As for the slapping every container, don’t worry. That is common. Fancy is clever, she is having fun and trying to figure out what exactly it is that gets her rewarded. Just keep rewarding on only the one container that has the sent, and at the source.
I suspect, as is the case with many dogs, that once you remove all visual identification (read that as truffle container hiding in grass, under leaves etc) this behavior will cease entirely, and you won’t have a problem with false alerting. We won’t know until we get to that stage. There are a couple of exercises we could have you do to proof for this, but I would like to wait and see if it becomes an issue first.
There is a catch here though that you want to be aware of:
DO make sure that when she finds the correct target you praise lavishly and have a party! The more party the better as long as she doesn’t seem to be backing away from you and scared when you do so. Do watch for signs of that.
Think higher pitch voice and a loose wiggly body. It may sound silly, but it can make a big difference. Do a little dance, get her excited every single time she finds it! Spend a minute doing this. You want her to be excited in not just the finding an indicating where the truffle is, but waiting for you to get there to give her that party! That doesn’t just mean treats and jackpots. It means excitement over her interaction with you.
What is happening when you do this is you are building value for the digging, alerting, and waiting for you to get there, behavior- the whole package- not just the alerting. What you don’t want to have happen in the field is have the dog alert, and then move on before you can get there. That is why the beginning stages and foundations are so important. They can have a long lasting impact down the line.
In the field, truffles are not always just right under the surface. Big ones can be deep and difficult to find sometimes. It can take several minutes to dig one out after the dog has indicated, and you don’t want Fancy off finding more (and eating them) without you knowing.
While we CERTAINLY don’t want fancy to choke on anything (!!!!), be very careful to try and not scream at, yell or chase her when she does pick it up with her mouth. It is ok, and it happens. Many dogs eat a few truffles during their training, and even after. They often eat them because they are over stimulated and because we have made it such high value game.
Chasing after the dog is very counter productive. Not only are you exponentially increasing the value of the object she has in her mouth (Especially if she already plays keep away games), but you are increasing the likelihood she will a) eat it b) run away with it c) stop indicating and waiting for you to get there all together. She will smell the truffles out and know they are there, but just not tell you. Young dogs especially tend to eat more of them.
When she does drop it, party! You give her a party not just for trading the truffle odor object for a treat, but that it isn’t in her mouth. She learns that being near truffles is great, but only when they aren’t in her mouth! This takes time.
Even the best of us make these mistakes from time to time. I certainly am guilty of it on occasion with Lolo. Some dogs are more sensitive to these things, and so it is just something to be aware of. I would rather have Lolo eat the occasional truffle out of excitement than run away and cease to tell me where they are. The waiting for you to get there and retrieve the truffle is important on many levels which will become apparent later.
Also: Opening the bottle and just putting one or two drops on the cotton is fine. In fact, if you keep that cotton in the airtight container that was part of your kit, I would even suggest you don’t re-apply the solution all that often (maybe once a week). As long as there isn’t a huge threat of scent contamination you should be just fine.
As for real truffles:
Ideally we like students to use oil, solution, and real truffles (of all varieties they want to eventually find), so the dogs learn to indicate on all different levels of volatile organic compounds. Remember Truffles are organic (each one smells different!), and dogs don’t generalize well, so we want to give them a sufficient sample size to draw the conclusion that anything truffl-y should be found.
We only have frozen Oregon blacks at the moment, but we can get you some. It is not counter productive at all, but we will not have fresh ones for a couple of months. If for some reason we do get fresh ones, I will let you know, but I think it will be highly unlikely until at least October at the earliest.
A Trick for the harness: Give it a word “harness” and click/ treat/ reward her (with something AWESOME) when it comes near her. Then luring her with food through etc etc. My dogs are way too. it is still a work in progress, but keep at it. Eventually she may LOVE it and shove her head through (As Duffy does) it takes time!