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Hi Bev, Thank you for sending the two part scent discrimination video, and apologies for the delay.
This is a great video showing both Wolfy and you working to finding the truffles in two different scenarios and will suggest the following changes to Wolfy’s find and reward sequence. I have watched it multiple times to try and read Wolfy’s offered behaviour, so the information below is my interpretation, and welcome your thoughts on this feedback.
I understand the PNW truffles are quite delicate and fragile. Can you confirm Wolfy’s indication behaviour: is it an active response of digging, pawing; or a passive response, sitting, nose touch, or something else?
Wolfy is working hard to locate these samples on the video. Once he has located them he appears ‘lost/unsure’ as to what to do next. He’s displaying behaviours such as walking off, turning away from the sample and you, or picking up the sample and dropping it whilst walking away.
When moving from a known working space to a larger highly distractible place, check that the location behaviour is solid and if not go back a couple of approximations (steps) to build that behaviour to the same level as in the known working space. Does that make sense? I would suggest a set routine for finding, identifying and then rewarding the truffle, with the release at the end of the search as the throwing of the ball.
At this stage I’d propose a more defined mark (yeeeessss or click) when Wolfy locates the scent tin (before he picks up it up, if possible (I know he is fast)). Encourage him/Talk to him/Thank him for remaining at the sample whilst you move towards him. As you are using a combination of food, and the ball as the ultimate reward, have a piece of food ready in your hand to give to Wolfy when you bend down. When you arrive ask him to show you where it is (‘show me’) and party with him at the source of the scent by bending down or getting on your knees (you will be doing this on the forest floor whilst you dig a truffle up) and rewarding him with food, within touching distance of the sample tin, before you pick it up. Use variable ratio’s when rewarding Wolfy in this situation. When you pick up the sample and stand up, toss the ball into Wolfy’s mouth as the final, OK, you’re AWESOME. Then before the next cue to search, retrieve the ball from him.
By giving the ball to Wolfy in his mouth when you are removing the sample/truffle it will become his cue that the hole is now empty, and when you remove the ball from him that will become his cue to start searching again.
Wolfy does really well at locating the first sample. Be aware of the number of behaviours that are offered between the locate and the mark, if repeated and rewarded often enough, they could become an indication behaviour chain. Well done on asking Wolfy to show you the sample on cue, and rewarding the find.
You are so PATIENT with him, allowing him to investigate the area and find the new scent source in his own time, it’s WONDERFUL to watch, like poetry in motion. Wolfy is a very thoughtful and thorough boy when searching. When he locates the tin at 1:11, you asked him to relocate the tin again and rewarded close to the scent. This was a GOOD rewarding sequence, and he got a ball toss as well.
At 1:23 he started digging in a patch of earth. Had a truffle been located here previously? He located the cold target tins for you and then he found the last hot target, and got a food reward.
The area of improvement would be working on a routine reward sequence for Wolfy to understand. Lesson 2 (DRTT Lesson 2: 0:09 to 0:18: and 0:52) and Lesson 3 (DRTTL3: 0:36 – 0:42) videos you uploaded in the Developing Reliable Truffle Team are BRILLIANT examples of how you trained the reward sequence with Wolfy. If you can bring this back into the current scenarios, it will provide greater clarity for Wolfy moving forward.
Sometimes we need to go backwards to move forwards.