Alyssia & Spring (DRTDT)

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    Alana McGee

    This was a SUPERB training session for you and Spring!!!! She responds beautifully to the verbal encouragement!

    Alana McGee

    Here is our video from last night. It was 4 hides in a small area, they were still just sitting in the ground, but I covered them up more. Ground was drier, so dirt wasn’t as packed. They didn’t cook long, maybe 5 minutes as I was losing light quick.

    Around 45 seconds, she does check out the empty hole I dug, but she never dug at it, so I kept quiet and let her work it out. The first two hides she did not vocalize, but I did get her a bit more frustrated with the last two and got her to bark. With the 3rd hide at 2:20 she got excited and jumped on me and when I asked her where her truffle was, she went back to it.


    Based on your latest feedback, I do agree that Spring is doing much better with the hides with me talking to her, she is no longer giving me the is this right look, but I am not sure how that will carry over to nosework, where you pretty much keep quiet and let the dog work it out. I also had another question come to mind that is also from nosework. Do you ever “present” an area to a dog to search that they may have missed or you want them to check again? I know this is probably easier to do with a room or a car and not a stand of trees 🙂

    I am hoping on Friday my friend can do some blind hides for me at her house. Will make sure I keep it simple and if I think Spring is onto odor, will talk to her and see what happens.

    Aside from that, should I continue to keep the area small, but make the hides deeper, or make the area bigger and keep the hides the same depth? With losing the light I did have a hard time finding them, so will need to mark them, but thankfully Spring found them.

    Thanks again.

    Alana McGee

    Hi Alyssia!

    To your question: [quote] Do you ever “present” an area to a dog to search that they may have missed or you want them to check again? I know this is probably easier to do with a room or a car and not a stand of trees 🙂 [/quote]

    If you?re going to ever work on orchards (which by you is a distinct possibility if you want to!) The answer is, absolutely, yes. We do this in other areas in a forest too if we have cause, so that skill, yes, is useful. We call it ?directionals’ and we cover it in FE530 as a more advanced skill as it is easier to teach situationally. It?s not as defined a space always as a car or a room, but yes, it is a valuable skill and one that transfers well from nose work for those with that background.

    As for your plan, and question on how to bury hides?. frankly we don?t think Spring is going to have trouble doing larger areas.

    We would suggest both.

    You?re at the stage where both of these things are useful and neither one is really more important than the other. They both are skills that are gateways to transitioning. We?d like Spring to feel confident about slightly deeper hides before we attempt to do that in another setting. We also want her to be able to start to practice in new locations with obscured, or lightly buried hides- so that means working on increasing the area. They are complimentary skills, but not mutually exclusive.

    I would say try burying the targets a little deeper in a small area. Not a lot, just a little! Try it. If it doesn?t go as well as we?d like, then switch over and spend more time solidifying confidence on the lightly buried hides and increase the area. Working on confidence building while increasing the area will be good progression and building in those new fun behaviors we saw in the last few videos that got her so excited! and from there you can even throw in one that is slightly deeper. When you do that, you may need to offer more encouragement, but we?ll see.

    Both are kind of parallel skills and we won’t know which way to focus until you try it. So try the slightly deeper ones. When you do this remember to keep the area smaller to set her up for success. I would intermix a hide just like you have been doing into this scenario though too so she can have an easier success if she seems to having a harder time with the deeper hides. We don?t suspect she will (have a hard time that is) but we always want to set her up for success.

    Spring already covers a pretty decent sized familiar area.


    She is responding really well to your communications with her- it?s really nice! I love watching as you approach and the helicopter tail! Really nice verbal communication on your part for that first hide. Very good timing on when it was offered.

    On the second one we love how much more insistent and confident she is when she finds it. She looks like she?s having fun! You did a really nice job here on the first two hides of encouraging more instance (and holding out waiting for the bark to be offered) but you move in and reward within a nice amount of time. It?s a fine balancing act sometimes between pushing for those desired behaviors to be offered, and setting up scenarios in a positive way so that they can happen, while still building confidence, but you did an excellent job here in regards to timing and reading Spring.

    I just want to comment that she?s doing a really nice job transitioning from one hide to the next in terms of searching behavior, much more confident in this outdoor environment than a few weeks ago.

    The hide at 2:07 we really LOVE. She doesn?t wait for you to confirm, or give you the look- she just excitedly goes for it! and then as you approach her excitement grows even more and you can watch her pivot around the hole trying to show you. Really fabulous. LOVE see this one. Getting her to vocalize was fabulous, and it was a nice balance, because you didn?t push it much beyond that first little grumble. Eventually you can build on that more when she offers, but you have a really good read on her body language and energy level when it comes to this (reference the First hide) and when to move in.

