Lois & Monza (DRTDT)

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    Alana McGee

    This was a GOOD situation for you and Monza to work through, Lois! Great job thinking in the moment and adapting. This is excellent practice for “real” truffle hunting. We are impressed!

    Alana McGee

    it’s us again….Today’s theme was “it?s hard to get good help these days?.lol

    [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. Monza is capable of counting so it?s time I start varying the number of hides. I use to have a target with food 10 steps into a track and when I 1st started moving it further out, Monza would pause at 10 steps, look back as if to say ?you forgot the target here?.?So I added a 4th hide.

    [b]Assitant[/b]: My dear husband who is an engineer, and a stickler for detailed instructions, didn?t listen. To his credit he did 3 hides correctly. The 4th was in the edge of periwinkle crowded behind the raised beds.
    [b]Run Order[/b]: Monza was 1st.
    [b]Conditions[/b]: early morning, mid to upper 40s, foggy, damp.
    [b]Aging[/b]: ~20 minutes

    I cut out the 1st 3 minutes. Monza did great in the grass and found the hides in the sloped area first. 3rd hide was near raised beds in grass. Video picks up after we celebrate at 3rd hide and she heads back down to sloped section (so you can see the whole area).

    Short story is Rate of Reinforcement plummets after 3rd hide because the 4th hide is a bit difficult and does NOT meet the criteria given to the assistant?.. I give Monza words of encouragement but it was 2-3 minutes before we found the 4th hide. I almost fabricated a success but my assistant does give some hints that we?re close so I stick it out.

    You’ll see and hear my comments. Monza really does fine, I’m the one that’s almost a train wreck…. was getting a little anxious and end up stepping on the line, etc. I can’t stand the 40-foot line in these small areas, I may order a 20 footer.

    I felt like I was controlling her too much with the line on. I was Soooo sure alll the hides were in the grass….

    The good news, although I was quite perplexed as to where he placed #4, I decided to stay calm and see if she could find it. When she starts working behind the raised beds I?m thinking ?seriously?, he put it out THERE?…..? I cringe over the 4th hide wanting to have better control over WHEN it became more difficult for Monza. Plus I cringe over my line handling….it’s not horrible, but it’s because I thought she was looking for bunnies in the forsythia…..not a truffle at the edge…..

    OH! I walked the dogs while the assistant set the hides. I left my ‘fabricated success’ hide on the brick foundation near the front door, ~2-2.5 feet off the ground. When we got back to the house, Monza starts air scenting and I remember what I left and I asked her “did you find something?” and she goes over to the spot, puts her feet up on the edge of the bricks and points it out. We had a big party. She was so dang cute about it.

    Plan for remainder of week 3: 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?

    Alana McGee

    Ah…the the UNKNOWN! It gets all of us. Not to worry. You handled this just fine. For future, go ahead and manufacture a success as soon as you feel any uncertainty. She can sense your change in confidence and she needs your trust right now. Often, in hidsight (or in watching video), we see that the dogs were doing just fine 😉

    Your plan for the remainder of the week sounds good but before you do those sessions, set up some easy scenarios that can serve as a confidence bump and build a little value back up for the game. It’s ok to set up in the house and just do some hides for fun. In fact we often recommend that people do more of it! We would recommend only one slightly buried to begin with.

    GOOD for Monza for finding your target!!! That is a great and actually it happened at a perfect time! Gotta love it when that happens!

    I looked back at some previous video and you usually use a harness with Monza. Any particular reason she was on a collar today?

    Alana McGee

    My analogy of my relationship with Speed and Monza goes like this. If I was to land an airplane and Speed was my co-pilot and we needed to figure out which button was for the landing gear I would be confident in asking him to figure out which button and say “dude, go ahead and push that button. I have no idea what to do.”

    With Monza, she’d figure out if she pushed a button, that it lit up and “WOW, let’s just push all the buttons, because they light up and that’s cool, who cares about landing gear, I’m a water dog, I love to swim…wow can we land this thing in water and go swimming?”….and I’d be totally panicked…..LOL

    In other words Monza knows how to push my buttons. In the one truffle hunt we did 2 years ago (with little training and she was very young), I trusted her and she drug me off to some deer ribs. She was so proud, as if to say “OHH you think Truffles are cool? Check. This. Out. DEER RIBS!! They’re sooo much tastier AND you can roll on them.”

    I remind myself that she’s only 3 and Speed is 8 1/2.

    [u][b]Thank you so much[/b][/u] for the feedback and I will play some indoor games with her and have fun. And I will share with my assistant. I think he’ll be more engaged.

    Alana McGee

    Haha! I think most of us can relate! Love your analogy!

    So, since we know she is solid indoors, maybe a few blind hides inside wouldn’t be a bad way to build up YOUR confidence in her 😉

    She is still a baby dog and it may take a bit more time than with Speed. That is fine. We want you to be sensitive to her needs as a youngster but also give her the opportunity to work with confidence from you.

