Annie & Dottie

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    Here is our latest training session. I went to an area that is on the edge of a forest, dominated by bigleaf maple and vine maple.

    I started by playing some box hide games in this area to get Dottie comfortable, having fun, and aware of what we were out there to do.

    As we’ve seen in the past, she is not as confident here as she’s been, but given that the location is new, I think she did well. She didn’t seem too stressed like she had in some of the previous videos—just a little unsure at times.

    My main question is what I should have done at the first find when she did a great alert when she found it, but then wouldn’t take me back and re-alert on the target. I am glad she remained at the source. I just would have liked a second alert so that she would pinpoint the location. After some unsuccessful coaxing, I picked up the target and put it in front of her, asking her to alert—which she did. Was that a bad idea to bring the target to her? What should I have done in that scenario? She did offer great paw-alerts at the other targets she located, so I didn’t run into that problem again.

    I must admit, somewhat shamefully, that I asked for too much in this session. After these 3 finds you see in the video, we should have stopped. Instead, I encouraged her to keep looking for more (I hid a total of 8, though was aiming for her to find 5). We did stop and take a break after the first 3 finds (for some water, play, scratches, and a few minutes to relax), in an effort to keep her enthusiasm up. But when we went back into the search area, she flagged and I had to toss out a target to manufacture success on the spot. I tossed it near her, and also very near another hidden target. She quickly found the one I tossed, and because it was very close to another hidden one, she found that one too. This is where we ended the session.

    Alana McGee

    Hi Annie.

    As for what to do in that situation on the first alert, drop criteria. There could be a bunch of reasons why she didn’t do it, stemming from lack of familiarity of place, ground surface, your body positioning, etc. Bringing the truffle to her in this situation isn’t bad. That is not a rule we think that you need to be hard and fast on if Dottie needs the support, which she did here. You didn’t wait too long either, which is good. This is about the amount of time we would have suggested to prevent frustration. And no, it’s not bad.

    If it becomes chronic in nature it’s something to look into a little more as to why and what is going on, but presenting her the target for a re-alert is fine in this circumstance. We’d always rather have a win 😉 We don’t want to present it to her every time if you can help it, but it means something about the situation is either hard, confusing, or not right and so we make it easier for a success. This repetition is just one of many in her future long career as truffle hunter.

    As for when to end sessions, that is one of the hardest parts of being a handler during training. You did a great job on manufacturing success for her in these scenarios and then stopping after the finds.

    1:56 good job Annie for knowing when she is in odor. If not, as in she wasn’t here, this would have been a good time to manufacture success.

    2:53 really nice!

    It looked good Annie. From the video you showed her energy looked pretty good. We think you are spot on as always in your analysis, but overall, this was a good session, and you as a handler learned more on this one too. Remember it’s a team 😉 And offering her the target is just fine in this scenario.


    Thanks for the great feedback Alana!

    We had a great session today! I took Dottie to a park where we practiced in an area that had a lot of downed leaves. This park is quite popular among walkers and dog owners, so there were plenty of smells for distraction.

    I started by playing the box hide game under some sequoias where the surface was packed dirt. We had a little bit of a rough start here–she was distracted and not super motivated at first, but after 3 reps, she was into the game. So then I moved the box hide game to the area with the leaves. She was great–focused and a happily playing the game. Then I put several targets in a small portion of the leafy area. (I wanted to keep the search area small so there was a high density of targets in our practice site.) I did not bury them, but did nestle them under the leaves so they were visually obscured.

    She was great! She found 6 targets within 5.5 minutes, and much of that time was actually spent rewarding her after each find. Still no interest in the toy, but she was very pleased to get her treats!

    The results from this session has me thinking that I need to take more time, doing more box hides and easing into the actual search area. So I’ll be experimenting with this notion to see if that will help keep her confidence and motivation strong as we continue to practice in other new and unfamiliar sites.

    Alana McGee

    We think that is a great tactic Annie, try it. Her confidence level does appear to improve throughout the session, and that’s what we want!

    When you move into more dense forests as well keep this in mind was a means to transition. It will be a great tool for you and Dottie we think.

    This is a great place to practice because of the distractions present and the amount of leaf litter. You guys do very well here! We can see her confidence inflate throughout the session.

    As always, you have a really nice connection with her. Love her fluffy tail in this video 😉

    0:25 nice encouragement. You may not have even noticed it but you used a tilt of your head there to indicate direction 😉

    0:41 yay 😉 Dottie’s like, ‘yup, no big thang, it’s right there’. Liked to see that. She responds well to your personal touch at 0:49

    1:32 great!

    Annie, this video looked really nice, not to much to critique. You’re right on. Well done. If you have any questions about it, please ask, but you two look nice here.

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