    The excited jumping on you is okay and the re-alert is even better. We LOVE that she is now so super excited by this game. That?s what we were building towards in part. That sequence for that hide is really wonderful.

    As Kristin mentioned previously, it?s also awesome to watch her energy and enthusiasm grow throughout the session and she is finding target after target. Building up the game and the fun as time goes on!Really really awesome. I know I say awesome a lot, but I mean it. It is a wonderful progression to see, and it is so clear it just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and excited for you guys!

    Again on the fourth one, just- way to go- really nice, on all accounts!

    A note to her digging style as well- because I mentioned it in Esprit?s thread and it will come up later, and it?s just interesting to note and will be curious to see if it alters as the targets go deeper. She has a similar style Esprit as I described over there? aka her digging is a relatively precise forward motion, on the tips of her nails and tops of her toe pads. Meaning if a target/ truffle does pop out (she has much smaller feet than Esprit so she?s less likely to dislodge it) it will pop out to the sides or directly behind her depending.

    Looks fabulous. You should be really proud of hard work you’ve put in. Looks wonderful and like yore having fun!

    Alana McGee

    Yesterday did 5 hides in a different part of the yard, grass was thicker, so the holes were more like divots and then I just put the grass plug back to cover. So not deeper but more covered. She did pop one out of the hole with her digging and it actually rolled forward, but I am using the tea balls so they have a little more weight. Wind was brisk and she was covering alot of ground chasing the odor downhill and then coming back to it, but was about 5 minutes total. Over all she did really good and kept the attitude up.

    Tonight finally did blind hides, we put 5 out and she found all 5 in under 6 minutes, but to keep the video down showing 4. The hides were not buried, but they were hidden pretty good. Her property is surrounded by woods and I have been there for nosework practice, so it wasn’t a completely new area to Spring, but there is alot of ground debris and other scents, wild animal and dogs. We had a mis-communication regarding the search area so started right on top of one that Spring found, but I missed. So you hear me say after the first hide about going back to it, but she never did until she had found the other 4. Between hides 3 and 4, she got hung up sniffing around the agility equipment., I think the odor was pooling, I cut most of that out, but I did leave in her alert to whatever ran through the woods at about 2:45, so you can see the difference in her body language. I thought it went well for the size of the area we covered and all the distractions. She didn’t shut down, even though she checked in with me and she also did her reset shake a couple times as well. She grumbled one time, but couldn’t get her to really vocalize. But it was a brand new scenario then what I have been doing with her.


    Alana McGee

    The hides in the taller grass sound good Alyssia.

    Surrounded by woods is tough, and you did a great job- doesn?t have to be a completely new environment, but this sounds like a good place to practice, when you can, of course.

    That first hide (really the 2nd) was really good! Spring was confident even when it was hard to physically get at source because of the rocks. That?s awesome! Way to go! hanging around the agility equipment is okay- lots of other smells there. And great hide on #2 (really #3)

    Nice job on rewarding and trusting Spring and coming in for the confirmation. Really well done on your part for your first set of blind hides!

    Nice job giving her more space to work without pressure when she comes back towards you while searching on the hide by the tree in the back.

    the moment at 2:45 was actually really nice when she came back to the game, and well done you for praising the shift in behavior. Always mark and praise the shift in behavior in these scenarios.

    We think you did really well with this scenario- you & Spring. Trusting her 100% and she gives nice really clear alerts when she is confident. What did that first alert look like that you missed? At least you know to trust her! It?s ok, and happens to all of us, but that is exactly why it?s good to practice blind hides when possible- it?s more for the handler than the dog!

    The vocalizing at finds will likely come more with time and practice in more familiar environments. You?ve only done that a handful of times yet so it will take a bit to solidify that behavior, but we would say continue to try to push for it at home in more familiar environments, but as you did here, let it go and loosen criteria for new spaces.

    Really well done, and again nice connection and trust. It was nice to watch the hide by the rocks and see Spring problem solve how to get at it. You?ve certainly built up value for staying at source, which is great.

    We also like that she comes to check in with you after a find. You can use that opportunity if you want for mini break session if you think she?s start it get a bit stressed. That would be one of our only recommendations. You were great on timing, and it looked really good over all. Spring is, on a whole in regards to finds, much more confident when she locates odor source now and doesn?t seek the confirmation as much, but we would suggest you still offer it- just as you have been doing.

