Alyssia & Spring (DRTDT)

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    Alana McGee

    [quote] This morning, did only 4, had been raining again and it was much cooler and wet and her energy seemed down, she found them all, just took her longer then usual.[/quote]

    Longer than usual is ok. There can be a whole host of factors as to why a dog behaves or offers behaviors with more enthusiasm one day vs another. Also, when things are wet, odor moves differently. It clings, and saturates an area. When odor is in a dry environment it is localized (generally speaking).

    We often use this analogy of a wet dog vs a dry dog. You know why a wet dog ?seems? to smell more than a dry dog? They actually smell the same level of whatever that ?wet dog odor is? it is just that when a dog is dry all those odiferous vocs are bound up in the hair and trapped. When a dog is wet, the vocs hitch a ride on water vapor and hit your nose sooner. So, by comparison, in a wet environment, odor is more dispersed. (It is obviously a complex scenario- but that gives you an idea of what your working with.)

    The first hide is great. Do know that her initial alert is a look to you. This however is also what she does when she asks you a question, so that will be something we suggest you practice, and confidence is coming along nicely, but you are going to want to keep practicing this level of hide and really build up that positive reward history for the stronger alerts. We even would suggest you do this indoors (occasionally), where the target is obscured. We want to build up success and slowly increase your criteria for what is deemed an acceptable alert. To do that you want to try to not make the game overly complicated. Again when working on particular skills where you are demanding a higher level of criteria, something else in the environment gets easier. For example, indoors. You certainly don?t HAVE to just be indoors for this drill, but we do want to you, in addition to what you are doing and starting more obscured hides and blind hides, play sometimes with easier targets, but make your criteria for what gets the reward tighter. When this happens though, if she leaves the scenario, a) try to bring/ guide her back- and get a re-alert (on which you would reward immediately for the not as stringent criteria) or b) manufacture a success with the extra target you have on you. Does that make sense?

    GREAT job on having her re-alert in your hand.

    In the area she ?checks out? but doesn?t commit, you did a good job allowing her to check the space, but also know that if she continually goes back here but doesn?t alert think about if the hide is accessible to her? Some dogs don?t like pushing through physical barriers. Depending on how it was hidden, she may not want to get under those flowers. That is not uncommon for dogs to be apprehensive about alerting where there are other physical stimuli present, or the anticipation of such.

    This may not be the case and we?re not entirely sure it is, because she does find it later? (which leads us to believe it is scent column/ confidence in odor related ) —but we mention it anyway, as it is important and may come up later— think about this in other scenarios if this happens again: The pink flowers pose a different kind of hide than the ones under leaves or along the fence line. The pink flowers provide a vertical obstacle, overhanging head carriage stimuli, and she may not be confident venturing into them to alert just yet.

    If this is the case (you could test by doing a similar hide again), you could try to build to it to see if she responds to slowly decreasing the distance to the stimuli which is overhanging.

    as an anecdote: One of my dogs is this way and dislikes things overarching and touching the top middle of her back- like a curved branch with droopy leaves. We?ve worked on it- to push through and not have it completely distract, but her alert sequence does change if she perceives that to be a possible issue. The first step is in being aware that your dog may be sensitive to it.

    The sequence at about 1:30 is Fabulous. I would even when she gives you that first look, ask her, did you find something? We know we want to hold out for the more pronounced alert of the paw touch or other, but you could start to go to her at that point as she has thrown you the big ?stand at attention? look (and did actually paw it before that too). This will just take some practice. Great though. Very nice re-alert in your hand again.

    2:08 GREAT, both of you! See how Spring?s body language is getting very confident after a couple of hides. Those bows, and that Tail! Do you guys warm up at all with any basic games (truffle or otherwise) before starting into a search area? If not, we would suggest you do- because throughout the video, notice the change in her confidence level and body energy when she does alert. That was a VERY excellent reward sequence. Her little tail! Love it.

    It looks really nice overall. Nice rewards, just keep building confidence.

    Alana McGee

    Thank you for the feedback on the last video. I think you maybe right about her not wanting something over her, as the ones she was slower finding, two were in the grass by the edging, but with the roses overhanging. I had not been doing a warmup, but did yesterday and today. The past couple days have been interesting. Did not work her Saturday, the weather was miserable with a good steady rain almost all day. Sunday I took her with me to my BC’s obedience trial. Since it was at a fairgrounds, I went to one of the nice open fields and put out 3 hides. They were just laying on the grass, not hidden, about 5 feet from each other. Did the warm up and she seemed excited, she stumbled on the first one, did a long reward and then after that she would not work anymore, stayed right by me and then finally laid down (which you will see a bit of in tonight’s video.) Have never had her do that in nosework, she may not like the environment but she will usually push through it and keep working. So I figured too much too soon and ended it.

