Annie & Ashley

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    Alana McGee

    I’ve been sick for a few days so not many hides. Better now.

    10/18 saturday first buried hide – also a blind hide.
    Today Bill put out the hides – incredible proofing – 5 min cook
    4 hides – normal
    2 hides – 1 buried about 1″ each – the other too deep (she did smell it)

    weather a little warn not hot. 18 Oct 11:32 am PDT 72 51dew 48 humid NNW 4G07
    Area: standard + expanded

    Ashley was beyond excited and ready to hunt. She was inside bouncing and barking to get out since she knew
    Bill was placing hides. Bill had the camer rolling, Ashley dashed out the door and started searching, Mom running to catch-up.

    She is making a pattern of running through an area an getting a first sniff. I have no idea how she can pick up scent when she is running so fast but she does. Her nose leads the way and her body better keep up! S. She will stop in a hot area do a little more sniffing then continue her overall search. She usually locates 3-4 general areas with scent before she goes back and pinpoints and alerts.

    She found all 4 normal hides and 1 buried hide. She had so much fun with the last buried hide.

    When she was in the area of the buried hide, I got in with her and helped dig a touch. Then she joined in and she dug it out we had a HUGE, HUGE, LOUD party. I’m sure my neighbors think I’m crazy! 😉 Then she proceeded to dig a big trench and stick her nose in every so often checking for more targets -she was having a great time. Not good for the forest, but she wasn’t hurting anything and we didn’t want to ruin her party time. Ashley dug a
    hole about 4″ wide, 8″ deep and at least 12″ long – she kept looking for more tins. Then she was done and super charged. She did a little more sniffing but was in a high play mode.

    She did great! I’m exiced to see how the next buried hide goes now that she understands the game has changed
    a bit.

    This was the first session/video in which I feel I finally got things right. Even Bill agreed. This course shoud really be called Training the Truffle Dog Handler. We were really working as a team and working off each other. Ashley’s alerts changed since we were working together much more. I really prefer the blind hides.

    Help needed with idea for training plan:
    So my training plan was: having 1 tin slightly buried and another close by and a little deeper be good to try so she learns that targets can be deeper Also, this seems like it would help build value.

    But after reading your post to Rachel this is advanced and should not be done. Thoughts?

    For now we will have have a mix of a few easy ‘normal’ hides and a few buried- not close and build on this.

    Alana McGee

    Ashley dug a
    hole about 4″ wide, 8″ deep and at least 12″ long

    I have a dog like this as well. So I speak not only from a instructor standpoint, but personal firsthand, handler experience. What happens is they become overstimulated by the envionment and the digging. The digging (regardless of odor) becomes a rewarding outlet. Enthusiasm and parties are great, but when the dogs are digging like this it is actually a frustration maneuver and turns to play. Yes, they may have detected odor, and it can be part of an alert, but it starts to go beyond that.

    We?d encourage you to try to curb this behavior and channel it into precision alerts. That doesn?t mean control, but pull the focus away from the roto-tilling action. You are not going to want her to do do this on mushrooms, or on truffles frankly. Also if she does alert on a truffle this way a) she?ll be kicking it behind her (we do cover an exercise for this later) b) it?s going to be a lot harder to find it c) she will probably break it. Precision alerts we cover more I think in week 6 of this course. I would spend some time, even inside working on nose touches.

    Again, you are correct you don?t want ?ruin? her good time- and parties are great! but if she starts to exhibit this behavior, we would strongly suggest you move away from the area, and lure her away. if you have the target with you (have extracted it from where she alerted like this) have her do a re-alert away from the hole. She likely is not digging for alert purposes of ?hey I found odor? but the digging has become self-rewarding. We?d have to see it to be really sure as her body language would say a lot about if she is actually looking for targets or not, but I strongly suspect that is what?s happening. Watch the video again and see if you actually see her scenting in the hole or just digging away. Even if they appear to be scenting in the hole (they often are- but it?s not for what you want) the aggressive digging is a redirection of their energy. It can be subtle- but I speak from personal experience on this one. The digging becomes play. *Again play is great, but we would suggest you redirect that to some other form of play (that can?t be confused with alerts)- whether it is a stick, a ball, you, cookies, etc.

    The dig is ok for an alert- but try to get in there and reward her before she starts making trenches 🙂

    We are really glad you feel like you guys are in sync! That?s fabulous! It?s more about the handler than people think! (Also glad you?re feeling better!)

    As for your training plan:

    I would, for the moment, avoid putting the tins close together- especially if she is doing the big digging maneuvers like you suggested. I?d put them at least 6 to 10 feet apart. Deeper is ok, but keep building value on the hides that are about 1 inch down. You could do two or three at about 1 inch and one at about 2 inches- and throw one on the surface for her still just for fun. Remember incremental!