    It?s a great progression though. Keep it up!

    Alana McGee

    [quote]What did that first alert look like that you missed? [/quote]

    Well that was the problem, I have no idea, I was trying to get the specifics of where the search area was and Tricia just let me walk into it and she was like you need to watch your dog and when I looked down Spring was leaving and she hadn’t turned the video on. So Spring either didn’t realize she was working or because my focus wasn’t 100% on her, she left it. Once I took the leash off and sent her on her way she was working.

    I will ask her if she knows what the majority trees are on her property, she may have truffles and not know it! But if we can arrange more practices, would be good area to work her without the distractions you find at parks.

    I had planned to work her at a new location yesterday, but we had a cold front come in and blustery winds with a windchill. Could not find a good area with a wind break, so scrapped that idea, as just walking around she seemed miserable. Very hard to acclimate the dogs to 70 degrees one day and 35 degrees the next.

    I did work her this morning, not sure what I was attempting to train, except to mix things up 🙂 Due to limited time, I hid 5 of them under the leaves that had piled up from the wind, cooked about 15 minutes, 40 degrees, but no wind. She came out of the house, went to the right side of the yard and then cut across the back and that is why you see her start in the back part. I have hides 1-4 on the video, #5 was in the back and view was blocked by the planter, but by that point I couldn’t remember where it was, so I worked the top area and when she came up empty moved towards the back and she found it almost right away. Will do buried hides next time, so you can see that progression.


    Alana McGee

    Indeed it is hard to acclimate dogs to shifts in weather like that. If Spring has no interest in being outside to play in those conditions, don?t force it! It should be fun- for both of you!

    If you didn?t see the alert- don?t worry about it. What this is a lesson in, and a good one for everyone, is when you are engaging in an area, 100% focus on your dog. Someone could be talking at you, and it?s great if you hear them and acknowledge, but priority is to Spring. Hides/ truffles can happen right out of the gate like that in real life too and you want to be prepared. Especially if your training or working on skills like staying at source and confidence building.

    Antecdote: This happened to me last year. At the time Lolo & I were working on staying at source in the field. I parked the car. The grass parking strip abutts a forest we hunt in regularly. I let Lolo out of her crate to go shake off travel and before I had my tools out of the car, literally 5-10 seconds, she had alerted, looked at me, and moved on to another one before I could bring her back for a proper reward sequence.

    Needless to say I am much more aware the moment we are even near an area.

    Always be ready!

    This is a great size area for you guys Alyssia. It?s been fun to watch her progress through it, but yes, start doing more buried hides! Spring can totally do it with gusto. If helping her orient by walking to the section of the yard they are in, so be it. That is just fine. Really is. Where your body is focused, Spring directs herself.

    But also, just like this set up, if you?re pressed for time- just do what you can do! Again, we all know this, but it?s a game. fun fun fun. that?s what should be happening.

    That first hide is great. Man her tail. Gets me every time.

    1:01 great job backing away and removing pressure, allowing her more space to move.

    Hide 3 I love how she pushes her head under leaves. She is showing a lot more confidence than a few weeks ago about interacting with other stimuli, aka pushing things out of the way to get at source. That is great. I like everything about this hide, and how she approaches it, and her thorough check after. That is actually really handy she does that naturally and will come into play later.

    Well done both of you. We don?t have too many comments. It looks really good.

    Alana McGee

    Telecommuted today, so was able to do a “real” practice 🙂 It had rained almost all night, so ground was good for digging in. I did 5 hides, and 4 fake holes (one of which she checked twice), cooked about 25 minutes, they were about an inch or so in the ground. I am using hot pink string as my markers, so she doesn’t sight on them. Was about 65 degrees and sun was out while they cooked, but it did rain again after we got done.

    Video is slightly longer then usual. I have all 5 hides in it and I did double speed on her searching, but still didn’t cut it down much. Sorry about that.

    Regarding the precise alerts… so Spring noses it, digs, may or may not look at me, and as I approach she digs more and when I tell her to show me she lays down. What can I do to refine this or make it better? She seems to be pretty reliable, and I think the digging is key, if I don’t see the dig then it’s not a truffle or could it be?

    The barking may or may not become part of the chain. I think she is doing it because I am taking too long to reward and today she left hides to approach me as I delayed. She goes back which is good. Since she doesn’t go far from me will the barking be a necessary part of it?

    Also she always takes alot longer to find that last hide whether its 3 or 5, so should I end the game prior to the last hide or let her work through it?

