Mary & Salu

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    Alana McGee

    It’s interesting how you describe his laid back personality. Because we only see his training videos, we view it more like his searching style is more methodical and thoughtful while Lola enjoys all the movement involved. Neither is better than the other, although we all have preferences. I personally, have a range between mine. Callie loves to run and cover a lot of ground. She rebounds from errors and mistakes quickly. Da Vinci is very thoughtful and, while I challenge him, I do not push him. Cash is methodical and probably the most efficient of the three, but I never allow him to be wrong. Between Lola and Salu, you have a lovely range of working styles and that is wonderful!!!! You will see 😀 You may be working harder with Salu right now, but you will find that he is the easy one at other stages of the game. It all balances out and each personality is quite wonderful after you understand each other in the context of the hunt. You may need to offer one more encouragement while keeping quiet for the the other. The important part is not to compare. Enjoy each one and see the beauty in what each of them does. You have TWO very good dogs there!

    0:28 Perfect pup!!!! Look at his alert. Really nice and precise!

    1:30 You know he found it and is motivated to stay at source so give him the opportunity to nose target it for you. Pretend you can’t find it (we know you can see it).

    2:00 This would have been a good time to end OR play a game with the targets you collected to increase the energy between you. Toss a target into grass and away from your other hides and see if that generates some excitement for him. Don’t spend time at the find when he locates it. Just pick it up, reward (lavishly), and toss again. Then send him on to search for more placed hides. Knowing he had an upset stomach, we’d recommend ending if he looks like this though.

    The ground cache needs a little work. Try some nose targets for those so he doesn’t get in the habit of picking them up. That said, one of my dogs picks them up and throws them at me 😉

    We would also like to see how he does if you give him more room. You are quite close in this video and that applies pressure to the dog. Try relieving pressure with your body language (side body and gaze) as well as giving some more space. Make sure you aren’t staring at him. Watch him closely without staring AT him. This takes practice in softening your gaze so you don’t necessarily have a focal point. Staring is pressure.

    Looks like he enjoyed that chicken!!! Have you considered switching to some REALLY high value treats like deli meats, chicken, meatballs, etc?

    It’s not unusual for dogs to find the fresh ones first! That’s a good thing 😀


    Thank you Kristin – in retrospect I should have given you and Alana a brief personality profile of Salu in beginning as you would have not way of knowing any of this from 6+- minutes of video per week. I’m still learning and I’ve been with him everyday for 16 months! In a nutshell: Salu is VERY laid back, has a very strong personality yet is very biddable unless he feels pressured, loves to be told how good he is, very food motivated and loves his ball – even if to just carry around – BUT not just any ball (NO tennis balls) a very specific type and size. I say this because sometimes details that I take for granted and as being not important, to you and Alana might explain a lot from what you see. He’s also a BIG mamma’s boy….:)

    Funny about throwing the ground caches as that’s what Lola does and I was going to ask about that on her thread.

    Lots of good info and suggestions – thank you!!! Have not tried deli meats but I suspect they will be VERY well received. 🙂


    Oh, and interesting you would mention Salu being the easier one down the road and I’ve always felt that this will eventually be the case…


    Lesson 2, video 2:

    Wow, what a great week – so much learned since the last video and feedback. We made several adjustments. Upped the treat value, cooling off with water spray all over (back, chest, groin). The big lessons were giving Salu space while he works and taking short breaks – water, playing ball – anything to help clear his head after working so hard. Even just throwing the ball a couple times makes a huge difference. Salu also requires space – last night we were practicing and I could “feel” him shutting down and remembered what Kristin said and I backed up about 5 feet. Salu’s whole demeanor immediately changed and he went on to happily find the scent.

    So, I started wondering about Lola and her requiring occasional mental breaks and then it dawned on me that Lola creates her own breaks. Every so often she takes a lap around the yard and rolls around doing what I call “just being Lola” and now I know that’s how she resets as she always go right back and starts working again. So much learned this week….

