Mary & Lola

Viewing 15 posts - 16 through 30 (of 38 total)
  • Author
  • #5991
    Alana McGee

    Hi Mary

    Your question about Caches/ tea balls:

    YES! Always have a target (teaball) with odor on you in case you need to manufacture success. What you described is just fine. If Lola were hyper specific she may give you a quizzical look realizing odor in hand is not the same source as the cache, but this helps build generalization. So YES! Do that.

    Lola “bringing you” the truffle is not inherently bad. For some dogs that is their natural alert and it can be very effective. It also depends on the species of truffle you are hunting. Some species (namely Leucangium aka Oregon Black) are very fragile and will break in these scenarios. Summer truffles (Tuber aestivum), and pecan truffles (Tuber lyonni), and even Imaia gigantia that you are more likely to encounter, are hardier.

    The danger or cautionary tale with this behavior comes mostly in a commercial agricultural operation wherein dog damage decreases the value of truffles.

    This ’truffle retrieve’ is a very Italian inspired method and were she to compete in Radunos in Italy she would receive extra points I believe for that behavior.

    Right now we are building confidence and we don’t want to diminish any of her enthusiasm for the game.

    Generally speaking we don’t teach it as a behavior unless it is offered by the dog as any time a truffle is near a dog’s mouth there is a propensity for it to disappear down the gullet. If this happens, do not worry. It likely will at some point. The most important thing to remember is not to freak out! In Level 3 we work with what we call “naked” truffles. Kristin & I will conference on the topic and discuss if perhaps that should begin with Lola now so you can work on refining alert behaviors.

    Teaching a passive stay at source, or even this behavior of her coming to get you and then back to the truffle (much like a SAR dog) is something that when it manifests we want to jackpot and reinforce.

    Lola may react differently to “naked” truffles instead of shiny tins/ teaballs.

    If and when you work on orchards you will be right there with Lola as it is a much more open environment and you as a handler can prevent damage in a commercial setting. Let us conference and get back to you though on plan of action.

    As for odor:

    All of the above are fine with the caveat that you practice wherein the odors are not combined in the same tins as well, and we would encourage you to do all of the above for Lola as it will add variability. When you do this for a video, please let us know what scent sources you are using and how are you using them. Example: 2 summer truffles ‘naked’, one oregon white in a tin, etc….

    Lola has advanced to using what we call an odor library. She distinctly knows individual species. At this point you can combined as well as use both odors (Summer & Oregon) in a scenario in separate containers. The important thing when dealing with multiple odors (species) during training is that if you only ever work with them in a combined setting (as in both in the same container), you also want to work with them separately. We don’t feel Lola is in danger of not generalizing, but some dogs learn that both odors have to be present for an alert, and that is what we want to avoid. We want Lola to alert any time she smells any odor in that array.

    Do observe her behaviors in scenarios where you have mixed scent out as it may be that she is more confident on one odor than another. This is valuable information on how you can change the game to make it more challenging and in how you can build more persistence on the odor she seems to lack confidence on.


    Lesson 2, video 2:
    We’re back in our yard and the scents a buried – different depths – from just under to soil to about 2″. This is been a good challenge for Lola as I’ve disturbed a lot of areas of soil and walked the whole yard even though the scents are only in a small area. This definitely threw her and made her work a lot harder – but not too hard – she was definitely drawn to the disturbed areas of soil
    I’m trying to work on her alerts (nose) and I think she’s doing a bit better. We’ve been working inside with the tea balls and out in the grass.
    The soil is VERY hard and dry – would it help to moisten it in the areas we are working?

    We are working again with both scents – red markers are the PNW Truffle scent and blue are Summer Truffle. There are 5 scents buried but Lola finds 3 here. Salu came out and played around with the other 2 later on (I made them easier for him)

    By now there’s not much of my back yard that doesn’t have some lingering truffle odor… it’s fun to watch the dogs when they are outside alone with their noses to the ground searching. I can tell it’s what they are doing by the areas they are drawn to.

    (the deli meats are a HUGE hit 🙂 )

    Alana McGee

    Hi Mary Sorry for delay!

