Reply To: Mary & Lola

Alana McGee

Hi Mary

Your question about Caches/ tea balls:

YES! Always have a target (teaball) with odor on you in case you need to manufacture success. What you described is just fine. If Lola were hyper specific she may give you a quizzical look realizing odor in hand is not the same source as the cache, but this helps build generalization. So YES! Do that.

Lola “bringing you” the truffle is not inherently bad. For some dogs that is their natural alert and it can be very effective. It also depends on the species of truffle you are hunting. Some species (namely Leucangium aka Oregon Black) are very fragile and will break in these scenarios. Summer truffles (Tuber aestivum), and pecan truffles (Tuber lyonni), and even Imaia gigantia that you are more likely to encounter, are hardier.

The danger or cautionary tale with this behavior comes mostly in a commercial agricultural operation wherein dog damage decreases the value of truffles.

This ’truffle retrieve’ is a very Italian inspired method and were she to compete in Radunos in Italy she would receive extra points I believe for that behavior.

Right now we are building confidence and we don’t want to diminish any of her enthusiasm for the game.

Generally speaking we don’t teach it as a behavior unless it is offered by the dog as any time a truffle is near a dog’s mouth there is a propensity for it to disappear down the gullet. If this happens, do not worry. It likely will at some point. The most important thing to remember is not to freak out! In Level 3 we work with what we call “naked” truffles. Kristin & I will conference on the topic and discuss if perhaps that should begin with Lola now so you can work on refining alert behaviors.

Teaching a passive stay at source, or even this behavior of her coming to get you and then back to the truffle (much like a SAR dog) is something that when it manifests we want to jackpot and reinforce.

Lola may react differently to “naked” truffles instead of shiny tins/ teaballs.

If and when you work on orchards you will be right there with Lola as it is a much more open environment and you as a handler can prevent damage in a commercial setting. Let us conference and get back to you though on plan of action.

As for odor:

All of the above are fine with the caveat that you practice wherein the odors are not combined in the same tins as well, and we would encourage you to do all of the above for Lola as it will add variability. When you do this for a video, please let us know what scent sources you are using and how are you using them. Example: 2 summer truffles ‘naked’, one oregon white in a tin, etc….

Lola has advanced to using what we call an odor library. She distinctly knows individual species. At this point you can combined as well as use both odors (Summer & Oregon) in a scenario in separate containers. The important thing when dealing with multiple odors (species) during training is that if you only ever work with them in a combined setting (as in both in the same container), you also want to work with them separately. We don’t feel Lola is in danger of not generalizing, but some dogs learn that both odors have to be present for an alert, and that is what we want to avoid. We want Lola to alert any time she smells any odor in that array.

Do observe her behaviors in scenarios where you have mixed scent out as it may be that she is more confident on one odor than another. This is valuable information on how you can change the game to make it more challenging and in how you can build more persistence on the odor she seems to lack confidence on.