Annie Ingersoll & Dottie

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    Alana McGee

    This was a GREAT sessions! Very well done. Dottie is much better without the visual IDs.

    Definitely work on the nose targets/ lightly pawing but do this without searching for a hide. That way you can create many successes in a short session. When that is solid, start to ask for it in searches.


    Thank you Kristin for the great analysis and feedback! I always learn a lot from you and Alana. 🙂

    Since you recommend foregoing the visual IDs for now when indoors, can you suggest a modification to the week 4 assignment for us? One thought I had was to use more baskets or buckets so she can’t reach the target, but this would not be working with visual IDs that she’s familiar with. Another thought is to take the visual IDs she recognizes (tupperware containers and firewood) outside and try the exercise there. But I know you want us to stay indoors.

    We will definitely work more on shaping the alert (separate from alert/hide exercises), and I am glad to know that it was OK that I chose to overlook the picking up/chewing of the target in the last video in favor of the search behavior.

    Thank you !

    Alana McGee

    Great question!

    Use your containers to introduce a new larger indoor search area (perhaps using two adjoining rooms). After the first search, remove the containers and let her search for one hidden target. The baskets are great and you can use those for hides but let’s not turn the basket into one of her recognizable visual ID’s. Sometimes have a basket with a hide in it and sometimes not. She will probably learn to search baskets but only occasionally will there be a truffle there.


    I used the containers that Dottie is familiar with to expand the search area to the adjoining room. It only took one repetition for her to bolt straight to the other room to start her search, so I mixed in a couple reps where the hot container was placed back in the original room. Just to keep her on her toes. 

    She still spent a lot of time playing with the containers, so as in the last video, she did much better without the visual IDs.

    I think she did pretty well with these searches. Because I had to hold the camera, I didn’t show much of the reward sequences because it was too hard to reward her and hold the camera at the same time. (Those of you who have helpers to videotape you—you don’t know how lucky you are!) I did make a point to lengthen the reward and to include more tug/toy play when she wanted it. I apologize that this can’t be seen in the video.

    Part 2 of the Assignment: Environmental Factors associated with the Images Provided

    Scene 1

    I would try to work back and forth perpendicularly across the direction of the wind. I would think that the scent would be pooling in the trough down the slope, so that may be confusing for my dog. If my dog were to keep searching in this scent “pool”, I wonder if it would work to encourage her to leave the pool, working upwind to find the source of the scent. I am a little confused about the effect of the rain/wet ground. You mentioned that it could be diluting odor or causing it to shift, but I thought that cool, wet ground caused odor to stay more localized and not dissipate as much. So I need a little help understanding how that works. I wonder if the leaf litter would help or hinder… I could see it helping by allowing scent to escape through the air spaces between the leaves, but if the leaves are so wet that they are matted down (no air spaces) then they could create a layer that effectively seals off the odor.

    Scene 2

    This area might be very difficult for Dottie to navigate with the high density of branches under the grass, given her small size. If she were able to traverse the ground without much trouble, then we would work back and forth perpendicular to the wind and slope. The strong gusts would definitely present a challenge by making the source of the odor much harder to locate, though I wonder if the matted grass may help the odor stay more localized at the ground level. To combat the ticks and mosquitoes, a sleek, form-fitting jacket for my dog would provide good coverage over most of her body. (like the Ruffwear “cloud chaser” jacket) Given the gusts, the grass-covered branches and the ticks/mosquitoes, I would probably not search this area with Dottie.

    Alana McGee

    BRILLIANT! 0:53 I love this!

    2:30 There was so much learning going on in this search! You both did great. We wouldn’t change a thing. You kept her going when she alerted on the site of her previous success and she figured out that it wasn’t going to produce a reward. She didn’t get frustrated and went into problem solving mode! Wonderful work!

    I have zero complaints about his set of sessions. Nicely done Annie and Dottie!

    You can probably expect that she will always default to playing with the boxes. That’s fine. You will simply use the boxes as a bridge to transfer the game when a new challenge is presented. That’s the purpose. What this means is that she doesn’t need the boxes to cue the game. She knows the truffle scent and knows her job is to find it 😀


    Our latest session went really well! I hid 4 hot targets around the room and she found them much faster than I was ready for. 🙂

    [[Disclaimer: I apologize tremendously for 2 very embarrassing things in this video: 1) obnoxious screeching in the background. Waiting on the sidelines has become increasingly more difficult for Tuesday, my other truffle dog in training. We’ll be working on calm, quiet behavior on the sidelines during our time off! And 2) horrible camera action–I’ll be investing in a tripod and better camera during our time off, I promise!]]

    I did catch myself rewarding slightly away from the original source on the second find, because she kicked the tin toward me. I’m still working on trying to remember to take the odor back to the original source to reward.

    I am especially pleased about a couple things in this particular session:

    1) Dottie seems to be getting the hang of the “Find em” verbal cue. I know this isn’t a big deal right now, but even so, I think it’s starting to become clearer to her.

    2) at a couple points, she picks up the scent column and makes a quick turn toward the source. I feel like she is becoming more aware and confident of what odor she is looking for, and that her searches are becoming more methodical and deliberate.

    3) her new crinkle toy is a huge hit. She was so happy with it when I brought it out as a reward (after find #2), and she stayed pumped up through the whole session. This may seem small, but I had been anticipating trouble with her ability to “get back to work” without re-setting the room/scenario, so I think it really helped to have a toy that kept her pumped up and wanting to do more.

