Lois and Monza (August 2014)

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  • #5032
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    Hello from Lois and Monza in Oak Ridge TN. We have taken many Fenzi classes focusing on tracking and NoseWorks. When we did NoseWorks I actually used truffle oil since there aren’t any Nosework trials close to us and I really wanted to train Monza for truffle hunting for the tradition.

    Monza will be 3 yrs old in September. Before I took the Noseworks classes, I did some truffle training on my own with some basic guidance. We had the opportunity to hunt twice and each time we had limited success. We really weren’t ready, but I couldn’t pass up the adventure. It’s also hard to say if we had limited success since I don’t really know what was ripe.

    Since I have mainly trained with synthetic truffle oil, my goal in this class is to train with summer Truffles. My 2nd goal is to learn more about truffles & their habitat as our region is proving to be a great area for orchards and some natives. Working indoors is appealing since August is the hottest/most humid month of the year for us.

    #5037
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    TDC Instructor:

    Welcome Lois & Monza 🙂 We are very excited to have you on board for class and look forward to watching you work together! Your previous experience introducing a truffle scent will come in handy here as you start building a reward history for the fresh summer truffles. The wonderful thing about truffle hunting is that many truffles have similarities for odor recognition. This means that often by building a reward history for one species, you are also strengthening your dog’s ability to locate another species!

    Looking forward to watching you and Monza progress! Let me know if MSL will have the truffles for you to start with- we do have other suppliers, but we like to work with MSL because they support small farmers and communities, have high standards (for truffles and for the working conditions of dogs/handlers), and generally offer really reasonable pricing.

    Let me know though, you likely can get things through the Urbanis (they control about 70-80% of all truffle distribution worldwide), but we know a few other small producers/ distributors and I’ll start asking around.

    If you will be hunting for Summer/Burgundy truffles (Tuber aestivum/uncinatum) this is what your fresh samples you use for odor should like on the interior. They should be firm, not squishy, clean, ideally not riddled with worm/bug holes, and as free from the white fuzz (another fungus) as possible. The interior should show a nice marbling, and not be translucent but be taupe like this to a deeper browny-red hue. If the interior pattern looks different than this (aka all veins kind of radiate out from one point) you have a Bagnoli truffle or Tuber mesentericum. Also tasty, and ok, but they often get thrown into lots of Summer/Burgundy truffles and sold as such, so FYI. They are a different species.

    • This reply was modified 6 years, 4 months ago by Alana McGee.
    #5039
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    Lois:

    Good morning and welcome to my basement! You will be seeing a lot of it over the next 6 weeks!

    Here is our 2nd session with fresh summer truffles. Monza is clicker trained and I will progress to boxes at our next session to make sure she’s recognizing scent and not just nose touching an object. She’s downing at the object which is interesting to me because she doesn’t down at her tracking articles! She stands and nose touches them.

    My biggest problem when I 1st attempted to train her on truffles without an instructor was deciding on an indication behavior. I thought I wanted a sit, but then I realized I wouldn’t know where to dig! So we’ve settled for a nose touch since it’s what we settled with for tracking since she found a down aversive….except for today…when she offers downs. 🙂

    Thanks Alana and Kristin!

    #5040
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    TDC Instructor:

    Great Session, Lois! I LOVE Monza’s happy attitude 😀

    Click on the link to view your video analysis.

    #5041
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    Lois:

    Yes you are pronouncing Monza correctly.

    Wow having the voice-over video analysis is really cool! Thanks for the compliments on mechanics, 6-months in Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) and a weekend at Chicken Camp helped a lot. For the benefit of other students who may be new to a clicker, early on in my clicker journey I was rather uncoordinated. If I haven’t picked up a clicker in a while, I will put the dogs outside and practice click then treat, delivering treats to the individual spots of an egg carton or a deviled egg dish to get warmed up.

    As for Monza’s toy drive….you’re spot on about wondering about her interest in toys. Monza went through KPA with me and in that 6 months I used food with a clicker and toys came out after training. Hannah Branigan was my KPA instructor and we talked several times about this and she suggested using a different marker (verbal) when the reward is a toy, and use food with a clicker.