    If you are questioning her, manufacture success and get out of the situation. Re-evaluate and take a step back if needed. Nothing wrong with that. We want you to take each training step with confidence…that means both of you 🙂

    Alana McGee

    Monza and her equipment. Monza has worn her Perfect Fit harness in a few truffle training sessions mainly because we’ve just returned from a walk and I haven’t bothered to remove it. I don’t want it to be her equipment because it’s got fleece sections and holds water. I use RuffWear bungee waist leash when walking her in the neighborhood on harness so it’s a different feel from tracking.

    She wears a different harness for tracking.

    So, the tomboy princess needs a new outfit for truffle hunting. She’s vetoed always wearing the Missile suit. I need to look at the RuffWear jackets. She’s so used to being out in the woods in all conditions I don’t think she needs it for comfort/protection, but it could definitely be a cue for truffle hunting. I’d like to then be able to remove it in the woods and say “free dog” and let her go play.

    I had thought about putting a bell on her, but it would make me crazy.

    I guess I need to go shopping!

    Alana McGee


    We do think it is good to have something that cues the dogs to the activity. It doesn’t necessarily need to be gear they wear. Maybe it’s a specific backpack you only use for truffle hunting. Perhaps the bell if that is the only time she wears it.

    What caught my eye in the video was her being directed by the collar while one lead. While a dog who is responsive to collar tension is great for walks, it is not ideal for truffle hunting…especially when you want to build confidence.

    Perhaps her leash was attached to her collar in previous videos and I missed it because she had her harness on??? Were you planning to work her on a lead attached to the collar while hunting?

    Alana McGee

    Ideally I work her off lead. Sparing you from me rambling about my analysis, I need to make a decision and just be consistent. I will begin using the same harness I use for tracking. Our tracking ritual is quite distinct as it begins with me humming/singing a tracking song as we walk to the track and then I lead her up to an article, which should be a significant difference in cues.

    I will likely have a specific pack and can always add a bell if context isn’t clear enough.

    That’s enough from me this week! Thanks again for all the input, concerns, observations, compliments!!! You and Alana [i]rawwkkkkk[/i]!

    Alana McGee

    Sounds good. She does a nice job off leash. We just want to make sure you have an “on-lead” option for that occasional situation that you need it. Your analysis is important and there is a lot of value in what you have observed to work best for Monza so if lead attached to your collar is best for her, don’t let us tell you otherwise 😉

    Between all of our dogs, we have a variety of ways the dogs work so it really is a personal decision and you get to decide!

    Lolo is probably the one that most consistently switches between being on lead, off lead or dragging a line. She works with a harness on even if there is no lead.

    Cash is rarely on leash but always wears his everyday harness. His cue is the location and my gear.

    Callie is almost always off leash during a hunt. She knows what we are doing as soon as I put her jacket and harness on.

    Da Vinci has a specific harness…which is actually the same as his everyday harness but he knows the difference between everyday/ agility and truffle hunting. He drags a line.

    Duff hunts off leash mostly but wears a harness.

    In your case, it can even be a different collar. Sky is the limit!

    Alana McGee

    [b]Assignment[/b]: hides in grass covered with leaves
    [b]Location[/b]: front yard
    [b]Hides[/b]: 4 hides, all in grass with leaves
    [b]Run Order[/b]: Monza 2nd,
    [b]Conditions[/b]: mid 60s, dry and sunny. Light breeze
    [b]Aging[/b]: her hides were not out but 1-2 minutes after I finished with Speed, I just rehid the hides and brought her out.

    Posting this one to show how I added in a manufactured hide when I lost confidence! She was so lively and happy. She’s either a little jealous or competitive when Speed goes first and she can watch from inside the house….

    When I have no confidence knowing where the 4th hide is, I decide to ?drop? a truffle. I honestly don’t think I need much help with blind hides. I can’t tell where I put them with all the leaf litter.

    Monza does a GREAT job of staying on task when she hears the neighbors get out of their car and I don?t remember doing this but my arms go up as if to say ?SCORE? when she goes right to a hide after being distracted by the sounds of the neighbor. That?s a BIG step for her (ummm, and me)! She also ignores that cat who eventually shows up.

    She does investigate the disturbed dirt where Speed?s hides had been located, but has lots of confidence moving away from those spots.

    The grass hides were very easy for her and I think I can add one lightly buried hide for her next time.

    I brought Speed out and he found the 4th hide. He?s such a good Big Brother!

    Thanks again!

    Alana McGee

    Very nicely done, Lois!!!

    You manufactured the success at the perfect time. This session is exceptional!

    It’s perfectly ok for her to check Speed’s spots. That is quite normal. You do a great job of redirecting her when the distractions appear and the part I REALLY like, is how you brought her back to the search area with that little whistle. It was a nice subtle “Hey, that’s a little too far. Come back closer to me please.”