    Thanks for the help.


    Alana McGee

    [quote] She seems to be pretty reliable, and I think the digging is key, if I don’t see the dig then it’s not a truffle or could it be?[/quote]

    Spring is reliable. We have no reason to think otherwise unless we seem something that manifests as such. And we have not, at all.

    Her checking the other dug holes you made as fakes- Totally fine, doesn?t matter. It?s great actually because it assures us, that while it may have your odor, or up turned earth, but that what she has begun to associate is the truffle in these scenarios.

    So Spring noses it, digs, (sometimes looks at you), digs more and then on the re-alert she?ll return to source (if she left it) and lay down etc. Refining it more takes time, and rewarding the behaviors you want to see, but it will vary day by day your progress.

    Spring approaching you is totally ok as long she already reliably returns to source–which she does. We also would really encourage you to keep the bark.

    You said she barks because it takes you a long time to get to source. This is exactly why actually we like it.

    It?s a delicate balance right now where you are at. If she is leaving source to come find you and then goes back- ok. That?s okay to then keep pushing for more pronounced behaviors.

    **You do this now a bit** so it?s right on track:
    You could start to approach, stop, and then ask her to re-alert and see if that changes the sequence all- as opposed to asking/ giving confirmation (waiting for more pronounced behavior) and then closing the distance to source. That way she may feel more comfortable as you are in closer physical proximity before her re-alert. So it?s that space between the initial alert and the re-alert and your behavior. Does that make sense?

    We think keeping the bark is a good idea (we really don?t see any negatives) because unless all the land you are going to be checking is pretty darn flat (or you?re only working on orchards), it takes time to get to your dog- even if Spring is only 15 feet away.

    It gives Spring something to do while she waits for you to get there! And if it has a positive association as being part of her alert behavior, it won’t necessarily become a frustration bark. Once you can get the bark from the growl you kind of have now you can continue to reinforce it.

    Ending the game:

    Yes. At this stage you should always plan to leave at least one out there.If you find all of them easily-n great. Take advantage of opportunities as they come- but It?s not about finding all the targets. It?s about stopping on a good note, WANTING more. Plant more than you expect to find and get COMFORTABLE leaving some. Don?t push too darn for those last two. You can?t aways suppose in the moment as to why you are struggling as a team.

    It?s important to be able to walk away.

    Video: 0:22- Awesome. what we talked about earlier in your approach of stopping and starting- which you do already. We actually really like the bark. And we encourage you to keep it. It looks like there are lots of nose touches in the soil.

    I think your communication with her right now is really nice. Especially the sequence around 1:15, you are very engaged, confirming, encouraging, but also asking for more pronounced behaviors. Really good!

    Also- this is the 5th time I?ve watched closely and seen her do this in various videos of yours: She sneezes when she finds it. Not every single time, but in many of the hides it?s pretty pronounced. You may have just been dismissing it as normal behavior, but I honestly don?t think it is. Conscious or not, it is an alert. She could very well be trying expel the VOCs from her nose, but it doesn?t matter. If you want, you can also reinforce this. Not only that, but it also gives you more information to work with.

    1:15 she does it
    2:06 she does it

    And I do like her low growl at truffle finds 🙂 We like the moment at 2:55- very clear concise, doesn?t necessarily appear to be frustration bark. Communicating! It?s already progressed quite a bit in a week. Which is great!

    The video looks good though. Good area, great searching patters drive. Just keep pushing a little at the vocalization, and watch for the sneeze.

    Alana McGee


    This is video from yesterday afternoon. Was slightly breezy and about 55 degrees. I dug several fake holes and put out 5 hides and stopped after 4, but have more about that in a bit. I didn’t bury them deep, about an 1.5″-2″s, but they were completely covered.

    Hide 1 she went pretty much straight to it after coming into the area, it was buried and under the edge of the leaf pile. Thought that was really good. Sped up the video for the searching. She sneezes at 1:02 after she went back to hide 1. She checks out fake holes a couple times and sneezes after checking one at 1:12. Hide 2 she took along time to find and then when she gets to it, I am standing on it, yikes! Caught that and got out of the way. She sneezed after being rewarded. After that she found hides 3 and 4 pretty quickly. Lots of sneezing at hide 3. Hide 4 I was trying to get her to dig at it more and bring it up, because she was actually pushing it in farther. Well she was having none of that and we got lots of barks. So after rewarding, I tell her all done and go to turn off the camera, which in hindsight I should pretend to turn it off and leave it running. The look on her face was like what you mean were done? And as I went back to locate hide 5, she went right to it and dug it up and she got rewarded.