    Tonight I put out 5 hides – end of the downspout, the dip by the fence, the root, in the grass closer to the camera and hard to see the tree on the left, but you may see the dark green larger tuft to the far left, that was where the 5th was. She finds the 1st two fast, down spout and dip, then there seems to be a bit of confusion on her part at first as to what to do next, but after getting her restarted, she does some hunting, which I cut to save time, and she finds the root one. Between 2:09 and 2:28, she gets stressed, even though she is picking up the odor at the base of the tree, but for what ever reason she won’t go over to it. So if that happens again, do I go with her or lead her and have a big party when she finds it? After that I think she was headed back to the door and she picked up the one in the grass, so I rewarded and did some play tosses to try and get her more upbeat. However after that was done, instead of staying around like she usually does, she did head back to the door. So any ideas what maybe going on? I don’t think I was pushing her beyond her limits and she seemed to be doing really well and now she definitely is showing a lack of confidence. Thanks for the help.


    Alana McGee

    The video:

    Your search area is pretty big, I would try to decrease it a little. Not a lot, a little.

    That first find by the downspout it totally confident and a really nice indication and reward sequence. It?s nice and long, and the re-alert with the foot touches are great! Great job staying at source!

    I know we can?t hear you on the video very well, so we can?t analyze you verbal interaction there. It might be helpful if you could even set up a close up inside hide once for her to find, and film it- just a super short video- so we can hear YOUR reward behavior chain 🙂

    The second hide is also very very good, you?re correct in your analysis on this, and her confidence level seems just fine. We like that she gives you that very direct look when she has found it and then once you are there offers the reassert without a re-cue.

    At 1:14 or so you are cueing her to start searching again, and this is where I think you were saying there was confusion, and there is, you are correct.

    You are standing still at the source of the previous find.

    While your body is oriented the direction of the rest of the field YOU are stationary and she is searching around you. We venture that if you started to slowly move more in the direction you wished Spring to go, she would orient herself that way and engage. Don?t make eye contact with her when you do this. She is taking cues from you, and you are at the previous source so she may well stay there longer.

    The root hide is great.
    She may just be having a hard time isolating odor in shifting air currents etc. That is normal. That find and reward was good.

    After the root hide she does the same thing, which is search around you, because again, you are stationary. Try moving a bit. It doesn?t have to be a lot or fast, but walk, don?t stay in one place. A few small steps doesn?t count.

    Once you start actually moving more and not staying still (thinking she does lots of obedience games/tricks where you are still and she is facing you) she does hit that one in the grass! See how she engaged more when you were walking. At 2:30 you do actually start to move more than a few steps and that is when she engages.

    She is confident she found it! Look at that tail. I don?t think it is a confidence issue per se in terms of recognition of odor. It is spatial and movement oriented.

    The playing with the target, building up value is great, but after that, you should have ended the session. Just make a mental note!

    After she makes a find like that, you would end the session, or offer her a VERY easy one, have another party, and then exit the scenario. It sounds based on what you are saying (less so on what we are seeing) like it is overwhelming to her. But we want it to be fun, so if she is having a hard time and getting frustrated, we want to offer a fun party and then end the game.

    This is a good lesson for you to practice ending sooner. Do less than you think you need/ want to.

    We honestly think much of what is going on may be simply a stress related/ confusion/ lack of confidence that will be solved by more motion on your behalf.

    [b]Here?s what we want you to do:[/b] Decrease the number of hides, and decrease the search area. Do say three, in a smaller section of your yard. After she finds three, great done. Remember! She doesn?t have to find all 3 if she seems stressed. **We suspect that once you start walking with her around the environment, this will cease to be an issue in the same way.

    IF she struggles, give her about 20- 30 seconds to figure it out, and then offer her a success with that extra target you have. Then see if she can continue on a bit, but if the stress signals are still present, offer her a target again, and stop. Massive party, Win Win Win, Play play play, and you?re done. Sessions should be shorter than you think. You can always try again later if she seems up for it, but even have it just be 1 hide.

    Dogs have moods and on & off days too. The goal is to recognize this and figure out what in the scenario is off. Is it the set up that is too difficult? Is it the weather? Does she not feel good? Is she hungry? What is different about this. If it is the set up, go back a step, make it easier, and build build build value at that previous stage.

