Chris (access until November 15, 2014)

Home Forums Recreational Truffle Dog Training 101 Chris (access until November 15, 2014)

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    Alana McGee

    In the first video she is getting frustrated and distracted and it is seems like the scenario is a tad too hard for her. She started getting frustrated so she does start pushing around the containers more. She does eventually get to it and you do a good job at that point of helping and encouraging her. If you hadn?t come in for the rewarded there I suspect she would have kept moving on exhibiting the same behavior. In that case I would suggest helping her even more (Don?t know if you realized it, but you did guide her there through your body position when you moved closer to the where the truffle was located.) If she is getting frustrated like that- go back a step and practice slightly easier scenarios, or even a nose touch. Allow her to see where it is an then alert, and then you can reset the scenario and try again.

    I would probably practice with slightly fewer objects and keep building value for a little bit longer.

    I will say on the initial pass she does a great job of an initial check through the boxes until she gets distracted by something in the foreground out of the camera shot. Good though.

    Encouragement is great, but watch how much you are using your starting searching cue of ?find the truffle?. Give her a chance to check without as much verbal feedback.

    The second video is good. If this is the progression of how the session went, great. That indication of lying down was much more confident and stronger. Good job delivering at source.

    In the third video, you do help her, but this is okay. That is a tough video. A LOT is going on. These scenarios are a tad hard for her, so when you click you notice how she then offers her flop down and confident alert. She was prior to that, exhibiting a lack of confidence in what behavior she was suppose to offer there, although she does offer the paw alert at the 0:21 mark, but we want to keep her at the source- and it is a little tough to tell from the angle if it was a alert or a slap the box behavior. When asked for a re-alert though, that is fabulous!
    Watch that video again and see if you can notice the shift her energy in that scenario. Your moving in to reward helps with this. You did a great job on this reward sequence.

    Very good, but just see if you notice the difference.

    I would say it is ok to keep practicing at this level, but would also strongly recommend you do occasionally take it back a step too, and either make it a smaller area, or fewer distractions, and keep building confidence in alerts on the odor. We want that to be super super super strong in all scenarios.

    Instead of adding more verbal communication on your part, if she is playing with the boxes that much, I would end the session, do something else, try again later. It is a fine line between pushing through some of these distractions and when it is too much. This is why in the field, and during training sessions, we carry an extra truffle target on our person to throw down and give the dog and easy find so we can end the session in a positive fashion if we think it is progressing in a way which will not be beneficial later.

    Her slide in to alert at the end of Video 4 is comical, (and we love play and enthusiasm!) and she does appear to be having fun, but it is an indication of stress. Her re-alert in that scenario however is fabulous and precise with the foot tap, and you do a great job of staying at source and working on a long reward sequence. That was a good one to end on. After that, take a break for a while.

    Doing good. Your enthusiasm at the find is up. That is great,. Continue to work on lengthening the reward sequence and trying to limit your verbal cues unless she actually is distracted. That was a hard set of videos and she did work through it, but just try to be cognizant of how she is working the environment. You can always come back and play truffle games more later. You want her to maintain her level of (this is fun! I love this!) not get bored and seek pleasurable stimuli through other forms of play because she is stressed and redirecting.


    ok. so we’ve done a lot more of these. she does do better with five or fewer targets, articles clothing as hiding tools. should i be sticking with 3 boxes? i think part of her stress is practicing “stay” command between finds. i will eliminate that by just tying her up while hiding the truffle. i will also work in a quieter space for now and try to use the leash.

    i will reduce verbal find it. you mean when she looks at me she is unsure of what behavior? i guess that is why i started getting so verbal. also it is the command to move her off the stay.

    we always begin and end with clicker conditioning and then nose touches (which are still open mouthed). playing with her is too mouthy. i will try a stuffed toy. its just a lot to carry/have ready.

    my reward sequences are all super long. the last videos cut most of them off.

    so i need to know more about “building value.” do you mean for longer periods of time? my sessions are still very short.

    as she gets bigger, she needs more socialization training. tips for this? please check in about what my 4-5 sessions per day should look like. that is always very helpful. thank you


    Alana McGee

    HI Chris

    I am traveling with limited internet in rural england, but I’ll see if I can’t get the videos to load and respond.

    Building value means just practicing relatively easy scenarios where she ‘wins’ a lot.

    Your reward sequences do look good.

    One of the main parts of your socialization training should involve taking her to other areas with people and new environments and allowing her to explore surfaces/ textures/ and interacting socially with other dogs, humans, and animals.

