Bev & Wolfy

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    Alana McGee

    New locations would be good for Wolfy- Especially if it is a “known” new location, meaning he is comfortable there. And yes, keep it small, but we think that would be good! Odor, in the instance you are taking about, unlikely to still be there after that amount of time. It’s possible, but unlikely.


    Hi: Here is lesson 4.
    We are in the park behind our yard. There is mostly old growth trees here with Cedar and Fir.
    Wolfy has walked in this park all his life, we also had practiced, 3 years ago some search and rescue training here. This is the first time searching for truffles in this environment. He seems pretty comfortable here, and seems happy. There are a few minutes in the beginning he is hunting for those black squirrels, (you can see him looking up in the trees) but for the most part he is searching pretty well. I was very pleased with his efforts. (There is a lot of wildlife around this park)
    The original video is 5:27, and even though I chopped a lot of reward sequence out it is still over 3 mins, but I did not want to take out more than that. I did more rewarding with the first chicken and then the ball 3 or 4 times before we started the next hunt for the truffle. Oh, and by the way, I am sporting my new backpack for truffle hunting! Pretty trendy for me! 🙂

    Alana McGee

    Hi Bev

    Apologies, unexpected circumstances. We’ll get to you and Wolfy in the am if not sooner.

    Thanks for hanging in there!

    Alana McGee

    Good for you on the backpack. It is good to get used to gear, as you’ll have to figure out how to manage it in the field later, so well done Bev.

    Wildlife is often a hard distraction to work past, but the more you can do it, and set yourself up for success in those scenarios, the better. If you have to, cut the hunting short and work on building duration in that environment in small increments.

    You guys are doing a great job, and he’s working the space nicely and thoughtfully. 0:38 was really nice sequence. And the sequence upto 1:28, GREAT. Wolfy is being very thoughtful. We love that. GREAT work on his part pinpointing. It looks dry. It is ok he didn’t find it there. In the future in this situation we’d encourage you (bc you do know it is there for right now) to encourage him (I’m assuming there was something there) and interact with him more in that situation, get down and pat the ground near where he is looking. You can see he is in odor but having a tough time finding source. Help and support here and engage near the truffle, it may be all he needs is a little confidence in this area in order to alert. You’re working on reward histories in these areas, and more success means more confidence.

    3:18 nice head check. That was tough!

    You both did very well and it is great to see him working in this environment. All things considered we thought it was nice and a good indication of his style which is fairly methodical. Smart boy. Yes, eventually you won’t jump in right away to assist if he is working odor, but again, this is a newer place for him to be practicing, so be willing to support.

    Wolfy will excel in areas over time as he gains for confidence in them and has more continued reward history in them. When he’s confident, its a very clear alert, it is more when he is struggling to pinpoint odor, which you can see he’s in it, that’s when, if possible, support should be provided. Be ready if the struggle is too complicated right at that moment to manufacture success.

    This was great. Nice connection, nice allowing space, and fun to watch, Well done guys.


    Hi Thanks, yes it is very very dry still. We are supposed to get rain this week, I am hoping to work him a more wet environment which is usual for here. The truffles tins I put out where there 14 minutes when I put them there and then walked back to get the dog and camera. There was a slight wind and a slope so I think a lot of the scent must of been pooling by the log, as he kept going there. We will be working on week 5 now, I assume we have 2 weeks left in the course now?

    Alana McGee

    It does appear that way (re the scent pooling) you’ll notice that in wet environments as well as eddies can be created there. Yes, 2 weeks, so submit away! Truffles season by us is approaching fast Bev. We’ll let you know when we start to see the first things here, but we need rain. We are finally getting some this morning, hope you are too on the island!