    I know my ground is probably not typical truffle ground, since it can be damp and heavy, but do you teach the dogs to dig farther for less accessible truffles or is that when the person comes in and digs it out. I just wasn’t sure how far to push the digging aspect of it, since that is clearly part of her alert. On her own she can normally dig a good size hole in a few seconds.

    The sneezing I think is from her clearing her nose out, since she is doing at various points, after a hide, during a hide, checking a fake hole. It definitely does mean she is onto something.

    Another thought I had, some dogs find the actual searching self rewarding. Is it possible she is delaying finding the last hide to be able to keep searching? She certainly found hide 5 pretty quickly after she thought the game was finished.


    Alana McGee

    Since we are running out of class time, I also had a couple going forward questions.

    I am pretty sure I will not do the December as Gold and will rejoin the class in April. Since that will not be truffle season in my area, should I buy some fresh truffles now and freeze them? Or will there be something similar available at that time that I will be able to use?

    Truffle hunting and nosework, can they co-exist? I actually will have a couple local NW3 trials coming up and if I get in, will need to get her back into training. I use different commands, although I have slipped and said find it with the truffles, it’s a different context, so it doesn’t seem to matter to her, hunting is hunting. Alerts are slightly similar only if it’s a ground hide and she definitely does not bark or dig with intensity in NW, so I don’t think reading her alerts will be an issue. But any other thoughts?

    Thanks for all the help this session. Have enjoyed it!

    Alana McGee

    Hi Alyssia.

    Your final video and questions will be addressed. We apologize for the delay but please know that a response is coming. If the classroom closes and we are unable to post here, you will get in in an email from us.

    Alana McGee

    So Sneezing can be Spring expelling the VOCs from her nose, that is absolutely correct. It doesn?t meet criteria so she moves on.

    Hides like #2 are SUPER realistic. You did a very good job on that! That Tail!

    The lots of barks are great. Love the growls that come out on that. Keep verbally praising her when she does that- we really do think it is a great tool to have.

    Especially the combo around 3:10 with her looking at you, scratching, the bark, that Tail!!! Really really fabulous. We would probably at that point coming in a little sooner than you did though to help her dig it out and then you can work on precision more in those circumstances. But really nice. More about that in a bit.

    As for soil types, in general for what you will be looking for it will be lighter- but don?t rule it out. Truffles grow where they grow, and it is good practice to work in those heavier soils as they actually tend to be more difficult than the lighter fluffy ones- so you?re doing a good job. Scent does move differently through them, but if dogs can handle compact clay soils at depth, shallow fluff leaf litter is much easier.

    In general you use the dog as a location helper. They can initially dig or mark the spot, but then the human comes in and digs and hopefully finds it.

    Example- just the other day Kristin was harvesting a few for some students at a site of ours that produces early. These truffles were 6 inches down easy. The chain of events is (we?ll use Callie as an example):

    Callie alerts, Kirstin comes over to see what callie has found. Callie re-alerts and Kristin gets down and digs a little and asks Callie again to show her. this contunies like this and Kirtsin continues to dig deeper. Callie smells the sides of holes and indicates with her nose (or paw alerts) which direction to go. Kristin digs a little further and asks callie again wherein callie smells again and alerts in a slightly different direction and this continues until they locate the truffle together.

    DEEP truffles are very tough, and Callie is extremely experienced at that. Most truffles will not be that deep. But it is a work in tandem. Spring can help you dig the hole, sure, but ideally that is where a human steps in. This is why the precision and reasserts are so helpful later.

    Some dogs do find the searching itself rewarding, you are absolutely right. I have one of those. I highly doubt Spring is delaying because of that, but anything is possible.
    But if she has found it already, that was the reward in of itself, wether or not she told you.

    What happens more often than not in those cases, is the dog simply does not alert and moves on to another one. Another reason to work on staying at source- which Spring does really well.

    I don?t think that is the issue necessarily- but just keep an eye out for it. It?s good that she wanted to stay and play- that is EXACTLY what we want!

    Alana McGee

    As for truffles

    If you want some to work with some until April of course, get some now, but come April we will certainly have frozen truffles of many species if not fresh of at least our PNW species.

    Truffle hunting and nose work can very much coexist! they can be consider different applications and extensions of each discipline.

    They rarely interfere with each other in competition settings, and often just act as reinforcing behaviors. So that?s great you?ll be doing nose work during the winter.

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