!” so that she’ll hopefully start the next session with the same enthusiasm she had when we ended this session.
So, major lesson for me: working perpendicular to the wind set up a scenario that allowed for success to be easily achieved while outdoors. Result: major confidence booster for the dog!
Will submit our second video for this week soon, after a couple more practice sessions. In the meantime, I’m totally open to any suggestions you have for helping us get back to where we were before the stinging incident! Thanks!