    Hard, dry compact soil is difficult, yes. Odor doesn’t cling as readily and dissipates faster, so it may help yes. As we say “odor clings to wet things”.

    0:05 NICE headcheck! She’ll get to a point where you’ll start to notice when she is zero-ing on odor, and it is during this time you can verbally encourage and praise behavior. This is more important in situations with more complexity in the forest where it is harder, but good to start to recognize when it is happening now. Keep an ‘eye’ out for those moments.

    0:22 and right before this is a really nice representation of odor moving in a space. It is fascinating and Lola is a great example you can literally see her following the odor column and how it is moving in the vicinity! Fabulous!
    She’s very persistent. We love that. Nice sequence Mary!

    She is so fun to watch.

    You do a good job at one point asking her “watchu doing Lo?” as a means of having her redirect her focus to around. As you get into larger and larger areas this will be your task as a handler to mentally keep track of spaces she has visited with her nose in the area and direct her to new spaces to investigate. Wind plays a factor in this too, but if you haven’t start taking that into mental account, start trying to pay attention to that

    It won’t necessarily be the same for Salu but it is part of her style.

    You are doing a good job on asking for higher criteria of a nose touch. Just remember that if she starts to walk away, drop the criteria of what you are asking of her. It doesn’t have to be perfect all the time 🙂 that’s why we work on it! 2:24 was great! 2:58 PERFECT- right there!

    Rock star. Nice reward parties 🙂


    Thanks Alana – regarding lesson 3 – there is a footnote “If you currently compete in or are intending to trial your dog in tracking titles, please consult us prior to taking action on the proofing stages of this lesson.”

    I MAY try Lola with some tracking lessons in the spring. Given that, should my approach be different re. proofing?

    Alana McGee

    With Lola and formal tracking, no, not really, but thank you for asking.

    In truffle hunting we don’t want the dog following “our” path and so we use our human scent as a distraction and we can very quickly see as instructors if a dog is using that as a tool to locate source. It is more common in young dogs with less world experience. In tracking (especially if you are laying your own tracks) you do want the dog to follow it.

    There several dogs who truffle hunt and “track” very successfully! The two are not mutually exclusive you simply want to be aware of how you as the track layer, and you as the person who is hiding truffle targets, are interacting with your environment.

    The one thing we would suggest to that effect when you do start training formally for tracking is create a very distinct and different “Start” Routine and different gear.

    In the “best of forum” which maybe isn’t up (should have Lois & Monza ) doing this in LVL 3. When you get to that, let us know in the spring & remind me in Lvl 3 and i’ll make sure you get the corresponding videos. Lois is an assistant instructor on these forums as well (she has been busy as of late), but she’d be happy to talk to you about differences in hunt sequences she uses. We talk a lot more about hunt sequences in Lvl 3.


    Lesson 3, video – fyi this is very edited for various reasons…

    My first attempt to video I let Lola outside and she was all over the yard (as this is how she’s used to searching) and I realized she needed a leash. This video is our second attempt… Lola’s not used to working in a small area or on a leash so it look her about 5 minutes to adjust but after realizing this “game” was different she did pretty well. This first 5 minutes while she is adjusting is edited. She also went on to find another which is edited as well for time’s sake.

    Going from the perimeter of the yard which is basically dirt and foliage to grass is a challenge for Lola – which isn’t bad. It’s just something we need to practice.

    There are 7 scents placed (all summer truffle) and one “manufactured” (you can see in the video). These are under the thatch and buried shallow in the soil which is pretty damp – none are visable. The scents have been “cooking” for about 30 minutes.

    I’m hoping to get another video posted over the weekend from the park but the weather forecast is looking iffy…

    Alana McGee

    Practicing on a lead is good at times, but yes, it will alter the game for the dog. There are times when having a line on is extremely useful and necessary.

    This looks good. For now keep editing, but there will likely be a time when we want to see larger chunks- start to finish, or sections that show these settling in periods as it provides vital context to emotional state.

    Thank you for letting us know what you edit out however, as that is valuable information too!