    It didn?t seem like you were pushing her beyond her skill set either, so we go back, and reinforce it, and build that confidence up! then we can slowly increase the parameters again and keep the confidence high. But do try moving more- we think that may be a key component.

    Regarding the field at the trial: [quote] So I figured too much too soon and ended it.[/quote]

    That sounds like a stress signal to me. There could be a lot of reasons in that environment she would do that, but if she is not having the best time, then yes, we want to stop, and go back a step and really build up the value of what you doing.

    [quote] So if that happens again, do I go with her or lead her and have a big party when she finds it?[/quote]

    You can walk over there and help her, yes. The other thing you can do is manufacture success. THIS is why you have that extra target on you at all times. When you first started to notice her getting stressed, throw that extra target in front of her and have a party. We wouldn?t have necessarily suggested this before now, but based on your own observations, you are getting the feeling she is having a hard time. It is okay to push through boundaries, but err on the side of the dog winning- always. Eventually they will get there, but we want her to have fun and be reliable in the long run. It is OK to manufacture success during a hunt. Most dogs need a little more encouragement along the way!

    Alana McGee

    Thanks for the feedback.

    I know we can?t hear you on the video very well, so we can?t analyze you verbal interaction there. It might be helpful if you could even set up a close up inside hide once for her to find, and film it- just a super short video- so we can hear YOUR reward behavior chain :)[/quote]

    Ok will get a video of this, the weather is terrible again, so will set something up in the house.

    [quote]The playing with the target, building up value is great, but after that, you should have ended the session. Just make a mental note![/quote]

    I did end the session after the 4th hide she found in the grass. I guess I wasn’t clear about that. But between 2:09 and 2:28, she was picking up the odor of the 5th hide at the base of the tree. That’s where I was wondering what I should have done. But it sounds like I should have ended it there with the extra target, correct?

    Alana McGee

    Yes, ideally. End it with success, and party, and try to leave the area as efficiently as possible. But yes. You did great though 🙂

    Alana McGee


    Here is the video of the reward chain, sorry it’s so dark, didn’t seem that dark at the time I filmed.

    Have not worked her since the last video a couple days ago, wanted this latest weather front to get through in case she was being sensitive to the barometric pressure. I am having a hard time finding someone to do blind hides for me, so we are not at that point either.


    Alana McGee

    Haven’t had a chance to watch the video and respond yet but a comment about hides.

    Don’t worry. It’s okay to takes days off.

    I also just made a comment in Shannon & Cricket’s thread about blind hides, and it applies here too. Blind hides are great, and a critical part of eventually successfully truffle hunting, but you can move around when, where and how you practice them to some degree, in most situations.

    For now, until you can find a helper, just keep building and working towards buried hides. Don’t worry about the blind hides. Spring’s also not really in danger of you pointing out which ones are correct and using that as a cue in of itself as you’ve worked on her alerts more and being clear and concise on when you approach so you aren’t cueing her.

    At some point it will be very important to practice blind hides, but you can continue to progress and then hone those skills (which tend to be more handler than dog related) once you have someone who can assist.

    *you can also just try to forget where you hide them. I personally am great at that (unintentionally!) when I do it for my own dogs.

    Alana McGee

    Your reward sequence looks GREAT! Keep it up and pay attention to the words that have developed over time so you can intentionally be consistent with them.

    When practicing inside in scenarios like this that are easy for Spring and you know, with certainty, that she will succeed, practice delaying the cookie just a second or two. You will need to increase the verbal party going on when you do this so be ready to sing her praises. Arrive, praise lavishly while you pick up the truffle and put it in one pocket and get her reward out of the other pocket. You can vary this a bit if you want to use a bag or container. Be swift about it though. The idea is to start creating a little duration (and hopefully a little impatient persistence) for waiting for her cookies as well as building up her resistance to frustration while waiting on you at a dig site. Have fun with it and, if she gets pushy about getting her reward (if you are ok with that), laugh with her and “hurry up”!

    Only do this inside with searches that you know she will be a GENIUS with and only do it every few finds. For more difficult scenarios, continue to reward rapidly right there at the target.

    For “blind” hides without a helper, you can also stand at the perimeter of your search area and throw the targets. I do this a lot! Throw them without really paying attention to where they land, let them cook and come back later with my dog.

    Alana McGee

    Thanks Kristin. If i am reading this right, Spring finds the truffle, I verbally praise, take it away, food reward, but she is no longer being rewarded at source or do I still do both? In the video, it was actually at the edge of the carpet, but her “digging” pushed it under, so I had to uncover it for her.

