Mary Hammond & Salu

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    Alana McGee

    Hi Mary!

    The cake mix box was a good idea. Another idea is to take some dirt from outside and put it in one of the tuperware boxes. You are now adding other novel odors to the environment. We don’t suspect it will distract Salu really at all, but it does up the complexity level while still keeping the game the same. It provides more interesting surroundings for distraction. Try that next too.

    REALLY nice on staying down and with him here. We love his alerts. Just look at that tail 🙂 While not a mile a minute (which he may not do too often because he’s just so chill!) it is a good indication of his arousal level and I think we can safely say, his enjoyment in the game.

    Don’t know if you realize as well, but you have a really nice delay from click to treat. And Salu is accepting of this. That will work very much to your benefit later. (around 0:52)

    Again, very nice re-cue at 1:10.

    What we really like Mary is he is very thoughtful about his searching. He takes his time to investigate. It is a style, and he manifests it very nicely. 1:32 good on the re-alert in your hand. Nice nose touches and nice energy on your part. Are you clicking nose-touches here? Just be conscious at this stage ‘what’ you are clicking for, and be consistent.

    Very nice ending Mary. As for ending in the field- when we get to outside, we’ll have you show us that too. We’ll see how he responds. This is just fine and it’s a nice way to bring the energy level down.


    This video is taken in the basement – pretty unfamiliar territory for Salu as he’s only down here for baths and that’s the other side of the basement.

    Since the last video we did practice in the dining room and added some different scents. separate containers with dirt, pond rocks, grass, an oatmeal container (that had the scent) and a container with a piece of liner from a dog food bag. The first time he did paw at the dog food bag but I ignored it and he’s never done it since.

    In this video there are containers with dirt, grass, pond rocks, dog food bag and, in an effort to bring the “outdoors in”, one with dog poo (clearly marked with blue tape). One “truffle” is in a container with dirt, rocks and grass and “cooked” for about 10 minutes. The other cooked the same but is plain. He did paw on the “poo container” which I ignored.

    This is the second time he’s worked in this area – lots of distractions and he does get distracted at one point (around the corner from this area is another room. Also, after I picked up the scent mixed with the dirt etc. I noticed I had not punched holes in the container.

    I’m seeing his “chain of alerts” – I think – and I’ve not been very clear as to which I really want, pawing or nosing. I think I was afraid if I didn’t reward both he would become discouraged but I think that’s unfounded so I’m (trying) to go with nosing.

    After this video ended he actually put his ball down and went over to the scent I hadn’t picked up and started alerting again (we had an off camera party). He NEVER puts his ball down for anything – which tells me he’s really loving this game!! Also, I think he’s looking much more independent.

    Alana McGee

    “The first time he did paw at the dog food bag but I ignored it and he’s never done it since.”- Good, that is valuable information, and the correct response- just be aware in the future that perhaps things that are edible, that he wants, that he can’t access directly he will paw. Just file that away in your Salu hunting file in your brain.

    You are brave with the doo-doo- but well done. We commend you on that. Even better if it was from one of your other dogs as opposed to Salu’s. DEFINITELY a distraction odor, and a hard one at that.

    Again, good on ignoring the containers where there is no odor.

    Your video:

    0:14 YAY. On several accounts: Not only did he alert on box (paw) but he nose targeted the source. This is precise and fantastic. AND he stays with it. Great job- you’ve don e a good job building value here. AND then he offers the passive “lay down”.
    Great. So based on this 7 seconds of interaction, we’d say the alert chain exhibited here looks like a variation of this:

    Paw, nose touch, LOOK, (this was prompted by a lick- but we venture he will have a look as part of it) Nose touch, down. The nose touches he using for precision. The down is to indicate YES I’m sure. His initial is a Paw, so be ready for that when outdoors, but also be willing to understand since he won’t be able to access it as readily it very well could be a look at you until more encouragement is offered, as a look is part of a chain he is comfortable with.

    0:25 Good. nice timing and nice persistence.

    1:01- nice bringing him back into the area- he’s so very responsible to you in that- that was good call.

    Your connection & energy by the way is very nice.

    He’s working really nicely- and very hard for that 2nd one. This is a nice level of dicciculty to stay at and work on a bit
    1:34- watch from here again. If you’ll notice the entire video (until he finds/ alerts on it), he doesn’t actually go to the hot box. He hits every other box. We don’t think that in of itself is significant, just how he happened to search the area. But look at the video again form 1:30 on wards and see if you can visualize the way odor is moving in this environment. Follow Salu’s nose. Watch it- particularly around 1:34 you can see him hitting odor and trying to figure out why it is concentrated there. From 1:36- 1:44 he’s eliminating erroneous areas. He’s, cleverly, as as a product of space available, created a search permimiter for himself based on what odor information he knows.

    At 1:45 make sure you are not looking directly at the box here, we can’t see your face but your intention (and feet) are directed at it (he’s not looking at you- but just be conscious of that) in the future

    2:06- you’re clicking nose touches. That’s fine! the other behaviors are unlikely to extinguish, unless you want them too- which we don’t suggest, because you are also praising them.