    I didn’t properly end today’s session. I normally clap and say ‘all done.’ I was thinking about the camera and turning it off so I don’t have to edit the video and I saw the toy there and decided to toss it. I know better. If I still have a clicker out, Monza is not interested in toys. My bad. She looks so disappointed when the truffle and food went away! Poor thing…

    Monza’s highest value rewards are food. At the top of chart is raw liver, followed by cooked meat, cheese, and dry dog food. She’ll work for kibble too. Today we used cooked pork loin since this is a different scent.

    Monza does love toys and we’re working on toys as a reward with known behaviors. She LOVES to play ball and tug on plush toys. She’s a strong tugger when in the mood. She loves to steal socks. I use a lot of socks as articles for tracking……

    #5042
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    Lois:

    After watching the video commentary for a classmate, it answered some questions I had about removing the dog from source. When I did the NoseWorks classes, I struggled with proofing the dog by trying to pull them from the source because my motives for NW class were truffle hunting and as Kristin pointed out in her 1st comments for that classmate, there are lots of truffles out there! So I struggled with removing dog from source, although it made sense for the objectives of the NW class.

    Anyway, here is a composite from today: morning was before watching my classmate’s video and then we did a short session this evening after watching the video commentary attempting to incorporate some concepts mentioned: open box, transport dog. Hopefully that was okay for me to try.

    A few things:
    -Monza thinks boxes are props and will do a chin target and she also loves to bow
    -This morning, we started with only 1 box to re-introduce her to concept of the scent is in a box (not in video)
    -I had a few uncoordinated click/treat/move or remove box, but it doesn’t affect Monza. I’m rusty working with boxes! I saw a couple times where I move treat hand before clicking….
    -When you watch the segment titled “after watching Vidoc commentary” you will see Monza go over to a shelf. There is a bag of treats over there and it’s also where I placed the hot box after I worked my other dog, Speed, but she gets back to work.
    -This felt a little sloppy trying to open box, put scent tin back in box, close it, and transport dog, but awkward videos lend themselves to valuable feedback! It was also a bit of a stretch for Monza. You can see her check all the boxes in the 1st segment, and start to offer a chin target or bow because she thinks it’s a prop, but she keeps moving as she thinks hard about this being a scent game and not about tricks with props. At least that’s my impression.
    -At this point I think I can fade the clicker and use a verbal marker. I think she needs a couple more sessions with this same setup until she’s a little more efficient and I settle down. 🙂

    -We won’t do truffle work again until Thursday or Friday. My plan is to track on Wednesdays and 1 day on weekend, truffle work on 2 or 3 days, with days off in between. Truffle sessions will continue to be very short and never on a tracking day so she’s not overloaded. I didn’t want to take tracking this session, but it’s the last class Lucy is offering until Spring.

    Thanks Alana and Kristin!

    #5043
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    TDC Instructor:

    First off, it is great you rewatch your own videos. For other students reading this thread, we highly recommend you video tape yourself working with your dog. Not only can it be a fascinating way of documenting progress but you will see areas that need improvement in your own handling skills as well as some mistakes you made. So you can learn from them. Video and review are fantastic tools for learning.

    Again Kristin will have a voice over for you if possible.

    After watching video, the first thing I notice… What enthusiasm! Love it. You do a nice job of directing away AFTER having rewarded at source and then again when she comes back to the same location. I know this first set up was before watching your classmate’s commentary which also applies in your case, but nicely done regardless.

    I see what you are talking about with boxes in your reference and yes, she starts to show a bit of confusion and throw out possible behaviors based on previous success, but your timing is decent when she does get to the correct source. Good of you to notice though!

    One thing I would like to point out that is good for other students who may be unaware, is the truffle odor is located in the same box all throughout this scenario. Odor lingers. We try to limit possible sources for confusion.

    The Chin targets and bows are actually great! Again, this will all be a part of what you may want to shape into an alert or as a piece of the alert behavior chain. All of these things are useful pieces in a behavior chain and keep her engaged with you at the site of a truffle find. A chin target will likely morph a nose target, and we can eventually help it along, but for now, just keep it up.