    Regarding blinds, I was actually forgetting where they were when I had all the blanks out, because they looked the same, so tossing them around should work.

    No video today of the training, the tripod shifted, just before she found the first hide and all I had was sky. I did 3 hides in a much smaller area, about 15×15. I walked all over the area and had my BC walk all over too. Three Hides – one slightly buried, had a 1/4 of the top exposed, one just out on the grass and the 3rd under grass clippings. She found the buried one first and I did delay the reward and asked her to show me and she dug it up pretty good. She had the hardest time finding the hidden one, probably from the grass smell and the wind and she kept leaving the area to chase odor, when I kept calling her back in, that stressed her a bit as I had two sides fenced off. So I didn’t show her, but I moved to the area and asked if she looked over here and then she found it and lots of rewarding and we ended.

    Since she had a good time with the buried hide, I think I will try 2 next time, not 100% buried, with a 3rd hide in sight just to keep the confidence up. I may have to remove the fencing and just let her chase odor as that’s how she works. Weather is cooling off quick, so that will add another factor.

    Alana McGee

    [quote=”Alyssia Greiner” post=72763]Spring finds the truffle, I verbally praise, take it away, food reward[/quote]

    That is correct. You are now working on Spring making sure that truffle is in your possession. This creates persistence in staying near the truffle and making sure you pick it up. You ACQUIRING the truffle is going to become very important. So now we are starting to ask her to…
    1-locate the truffle
    2-show you precisely where it is (this is where she stays at source or finds it again)
    3-make sure you picked it up

    You can simply keep it in your hand when you begin rewarding her (nose targeting it in your hand is fine too). The important part is that you start picking it up before rewarding (only in easy scenarios for now).

    Make sense?

    The segment with the carpet is a good example of what will happen when digging in the soil. Dogs move the truffle when digging. Dogs with a lot of experience in the field will learn when to lighten up on the digging so they don’t dislodge the truffle, but initially it is very common for them to dig it up while trying to access it. So, practicing rooting around in blankets and rugs like this is very good practice. It looked to me like you were rooting around for it together. The dogs need our assistance accessing the truffle and we need their assistance locating it. Often when harvesting the actual truffle, the dog will tell you where to begin digging, wait for you to dig a little, then show you which direction to keep digging, let you dig a little, show you again, let you dig…and so on until you locate it. If they dislodge it while digging, they will find it again in the loose soil (we teach this in FE530). So, it becomes a team effort to get the truffle out of the ground.

    It sounds like you did a nice job of giving her some subtle help without adding pressure. Nice work!

    If you are confident in reading how she works, that is fine. You are getting to the point where individual styles will develop and what might not work for one team works just brilliantly for others.

    Can’t wait to see some video of the buried hides. Keep playing with the carpet and blankets. Looked like she was having a good time!

    Alana McGee

    The first video is of yesterdays training, I had 3 hides, cooked for about 15 minutes. Spring found the 2 that were slightly buried pretty quickly, and the 3rd which was laying on top of the grass to the left of the big drainage pipe it took her quite some time to find, so I cut that out, as the majority of the time was spent with her working the far upper right corner and going back and forth.


    Since she still seems to be lacking the confidence she was showing earlier and also to contain the area, I made it easier tonight and hid 5 on the patio, she found all of them, but for time sake I cut the 5th one which was under the broom (which she did check briefly early on). Had 2 under the leaf piles and 2 on the edge of the patio obscured. It had been raining so the back part of the patio is wet. I am not moving around that much and she seemed to be OK with that in this setting.


    Alana McGee

    This was very interesting! You will have to watch both videos for the “AH HA” moment!

    SMART SMART SMART on your part to go do this patio scenario!

    Alana McGee

    Thank you for the feedback.

    Just for reference, I have dense ground, for lack of a better word. So I am digging a hole for the teaball to sit in, and then covering the top about 1/2 way, so it’s still accessible, but it is ground level. What is interesting is she finds the buried hides first and then one that is just sitting out in the open takes longer for her to source. That happened the first time I did buried as well, when I had the tripod malfunction. Is that because the disturbed dirt “smell” is more of an attractant?

    With the patio hides, this also happens in nosework as well, she did check out the broom hide and the back right one, then went for what I consider the two easiest for her and then worked the other 3.

    As for the icky spot that she was avoiding. I am not sure what goes through her head sometimes. There is a holly tree there and it’s possible she got pricked by a leaf, but she runs around that tree like a lunatic when she thinks something is in it. She did avoidance behavior in the video from post #71085 as well, when she wouldn’t go up to the tree where I had the hide at the base. Again never had been an issue interacting with the tree or the base. She will do that in the house as well. Has no problem walking in one area, and the next day she avoids it and goes out of her way to go around it.

