October 14, 2015 at 10:53 pm #6414Alana McGeeKeymaster
Welcome back to class Annie! This is the forum topic where you will post your questions and homework videos for feedback from the instructors. Please take a moment to tell us about yourself, your dog and your interest in truffle hunting (and what you have been working on during the break).October 20, 2015 at 10:45 pm #6457
Hello Kristin and Alana 🙂 And hello classmates–great to see you and your dogs again! I am working with a different dog of mine, Tuesday (aka Tooz) in this class. Tooz has had some truffle training in the past and she found a couple in the wild last winter. So I’m hoping to have her ready to do some more serious hunting this winter.
She is a 3 year old terrier mix that I’ve had for 2 years. I adopted her from a shelter a couple weeks after she was brought in as a stray. She has done some obedience work and knows a whole bunch of tricks. 🙂 She started getting white hair on her face at an early age, so she looks older than she is…
This exercise took place in a small patch of mostly riparian vegetation that runs along a creek. On either side of this riparian strip are young Doug fir stands. The day was cool and wet, it had been drizzling most of the day, but had stopped about 10 minutes before we started the exercise. The targets cooked for about 20 minutes. After each find, Tooz’s reward is 3-5 short tosses of a tennis ball. So most of the tosses were spliced out of the video.
Right now, I think Tooz needs to work on endurance. She becomes mentally tired after 4-5 finds and then begins to struggle to find more. I’d like to work up to 6 as our next goal.
Thanks for your feedback!October 22, 2015 at 2:52 am #6466
Welcome Annie and Tuesday to the course.
Thank you for your introduction about yourself and Tuesday. It is always so exciting when you find your first truffles, and I wish you every success again this season. Wow…Tuesday’s tail is such a good indicator of what’s happening, and it doesn’t stop, just a change in speed!
This is a great size of area to start Tuesday locating samples allowing both open space and obscured samples. Which direction was the wind coming from? Were you using two types of rewards in this session?
What a good idea to place a sample higher up as sometimes critters do extract truffles and carry them up a tree.
(0:09) Tuesday very quickly locates the first sample up the stump and we hear ‘good girl’, which was spot on for timing, well done. Between the first ‘good girl’ at 0:90 and the ball reward at 0:21 Tuesday performed other behaviours where a ‘good girl’ was also received, including showing you again where the sample was that was being collected. This distance between the locating of the sample, and the reward, gives Tuesday opportunity to offer additional behaviours which could create an unwanted chain of behaviours if repeated often enough. Having a “party” at the scent source shortly after ‘good girl’ will continue to build the value of the searching game, especially in this new environment. This can be via ball or food reward.
(0:57) Tuesday locates the sample near the tree and then (I think) brings the sample to you, great job. Did you reward her at source when you bent down or did you bend down to pick up the sample?
(1:17) Ball was retrieved from Tuesday and you ask her to ‘find it’ and her head starts to move from side to side searching for the scent trail. There is some BEAUTIFUL tracking of the scent, she double backs to a scent pool behind the tree stump, and then searches backwards and forwards working hard to locate the source. Between 1:47 and 1:53, where she found the sample, her tail was wildly indicating that something was there and was possibly being given some encouragement from you that she was on the right track. Sorry, there is background noise at this stage and unable to hear. Then ‘good girl’ when she located it and bought it out to you and she did a great double nose tap on the sample at 1:57 to check you saw it. Brilliant.
(2:36) you highlighted that you wanted her to search the open area, and took a few steps towards the back area, Tuesday read your body language well and does a wonderful search of the area and finds the sample. Lots of praise for her and the throwing of the ball. Great job.
You mentioned that you throw the ball 3 – 5 times after each location of the sample. Do you think that this could reduce the number of samples that Tuesday locates during the searches? If you reduced the number of ball throws after each find do you think this will increase the number of finds that Tuesday could search in a session? Could this increase the ‘worth’ of the ball as a reward and in turn encourage her to locate more samples? Have you experimented with the types of rewards to give her in this new environment compared to earlier training?
You are a great team to watch and I look forward to your feedback and seeing your next video.October 26, 2015 at 8:58 pm #6513
Hi Karen 🙂
Thanks for the great feedback. It’s great to see that you are also instructing–I am glad to receive your insight! Scentwork is pretty new to me, so I am glad for all the help I can get!