    That’s great about the ball- on all accounts- playing with it is great- he obviously loves it- but we’ll find that in the field with dogs who work with toys who also love playing this game, in the field- they’ll come across scent and they will often drop a toy if they are playing with one. Again it’s example of how much he likes this truffle game which is a testament to you building really nice positive associations around it- so well done!

    Yes he is looking more independent in searching patterns, which is great- but he is still VERY responsive to you when you cue it (note the moment he is out of screen searching too far). It’s a nice balance right now at this level of difficulty, so we’d encourage you to build up this reward history a bit to keep it solid.

    Really well done Mary. Pets to Salu. You guys look very nice, and again your energy and connection is lovely. You’re doing great!

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 11 months ago by Alana McGee.
    • This reply was modified 8 years, 11 months ago by Alana McGee.

    Lesson 5 – there are two videos as I was having “technical difficulties” with the first (ran out of memory in my phone).
    Sorry for posting this late in the week with the holiday.
    Salu took awhile to adjust to the blind hides so we took it very slow. Once he caught on however he’s really done well – I think.
    The second video made me laugh as he was twisted around to get to the scent. He cracked me up and I totally forget I had hidden another. I was reviewing the video on my phone and looked aroung – Salu was patiently laying next to the scent I had forgotten.


    Video 2:


    I should mention that by the time we got to video 2 Salu was getting pretty tired… (You can see that as we started) – we had tried getting another video several times but the phone wasn’t cooperating. We did take breaks in between (dinner, outside etc) – but it’s woth mentioning.

    Alana McGee

    We all forget about a hide at some point. Doesn’t it feel good to see your pup insisting that there is another truffle to be found?


    Thanks Kristin for the feedback and reminder (again) about moving the target. I’ll really make an effort to reward around it.
    Also, good info re. hides in close proximity being more difficult. Makes total sense..

    Hope you and Alana have a nice holiday… 😄🇺🇸


    I have a question that may be a bit off topic..if so please let me know…

    I was working Salu with the blind hides in a different room. He found one scent but was unable to find the second. So, I let Lola into the room to search with him watching (a first as I wasn’t sure how each would react to the other finding the scent).
    It was very interesting watching Salu observe Lola – as her search method is very different. More nervous energy – go anywhere vs. Salu slow and methodical. He watched her get on furniture, check different levels etc. and then he started doing that himself (kind of like the V-8 commercial “why didn’t I think of that?”) btw – the scent was on the ground…
    Well, Lola found the second scent and was rewarded at the source. Salu comes and sits watching, wagging his tail. So I showed him the scent, let him smell it and gave him a treat. It seemed SO wrong to not include him somehow….
    Was that the correct thing to do? If you have two dogs searching, how do you handle that? – or, would you ever have two with you at the same time?

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 11 months ago by MARY.
    • This reply was modified 8 years, 11 months ago by MARY.
    Alana McGee

    We do cover 2 person handling and one handler multi dog situations in the 3rd level of our course.

    We don’t recommend it as a practice generally but there are occasions and teams that can do it successfully. It will depend on many factors, but one of the things that is difficult working two dogs in the field as a handler is your attention is split. You’ll often hear Kristin and I saying you should have 100% attention on your dog at all times while you are working. Your dog deserves that and with two dogs something suffers. There are teams where the dogs will work in concert to locate hides, but often you’ll have two dogs who are off finding truffles in different directions and you can’t be at both locations at physically the same time. We will address this concept in depth later. Inter-dog dynamics come into play as well at that point.

    *Personally I have worked two dogs at a time, but it is a rare circumstance and often is heavily managed if I do it at all. I prefer to work each alone for some of the reasons described above.

    Dogs can and do Learn through observation, and that’s okay as long as that isn’t the only tool in the tool box. It was okay to do that as described, and YES rewarding him, and showing him where it was so he can engage in the experience with you & Lola was appropriate and even encouraged in that situation if he was viewing it anyway. Later in the course series if that is something you are interested in, it might be interesting to explore the dynamic of how the two of them & you work together to truffle hunt- but we’d say not yet. Because you also want to be respectful to Lola in those situations and provide all the support both dogs need at this stage. But yes, that was okay and there are some teams who can do it successfully- but again it depends on the dogs, their dynamics, and how they work together (or apart).


    I don’t know if the name of this video is “Trust your Dog” or “Mary needs a vacation” or something else. :)… In any event this was not the video I originally intended to submit.
    Salu and I had just done the original video and I was taking another for me to review. I had placed some “hot” target in the back of the room to video – totally forgot there was one on the table – I honestly thought it was a blank. AND the one under the chair must have been left from our practice yesterday.
    Both times poor Salu alerted and I discouraged him thinking he was falsely alerting. Turns out both times he was spot on and insisted on me checking in spite of my discouraging him.
    The video stops abruptly as it was over 3 minutes and I had to edit it. But, we did end with Salu getting a nice jackpot and a bone when we got upstairs.
    The target he checked and walked on was dirt – I checked just to make sure. 🙂
    Just love this boy!!!