    This video is in my son’s yard – this is very new to Salu as he’s only been here twice. Earlier today to check out the space and a few hours later. The tea ball with the red tape has PNW scent the others are fresh summer truffle. This are blind hides that my DIL put out about an hour earlier. I stopped the video for times sake but Salu did go on to find the final scent. There are two videos combined and he worked for around 8-9 minutes total didn’t show signs of stress although we did take a water break. I think Salu is enjoying working a new space. New smells and scenery.

    Salu is starting to acquire a taste for fresh truffles – a couple oftimes they feel out of the ground cache so he ate them(the truffle not the cache) and now the vessels are fair game. Suggestions??

    Alana McGee

    Hi Mary

    This is a perfect realization, and well done. “So, I started wondering about Lola and her requiring occasional mental breaks and then it dawned on me that Lola creates her own breaks. Every so often she takes a lap around the yard and rolls around doing what I call “just being Lola” and now I know that’s how she resets as she always go right back and starts working again. So much learned this week….”
    We also agree with this. Different dogs can have very different styles of truffle hunting, and these two are excellent examples of that. We love those A-HA! moments.

    It likely is excitement that he is consuming the truffles. Has he consumed a vial? When you say the vessels are fair game, what do you mean, that he is now mouthing teaballs as well?

    Yes there are things you can practice to avoid having him do that aka eat truffle. It is more common for this to occur with pieces than whole truffles- in exactly this kind of situation wherein the the dog is already excited and out falls the odor source and down the gullet it goes!

    To work on ‘not eating’ truffles to begin with you would work in a familiar space and practice at close quarters with a ‘naked’ truffle. The first step is having him alert on it while you hand is protecting it, overtop of it, above ground- thus not giving him an opportunity to eat it. You then increase the difficult by repeating the alert exercise with your hand sligtly off, and then in various stages more complex until he is more confident not putting it in his mouth.

    I believe we have an exercise written up for this but it may take me a bit to locate it.

    In his case it it likely more excitement, but we will see as things progress.

    Nice harness 🙂

    0:27 GOOD
    1:17- great job guys. If you could elongate your party there. Have him do a few re-alerts even on truffle in hand to build that confidence and lengthen your connection with him here. He can have several deli meat treats… and he’ll be like WOWZA.

    1:20 a REALLY nice transition into another find.

    1:56 Good. Wow. He’s lovely. This was interesting because he found it, but didn’t want to interact with it immediately when it was exposed tucked next to that rock. Watch the few seconds around that again. NICE re-alert. Perfect. Very nice reward sequence, nice verbal praise and energy. Give him a second cookie for that. That was really nice and he is still staying in a down at source at 2:12. Very pretty.

    Interesting to note that as soon as it is uncovered (in the last two hides) he looks immediately to you!


    Thank you Alana – great info.

    Salu has not consumed a ground cache (yet) but he’s put them in his mouth and he doesn’t always use good judgement regarding the “objects” going down his gullet. So far he hasn’t tried tea balls or discs – only the ground cache.

    A few days ago I didn’t notice that a tea ball had fallen out of my pocket as I was walking inside. I called Salu and he wouldn’t come in (which is not like him as he has a good recall) – he just laid in yard… then I noticed the tea ball next to him… too funny – he wouldn’t leave it. I went back out and we had a party… Silly boy… Being able to look back at times like this really makes the training sessions fun. 🙂

    We’ll work on nose touches with the ground caches and I’ll be more generous with the treats and longer rewards.

    Alana McGee

    Mary- LOVE that you went back and had a party!!! THAT IS AWESOME. Good Salu!