    Hi: I was taping today for lesson 5, but, I am not posting this as we hit a snag. I am not sure if the weather which was much more windy than usual. The amount of the time the hide was in the ground from 10 mins, for the first one or 1 mins for the second try, or just what was the problem? The first hide was earlier today with tins buried for about 10 mins, in the forest type area, blind hides so Wolfy and I did not have any idea where they were other than the area. This did not go well, I felt that Wolfy was stressed and feeling pressure, (I managed to manufacture hides for him by throwing a tin out when he was struggling) I was trying to encourage him. (I think this was stressing him out more) He did find the hide eventually, but it was a lot of work and I did not consider it a very productive training session. He just was not on today. The second time (later in the day) I tried in my front yard, 2 blind hides, this was the same response, and I had to manufacture a hide. He was really not into the game today, not sure if it was me the weather or? He was certainly more off than usual. I was wondering if the time in the ground was an issue, and hiding it in dirt. He did try to dig some holes in the dirt, but not at the right spot, he seems really stressed out today. I will try tomorrow and see if he is the same or not.
    Any ideas on this? I made sure he ended the session on a find and reward but he is quite tired now.

    Alana McGee

    Don’t ever feel shy about either posting or not posting video. We learn the most and can often provide more critique from situations like this wherein you may not be sure why something is happening.

    Manufacturing hides is PERFECTLY OK. Try not to have a stigma around it. It is about support. If you go out and have a session where every single hide is a manufactured one, you still win. That is still a good day.

    It is likely a combination of factors. From everything you are saying he probably was feeling pressure and stress. This can stem from a lot of things, but often we as handlers can have a much larger impact on our dogs that we think!

    So you have to view it as fun and relax! Easier said than done we realize. In level 3 we go over this kind of connection and grounding a lot. Sometimes it is just about taking a moment to breathe and connect. We do have exercises for it in level 3. It is one of the more complex facets to truffle hunting is understanding and really feeling the connection when working as a team. And it is a team. Handler and dog balance each other. When one party is off it is amplified in the other, which is what we are hearing from you in your narrative above.

    All of us handle this kind of stress in different ways. As an example from me personally, I have learned over the last two years that if I am crunched on time for hunting it adds stress. This stress begets more stress which intern dramatically effects the quality of the search & alerts performed by my dog in question. The dog feels this shift in energy from me as a handler and behavior is altered. I could view these outings as a failure, but instead internalize it as a learning experience. Positive take aways.

    So now, I don’t go hunting if I am stressed, and if for some reason I am when I am out there, I take a minute and ground and really try to let go of the expectations and just be present.

    If you have ever attended a Yoga class, it is along those lines. Don’t worry about what Wolfy is or isn’t finding. Just be present in the moment of the search. If you manufacture successes (and we suggest you do here), that is just great. there is nothing wrong with that.

    You said he found the hide eventually, but it was a struggle. Bev this is a GREAT learning opportunity and experience. We’d rather in the future (and you may have gathered this from your experience this weekend) just stop for the day. Don’t force it. If something isn’t feeling right, it isn’t feeling right.

    As Taylor Swift says, Shake it off.

    Digging holes in the dirt is a stress displacement behavior for many dogs.

    You don’t have to find the targets. It is hard to internalize we know, but it is far better just to leave them all out there, and leave happy and connected than to stress yourselves collectively finding the target. It’s great you did end with some manufactured hides and successes.

    One of the hardest parts of being an handler for many teams is the ability to let go. Let it go. There is no failure, nothing is bad. Living up to our own expectations sometimes applies more pressure on ourselves and on our team.

    We as handlers need to let go of expectations in scenarios as it applies pressure. So that’s what we want you to do for the next few days: No expectations. Really try to go out into your scenario not expecting anything from Wolfy either than the two of you communicating and being present in the scenario. Have your target on you to throw out for him. Keep this search short, under 5 minutes. If he doesn’t find it, that is A-OK. Don’t expect him to find it. It sounds trivial, but just take some deep breathes, roll your shoulders and enter the search scenario with a clear mind and throw out the hide for him more times than you think necessary. In 5 minutes shoot for 5 tosses and manufactured success. No other expectations. Focus on beathing and being aware of your surroundings without analyzing them. Notice the presence of the trees and the wind and the dirt and the cars going by, but don’t go into your head thinking about ‘how’ that is going to effect Wolfy during this session. Just be present.