    In the second hiding scenario I just, again, want to point out to other students, that here you (Lois) do an AWESOME job of allowing Monza to locate without offering input of your own. It’s only a few seconds, but you allow her to locate the column and odor source without direction from you and she offers a beautiful alert. Loved that.

    After you opened up the box she nose targeted it! We talk about shaping alerts next lesson, but you will be able to elongate some of the behaviors she exhibits here into a really nice clear alert I think. It will be fun to watch it progress.

    Great job taking the box out with you.

    And yes, time off is great! Remember, it should always be fun!

    #5044
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    TDC Instructor:

    Another great session for you and Monza!!!!

    I see a great truffle dog team in the makings here!

    #5045
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    Lois:

    I had a case of the giggles when you asked about me whispering in the 1st session. Monza and I did Silvia Trkman’s puppy foundation class where Silvia encourages more talking/praise, etc. I worked very hard to be less animated for my KPA assessment where cues had to be very concise/behaviors under stimulus control, etc. and I had to learn to be very still/quiet around chickens! Same for Noseworks/Tracking – I had a tracking judge tell me I was too enthusiastic….long story.

    When you mentioned opening the box and engaging with the dog, my ol’ self came back out in the 2nd training session.

    I very much appreciate the encouragement to talk enthusiastically. It makes complete sense for working in the field. In our 2 experiences in the field, I wondered about the scenarios that you are now touching upon – do I reward when the dog indicates or only when the truffle hasn’t been located? If delaying reward how do I not lose the dog’s interest, yet not reward for a false indication.

    I can see things will come together in these classes. We’ll post again Friday or Saturday.

    #5046
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    TDC Instructor:

    Hi Lois.

    Question regarding this sentence: ” do I reward when the dog indicates or only when the truffle hasn’t been located?” Did you mean to say “when the trufflehasbeen located?”

    Also let me address this topic of engagement, false alerting, and trust. Pandora’s box has opened. This will be a long post!

    The short answer: When the truffle has been located.

    Long answer (because this applies to actual field work which is more complex):

    We cover it later (in more advanced classes) when discussing practical application, but you stay engaged with Monza the entire time you are searching. You are going to be digging, targeting, alerting together in the soil. We build duration in reward and duration in indication/ alert behaviors. It is an active conversation you and Monza will be having on where the truffle is. It isn’t a Monza alerts, Lois picks up truffle, Lois rewards Monza (although that will happen on occasion, just that fast).

    Finding and extracting a truffle from the soil is not as always a quick endeavor and you will need Monza’s persistence and precision to help you get at it. In fact it can often take a few minutes (depending on species– some are deeper and are hard to see). This is one of the reasons for a chain of alert behaviors, and precision skills (eventually) and not just a single alert. The chain of behaviors resets after you have the truffle in your hand (put away– I am abbreviating her a bit), rewarded, and you both have moved on from that find to continue searching for more truffles.

    We cover it later but you will stay engaged with Monza by drawing interest and asking for specific precise alert behaviors which will help you locate said truffle(s).

    At the stage you are at right now, we are building and solidifying alert behaviors with successful identification of odor. The rest comes later, and you are doing a great job. This is why we emphasize solid foundational skills and very clear success criteria at this point, because you have to be able to trust in your dog, their training, your training as a handler, and trust they they will not false alert in the field.

    If they indicate, and you can’t find the truffle, it doesn’t mean a)there isn’t a truffle there, or b)truffle vocs are not present. This is often relates to handler skills. Remember you are a team and if your foundations are are solid, it is highly unlikely you will ever false alert in the sense we mean it.

    Truffles the dogs find can be TINY TINY TINY. I have attached a photo of one in such an instance. They can be smaller!

    Also the mycellial mats (that’s where truffles actually come from) can, at times, give off the same truffle VOCs. So if your dog alerts on that, they are not wrong. In truffle hunting, you have to trust your dog, and again that is why we build very solid foundations so you can be confident in that notion that when your dog alerts, they are correct in location of odor, even if you as a handler cannot find it. According to Monza, in that scenario she is absolutely correct, and we manufacture a success for her with what we consider our criteria: Meaning we present a truffle in that hole we have dug together and have her target it and then reward. This is a very particularly complex scenario but it does happen. That’s the difference between hides, and practice and real field work. This is why when in the field you will always have a target on you, so if you need to in just such a situation, you can manufacture a success while trusting your dog has alerted on the correct VOC spectrum, and not damaging their confidence.