Tooz is really fun to work with, and you’re right, it’s all in the tail! She has a very different tail & hip motion when she is on odor. She wags a lot anyway, but this particular wag is how I can tell if she is really on odor, or just crittering, sniffing scat, etc.
At 0:57 when I reach down, I am picking up the target. She retrieves them if I can’t get there fast enough. (She is getting better at waiting, as I am introducing a “wait” command to get her to wait for me to get there before she does anymore pawing/mouthing.) She really isn’t interested in food rewards just after finding the target–all she cares about is getting the ball. So I don’t usually reward her at the source with food. Maybe I should try it anyway?
I appreciate your thoughts on throwing the ball and maintaining stamina. I am definitely going to experiment with this! Will be getting out to a forested setting to practice in the next day or 2.
Thanks Karen!October 30, 2015 at 7:03 am #6520
The video posted here was from our last session in a forest. Tooz found 7 hot targets. Each was lightly buried in 1-2 inches of duff. Temp: 62 deg F, Wind: slight with 5-8 mph gusts, Humidity: 90%.
I had been worried a few months ago that she wasn’t working comfortably away from me anymore. She seemed to be sticking closer, rather than venturing out to search wider areas. So I was pretty happy with this session. To see her confidently explore areas beyond our little “work space” was good. I probably could have provided more verbal encouragement throughout the session, but I was concerned it might distract her. So I need to find the right balance there.
We are working in the house on searching negative space as well. Will try to get some video of that posted soon.
Thanks!October 30, 2015 at 12:08 pm #6522
I should add that I changed up the reward process a little. I only rewarded her with the ball 5 out of 7 finds. for every find. She did get an awesome good reward instead, but I withheld the ball once when the find was particularly easy, and once when she found the target, then picked it up and carried it off. (this was the only plastic target, and she was enjoying chomping on it…)
When I did reward her with the ball, it was only for 1 or 2 short tosses. So fewer than she’s used to.
Anyhow, I think that saving the ball for stellar work and doing fewer tosses helped keep her drive up .November 3, 2015 at 1:29 am #6534
Wow Annie, Tuesday does appear to have picked up her enthusiasm and is searching well, especially that you had already completed 7 samples. Well done.
Great first search. One cue and she was off, so she certainly understands what you want her to locate. When Tuesday locates a sample, are you after an active or passive response. The PNW Truffles are quite fragile, and an active response may damage the truffle and reduce its quality.
BRILLIANT that you are down at her level now, and also that you asked her to relocate the truffle once you were down there. She had obviously placed it in a safe place and had to relocate it so that was excellent work. Your encouragement during this was spot on.
In a previous comment I suggested you reduced the number of throws after you locate samples/truffles. I also meant to suggest changing throws to tosses. The reason is that the forest, at present, looks very clear. However, there can be unknown obstacles under leaf litter which could cause harm to your dog. Also as you get deeper in the forest it will become more dense and chances of free areas to throw a ball will be reduced. To keep Tuesday safe, I would suggest tossing the ball to her mouth a couple of times rather than throwing it away from you.
Tuesday did an EXCELLENT long search for the second sample. It was interesting watching her body language, and encouragement may have assisted her at this time. Each dog is different in regards to encouragement, and the only way you will know if it interferes with her work is to test it out. In one session you may want to talk through one difficult find, and then not the other; give differing amounts of encouragement (continual talking to just occasional comments), and different volumes (loud to quiet). Review the video and see if she finds it quicker or slower when you are offering encouragement. At 1:38 you supported Tuesday in her hunt for the sample with encouragement. Did you start encouraging her because of the change in body language or because you knew where it was hidden? Ooops. Sometimes they just decide to do their own thing with the sample/truffle, but you handled this really well, no panicking or rushing after her, these things happen.
If Tuesday has a secure indication, then the opportunities for her to remove the sample/truffle will also reduce.