    Alana McGee

    Also Bev

    Do not be discouraged 😉 The connection and pressure are what I find, personally, to be one of the hardest parts of truffle hunting. We’ve all been there. Letting go of our own emotional state and expectations is tough, but once you can (and every day is different) it makes a world of difference! It is something we all work on, and Kristin & I will attest to that and can provide many personal examples. We often learn the most from days like that, even if they don’t feel good. It is the growing moments that make us better teams in the long run.


    Thanks for the great encouragement. I am not sure that Wolfy is actually feeling good, as his enthusiasm is quite a bit less than previously. I cannot see anything wrong with him though. This tape was over 5 mins, but I manufactured a find, and then he found one after and layed down. This time I was way more subdued than yesterday, less encouraging, which I felt he did better with. The last truffle tin I hid I could not find myself, so even though it is not on film, I got my little shovel and scraped around looking for it. Wolfy was watching me, and just as I thought I lost the little thing….Wolfy alerted on it, and I gave him a lot of praise. I was really happy he found it. Now I am sure he gave me a look that if I wanted that so much, I should not bury it in the dirt…silly me! 🙂 Here is our video 2.5 minutes to let you see what you have to say about this search.

    Alana McGee

    Sometimes, just like us, they don’t feel well. That’s okay. You know him best. Who wants to work, or even play sometimes when they don’t feel well. I know I don’t! Based on the video and your analysis, we think you’re right, that he likely isn’t feeling tip-top.

    That is GREAT about him alerting on the one you couldn’t find. He probably was giving you that look. Dogs are so funny. What’s interesting about what you stated there is when you were genuinely down looking for it, he helped out. It’s about intention. He’s a smart sensitive guy. Good job on team work 😉

    His digging is interesting. I have a dog who does this behavior for I think likely similar reasons, so I can speak from personal handler experience on this one, not just as an instructor. What we would suggest when this happens (1:15) is throw a target away from the dig site (but not too far) a couple of feet, and initially see if you can get him to watch you do it- so he can go an alert on it. You’re changing the game here, but we want to get him out of this stress/pressure feedback loop which the digging is a symptom of. It looks like you did that here- toss the target. You have to get him out of the hole first.

    We want to try to coax him away from that displacement behavior, and eventually decrease its frequency. If you can get him physically away from the area, great. And you do try to do that, but as he is big it’s not like you’re going to “pull him off” literally. Make the fun, and you- he likes being with you, elsewhere. What is key to remember here is when he does come off of that digging behavior to praise it. Not overly so and have a huge party, but mark the change in behavior.

    For example (again, remember I said I had a dog who does this, his name is Duff), I’ll draw from personal experience to highlight how this may work:

    When Duff does this, I do what you are doing there. “Nope not there buddy” with you body cheated to the side, leading into a new area. If necessary “i” start moving away and ask him to come with me, “let’s go”- which is a cue for Duff to move with me. As soon as Duff disengages with his stressed hole digging and takes a step away “good job Duff, thank you” in a soft voice sometimes with pets, but I am marking the shift away. When we were training to decrease this behavior, right after that happened (the leaving the dig site, marking the change in behavior) I would then throw a target he could see a few feet in front of him and ask him to alert. thus bringing on a reward sequence away from the site of the stress dig.

    You’ll need to get Wolfy out of that hole first. When it happens, praise it.

    It’ll take some time before you may be able to recognize ‘before’ Wolfy is about to do this kind of behavior. You’ll notice this most easily in scenarios where the hides ARE NOT blind, as that adds additional levels of complexity for you as a handler. You’ll notice Wolfy starts to get intent on an area you know nothing is hidden. It’s a different different body language then being in odor. We’ll review the previous videos from Wolfy and see if we can notice it from previous scenarios. I can remember right now at least once it happened. His shoulder set is more forward. Again, simply as an example to draw from for contrast, personally now I can see moments before Duff starts into this stress digging and I can preempt it by moving us to a new spot and throwing a target for him. That’s eventually what you’ll do. Overtime, the behavior decreases as you are eliminating the opportunity for it to become self-rewarding.

    Like at 1:19 keep coaxing him away, clapping to get his attention if you need to. It’s not the end of the world at all, but we don’t want to encourage this behavior, again as I said because it is self-rewarding. It’ll be easier to work on now than in the forest.

