Lois & Speed (DRTDT)

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    Alana McGee
    Alana McGee

    Hi this is Lois & Speed from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA. Speed is Monza’s 8-year old ‘brother’. I adopted him at 7 months and he looks a lot like a PWD, the shelter guessed he was a poodle/schnauzer so we called him a Poozer. He and I competed in USDAA agility to Masters level until it got to be less fun for both of us. He really loves walking in the woods with me more than anything.

    Speed shadowed Monza in a few NoseWorks using cheap-ol’, synthetic truffle oil from the grocery store. He worked on Summer Truffles through Truffle 101 and passed the prerequisites using the same. I decided to sign him up for Gold in this course because he’s really enjoying the games and he’s just different enough from Monza that I think I can learn even more. I also do tracking with Monza and need to balance her ‘work load’ this winter. I can see Speed possibly being ready for the field before Monza.

    Speed is thrilled that his videos will finally be seen by Kristin and Alana.

    Alana McGee

    Welcome back! Can’t wait to see Speed!

    Alana McGee

    Over break we truly took a break until this Sunday when we did 3 hides without boxes in a familiar room and then in a new room a couple as a refresher.

    Here is Speed’s 1st outdoor box hide with summer truffles. I did 2 basic outdoor box hides today. First with him on leash and then off leash. At first he was visual and thought he might just interact with boxes but comes around to the game quickly. He will be interesting to continue to shape his alert. He has a strong paw touch on the box as you will see.

    Interesting that he checks out gravel area on right in 2nd session, which is an area Monza visited in her 1st session. I think he’s checking out where she went.

    Unfortunately my treat pouch was in the wash so my treat bag is a bit of an unintended distraction although he continued to focus. Overall he did well for the 1st outdoor hide of the season.

    My plan for the week is to do 2 days of multiple indoor hides and 1 more day like today using the other 2 outdoor areas with boxes. I will reattach photos in a separate post.

    That will be 4 days/week working and will give Speed days off. Then I can see if he has any issues with endurance indoors versus distractions outdoors. How does the plan for the week sound?

    Alana McGee

    We are thrilled to see Speed in class this time! He looks fantastic. Nice work!

    Your plan for the week sounds great! Very thoughtful and targeted at identifying areas for improvement 🙂

    Alana McGee

    Here is Speed’s baseline multiple indoor hides. I told Speed about Kristin’s comments about ”

    I worked on only saying ‘find it’ instead of ‘show me’. Should I be requeing? Or just see if he keeps working after the 1st one? I figured we’re still very green to multiple hides so re-cueing is okay. Although I assume when the dog looks like he’s going back to work after a find, there’s no reason to re-cue.

    On the 3rd hide, he pawed it and it pushed away, in the video it looks like I marked it too early but he had paw touched it. He was very persistent and kept paw touching it so I encouraged and rewarded that persistence.

    Overall watching this video, I could be a little more excited with him. Speed loves to rough house and tug, but when there’s food around, he’s all about FOOD. I think we’d be likely to rough house, throw sticks, tug as we walked back to the car.

    I also tried to think of things I would say in the field if they alerted to a truffle in a location that seemed different – like the side of a creek bank or something unusual. So I attempted to marvel at finding truffles in pillows etc. Sort of that “we’re a team and your teaching me!”. I need to think more about how I’d actually react.

    His tail wags the whole time and he’s always got that expression of “[i]seriously? I get beef heart? Can I Have more? Here’s the truffle? Beef heart for finding a truffle? can I have more? sure I’ll go find another truffle…[/i]”

    Alana McGee

    That Tail! Love it.

    [quote] I need to think more about how I’d actually react. [/quote] This is really good Lois and I am glad you are doing so. Truffles will be found in odd places sometimes. I have found one inside of a log believe it or not, and was hesitant to let Duff get at it, but lo and behold? Trust.

    On orchards this will be less of an issue for you (and has a different added dynamic if you have an orchard owner peering over your shoulder saying, well, those are only 2 year old trees, that?s not possible!), but trust, and go with it! Speed knows 🙂


    It is fine to re-cue him, but you are right, if he appears to be back in the game, there is no need. Some dogs are very very literal with this, and won?t go back to working unless cued to do so.

    The playing/ tug etc is a great finishing, all done maneuver, yes, AND a great way to move out of a space and back to your car.

    Alana McGee

    I agree. That tail 😀

    It is hard to predict how you will respond and likely you will find out when you have a blind hide in a bizarre location. I find that I say “Really? Are you sure?” – which actually seems to make them even more persistent in showing me so it becomes a rather fun search. Have fun with it!

    Alana McGee

    Camera battery died while editing video. You’d think a Sony Cybershot would be smarter about power usage while connected by USB.

    Speed also did a couple more box sessions on Monday. Last night we did minimal visual identification, outside. Only 1 session with 3 hides; it was practically dark.

    This morning we did 3 hides in same area and then 3 hides in front yard. The video is of the 3 hides in the back and the last hide out front.

    This is video of only the backyard session.

    Same as with Monza, I practiced scratching around the box, delaying reward a little bit after initial reward.