    Alana McGee

    Your 4 to 5 sessions should ideally include some other normal training, but the 1-3 you include of truffle training should not exceed more than 30 minutes a day collectively right now. That is active Daisy working time, not prep.

    I can?t get the first video to load yet.

    2nd video:
    SUPER good reward sequence Chris. See her body language and tail on that one. She is confident in the find and then does without asking the re-alert nose touch. LOVE that. With distraction. GOOD on you putting it in your hand and having her alert on that again. That was the a very nice impulse and a great thing to do mimicking the truffle in the field but THAT is what we also mean when we say building interesting and value. Any time she does a alert on a truffle, ?GOOD DAISY?. Very nicely done. We love that. We LOVE persistence. It will help so much later.

    3rd video:
    A tad hard to see, but it looks a) she?s on lead digging in your gravel? correct? nice rewarding and she is doing a great job of staying with it, and at source. GREAT job on rewarding the subsequent nose touches. that is very nice
    The one comment on that video I would make, is just an observation so you are aware:

    You are ?fronting? Daisy when she actually finds the target. This means physically facing her. This can be a blocking pressure maneuver preventing her from moving forward. She orients towards you. See if you notice that. She digs once (it looks like not right on target) and then pivots her body to face you and alerts again.

    a) interesting just to note b) in this situation if you then wanted her to go find another target/ truffle after this find you would want to pivot your body sideways releasing her.

    She might not be that sensitive to it, she does not seem to exhibit this in video 2 but we want to you start getting used to the idea of body blocking pressure because it comes in to play when you start working outside, and it can inhibit a confident alert. Don?t be overly concerned, just interesting to note how she reoriented to you.

    Facing a dog stops them/ applies pressure, standing sideways (or parallel to the way they are facing) is permission to move/ lack of pressure. Where you orient your body, set your intention, they tend to respond to/ head towards.

    GOOD EXIT from the scenario. Much better. I believe you are correct in your assumption of her stress building at the stay command in between. It is not that she can?t do it, but you are building in obedience commands with an exercise where we want the dogs to be somewhat independent and it can create a heightened sense of energy and stress. She?s focusing on staying and expending energy on that, and then when the search for truffles cue comes, it make stye situation more difficult because she was just executing a difficult impulse control behavior.

    4th video:

    This 4th one is tough right off the bat (She & you do a great job though), and here is why? (0:10 marker and before). She scratches but does not give you the clear more identifiable longer, confident alert. This is because the odor is in that area already and possibly clinging to this spot. What this tells us is when she does offer the stronger alert, she is starting to differentiate between trace odor and source in more complex environments. This is good. The places she scratches are all previous hides. So that actually makes this a more difficult scenario. She?s not wrong, odor is still there, but not in a high enough concentration to elicit a reward.

    What is really good to see, and you do a good job of waiting for the more pronounced alert, is when she DOES find it, she offers a stronger alert- whatever that may be in the situation- and it may not be the same thing all the time. Alerts can be situational. What is important is how you interpret it. Remember that for later and field work when you don?t know where the target it, this understanding of how and when she alerts will come into play.

    When she is confident she offers a strong alert. FABULOUS. When she is not sure, or can detect odor but not pinpoint she is scratching, looking. Let?s wait and see when we get to outside how this manifests in a similar situation, but know that she may start scratching like this in an area if she can detect odor, but not pinpoint. This is why having the longer, down, or multiple chain alert is helpful. When you don?t know where the truffle is, you are relying completely on her to to tell you where in the 2 ft sq space it is located.

    MUCH better on your verbal communication and allowing her to work.

    Trying doing the scenarios with more objects. I think would be good to try again without the stay command being a part of this. Play with the amount. You said she does better with under five. Great. Maybe one time out of 6 you practice with more than 5 objects/ boxes etc, the rest stay under 5. Every session, as you know by now, will be different. I know it may seem tedious now, but this kind of foundation work pays off in the long run in leaps and bounds.

    Keep practicing what you are doing now. It looks really really good Chris. We don’t want to go too fast. If you can get to a stage where you are working in a room with Daisy like you see in that video of Lois of Monza, FABULOUS. we don’t expect that right away, but you guys are almost there. I would say you could take a look at lesson 4 to see where it is headed, but keep slowly pushing the boundaries on levels of complication with Daisy.