    How is she doing with the grass these days? we could see it in earlier videos because we know context when she pulls her feet up abnormally high when walking, but it seems to be improving/ less dramatic. Has it been raining as frequently as previously? In Salu’s vied you said the ground was damp, so we assume so, but let us know. She may for the time being simply be more sensory sensitive in the grass. It looks okay here, but just file that away in Mary’s notes on Lola in the brain.

    0:16 tenacious pup. Love her persistence, as always.

    1:00 she’s working very close to you. By her choice. Interesting. This is less typical when off line, hence leading us to suspect it is in part due to the line. Neither good nor bad. Information. She’s seems slightly less comfortable in this set up, but you noticed that. That doesn’t mean don’t practice it. It is a very useful skill, just understand it alters her behavior. (*My Lolo is very similar in that regard).

    1:08 PERFECT time to drop a manufactured success. If you feel you need to boost the level of positive history even further, make sure she sees you drop it, so she can alert on it respectively.

    1:15 Great cheating your body away to direct intention back on your desired search area.
    1:17 NICE Lola. Something was distracting and she said, nope, I’m truffling!

    1:28 It looks like she handed that one to you? Is that correct? If so that’s perfectly fine.

    2:06 this is a fabulous example and teaching moment for “follow the nose”. Lola is right on it and we can see her pinpointing. Truffles, unlike metal teaballs, are not shiny. Real truffles often look like dirt clods until further inspection, so in this situation Mary it is good practice to start following the movements of Lola’s nose inside the hole she excavated. The nose knows, so to speak. The direction of the nose acts a pointer for those handlers who watch it and can indicate truffle location fairly accurately. Start to pay attention to that. As you work in more complex environments and deeper this element comes into play more and more. Follow the Nose.

    Nice reward sequences. Well done guys.


    Thanks Alana – I’m wondering after all the practicing we did with “heeling” and having the leash on is keeping her closer to me… who knows… :0

    First of all, sorry for the late post.. I spent quite a bit of time with Salu yesterday and Lola took a few days of break…
    This is not an area I posted pictures of initially so I’m posting a couple now along with some pictures of the marked hides (to give you an idea of how I’m marking them). This is a small area next to an elementary school a couple of streets over. I decided to keep this practice in a smaller and secluded area as there were people walking dogs in the open area. Lola knows this area as “her” playground (slides etc.) are around the corner and we come here to practice walking on cement car stops etc.
    There are 5 scents buried around 1″ deep, the ground is damp (not from rain but morning dew as it’s around 8am and coolish). They are all summer truffles as I decided to keep it simple for now.
    In this video she finds 3 and after the recording she found the other two (after several laps 🙂 ). Prior to this she had been running around just checking everything out for about 3-4 minutes. She still acts a bit different with a leash but she’s better here. Next I’ll try Lola at the other park and she how she does.
    The red on the marker is red duct tape on a piece of mulch. The other is a nut from the park.

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 5 months ago by MARY.
    • This reply was modified 8 years, 5 months ago by MARY.
    Alana McGee

    Hi Mary!

    Something odd is going on with my reception of your video and it’s skipping around. I think it is me, not the video. Looking into it!


    No problem Alana… btw.. on Lola’s second “find” she’s really working hard and focused. After reviewing it I’m wondering if I should been offering some encouragement or if this would have broken her concentration. How will I know when to let her go on her own and when to “egg her on”?

    Alana McGee

    First off, no need to apologize on video arrival time 😉 Breaks are good and we encourage them.

    Running around for a new minutes is completely normal, nothing to be concerned about.

    Great idea keeping the area small. Even though Lola knows this area as “her playground’ that is a very different game than truffles, so it’s interesting to watch her shift. It is good she is comfortable here. Provides a great opportunity to try new spaces.

    This looks great! She’s so excited when she finds the first one. REALLY really nice bond the two of you have. It makes us both smile every time we hear your voice doing this with her. She loves it. The connection is palpable.