    When we do nosework trials or practices in new areas, I actually have her wear her Thundershirt and I have debated doing that with the truffle practice, but with doing the hides at home in familiar areas I wasn’t sure if it was necessary. But may try that as well.

    In any case, will follow your suggestion and do the praise when she first finds the buried hide and see what we get.

    Alana McGee

    [quote] What is interesting is she finds the buried hides first and then one that is just sitting out in the open takes longer for her to source?.
    Is that because the disturbed dirt “smell” is more of an attractant?[/quote]

    A few things can, and are likely, going on that will influence this.

    1)the upturned earth ?can? be a marker for some dogs pulling them into an area as they are like ‘hey, upturned earth means target= reward?. You can easily check for this by digging some fake holes and see if she goes to or alerts on them. My guess is if she checks them, she won?t alert. (There is then the possibility she has upturned earth + truffle scent= reward) More unusual, but does happen. Similar to in other scenarios to a dog catching a truffle scent column following it close to source and then looking for the shiny object to alert on.

    2)The odor from targets buried is lingering in the area, the soil, the low air, more densely than from a target sitting above ground where the air currents may be moving the VOCs around erratically or up and pluming over her head, dispersing them so it isn?t as concentrated. So that could partly be an explanation for difficulty in locating above ground hides.

    3)This next one I personally call the ?Lolo effect? because my dog Lolo does it- Which is, like the boxes earlier with Spring, easier hides can, for some dogs (it sounds counter intuitive) be confusing in many situations, and it becomes other objects to interact with and as you?ve said previously with NW, boxes are your nemesis. I have a very similar scenario with Lo. I mention it because, while it is not exactly the same, this anecdote may provide perspective (I don?t normally do so many anecdotes!).

    Lolo finds real truffles below ground (we still have things to work on- always improving- and we are very open about this!), what she & I used to struggle with frequently was targets, or truffles above ground (which does happens sometimes) in more stimulating scenarios when there were other harder hides present with that odor lingering more in the soil (from the harder hides).

    The more stimulating the scenario (aka a forest or outside lawns etc) the less likely she was to forcefully & confidently alert on that target that was considered ?easier?- or, like Spring, it would take her longer and it would be one of the last ones she?d get. If there was a buried one, or a real truffle growing, no problem- She?d find those. Targets that were, what I considered, easy were an issue though in more complex environments where more ?difficult? ones were also present.

    Having worked with her for so long, I could see she would get on the odor by the subtle change in her body language, and that she had actually found source and was proceeding towards it, but if I didn’t offer that verbal communication like Kristin was talking about in your video analysis, before her threshold to break away and follow the stronger source , she wouldn?t stay at or with the column she was on for the obvious target.

    For us it was confidence, well timed encouragement and confirmation of her having found correct criteria and building value with that and at source to keep her engaged there with me connected. The game of searching (and premack principle comes in here) was rewarding in of itself to her so in order to get the alert chain I wanted I needed to pay very close attention and provide encouragement as she was working on the, what I considered, ?easy? hides. Trying to encourage her to stick with the column she was on instead of bailing for the more concentrated one that was easier for her to find (even though I considered it a more complicated hide).

    It does relate to issue 2 for this reason of how VOCs cling to thing and where odor is concentrated and one scent column being more dispersed vs another.

    I don?t think that is necessarily exactly what is going on with Spring, but the open air ones do seem harder likely because of that dispersal, so because you are still building confidence, she?s going to the more concentrated odor columns first. What?s easy for us and Easy for them may be two very different things.

    You guys do look good though, and when Spring is confident, right after you start that verbal confirmation, wow the excited happy change in her body language. She just wiggles, and that tail! we love that.

    Anyway, just perspective. You guys are doing great though! Don?t think otherwise!

    Alana McGee

    OK, tonight I did 3 “buried” hides and 3 fake holes to see what she would do with them. I put them in the back of the yard where its a little damper. They cooked about 10- 15 minutes. She did really good, ignored the fake holes and with the last hide she even barked at me, to let me know yes it’s a truffle now feed me! She also stayed with them, while I talked to her. What I cut out was her going along the back fence right to left and then coming back towards the search area from where the camera was. She was really sweeping the area.

    I took a picture of how I am doing the hides, so that you can see it’s not deep.

    And here is the video. At some point the crickets will die…


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