    Lesson 3, video 1:
    I apologize for the background noise – all I can think of is the camera was set on “discreet” for some reason – there actually was no noise…Also, Salu went bolting out the door before me and found the first scent before I had a chance to start the video. All of these scents are summer truffles and there were seven spread around covered with either thatch or dirt (shallow). We’ve had some rain today and the ground is pretty damp and these have been cooking for around 20 minutes. I used a pretty small area with many scent balls to increase his success rate. He did go on after this find to find another (the video is edited for times sake)

    We’ve been practicing with the truffles inside doing nose targets on large 2″chunks (I’m brave) and he’s definitely decided that roast beef, peanut butter cookies and ham are better so he’s leaving the truffles at just nose touches.

    I think we might have turned a corner regarding Salu being more engaged…. He’s really having fun with this. I’ve been trying to make an effort to lengthen the parties with more deli meats (per the feedback from last video) and it’s really helping.

    The next video will likely be in at the park – new territory.

    Alana McGee

    Yay for Salu and nose touches! You are brave, but that’s good practice. Trust me, even veteran dogs will on occasion gobble a piece/ truffle. I was speechless last time Duff did it in practice as he has only once ever done it before. He was so excited to play the game. So remember that, it is the value we place place in it and their excitement usually, not the fact they “like eating truffles”. BUT WELL DONE!

    More deli meats is often a solution… for humans too 😉

    We absolutely LOVE that he was out the door and to the truffle. Way to go buddy.

    Something to note with this: It is wonderful, yes. AFTER that 1st find however usually you’ll notice dogs take a few moments to settle and continue finding more targets/ truffles.

    The dogs are hyped up. The sliding door/ door acts as start gate. Salu certainly knows the context of the game you are playing by your ‘hunt sequence’, however it may manifest. Whether it is you talking to him about truffles, or prepping treats, he understands what is going on. (it could even start 20 minutes prior when you took those summer truffles out of the fridge to go hide them. Eventually certain “places” will gain this connotation as well. It will be interesting to see how this translate to new territory when you drive to a new location (your son’s place or other) and how he transitions there. Don’t expect this behavior to right away be prevalent. Try as much as you can in these new scenarios/ places to replicate what you do at home prior to you and Salu going “hunting”.

    0:08 nice. Salu has found it and offers a passive sit. mentally note that, it will come back later. He’s passing information to you. It’s away from source (that’s ok), it’s information. It means he did find something, your movement and encouragement has him re-alerting.

    0:11 really nice from both of you. He seems very confident and excited in this reward. Well done Mary. 0:27 🙂 ):33 fabulous transition! Wow how far that has come. GREAT body positioning on your part facing the direction you want him to search. It, again is information.

    0:54 Mary, this is pretty much text book perfect for this scenario on all levels. Not much to say, it’s fabulous. You & Salu are a really nice team here. Great rewarding with source in hand.

    This was a nice exercise for you guys, with many successes in a tight area. You can see the shift in his behavior and engagement. 1:43 PRETTY. I am using a lot of “caps” because it is exciting and well done. Great job elongating this reward- retouch sequence.

    2:07 again, even without a verbal cue (simply you stood up and moved with intention), he re-engauges. This is a good endurance exercise as well for that element (many targets in smaller area). This is the most re-engaging of the game after finds we have seen him do to date. well done team.

    You only do it briefly, but start to be aware when you direct him back to an area, a useful skill on orchards (inside the cones in this case), that you don’t “front/ block” him. Meaning stand directly facing him as he is approaching. Cheat your self a little to one side or another, truffles can be under our feet. He works it fine here, but in more stressful situations it could block him from an area.

    2:39 you give him nice space, and good timing on when you close distance.

    Really nice Mary. Kristin and I say Good work team! Breakthroughs, huzzah!