    1:26 she is working the area really nicely- this would have been an okay time to use words for encouragement at say 1:33 as she is getting closer to pinpoitning. We don’t think it would have broken her focus. When Lola is on odor, while she is sensitive to you, she’s fairly obedient to it, as we have seen in other videos as well- meaning she stays with it- returns to it.

    1:49- something to try next time she “brings you one”. Silver teaballs are far easier to see than truffles. You can still be using the same kind of verbal praise you are here, but before you bend down to the location of the truffle and ask for a re-alert pinpointing behavior, ask her to show you. You will eventually be relying on her to indicate where it is if you can’t see it. If she has dropped it a foot away as she did here you may not know. It’s the difference of waiting about 1 more second before you move in, but try it, and see how that goes. It’ll help in the long run when you get to working with naked truffles that are the color of Dirt!

    2:35 It’s nice you give her a chance to express herself here with her mini zoomies. She enjoys it so much and that certainly comes across on video. You have a very nice way of transitioning her and encouraging her here back into a work area. Well done Mary. You do it naturally though positive energy and movement in the space combined with verbal cues.

    2:53 was a great example of her showing you again with you asking for it of the precise location of the truffle.

    This looks really great Mary. Let’s see how she starts to do in some of those more unknown places. She certainly loves it 🙂


    We are at the same park as Salu and I were earlier in the day. The ground is still very damp but the foliage has dried out (it’s around noon).

    We came earlier (9ish) with the long leash but that doesn’t work for Lola – she needs more “freedom” and it just made her frustrated so she came home and took a nap for a few hours now we’re trying again with a short leash.

    I think she’s doing well, she’s anxious as there’s a few other dogs around walking (on leash) and she’s only been here a couple times. There are 2 videos as she had to take a short break. She did find the 5/6 scents – all of which has been “cooking” for about 15 minutes. The tea balls have summer truffles and the spice jars have PNW oil.

    Poor Lola – the very last find she rolls around to get some brush off her face and completely covered herself in tiny burrs – her whole face and head. Even one eye was matted shut. I’ve been cutting them out as I can (tonight is a bath) but any suggestions for getting them out or preventing in the future would be awesome.

    Also, I have some of your white truffle oil – I was going to start doing some imprinting with Lola and she had she did in the back yard with it. Your thoughts??[video][/video]



    Alana – bear with me… The beginning of video 1 was accidently edited out – she found a tea ball right before this and this is a continuation.. This is my first day with an iMac and using iMovie – still a newbie… Also, she took a break between videos. 🙂

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 5 months ago by MARY.
    Alana McGee

    Hi Mary!

    For stickers & Burrs, ah yes the Lagotto Nemesis. Poor Lola.

    So, shorter cut coats, in cool enough weather protective gear (we use ruffwear cloud chaser jackets), and CORNSTARCH liberally applied and worked through hair. Like everywhere. Lolo will have puffs coming off of her when I pet her but it works. I keep a huge jug in my car 😉

    Also I know an italian who has sprayed the dog with PAM before…..

    I’d ask in one of the Lagotto groups online via FB. It has come up before I think there were some other suggestions too.

    We would say go for it with the white oil- just make sure you do a bit of imprinting and some easier hides to make sure she understands it is part of the bigger game still, and that this counts as an odor to find!

    It looks really nice in the first video Mary! Nice re-alerts and all! Tall grass/ bushes is hard, she’s doing really well- also considering she doesn’t normally wear a harness nor drag a leash. Well done. You can see the stickers starting to collect on her face, and while she’s trying to fight through it you can see her getting to a point where she’s like get this offffffff! She loves hunting though, that is for sure. When it first happens you can see a slight shift in her energy, but that drive and determination is still there. Sweet Lola!

    2nd Video 0:14 REALLY nice searching. She’s using the Log here as a vehicle for scent transfer and as a guidepost. Really nice alerts. This was good Mary. You can see her working through things and it is certainly more difficult, but it doesn’t seem to pose a problem for Lola (burrs aside). She is handling the distractions/ complications REALLY well.IT’s very impressive. It is also incredibly clear she loves doing this, which is so lovely to see!

    Your video skills are great! Well done.

Viewing 15 posts - 16 through 30 (of 38 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.