    Your timing with clicks and your reward sequences look spot on as well.


    we have been working in the gravel a lot lately. in the last videos (above) i was mounding up the gravel into three mounds, hiding the truffle in one of them. this was more like the boxes in that there were several visual targets to check. sometimes she would just check every mound until she found the strong smelling one. this is what she did with the boxes. the last couple of days i have refrained from mounding blank targets (i have to mound up the truffle because the gravel is not quite deep enough to bury it flat) and we have worked up to searching the whole room. she has never had a “failure” or lack of success. i’m not sure what you mean when you say “tough.” i can only think you mean that it is taking too long to find it, but if she is still happily looking it can’t be that tough.

    the gravel is nice because it cannot be turned into a toy, and she naturally knows to “dig it up” or at least paw it until her nose can touch the target. this is her default alert for now – the pawing. she will repeat this on the target over and over. she naturally loves to dig in dirt and on her dog bed.

    my big question is: in shaping a strong alert sequence, do you begin by giving the command for your desired alert behavior (sit or lay down or speak) until she gives it out of habit? for instance, she finds it, paws it, i reward. then can i command a sit or down or speak at the truffle? will she begin doing it out of habit eventually or always need the command?

    i can see the usefulness of a speak alert (for distance). how crucial is this? you must have your opinions on the “best” alerts for truffles.

    i have noticed that she has a tendency to thoroughly search the 30 sq ft or so around my body, so i am trying to be very conscious of my body orientation, and to have patience in allowing her to venture further without leading her to it.

    i invented another truffle exercise to begin moving it outside. occasionally on our regular leashed walks down our long driveway i will bring a truffle with us. when we are strolling i will toss the truffle into some tall grass [ideally] when daisy is not looking. then we find it. it makes our walks a lot more fun. sometimes she sees me toss it and then it becomes a regular fetch type of find.

    my one concern is that she knows and is quite sure, even when out of the room, that i am hiding the truffle. i should not worry about this at all, correct?

    Alana McGee

    Hi Chris!

    In transit. Will respond as soon as we are able.

    Alana McGee

    When I say ?tough” in that instance I mean the scenario is difficult. Odor is clinging in many locations, so it is a difficult scenario and she exhibits signs of being uncertain.

    As for you question on the Alert sequence:

    What would you like the alert sequence to be and where would you like each of these things in the chain of events, ideally. We can then advise you how to go about doing that, but it is early to be processing in minutia of complex behavior chains.

    The strongest alert sequences tend to form organically over time and evolve through offered behaviors. Thus each dog will be slightly different. You can do what you are suggesting with cues and rewarding, but the sequence will be much stronger in stressful/ distracting conditions (which is what we consider field work) if they are behaviors offered freely by Daisy, and then you reward them. If she is rewarded for each time she does a certain behavior (or jackpotted for a new behavior she offers) it is more likely she will continue to increase the likelihood of offering that behavior in the future.

    Having behaviors or parts of an alert chain that are known behaviors and are rewarding in of itself (meaning no training or reinforcement are necessary), will mean that later your complex alert chain of behaviors will be much stronger when embedded and strung into the sequence. Does that make sense?

    Remember Daisy is a puppy and complex chains are asking a lot at this juncture. We would recommend sticking with offered behaviors and let it evolve. The dig is great, as is the lie down, and she offers them it looks regularly, so keep rewarding those. If there is a trick (such as speak) that you want to incorporate later, practice that away from truffles so that trick becomes one of her favorite things to do, cookie or not.

    Best is a relative term, and specific to each dog. A speak can be helpful (for distance yes, and just as another confirmation), but ideally, alerts we have found to be most valuable in the field tend to be precision alerts such as nose touches. This, in conjunction, with an initial alert of location, such as a ?paw? (which Daisy does!,) and a lying down (aka staying at source) tend to be the most valuable in the field.

    As for your concern about her knowing you are hiding the truffle:

    That is just fine- aka do not worry. You are building drive actually if she is excited by the prospect of playing the game. That is good!


    Alana McGee

    Your Quiz 3 has been graded.

    Alana McGee

    Hi Chris, hang in there. We are working on a response for you and chatting on some specifics but it looks good. You can take a look at the next lesson and we’ll get this to you as soon as possible, likely by the am if not sooner!

    Alana McGee

    Hi Chris

    You guys are doing Great!

    On the first vid she does a great job of going back and re-alerting without you even cuing her to do so. Fabulous.

    Great job after you pick it up and put it in your hand of her targeting it and clicking and rewarding for that. Your timing is great with clicker.