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 10 months ago by MARY.
    Alana McGee

    I just love the enthusiasm in your voice when you send him to hunt!

    Poor little dude! That was so hard for him! It was also VERY good for him! It challenged him to be persistent AND HE WAS!

    Good for you for staying calm and turning the search into a good learning opportunity with massive reward!

    I just LOVE how he demands that you check under that chair!!! Good boy, Salu. Good for you for entertaining his alert and being open to the idea that your dog just might know more than you do 😉 This is exactly what will happen in the field when you can’t find the truffle in a hole. He will have to demand that you keep looking and he will show you precisely where it is!


    Now, make sure your next session with him is an easy one and make sure you know exactly where the truffles are. This worked out wonderfully for you and Salu so lets give him an easy and simple search next 🙂


    Lesson 6, video 2 – final video…
    We’re back upstairs – I’m in the process of shampooing the carpets which worked to my advantage as it gave me hiding places we hadn’t used…
    Again, the video ends abruptly to keep it under 3 minutes and it’s a dark day outside so I “enhanced” the light on youtube – hope you can see ok. It’s hard when it’s dark with a dark dog.
    There are 3 hot targets and 3 blanks. One blank has nothing, one has dirt and the other has leaves. Salu’s gotten pretty savy with the “fakes” and now just moves past them.
    I have found during our sessions that after finding two he slows down and sometimes just sits. You can see this in the video. What I’ve been doing when this happens is “restart” from the beginning and it’s seems to be working. For times sake in the video I encourage him and it worked.
    I will say after taking this he was VERY thirsty and needed a rest – he rarely just rests for more than a few minutes but after this he did.
    Thanks to both of you for a fantastic class and all your time and patience. Can’t wait to see how we do in the next class outside. This has given me a whole new perspective on how Salu learns and learning to trust his nose.


    • This reply was modified 8 years, 10 months ago by MARY.
    Alana McGee

    Good use on building distraction scents in the other targets for additional complexity in the game.

    As for Salu becoming less motivated to search after two finds- encouraging him through, as you did in this case is just fine. One thing you can do is perform the “reset” as you did and reengage in the scenario that way. The other more common game we play in the field when this manifests is we offer a easy find or success which can act as a ‘primer’ for continuing searching.

    This is something you can practice during the break— transitioning from working from 2 hides to more. After the 2nd find (as that is when you said he starts to become less engaged) make the third hide simple and have a HUGE party when he does alert/ engage with it. You can even praise the searching behavior here when this happens.

    Provide an opportunity for success by throwing a target near him after the second find/ party wherein he’ll have to move to access it (re-engaging in the game) and you can build a transition that way. The goal is eventually that Salu will generalize that the game is not over after 2 finds. Do make the first few times you do this fairly simple so he can build a reward history with the concept of “game is not over after two truffles”

    Resting is good. It means he was using that curly noggin of his and was challenged by the scenario. Great job on allowing the break to happen.

    Be sure to take a few days off over the break where no truffle hunting happens. Allow him some time away. He won’t forget but learning pathways are strengthened by these intermittent breaks.

    Your Video:

    0:18 good. Notice the difference in his alerts here and his default alert when the hide is not as easily accessible. Truffles in the wild- and indeed even on orchards— are not always accessible so it is important to understand more confident default behaviors of an alert when this is the case. His default here is a look to you followed by a passive sit.

    Very nice re-alerts here to indicate location. 0:32 GOOD! nice rewarding on that and both of you staying engaged in the game.

    The find at 1:30 is good- something to note. While it may seem like a short amount of time, we feel that was right on the edge of his comfort zone in terms of length in scenario without a success. IF that searching had continued on longer and you noticed him starting to lose interest in the game- that is a perfect scenario to provide a success as a means of encouragement. We often do this in the field. If we are not finding a truffle/ target within a certain period of time we will place a target (with decreased difficultly in the scenario) to provide a success for the dog in question. Working through frustration can be acceptable at times as that is how some learning happens, but we want truffle hunting to always always always be a fun game the dogs want to play- and that is a means to achieve that positive mentality.

    Your encouragement here around the 1:50 mark is good. Notice his minor ‘shake-off’ a stress release.
    2:14 he’s working really hard and well here, and you can praise that for encouragement. 2:40 would be a good example of when you could drop a target on the floor and ask him to alert. You do get him up through encouragement- but we wanted to provide you other means for reengaging in the game. On that final 3rd hide we would have suggested even more of a party/ jackpot. That was really hard for him and we want to make a big deal out of the fact that he just broke through a barrier there of going from 2 hides to 3 hides. So you want to make that 3rd hide he found super duper awesome and rewarding.

    Keep that in mind if you practice a bit over the break. Remember though to take some time/ days off of truffle games and when you come back he’ll be raring to go!

    Well done Mary & Salu. We look forward to seeing you in the next class!

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