Karen & Haggis

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    Alana McGee

    Oh Haggis!

    Great he found one!

    ‘Should be’ is all part of the process. Every dog is different too and every day. Don’t be shy even if you’re not in love with the video and you know there are umpteen things you should be doing differently!

    We look forward to seeing you guys on the orchard.


    Well, not the best video, but it was fun to work with Haggis.

    I now have a full repetoire of behaviours that I need to train Haggis on, such as passive indicator, sit whilst I try and locate the truffle, rewarding at truffle…not panic when Haggis finds a truffle and it’s in his mouth…and so many more things.

    Haggis did really well as this orchard is only 24 trees, but the smell in there would have been an overload for his senses. The orchard owner had hidden a truffle for us so he would have a win, and Haggis was just wandering around smelling everything, and then he started to get excited and we thought he had found a truffle. After digging quite deeply there didn’t appear to be anything there, however he had dug quite quickly and deep so could have thrown it somewhere. His tail is just going all the time and he is fun to follow.

    He hadn’t really done any harness work before and prior to getting in the orchard he was unbelievably badly behaved and you would have thought I was killing him. When we got to the orchard, his behaviour changed and suddenly the harness wasn’t causing him any problem and he was in the scent. It was lovely to watch and he just had his head down searching and I just followed behind letting him control where he wanted to go. He eventually got down wind of the sample and although he starting digging just down from it, he then moved and found it. Was really exciting for him.

    The video shows me how much homework I have before the next season. Just need his brain to engage, and the hormones to stop racing through his body. Mind you, he is only 8 months old so am thrilled with his progress.

    Alana McGee


    These are great experiences you are having Karen, and what fun you have orchards to work on too! Really good learning experiences for every handler. No matter how much you prepare something will always surprise you at one point or another, and it is in how we adapt to those challenges as they arise!

    For orchards and with dogs of Haggis’s personality, the staying at site of the find while you dig up the truffle is going to be one of the key ones to work on, depending on if you have additional harvesters helping you (but that will depend a lot on site/ client)

    This was great to see you on the orchard! Thanks for sharing. We know this is a bit of a unique circumstance, but so other students/instructors know what’s going on, Haggis alerted, and then the video cuts, and then you see Karen & haggis working the rest of the orchard while someone else is at Haggis’s alert site. For Orchard harvesting, this is what you want to do with a dog with Haggis’s personality type and very active. If this was a larger orchard in mid or full production, you’d want to put Haggis away if you needed to and come back to the truffle alert, as it would have been marked (you’d mark it. We use florescent tape). But it depends on if you have helpers with you as well. As some of you know, in the larger plantations in Australia the dog team actually does none of the harvesting. Simply the indicating!

    You do a good job of encouraging him along Karen!

    This is good Karen at 0:41- and REALLY interesting and tells us a lot, and REALLY good on your part. Watch that nose of his and trust it. He gets excited and so digs early, perhaps where odor has pooled, but you notice this right away. Follow that nose! He’s doing a really nice job staying with you there too!

    He is rather adorable shoving his nose in there, and adamant!

    So much fun you are going to have with this boy.


    Thanks for the feedback. Yes, nothing short of fun with Haggis…that’s kind of how he got his name!

    Really excited today as he has held a 5 second sit and rewarded before he moved a muscle. Brain must be starting to re-engage. He has also started to give me his toys on the cue ‘thank you’. All big strides with him. Both are going to be useful out in the orchard.

    Only a few of my clients have productive truffle orchards but all of the owners escort us around, just in case we locate truffle, especially if it is their first. This adds to the stress of the search, for me, which is why I work so hard on having a loose leash. Try and keep the stress from going down the line to them when they are working.

    All good fun though.

    Alana McGee

    🙂 Sounds good. The other aspect to working on orchards is the human component, as you’ve probably discovered. You Karen are there usually to provide a service for the orchard owners. If you are feeling pressure, or they are applying it, work on asking them to give space. If it makes you & your dogs more productive, that is ultimately what they would want. Everyone is different, but we have protocols we follow when on orchard we should talk to you about.


    Sounds great about the protocols. The pressure and stress is what I am putting on myself rather than the clients. Have I trained my dogs enough, have I proofed them enough, are they working well today, those are pressure from me whenever I go out.

    The clients are all biddable to my requests and stand up wind when I am working and far enough back not to affect the dogs working. I tend to check where the dog has indicated first before I move the dog off and ask the owner to check. I do this so I can reward the dog for the location, or walk the dog on for after a false alert.

    Pressure is all mine…Gotta trust the dog.


    I was working Haggis the other day and realised that he was actually tracking me rather than searching for the truffles. Although he used his nose for the final locate, the actual finds were through tracking.

    So yesterday I decided to check out whether he was working correctly or not. I have not mowed my lawns for a while so the grass is extremely long. So I mowed around the outside and left the middle zone long and undisturbed. Then from my verandah I threw five samples into the long grass. By the time I got Haggis harnessed and bought outside I couldn’t remember where I had thrown them so it was now all up to Haggis and his fabulous nose.

    He was fine and found all five of them, although only 3 are shown in the video. At :32 I missed an opportunity to get up close with him and look for the truffle and left him to flounder a little, although he did find it through continual searching.

    Attached is the video. Again I have now been able to identify areas that I need to improve. Look forward to your feedback.

    Love recording training sessions.

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