    4) I have been working quite a bit on getting her to use only her paw to target and to not pick up the targets/containers anymore. This seems to be sinking in, as she didn’t actually pick up any of the tins, and was much better about using her paws instead of her mouth.

    Lots more to work on and refine, both with Dottie’s skills and mine. But all in all, I’m very happy with the progress we’ve made over the last 6 weeks! Thank you Kristin and Alana!

    Alana McGee

    Annie your self analysis is well thought out and insightful as always.

    In response to your self analysis of your session, a few comments:

    good. Cues and adding labels can be helpful, as you know, but not the main goal of training at this point.
    We agree with your assessment on this. These foundational building blocks and building confidence are key to long term success. Reward history and repetition are marvelous things.
    Toys are a great resource! If the crinkle toy keeps her energy up and engaged, this is great- you’ll be able to use this a variety of different ways later now that you know she responds positively to it in this environment while still being able to re-shift focus into the truffle game. Once outside with it, you may have to build/ work on transiting in and out of the games as there are more environmental factors at play
    This is good. Truffles are not metal tins or tuperware boxes, so the behavior may alter organically when you start working with the real thing, but it is good to solidify your desired behaviors. It will make transference to the different object easier.

    0:11 GREAT. As you said in your own analysis you can see her hit the scent column and more confidently track to source. This hide was also a bit inaccessible and she does a great job of indicating, staying at source, and re-alerting. Love it!

    She is definitely more confident in her alerts. The crinkle toy is a fantastic reward for her, and a very nice transition at 0:57 (the video cuts there, but we assume- based on her body language that it was a transition back into the game- please correct us if we are wrong.)

    1:09 interesting to note her checking elevation at old locations. It is fascinating (and great!) when this happens as you can see that she has associated success criteria with the presence of source, even if odor is still present in that area.

    1:27 you have the right inclination to move away from the area of the previous hide in order to get Dottie to search a new section.

    1:52 is hard. Well done. You recognize her body language here that she has indeed found it, (notice the initial alert at 1:32)- she just can’t access it easily. 1:37 is a look re-alert, and again at 1:43.

    You’re doing a great job on your energy in rewarding Annie. You and Dottie look great, again not a lot of comments on things to alter. Well done.

    Alana McGee

    Ah, the protest barking of other dogs. I know it well! I typically remove my others altogether. Personally, I’d be thrilled to hear how you go about training the calm quiet behavior for Tuesday 🙂

    A tripod will make things much easier for you next session!

    0:24 THAT FACE! What a happy dog! It’s hard to see what the reward sequence looked like but everyone was staying put so no complaints. Dottie was very persistent in telling you about that target! EXCELLENT 😀

    The second find was fabulous! That reward sequence made me want to come work for you. Annie, your ability to really connect with your dogs and bring out the best in them is wonderful!

    1:18 Well done acknowledging her distraction (site of the previous find and some items you left there). Nice verbals to validate her attempt and let her know you want to search elsewhere.

    1:31 she shifted to being more handler focused. That isn’t a surprise since she lost a little confidence with the distraction. You do a great job of keeping your intention on the next find and inserting encouragement when you know she is on it (but she is showing uncertainty). Very intuitive. Good for you! Great party!

    The last find was a very confident one!!! That shows us that you read your dogs very well and can adjust the demands of the alert appropriately. You offered significantly less encouragement here and Dottie was telling you with absolute certainty where that truffle target was! The party reflected her awesomeness 😀

    All of your points are spot on. You should be very proud of the work you and Dottie did here! She is a little firecracker. Looking back at the first video and now, your progress is wonderful!

    As for moving targets, they will get dislodged in the field so, within reason, you can reward her for staying with the moving target. Just be careful that she doesn’t think moving the target is part of the game.

    A side note about using baskets:
    Take a mental note of what her alert looks like when the target is in a basket. Essentially, that represents a truffle that is inaccessible to her and she can’t offer you a paw target. Often the obstacles in the forest will prevent dogs from offering their ideal alert so make a mental note of that behavior. Truffles do grow between logs/ stick piles that she won’t be able to access.

    Excellent work this session. Keep up the great training but do be sure to take a break before the next class. Those periods of down time often yield great advances in understanding. Set yourself up for a massive learning moment and then take a break for a few days or a week. Come back to the same training subject and marvel at the improvement 😉

    Continue to work on her endurance for multiple searches. She is on her way. If you have an end cue for other training or play, this would be a good time to start using it. This will help her understand that you are finished with all the hides and help her confidence in knowing that she has the opportunity to do another if you didn’t give the end cue. Start to make a ritual out of your ending as well. Perhaps she keeps the toy or there is something different about the last reward. Practice gathering yourselves together and leaving the search area together to help signal that you are all finished. Bring the attention to a more handler focused reward and ending behavior. Often walking briskly out of the search area while talking/ rewarding your dog become a very clear ritual for the dogs. Use a word, change your movement, change your intention and bring your focus on her instead of the search space. She was amazing! Tell her that all the way out of the space 😀

    We look forward to working with you and Dottie next session. Registration for Developing a Reliable Truffle Dog Team (level 2) opens July 26th. Class starts August 9th.

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