    It’s a long funny story and a love of James Brown, that lead to the James Brown voice talking to Speed. I haven’t used it since agility and Speed thinks it’s funny. And when Speed slapped that hide with his paw, it made me think of how James Browns yells ‘UH!’ ……Anyway, it appears to reinforce Speed’s persistence and makes his tail wag.

    Speed started to wander towards the woods after Hide #2, so I called him back and suggested to search the gravel to keep rate of reinforcement high.

    He did great in the front yard. He’s sooo excited about truffle hunting. He bounds out of the house, He makes me laugh.

    Since both dogs seem to be at the same level, my plan is the same as for Monza. We?ll head off to the ?enchanted meadow? for more hides in grass on Sunday. And I?ll try to do a blind hide in one of the areas we used today. We?ll have no trouble varying weather conditions ? it?s 50-80% chance of rain for several days. Should we hunt in the rain? Seems like we should do more work with ‘visual identification, outside’ in wet conditions before hunting in the rain.

    I wore the GoPro as a ‘backup’ if the video from the tripod was too distant.

    Let me know if there’s anything I should consider for Sunday’s training.

    Thanks Alana and Kristin!

    Alana McGee

    Rain! YES, practice in the rain! Rain makes for some very very nice truffle hunting so give it a shot!

    I think this video only showed the 3 out back. Let me know if I missed something.

    While it seems Monza and Speed are at similar levels, we have a few suggestions that will change your practices between the two a bit. You can set up the same scenarios, but pay attention to the subtle recommendations we are making. You will be fading a cookie for Monza but not Speed.

    Let us know if you are priming Speed with a visual target before searching.

    Nicely done!!!

    Alana McGee

    [b]Assignment[/b]: minimal visual identification, outside.
    [b]Location[/b]: ?enchanted meadow? by raised beds . Flat, thick grass, surrounded by forsythia.
    [b]Hides[/b]: 3 in wet grass with a few wet leaves over the top. Hide 1 was close to some wild green onions. I was a little concerned they might be too smelly. Hide 2 is in thicker/taller grass. Hide 3 is right in front of a forsythia branch.
    [b]Conditions[/b]: Wet! Low 60s, no wind, muggy.

    Kristin, great suggestion about priming with Speed. I had not been doing that. I did a priming exercise today today and he looks much more confident starting out. Great observation.

    I did some of the ?Better Than a Cookie? game with him at the end. This session was before breakfast and he was a bit more fixated on the treats in my pouch/hand and was popping up/leaving source. I?ll do a ?better than a cookie game? with him this week as part of our priming instead of standing and holding the ?primer? tin out for a nose touch.

    Wet conditions are more difficult so I included the entire session so you can see him work. I don?t see any signs of stress or frustration. The biggest things is Speed pops up when I verbally mark his initial indication. I think I need to drop the verbal marker, swoop in there and deliver treat at source, pause, get a little persistence, reach in and pull grass away and then reward again. Thoughts?

    Also wanted to note that he did fine close to forsythia branch.

    Only other observation is he is sensitive to my movement and switches direction when I take just a few steps. I’ll have to make note if too much movement from me ever starts to causes stress. Hides 1 & 2 were pretty fast under the conditions. I gave some encouragement as our rate of reinforcement was dropping after Hide 2.

    I?ll do blind hides on Monday or Tuesday and report if there are any problems; otherwise this is my last post for week 2.

    Thanks Kristin and Alana!

    Alana McGee

    Hi Lois! We are trying to upload your video analysis and it isn’t cooperating. Hang tight.

    Alana McGee

    We apologize for the delay! Here it is 🙂

    Really nice work by you and Speed! REALLY nice!

    As usual…a long one…because there is so much great stuff to say about you two!

    Alana McGee

    [b]Assignment[/b]: blind hides, outside.
    [b]Location[/b]: enchanted meadow ? grass and leaves. Expanded search area to include the slightly sloped section.
    [b]Hides[/b]: 4 blind hides.
    [b]Assistant[/b]: My assistant did all 4 hides in grass correctly! Yay!
    [b]Run Order[/b]: Speed was 2nd.
    [b]Conditions[/b]: early morning, mid to upper 40s, foggy, damp.
    [b]Aging[/b]: ~20 minutes

    Two of the 3 stooges show up at the end of the video. For some reason, my assistant thinks I?m done when we finish the 3rd hide, so I pull out the hides to count and have 4. Speed?s staring at me so I have a party. I am so used to doing 3 hides, I think ?silly me, he?s right, we?re done?, but as I walk to the house I realize there?s still one out there. After the dogs ate their meal, I took Speed back out and he found the 4th one, no problem.

    I think Speed?s doing great. Having 8 years working with Speed, our working relationship is rock solid. I will continue to do a little priming with him at the start.

    Plan for remainder of week 3: Same plan as with Monza: do another set of 4-5 hides in another grassy area of the yard that’s slightly sloped. Then return to meadow and do 3 targets: 1 slightly buried and 2 in grass or 2 buried and 1 in grass? Comments?

    Thanks Alana and Kristin!

    Alana McGee

    This was EXCELLENT! We have no complaints and think Speed could handle 2 buried/ 1 in when you return to the meadow!

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