Bev Maahs & Wolfy

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  • #5005
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    Welcome to class Bev!  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.

    Class begins June 1st but you already have access to the first lesson so go ahead and check that out!  You can begin posting video homework and questions June 1st.

    #5009
    Bev
    Participant

    Hi Everybody!

    I am a dog trainer on Vancouver Island and have trained my GSD Wolfy for Scent Detection. He likes this work and when I saw Truffle Dog Co. on a forum about Truffle Hunting I thought it would be an good addition to our relationship. I first started him on SAR tracking workshop at 6 months, which he seemed to like, then worked on his foundation training for Rally. I have been training and teaching scent work for a while now and think this will be a great addition to our partnership. German Shepherds love to work and he loves the woods too! I look forward to learning this new skill and teaching this new scent to him.
    I also enjoy learning and intrigued by truffles and this new education opportunity.

    • This reply was modified 6 years, 4 months ago by Bev.
    #5109
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    Hi Bev! Welcome to class! We look forward to seeing you and Wolfy in action!

    #5113
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    Hi Bev! Welcome. We are very excited to have you in class and representing a Canadian Contingent here. Please don’t forget to check the box below this text field to make sure you receive all post replies from us. We look forward to working with you! Hope all is well on the Island today!

    #5307
    Bev
    Participant

    Hi:

    Here is my first video called Truffle Imprint. I am just using a tin here. I decided not to clip it further because I wanted everyone to see the interesting thing that occurred. Wolfy is 3.5 years old and has been clicker trained since 8 weeks old. He has been trained in Foundation skills, and Rally competitive skills among many others. I have played 101 things to do with a box with him as well. A good example of be careful of what you click for. This is maybe the 11th session with him averaging 3 minutes each time.
    I am using cooked liver as a reward, and a ball. (I usually do not use a ball, as he fixates on the ball, it is under the red and white pillow! he loves the ball reward.) I had previously clicked for him choosing the right tin, and he picked it up while I clicked. At one point he was just picking up tins, so I then went back to the scent tin to remind him of what I was clicking for. This seemed to help. I will also post another video after this one called 1a which shows him choosing the right boxes in plastic containers. Look forward to your comments.

    Second video much shorter with plastic containers.

    • This reply was modified 6 years, 4 months ago by Bev. Reason: Add video
    • This reply was modified 6 years, 4 months ago by Bev.
    #5312
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    Fascinating after so few trials with the click he associates the open mouth pick up! This is an excellent example of careful what you click for, and for students who are unfamiliar with clickers, the power of the information they convey. Fascinating to see such a clear example of that. Good teaching moments!

    When you run into problems or challenges, yes, often going back to basics can help. That is why foundations are so important! Awesome timing at 3:18 right before he put it in his mouth.

    After odor is bit more solidified that will be an excise to work on- rewarding closed mouth/ nose touches as opposed to open mouth pick ups. But again, organically this will diminish on its own as when you move to boxes (as you see in the next video) and indeed underground as he won’t readily be able to mouth the target so the behavior will alter and evolve.

    We like his decision making at 0:59.

    Even by the end of the session you were seeing a decrease in this behavior when you stopped using a clicker and started using “yes”. Fascintaing really and a testament to all that foundational clicker training you have done previously shaping other behaviors that he really is specific about what the click means. Well done on your part as well to switch technique and see if that made a difference.

    You do a good job with the ball treat transition, and we really like your reward sequence and connection here.

    You’ve got some speed! Good job on getting those containers down (0:48) The one thing to do with the containers here is put a paper towel in each as well to remove the visual identification of the tea ball inside one.

    You do a great job of staying engaged at the source and having Wolfy be part of the party. Execllent work Bev. And nice in the box nose touch at 2:05! Using the boxes in this way also get the dogs used (in an artificial sense) putting there heads into a hole to alert. Very well done!

    #5344
    Bev
    Participant

    Question: Is it okay for me to ask for a down once he indicates his box with the paw? I have found if I do not ask for it he will flip the box (it goes flying) and then pull the paper towel out or pick that up or the box. As amusing as he finds this, it is totally not what I want. This is the reason I have not entered him in scent detection competitions, because he has this enthusiasm, for this but they want passive alerts. Anyway, he paws the box, and I ask for a down after. Is that ok? I am not sure how this will translate into truffle hunting, he is a large 90 pound dog with and digging would be great I guess as long as he does not get the truffle. Any advice on this?

    #5392
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    Hi Bev

    If you want to teach a formal passive alert, you certainly can. And if it works for you and you don’t notice it adding stress, go for it. And this is what you would likely do for competition nose work. But remember, truffles don’t grow in boxes, so it isn’t a behavior you’ll see manifest in the same way once we get to burying. Digging is fine, with the caveat that uncontrolled over excited digging can damage truffles, and for orchards (and sometimes in the wild), is not necessarily ideal.