The last search was GREAT as she went away from you and searched. Try not to lose sight of her though as you could miss out on so much of her language, and you never know she may find a real one whilst you are not watching! However the other can be said about hanging around the samples. If a dog is only successful when you are standing near or next to a sample then you become part of their picture to success. In this instance, other than a brief disappearance, your last sample find was brilliant. Both of you are charging forwards with developing your truffling relationship. You are doing very well.November 4, 2015 at 11:29 pm #6537
A few responses before I get to my next video…
You are certainly right, I need to work with Tooz on developing a more passive alert. Even if she doesn’t pick up the target, she still paws at it more roughly than I’d like. So I will work with her to eliminate the behavior of picking up the target, as well as reduce pawing. She has done well when I’ve worked on this in the past—I’ve just become too lax about it.
As for the verbal encouragement at the specific point you asked about (1:38), I was praising her because I could see from her body language that she was onto the odor and honing in on the source. I almost always give verbal encouragement/praise when she is at this point of a search—on odor and pinpointing the source.
Indeed, the forests out here in the coastal Pacific Northwest are dense and are typically littered in branches, logs, and undergrowth. I definitely do not throw the ball in these environments. I don’t even do short tosses to her mouth since she can’t always catch them—if she couldn’t make the catch, she’d go leaping and lunging after the ball. So in these kinds of environments I do little more than hand the ball to her mouth. It’s not the same as a throw, but she still loves it.
This next video begins a little strangely. I have not yet been able to do blind hides where I also don’t know the location of the targets. Finding someone who is available to do this for me has been challenging, so when I had an opportunity a few days ago, I had to jump on it. It was, however, not an ideal situation, since enlisting the helper meant also enlisting her 5 year old daughter. The drawback was mainly the distraction—Tooz didn’t seem to mind too much, it was me that found the girl distracting. The benefit: The girl took her job as helper very seriously. She placed many “traps” where she touched the ground or used the trowl to lift some soil. She also walked all over the search area, making “crazy tracks” of footprints that zig zagged all around. (She was pretty invested in the search and a little overly-excited to see the dog in action!) So I’m sorry about the little girl in the beginning of the video—she goes away, I promise!
I noticed that in this search where I don’t know the location of the hides, I give a lot more verbal encouragement and praise than in scenarios where I do know the location of the hides. I think Tooz responded well to it since she stayed happy and motivated until all 6 targets were found.
The weather during this session was partly sunny, 55 deg F, 70% humidity, with winds up to 12 mph.November 10, 2015 at 1:09 am #6549
My apologies for such a long delay in responding to you. In this day and age expectations are high that Broadband will be the minimum connectivity to the internet, but alas that was not true last weekend, so I had not internet connection to respond to your homework video.
We only see a snapshot of your training through these videos, but Tooz’s enthusiasm has increased since the first video. Well done. Sometimes the video doesn’t pick up everything spoken, so great that you were encouraging Tuesday when her body language changed to say that she was in odour on the previous video. Knowing what is the right reward, and reward intensity, for your dog in different forest situations is so important.
When an opportunity arises when people offer to assist you with a search, you have to make the most of it, even if they do run interference, which can be both distracting for you and Tooz.
Tooz is an enthusiastic working, and your encouragement is good, even when it turned out that something wasn’t there. Great timing to call her off from the ‘trap’. Be careful asking her to leave an unexplored area without checking it out. When out in the bush searching, her body language may alter slightly and if removed before a closer check you may ask her to leave a hidden treasure.
Tooz did a great search when at (1:12) you gave some good bridging support when she hit the cone of scent, shown by the body change, and then she worked towards the source of scent. Really GREAT work by Tooz, and yourself in locating this.
2.24 was an AWESOME interaction between the team. Tooz located the truffle and you got down and close with her and she was on top of the truffle, waiting for you and then you dig it up together was great to watch. That tail is such a give-away for what she has found.
2:47 was another wonderful location and both of you were eager to find out what was down there.
Tooz doesn’t appear to be phased by all the ‘chatter’, but another dog you train may work in peace and quiet, or the chatter may hype them up, so it is really great to watch her with all these distractions going on.
This is some really BRILLIANT team work between you and Tooz. I would suggest securing the indicator/alert signal for a number of reasons: Tooz will not damage the truffle through digging or disturbing the ground; keep her in the current location as there may be other truffles in close proximity and having a strong alert will reduce the opportunity for her to alert and then be called away from a buried treasure; will make her more keen for the end game and waiting for the ball.
