Reply To: Bev & Wolfy

Alana McGee

Sometimes, just like us, they don’t feel well. That’s okay. You know him best. Who wants to work, or even play sometimes when they don’t feel well. I know I don’t! Based on the video and your analysis, we think you’re right, that he likely isn’t feeling tip-top.

That is GREAT about him alerting on the one you couldn’t find. He probably was giving you that look. Dogs are so funny. What’s interesting about what you stated there is when you were genuinely down looking for it, he helped out. It’s about intention. He’s a smart sensitive guy. Good job on team work 😉

His digging is interesting. I have a dog who does this behavior for I think likely similar reasons, so I can speak from personal handler experience on this one, not just as an instructor. What we would suggest when this happens (1:15) is throw a target away from the dig site (but not too far) a couple of feet, and initially see if you can get him to watch you do it- so he can go an alert on it. You’re changing the game here, but we want to get him out of this stress/pressure feedback loop which the digging is a symptom of. It looks like you did that here- toss the target. You have to get him out of the hole first.

We want to try to coax him away from that displacement behavior, and eventually decrease its frequency. If you can get him physically away from the area, great. And you do try to do that, but as he is big it’s not like you’re going to “pull him off” literally. Make the fun, and you- he likes being with you, elsewhere. What is key to remember here is when he does come off of that digging behavior to praise it. Not overly so and have a huge party, but mark the change in behavior.

For example (again, remember I said I had a dog who does this, his name is Duff), I’ll draw from personal experience to highlight how this may work:

When Duff does this, I do what you are doing there. “Nope not there buddy” with you body cheated to the side, leading into a new area. If necessary “i” start moving away and ask him to come with me, “let’s go”- which is a cue for Duff to move with me. As soon as Duff disengages with his stressed hole digging and takes a step away “good job Duff, thank you” in a soft voice sometimes with pets, but I am marking the shift away. When we were training to decrease this behavior, right after that happened (the leaving the dig site, marking the change in behavior) I would then throw a target he could see a few feet in front of him and ask him to alert. thus bringing on a reward sequence away from the site of the stress dig.

You’ll need to get Wolfy out of that hole first. When it happens, praise it.

It’ll take some time before you may be able to recognize ‘before’ Wolfy is about to do this kind of behavior. You’ll notice this most easily in scenarios where the hides ARE NOT blind, as that adds additional levels of complexity for you as a handler. You’ll notice Wolfy starts to get intent on an area you know nothing is hidden. It’s a different different body language then being in odor. We’ll review the previous videos from Wolfy and see if we can notice it from previous scenarios. I can remember right now at least once it happened. His shoulder set is more forward. Again, simply as an example to draw from for contrast, personally now I can see moments before Duff starts into this stress digging and I can preempt it by moving us to a new spot and throwing a target for him. That’s eventually what you’ll do. Overtime, the behavior decreases as you are eliminating the opportunity for it to become self-rewarding.

Like at 1:19 keep coaxing him away, clapping to get his attention if you need to. It’s not the end of the world at all, but we don’t want to encourage this behavior, again as I said because it is self-rewarding. It’ll be easier to work on now than in the forest.

1:23 is good. He comes off with your touch. Right there is when you would have said, “good job buddy” and then “find truffle”. You do a good job.

Because he is dwelling around that previously dug hole, move yourself farther away from the site when this happens at next time. Movement from you for Wolfy seems to make him more comfortable.

And again, based on his movement and behavior, We also think you’re right & he may not be feeling great. He’s not as bouncy in his step. This was good from you though Bev. You seem more relaxed 😉 you’ll have to tell us whether you were or not, but it seems that way.