    Lesson 3, video 2:
    As usual, it’s been an interesting and educating few days with Salu :).
    Yesterday we went to the park (the one I initially posted pictures of) – he’s only been there a few times and I quickly learned that the open area had way too many distractions for him at this point in his training. He spent roughly 15% of his time searching and the rest finding and playing with sticks, listening to woodpeckers – basically anything and everything.
    So, I put him in the car for a rest, collected the scents and placed them in a smaller area covered with mulch. He did much better there and was more focused.
    Then, I tried just throwing a couple tea balls in the open grass to see what he would do (not buried). Well, the good news is he loved that game and found them but…. one came open, the piece of truffle fell out and it immediately went down the gullet. (Mental note: practice touching with smaller pieces of truffle). Oh, and did I mention while he was in the car resting he chewed the long leash in half? LOL!!
    So, in this video we are at the same area as I posted with Lola. I placed them, took Lola home and brought Salu back. Same markers and environment as in Lola’s post. What you don’t see on this video as I hadn’t started it yet, was Salu immediately found the first scent but then left it to find another and would not come back to “show me”. First time he’s ever done this – so, how is that handled when he’s showing me the second one and I’m standing there with the first one in my hand??
    This video then starts with scent #3. He finds 2 and he’s getting distracted and it’s apparent he’s losing interest so I manufactured the 3rd as you suggested, with him watching.
    I’m curious to see how these scenarios are handled…. Another interesting few days…

    Alana McGee

    Hi Mary

    Oh Salu. Cars are a great way to give them a break. The leash chewing in half, in my personal experience with anxious dogs (which we would not qualify Salu as) is stress/anxiety induced. If this becomes a habit where he chews on leashes we’d want to take a look at what is going on in the situation to elevate stress and what you can do to combat it and alter the situation for Salu.

    Great idea to shift the game to a smaller area when you realized it was going to be an exercise in distraction and even better idea when that was going well to toss out a couple fun ones in the grass. VERY smart, and well done. No point in trying to practice under such heavy distraction. It’ll be an exercise in frustration, so well done Mary on that choice to shift the game.

    Salu is still very young. I’d argue Lagotti aren’t really mentally mature until around 3+ (When Lo is 6 maybe i’ll re-evaluate 😉 ). New places may be fascinating for him, so it may that in new locations with lots of distraction you may need to visit a few times before he’ll get used to working there.

    As for your Question: “how is that handled when he’s showing me the second one and I’m standing there with the first one in my hand??”

    You go to the second one he found. It is always more important when truffle hunting that you are present with your dog. Let the first one go (put it back, if you can so you can try to come back to it later!) and go to him where he is. Be connected with him where he is and work on staying at source with that one. You may be able to return again to the first one though coaxing AFTER the 2nd one or others. It happens.

    If it becomes habitual there are some things you can do, but he is excited. For Salu, we like that.
    We call it a “fly by”. It is indicative of a heightened level of excitement. Always stay connected with your dog. If the dog leaves, so do you. It is far more important you are working together and engaged with him.

    0:53 you’re doing a good job trying to keep him in the predetermined area. This was a good selection of locations for this because the curb also acts as a barrier. 1:03 GOOD. very pretty. Well done both of you.

    1:39 he has one there… What is that? Is that one you tossed out? he has it in his mouth and brings it with him? Or is that nut/ apple? I think it may be (because you don’t say it is a truffle 😉 ) so yes that is him starting to get distracted- so yes, that is exactly when you do throw out a target. We would suggest you do it sooner; as soon as you see any kind of this behavior, and then party, and then leave. He may just need a little break. Technically at this point he has found 4. He seems to be seeking a mental shift, so you can take a break and play with him for a minute or belly rubs and then you can always toss out another target for him easy to find, party, and then be done!

    With Salu we would err on the side of under-doing it- meaning don’t expect him to find all 5. Stop after 3. Since he is starting to get distracted in this environment.

    Eventually you will work on lengthening this out and endurance, but Salu is telling you right now that it is a little too much, and we want his association with the game to remain strong over time, with duration.

    Remember when you first started hunting with him indoors and he would only do one or two finds and a time and then you’d reset. It is the same principle here he is working through in a more complex environment and state, but the same idea. Interesting that it is following the same pattern, but for that reason cut it short. Some days in this environment he may find five, some days three. Stop while you;re ahead.