    What we suggest is you reward the initial alert (whatever it is- slapping the box, what have you) and then you can cue a down. We try to always encourage students to use their dog’s natural tendencies to their advantage, as in stressful situations (which truffle hunting is simply from the compounding of external/environmental stimuli) that is the behavior that will be mostly likely to manifest by default. If you build confidence in that behavior it can become a solid part of the alert behavior chain. But it isn’t your only tool in the tool box 😉

    Alerts again, are not just one moment in time, but eventually are several moments & behaviors strung together. We often will back-chain them as well, so keep that in mind.

    With many dogs having obedience commands interspersed with alert behavior chains it can become stressful later. You know Wolfy best, and so that is something you can judge, but often we try to encourage away from strict obedience commands as a part of truffle hunting in alerts. If it works for you guys based on your history with rally etc, then go for it- and it may be more of a :”wolfy please lie down while we look for this truffle together”…. as opposed to “Wolfy lie down, stay there until I am done finding truffle”. It is in the interpretation, and without seeing it- it is hard to say. You do however want him engaged with you throughout the process.

    What we would suggest if you do this (as an eventual alert behavior chain) would be whatever Wolfy’s initial alert is (slapping the box), then ask/ encourage/ lure a down and then a nose-touch for a re-alert. This will allow a more passive precise alert than Wolfy using his feet for all aspects of the alert.

    I have a dog like this as well. Very “handsy”. A great exercise for this, just to strengthen using the nose as a pushing mechanism over using the feet as a primary alerting tool (although we’d love to see video of this behavior) involves a yoga mat (or towel) and some treats.

    You’d lay the mat out flat and every 6 to 8 inches place a couple of high value treats, with a jackpot at one end, varying distance from the middle of the mat. You then roll this up so the treats are all sandwiched in-between the layers of mat (or towel). Then you introduce Wolfy to the mat from the angle wherein the mat if unrolled, rolls away from him- like a red carpet unfurling before movie star.

    It discourages using feet as if they paw it, the mat does not respond by unrolling in that direction. It encourages pushing with the nose and this skill can be transferred to nose targeting truffles- or truffle targets in boxes. Try it if you think he’s being overly slap happy. Nose touches are far more precise end alert behaviors that foot touches usually, but all are useful parts of the chain. Does that make sense?

    #5402
    Bev
    Participant

    Thank you for the reply…I will try to do a towel exercise with him. I tried an experiment outside in the backyard, see video. I wanted to show you how he hunts. I think that the ball is too stimulating for a reward for him, I should stick to food. There is one part where he just steps on the boxes and he is not hunting, but just wants to get the yes, so he can get the ball. I did a couple of hides in the excavated hole my other dog dug for us I was happy with those. I know I picked up the box, but for him, it is not an issue he knows what the game is. (I think anyway) if you don’t think he does let me know. Here is the video I look forward to you comments.

    #5421
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    Wolfy is so fun to watch! Smart boy 🙂
    I realize this was an “experiment” but we think you both did well. Keep up the good work

    #5422
    Bev
    Participant

    Thank you for the feedback, I did not plan it, I just wanted to see what he did. Since the boxes are so fun for him to smack I thought I would try this route. He does back up on the one as the ball is in my pouch, many times when I play or ask behaviours I use the ball as a reward, a lot of times I just throw it for him, and he gets it. I wondered about throwing the ball away, I did that as a his reward, rather than throw it to him. He loves that ball! I had wonderful success with the moving down, by having him down and then throwing it directly to him, which he caught. So I wonder if he was hoping for me to just throw the ball to him.

    #5424
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    Give it a try! Only one way to find out 🙂
    Since he has picked up on some precursors to the reward delivery, try stashing that ball somewhere he has never seen it come from. Maybe carry a small backpack or stuff it in a pocket…something different than the “norm” (I’m just guessing that the pouch is the “norm”).

    #5427
    Bev
    Participant

    #5428
    Bev
    Participant

    I have uploaded two pictures, these are examples of the forest area here on the Island. This is also a park and not good for truffle hunting, but examples of what you can see here. There are apparently some old Garry Oak growths left on the Island small areas left, but fairly rare. As for an orchard I have not been to one that is used for truffles yet. It is at this time very dry here as we have not had rain in almost 2 months, and we live in a rainforest…well a northern one anyway. Wind here in these trees, usually needs to be fairly strong, to make a difference on the surfaces deeper into the trees. In the rainy season this certainly would be good as the scent tends to stay close to the ground then. From what I understand. The park behind my house has some old growth cedars and fir, which is cool, but not as large as some of the ones in Cathedral grove.

    #5438
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    Thank you for showing us what is typical forest near you. Neither of these would be appropriate for early stages of training as they are far too dense. It is, however, good to know what your local areas look like and these locations may be suitable for advanced stages of training (levels 2 and 3).

    We would love to see some of the training areas you have selected for early stages of training. As part of your Lesson 2 assignment:
    -Please send us up to 5 pictures of 3 sites you have chosen that may be used in early stages of your training that may present environmental challenges. Take a look at these locations. If it was morning, raining, and the wind was blowing from the (work with us here!) left side of your picture, how would you approach finding a target located in the left 1/3rd of that photo?
    -What if it was early fall, hot out (say 72 F or 20 C), late afternoon, how would you approach the same scenario with a target on the left, with the wind coming from the left.

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