    In the second video, its okay to ask for the lying down, but I wouldn?t stress too much on it right now. Which you don’t, you realize I assume, based on your actions to just let it come. She is staying at source really well as is. You do the right thing by rewarding the alerts she does offer.

    At the 0:27 (second vid) great when she hits your hand trying to get reward again. That?s great. Not precise perse, but we like that she is orienting herself and getting pushy about rewards in that scenario.

    Another thing you could try doing. After you have picked it up and she has alerted on it in your hand, ?drop it?, and see if you can get her to re-alert.

    Sometimes in the field handlers drop truffles when putting everything away and managing the dog. It is much easier to have Daisy help you re-find it than combing the dirt for the lost truffle.

    A few things we would suggest:

    In the next lesson you are outdoors I believe, or you begin that process. While we know you have been practicing on walks a bit, try to make sure when you are outside you work in a relatively small environment, as distraction free as possible.

    As for inside, continue to build confidence and reward histories and keep up what you are doing. Start to enlarge the space Daisy checks even more if you can, so you can start building in some endurance training. The other thing, and I believe Lesson 4 covers this is multiple hides at once. So instead of just one target, you would hide say 3 hot targets in the same environment. After Daisy finds one, you don?t reset, you just continue on to find the next. Let her decide which ones she finds first. If she walks past one, she may come back to it later. Don?t freak out if that happens, she is likely just following a scent column.

    Try it in your gravel area in that general room and see how it goes. Eventually the goal is to build to many finds like this- like 5 to 8 in a row. It can be fatiguing for the dogs, so just go slow, and adapt to her. You guys are doing really well.

    Increase the amount of hides gradually don?t jump to five right away. We would say do two or three for a while and get her used to that. Again, that would be indoors. You can at the same time be practicing simple hides outside to get her used to distractions. Being a wee pup still, that will likely pose more of a challenge. So just stick with one target outside.

    Make sure when you are doing multiple hides that you have a target on you you can offer Daisy as an easy success if she seems to be struggling. You don?t have to find ALL of the targets in that scenario when you start doing multiple hides. The general rule is quit while you are ahead. If she is struggling finding the 3rd one in a series of 3, offer her a success and then you can be done with the session and always try again later!

    Make sure with multiple hides you give them at least 5-10 minutes to ?cook?. Another thing to practice would be to start to increase the amount of time targets get to cook as that will change how much odor is in the environment and how Daisy moves through it. Again don?t jump to cooking targets for an hour right away but slowly build. 5 minutes, 15 minutes 25 minutes, etc.

    You guys are doing well. It is really nice to see her stay at source. Outdoors it will be interesting to see if this remains in the same fashion when there is much more stimulating distraction.


    its going good. multiple hots inside is good. one hot outside is good. short cooking seems to help. the leash is helping her stay on task outside. problem with cold targets is they are play toys.

    how does wind fit in to all this, especially with cooking outside?

    what do you and the dog do while targets are cooking? there is more time/planning complexity with the cooking. alternate between two hide spaces?

    Alana McGee

    Wind effects how scent moves- aka how Daisy approaches the problem of finding the truffle. We cover it later in the course and much more heavily in 201 as it is very important for forest searches to set yourself up for success. We haven?t created a video yet demonstrating this, but please take a look at the following video on Youtube used for a SAR demo.

    It gives you a good idea of how scent moves over vast distances. They talk about ?rafts? but for our purposes it is essentially the same thing as truffle odor.. Pretend the red smoke is truffle odor. For example, if Daisy didn?t hit that scent column, she would never know there is a truffle. She has to physically hit that scent column in order to be able to track it back to source.

    As for cooking, basically you need to just not be in the area- so go do something else for a while. It is more complex, and it breaks up training games into one off training sessions basically, but it is good to start to practice it, at least occasionally. You can do a cooking session and the reset without ?cooking? and run her through again. Odor being built up in an area changes the concentration of those VOCs for Daisy, and it very well may alter how she searches. Some dogs have no problem with it, but there are complex scenarios later where we ask you to work in very saturated environments which can be tough for dog because they are surrounded by odor but still need to pinpoint the source of strongest odor. That mimics real world heavy production scenarios. That is an advanced skill however, and not there yet!

    Keep practicing the multiple hides indoors, and glad to hear the outdoors is going well. And yes, you can most certainly alternate between the two hide spaces!

    • This reply was modified 9 years, 7 months ago by Alana McGee. Reason: typos

    thank you.
    daisy is getting spayed today. couple few days of rest.

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