    The following idea applies…Something Kristin & I are often asked is how long can your dogs work for? Just because Lolo can work for 4 hours doesn’t mean she should. We stop long before that point for very similar reasons. There are times when endurance is pushed, but endurance is built slowly over a long period of time in incremental steps. Sometimes you hit a spurt where you can push a little more, and some days you do just a very short session. Like athletes and interval training. Does that make sense?

    2:50 was really good. That is exactly right! We do that too 😉 2:57- It is great he did re- alert but be conscious that occasionally in these situations when you are manufacturing success his alerts may be truncated, and so be conscious and open to the idea of lowering your criteria for success.

    That was good mary, and good experience for you to have as a handler with you so you gain more experience on how to approach those situations when they manifest.


    Thanks Alana – the learning never stops…Salu makes sure of that 🙂 question for you and/or Kristin..

    I’m working with Salu and nose touches with smaller pieces of “naked” truffle…. when it’s in my hand he will nose touch and then immediately lick it. I’ve tried clicking right after the nose touch and then moving my hand but it’s almost simultaneous. My fear is that the lick will be a prelude to the gulp… he does have a “touch” of PICA ;). He will “drop it” with non food items but with food items we are a long ways away..

    So my question is… given the above, should I start shaping his alert with a paw touch and move away from the nose alert (at least for now)? I’m thinking the nose touch might just be (at this stage) too much temptation…

    Your thoughts??

    Alana McGee

    Ah ha- you said something perfect that we can pick out and reference “I’ve tried clicking right after the nose touch “

    You;re going to have to preempt the nose touch. To you it will seem like you are clicking in anticipation (and you are).

    Dogs are much faster than humans so if you aim to click before he nose touches (which means it will really happen likely RIGHT as his nose is doing it) that’s what you want. Clicking too late or “after” when either his face is pulling away (or his lips are starting to cover it/ lick it) is not what we want! Most Dogs associate the click with the exact moment it happens. If his tongue is out when the click happens, he may think “oh she wants me to blow raspberries”

    Do you practice nose targeting/ touching with him in other arenas? We suggest you do that. If you want for a video this week to send us some of that, we can help you through it. You can use anything- a post it, those hard yogurt lids are great. Practice having him touch it and you clicking. You can select for certain criteria such as a closed mouth, harder targeting, double tapping, etc. Start by having him target aka nose touch your palm. Hold your hand vertically for this and have him boop it with his nose. You can then switch from hand to hand. hand targeting is a great foundation game for many things.

    Let’s build up his reward history for nose touching objects. It may help the truffle just become another “object” and not temptation

    You certainly can work on and ask for more of the paw, but nose touching is so helpful later, we’d encourage you to stick with it for a bit and we can help you through the process.


    Well, after a rocky several days it finally cooled off and we got some rain… Salu’s a happy boy…

    We are at the park I posted picture of originally. There are deer here (a fawn was 4-5 feet from Lola and me as we were practicing a few days ago), dogs, people and many distractions in general. A cold front came through yesterday and it’s rained all evening, night and morning and much cooler – 50’s so everything, including Salu, is soaking wet. These scent have been cooking various times – anywhere from 45 minutes to a couple hours.

    We came here a few days ago and just played around with some tea balls. I’d throw them off the path and Salu would find them on the way back. He did “ok”… one time he literally walked right over one as he no doubt was focused on another scent at the time.

    This morning he did very well. I made a video earlier (he found 5!!) and when I got home and reviewed it I discovered I was so excited at his focus that I had not been asking for proper alerts. So… I took Lola up to check things out while Salu rested and we came back and recorded the two videos here. We took a short break between these two clips to give him a break – basically just a walk around the open area so he could sniff away…

    I posted two videos as I thought his alert on the second one was pretty interesting.. He’s never done that before. Almost like he was demanding I check it out 🙂 . It was in a hard to reach area and in case it matters, that scent was the PNW oil – all the tea balls are summer truffle.[video][/video]


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