    1:23 is good. He comes off with your touch. Right there is when you would have said, “good job buddy” and then “find truffle”. You do a good job.

    Because he is dwelling around that previously dug hole, move yourself farther away from the site when this happens at next time. Movement from you for Wolfy seems to make him more comfortable.

    And again, based on his movement and behavior, We also think you’re right & he may not be feeling great. He’s not as bouncy in his step. This was good from you though Bev. You seem more relaxed 😉 you’ll have to tell us whether you were or not, but it seems that way.


    Hi: This is the first video working on a precise alert. First I am working in the backyard, which is known to him, and I hid the truffle tins myself and tried to do taping without a helper. So, the first one was around 6 minutes, but there was a lot of turn it on and go get Wolfy. So, it was probably closer to 5 mins. I did manufacture one hide, which he knew as I could tell he heard it land on the ground and he went to it right away. After that he went right into hunting for them, he tends to keep a memory of everything, he has ever learned, I see, as he was trying for the sawdust first, because of previous hides, but I had it in the soil, with coverage. His alert is a paw which has been his alert since he learned scent detection, and the reason I have not competed with him yet, as they want a passive alert. (This is trainable, but I find he loses momentum) I am okay when he gives me nose touches on the tin, and when he shows me with his paw. (He loves the paw) In fact both of those work for me. In the second part, was 3 mins, he was very quick, he went behind the hedge so I dropped the leash, and then he alerted on the pink ribbon, this again, I think is because I had previously trained for elevated hides, and probably had my scent as well as some truffle on it, since I keep it in the bag with the truffle tins, when we train. I was happy to see his bouncy step back and he was working nicely. I wanted to also give him some confidence in finding the truffles in dirt, and or some of the clay dirt, which he did. I was terribly slow in rewards, but lucky for me I think Wolfy is pretty used to me sometimes being slow with the rewards, and is forgiving of this! 🙂

    Alana McGee

    We’ve said it before and will again… Wolfy is a smart fellow!

    I see proofing in your future! We’ll go over a lot of it in Lvl 3 coming up- but you’ll be doing that with ribbons I think too. he’s very smart and sensitive so we want to provide the best possible chance for success when we start those drills. Just file that away in the back of your brain…. “Play basic discrimination game in controlled environment —here, your yard— with multiple markers placed close together. Only one having odor.”

    Good good good! on the building the game back up in the dirt and the clay dirt. Good of you to make the distinction. They ARE different! Wolfy does have a memory for this game, but that’s okay and expected… makes him have to actively engage his brain and think about it when the truffles aren’t in their ‘usual’ spots 😉

    He looks much more peppy today, and very nice paw alerts! Like a different dog, and that smile 🙂 His energy is much improved here. 0:29 it is noticeable. Nice getting down with her at 0:34, and great connection. This scenario is MUCH more relaxed and fluid and easy for the two of you, not a hint of the kind of pressure we talked about earlier 😉 You have nice spacing and back off when appropriate.

    1:16 that was good of you to investigate. And YAY wolfy on the delayed rewards. no problem there 😉 in this instance good to note too he wasn’t going to alert again until he had his cookie. one alert for one reward. The boy likes to be paid for his work 😉

    This was really nice Bev. Your connection and energy here is WAY more relaxed, and you can see he is way more comfortable. It could be he wasn’t feeling well prior- but this is really nice.


    Okay, here is our last video for Lesson 6, we went to the park again, sorry about the sirens, I did not even notice them before. Anyway, there are distractions and a different area of the park for hunting. Wolfy was very keen to go find the truffles, he was very quick! We did two finds in what you see for time 2:48…had I known I would have had more hides. I did not have to throw a tin out, although, he did go back to the same hole he dug previously. They were not in an extremely large area, spread out, but they were blind to me, except for the flag tape so I could retrieve them if need be. I thought he was doing very well for the most part. We were discussing the types of trees, because I did not want to discourage him in case there was a real truffle. We are pretty sure there are not any here, as this is a wildlife park but very small and has fir and cedar trees…it is also still very dry here…although, I do not feel I can complain about that. 🙂

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