Reply To: Chat Thread

Alana McGee

Hi annie- I’ll chime in in addition to Karen’s comments, which are spot on and give a good indication.

The biggest difference for many dogs is mental & physical endurance, as well distraction. In the PNW and orchards here that often comes in the form of wildlife of some sort. When you are searching Large orchards for long periods of time with limited success it can be mentally tedious for the dogs. Even a small orchard, to be thorough can take a long time. It’s our job as handlers to keep our dogs on point and to watch for subtle shifts in body language, and to know when to take breaks.

For a handler there are added protocols as Karen discussed, such as bio security. It’s also important to set your team up for success and to be best be able to do that it is important you understand scent dynamics and shifts in the wind and how to adapt as you are working.

Working on more passive alerts and nose touching is also beneficial. As Karen said, on many orchards, aside from perhaps the 1st truffle found, you won’t be digging it up. So gentle precision touching is important.

We do have an exercise for this for those over active/ aggressive diggers. If you’d like to see it, let us know and I’ll dig it out. It involves the use of a yoga mat (or similar) and treats and teaching them to push with their nose to unroll the mat. Using their feet won’t cause the yoga mat to unroll- thus no reward. It can then be transferred to truffles.

The other main difference is the pressure applied. As Karen mentioned there are often people around, even if not close in proximity, but they are watching you work.

On orchards it is relatively high stakes because you are being paid for a service provided. It is a lot about the handler mental state in these situations as that can directly impact your canine partner- and vise versa.
Safety is still a concern on orchards, but often for different reasons. It’s always critical to listen to what your dog is telling you, but on orchard situations handler teams often apply more emotional pressure because of the nature of the work, so you need to be extra sensitive to your communicative bond.

Orchard work is far more tedious for a dog because of the exactness required to be proficient and professional. So endurance is one of the main things.