    Depending on where you will be working, wild harvesting vs. orchard work, what you do will vary slightly, as orchard harvesting is a different process/ environment than wild harvesting at that stage and the alert/ reward sequence is generally truncated because orchard owners hire you for location services, not harvesting generally (actually pulling the truffle out of the ground). In those circumstances you will trust in Monza that when she indicates, she is correct. Orchard work (which is eventually what you are gearing for I believe) is a little more complicated than wild harvesting in terms of logistics.

    #5047
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    Lois:

    “Meaning we present a truffle in that hole we have dug together and have her target it and then reward. This is a very particularly complex scenario but it does happen. That’s the difference between hides, and practice and real field work. This is why when in the field you will always have a target on you, so if you need to in just such a situation, you can manufacture a success while trusting your dog has alerted on the correct VOC spectrum, and not damaging their confidence.”

    Ahhh! This clarifies what I was churning about. Thank you so much for not keeping me on pins-and-needles until the next class! 🙂

    #5048
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    TDC Instructor:

    We will tell you when it is appropriate to begin delaying the reward. Our curriculum is structured in a way that you and Monza will progress in many areas gradually throughout the series. It is that structure that allows us to confidently say a student who successfully completes the series will make a valuable asset to the Truffle Dog Co. Team 🙂

    For now, continue training the way you are.

    For videos, please remember that there is a limit of two 3 minute videos per training week (this is a little different than other classes that use a three 2 minute video limit). That means your next video will be the first for Week 2.

    You and Monza are doing a great job and we love your team enthusiasm!!!

    #5049
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    Lois:

    Attached is a short video from one of the NoseWorks classes with Lucy Newton where we talked about scent and airflow. I found “the wizard stick” on Amazon. It’s more fun and was cheaper than the smoke matches. The video is under the deck which is one of the images I’m posting.

    I like under the deck because it doesn’t over-stimulate Monza and the air flow is consistently from west to east like in video.

    24 sec video of airflow under deck:

    #5050
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    TDC Instructor:

    Great use of the “wizard Stick” demonstrating airflow.

    Is the soil under the deck deep or shallow, or on top of a concrete slab? And is it very rocky with pea like gravel?

    #5051
    Alana McGee
    Keymaster

    Lois:

    Instructor quote:
    “Is the soil under the deck deep or shallow, or on top of a concrete slab? And is it very rocky with pea like gravel?”

    It’s east Tennessee clay with some gravel on top.

    Here is a representation of our indoor training. More boxes and things and I’m carrying a box with a few tools and attempting to desensitize her to me removing tools. Also, I’m capable of leaving a bag of treats open and Monza sneaking in and trying to self-reward with a jackpot. So I’m trying to remove treats from box, and place behind me. These exercise were an attempt at role playing/delayed reward/stay engaged.

    In the 1st session Monza explores the room a little. This was the 1st session with more clutter and the cat sometimes sleeps by the glass doors or on the blanket, so I don’t think she’s truly working in the 1st 20 seconds. Then I leave my treats in my box with tools and she tries to shmooze her way into them and I chat with her as I move the treats aside without fussing at her. She investigates the tool box where the treats were but returns to the source. I don’t think I over-extended her though. She wasn’t anxious, but I wished I could have been more engaged at source and a little less distracting.

    This is all very different from tracking and our prior NoseWorks training. I think I can be a little less chatty – role playing on video is awkward and I need to find a normal response. I do think Monza needs to learn to deal with me moving my hands, pulling out tools, etc. for real-life hunting.

    Am I too distracting at this point?

    My 1st truffle pieces have started to mold, so I will thaw a new piece. It was amazing how the scent from the fresh pieces peaked and has dropped off in the last 2 weeks.

    Thanks Alana & Kristin!

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