You have taken the suggested changes on board and your training has moved forward in leaps and bounds. Tooz has so much energy now, and is working harder for a smaller number of rewards. The approximations to reduce the rewards has been well timed, and the behaviour has increased without deterioration.
Well done on this video.November 17, 2015 at 10:06 pm #6569
Sorry for the lapse in online activity–I have been keeping up with the posts and have been practicing, but haven’t had a chance to post until now.
The following video was taken a couple days ago. It was 50 deg F, drizzling rain off and on all day with slight wind. It was not drizzling at the time the video was taken. I don’t have enough real truffles left to use them for practice, so I used targets. I did use different containers, as well as fabric, that have not been used at all before this exercise. I let the targets cook for 2 hours.
What happened in this training session was that she would enter the vicinity of a target, pick up on the odor, so some searching, then move on. This happened for about 4 of the 6 targets. Sometimes her search lasted a couple minutes before she moved on, other times she only pursued the odor for several seconds. I was glad to see that she was picking up on the odor, but pinpointing the sources was a challenge.
In the first half of the video, she catches the scent pretty easily, but has a very hard time locating it. With this particular target, I threw it far off into the ferns. My thinking was that throwing it would be good because my tracks wouldn’t lead her there, and also because it would be an easier success to achieve by being above ground.
This exercise left me a little concerned that Tooz has been relying on my tracks more than I realized. She repeatedly runs up and down the “path” that I took to get to the area. Then when she is in the area, she can’t find it, and goes back to the path that I walked. I think that she is returning to my path because my scent trail gets “cut off” at the point where I threw the target.
I have always tried to make an effort to leave wandering tracks all over the area when I set up searches. I frequently throw targets in addition to placing them when setting up hides. I’ve kept an eye out to see if she is using the same paths that I’ve walked, and I’ve been confident that she is not using my tracks to guide her. So seeing this happening in this session was a bit disconcerting.
She did find almost all of the 6 targets unaided (had to move her on and return to the area later in the session). She is very successful if I can take her to the near vicinity (approx. 30′ x 30′ area, say), but she clearly had a hard time pinpointing the sources in this particular forest session.
Thanks for your insight–I look forward to getting some tips on how to work through this, and to achieve success without having to take her to the vicinity of a hide in order for her to locate it.November 21, 2015 at 12:07 am #6574
Working along the lines of your thinking in regards to Tuesday following the person’s track rather than searching for the scent, you have identified an challenge through GREAT self-analysis Annie.
You have identified a possible shortfall and have tested it by throwing a target into an area where you haven’t walked. Tuesday could find the scent but not the target.
Pavlov is always on your shoulder. We need to be aware of patterns of behaviour that we consistently do without realising until a behaviour appears in our dogs. It could be that you changed the pattern that Tuesday had learned (human scent equals truffle) and needs to learn a new pattern.
What you did with her to help her find the truffles was a good solution to give her a win. Although, that could also be part of the challenge she is having (human = truffle).
Go back a few steps and check her comfort and learning with finding a sample away from you (you mentioned distance in your first video upload) and working on increasing that distance in a ‘simple’ environment with low distractions. Working in an open field/park with areas of short and long grass, throw samples into the short and then long grass for Tuesday to find. Video her and watch her search language. Is Tuesday confused about what is asked? Does she find the scent plume struggles to locate the sample/truffle? Has the search lost its ‘fun’?
You mentioned that you only had a small amount of truffle left. Have you trained with larger quantity than you had today previously? Do you think that any of the sample tins or cloth could have put him or, do you think the samples could have been left to cook for too long for the size of truffle? Were the truffles too old and low in scent?
Sometimes going back to review and redo earlier steps will help both of you in the task you are doing. Keeping a chart of each training session to see if she is improving or plateauing. This can happen in training, and going back to earlier successful approximations and taking your time to move forwards can often cement the outcome from training.
At 2:07 Tuesday appears to be eating, and it could (I don’t know Tuesday that well) have been a stress indicator and the training stopped. Her expressive tail was not working the same as previous, was Tuesday having an ‘off’day.
Look forward to hearing from you.
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