    Ah…sibling rivalry does play a role 😉

    Love the cat!

    I cut myself off at the end of the video analysis here but I was just going to add that I agree with your assessment. I think adding one lightly buried one is very appropriate. Go for it!

    Alana McGee

    Miss Monza was busy tracking this weekend so she did not participate in the new location search. I had hoped to do 1 session with her but opted to get her working on the pecan truffles.

    This video is from Thursday, I set up 5 hides in the enchanted meadow. 4 were lightly buried.

    I held onto this video assuming we would do searches in new locations that would relate better to this week’s homework.

    I can’t hold this one back now. I was out with Monza and suddenly Speed shows up…

    Short story is all I can figure out is after 8 years, he went through the small pet door that is for the cat. No doors were open, he was sitting with my husband when I exited the house. Husband did not let him out. It would be tight, but Speed could fit through it…I used it once when I locked myself out of the house.

    I NEVER let the dogs see the cat come through the door. They only access this room with me and if they sniff near the door, I just close it off.

    Once this summer and then in September, the dogs boarded and I put them in ‘luxury’ for more space and other perks including a large doggie door to a nice outside area. They do not use a doggie door at home.

    Monza and I exited through the basement sliding glass door where the pet door is located. I can only guess Speed followed our trail and at the sliding glass door crawled out the pet door. I have not let Speed in that room since Thursday and will close it next time we use that room. I want him to think he merely conquered quantum mechanics. Once. (fingers crossed)….

    When Speed showed up, I’m waiting for my husband to be following. When the husband doesn’t show up, I assume I left the basement door open (I did not…). I was not willing to stop everything and deflate both dogs. So I thought “well, it’s just a game, let’s see how this goes…..” Monza found 1 before Speed showed up, but his appearance brought out ‘sibling rivalry’. Monza was exploring a bit before Speed’s appearance but then she is ON task. To try and keep it Monza’s hunt, at one point I toss a treat to the side for Speed, but he was all about hunting too and wasn’t going to be left out.

    When Monza is pushy/competitive, I always tell her I can tell she came from a litter of 9.

    In the end, they’re both very cute and sweet, practically doing synchronized nose touches. I took it as a lesson of “don’t panic, flow with it.” If things got too crazy I would have just had a party and headed back to the house. I still can’t believe Speed went out the pet door, but my husband wouldn’t lie. It’s just weird.

    It tickles me watching them search on their own, but when one realized the other found something, both show up for the party. It was a little chaotic, but it worked out just fine.

    I really wanted to be more verbal and ask “[i]what are you doing here????[/i]” but I did my best to not blather and let them work.

    Alana McGee

    THAT made my day!!!!

    Very fun AND productive training session!

    Alana McGee

    I’m glad I shared that video. I almost didn’t post since it wasn’t relevant to the week’s homework. It all worked out.

    Here is Monza’s 1st buried hide in the front yard…and…of course, the landscaper dude shows up after Monza finds the 1st hide in the grass! She’s a magnet for unplanned disruptions.

    I had to end the session but kept Monza engaged doing simple tricks while I chatted about the Monkey Grass Massacre that’s about to take place…..our yard was over-landscaped with monkey grass and we’re replacing with native plants. A 10-year ordeal….

    The little missy gets back to work and finds all 5 hides. I almost quit after she found the buried hide in the mulch, and my verbal “I’m so proud of you” kinda indicates the game has ended; however, when I say ‘find more” she is perfectly happy to continue working. She works nicely on harness with the long line even when it gets wrapped around a bush. The only restriction I had on the line was not getting wrapped around the hemlock. I almost manufactured a hide after the find in the mulch, but she finds the last one in the grass.

    She was very engaged and earnest to work. I did not feel like I restricted her with the line and she stayed in the area. I think this is largely due to us facing the house, and having a sidewalk on one side which probably kept the scent localized.

    I was still impressed that she didn’t wander toward the neighbor house/kitty truffle area!

    I’m undecided about what’s more important? Slightly buried hides? Or new locations? And we’re priming on pecan truffles inside. I’m thinking slightly buried hides are what we should continue with at home. Followed by pecan truffle priming. I want to build confidence at home with 2 changes before moving on to new locations.

    We have another section of the yard that is all mulch/plants, but it’s next to the water feature which Monza loves to play in. If she gets a good walk in and then plays in the water for a bit, I think she’ll work. It would truly be an experiment. This would be a step toward new locations yet still at home, but the water feature is a huge distraction. It’s a quandary for me….

    Alana McGee

    I just realized I already posted 2 videos for this week. I will leave this one in my thread so I have a complete record. Since I didn’t have any issues, disregard reviewing video. Sorry about that.

    I will continue to work on slightly buried hides at home. Followed by pecan truffle priming. I want to build confidence at home with slightly buried before moving to new locations.

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