    Another thing you could do would be to put more tins out. You?re right, build value, but right now I would recommend that it is more important to build value finding multiples than finding deep.

    If you wanted to practice deeper hides, bury 1 deeper (just one target), decrease the area you are searching, and make sure to have a hide on you so you can manufacture success if she starts to get frustrated. Make sure to let the one target cook a decent while in that scenario and be liberal with how often you manifest a success for her if she is having trouble. Don?t feel like you HAVE to find the deeper buried one. if she is struggling a lot, stop, with a success and end the session.
    For now we will have have a mix of a few easy ‘normal’ hides and a few buried- not close and build on this.
    This is good- keep working on this.

    We will have exercises in FE530 designed to mimic dense environments, but it can be very stressful for some dogs at this stage, and hard to pick out one single odor cone, so we would recommend building value on the light to medium buried hides (surface ones still to) but avoid putting them really close to one another 4 to 5 feet away from each other is ok. Depends on the area you are working in. Around obstacles can be ok to, we just don?t want them too close.

    It sounds like it is going really though!

    Also do consider what we said about the digging. We can?t see it, so we can?t know for sure, but after the alert and the first digging it out, consider luring her away and having another party/ play not at the hole.

    Alana McGee

    You nailed her. Her initial digging does appear that she is looking for more targets, then it becomes self-rewarding/play. When I was digging sprinkler lines, she was right there with me. She loves to dig – she is a puppy! 🙂 I will get the target and lure her away for the party. I have noticed when she checks old holes, it’s a quick sniff, but no digging. I was not sure how to deal with the digging. This is so helpful!

    We really like how Callie plays ball, but we have not played ball with Ashley like that, yet. Future plans. 🙂 On November 1 & 2, is our Building Drive & Motivation seminar (including how to play) with Denise – so that should be really helpful.

    I will follow your plan. It seems perfect for where we are. I will hold off on deeper hides. I like the mix of easy and buried – it works well with her. I will increase the number of buried hides and keep them at 1″ and spaced apart. We have stopped before when we have had a great find or I can tell she is getting close to being done. I need to get better at that. Right now 5-6 normal finds is just right and doing to 3-5 finds depending on the mix of normal/buried is good.

    We also had a bunch of trees removed on Monday, so a good portion of the yard now looks like a cedar logged forest. Smells great – but a huge distraction. Ashley had a chance to explore it on Monday and Tuesday before we tried a hide The yard did add some distraction, but I just let her work and search as she was comfy. I avoided hides in the area with lots of downed material. I know it was hard and engaged with her when she asked. She found 3 easy targets, 1 buried at 1″, 1 under about 2″ of duff with a 30-40 min cook time and we ended on a great find. It took a little longer than normal. But considering the yard, it was a great session. We left the last buried target to be found later in the evening. We will try another session tonight with the new plan!

    Alana McGee

    a great find or I can tell she is getting close to being done.
    FABULOUS. LOVE that 🙂

    It sounds really good, and like you guys are right on track. Because you?re working on mushrooms as well, have you started doing any above ground real mushrooms yet with alerts? Just curious. If not, We can go over that with you in FE530 as we start doing that with truffles too- sans tins!

    Alana McGee

    Not yet with mushrooms. The latest report is that boletes are coming up a 4 hour drive north and we have not
    hunted that species there. It’s a weekend trip that we don’t have time for.

    Our normal area for boletes down here is still crispy duff. 🙁

    I have thought about using normal button mushrooms from the store and rubbing them with our dried mushrooms, but then I’m mixing scents with something that we have not found in the wild. I’ve seen them once, at a class, button mushrooms, Agaricus bisporus, were collected at Yuba pass with horse manure.

    Speaking of class, Matt Smith our class ‘Squirrel’ (the guy I hung out with digging for truffles of any sort) is speaking at the next Oregon Truffle Festival. I’m guessing you must know him.

    At this point, I’m thinking of adding a mushroom that we will be collecting in December and I have lots of dried and they reconstitute well as whole bodies.

    We need rain!!!!! Until then, we will continue as best we can.

    Alana McGee

    If only Boletes shipped well! If you’re ever in SF, at the Ferry Building, Far West Fungi folks may have some stuff. If you tell them what you are looking for they can try to get some as well. They pull in wild mushrooms from all over the place.

    Yes we know Matt Smith 🙂 For those of you who don’t know or haven’t realized yet, the truffle world is pretty small- even in academia, on a global scale. Matt is out of U. Florida and is working on Pecan Truffles, and yes, he will be at the OTF, along with Dr. Shannon Berch.

    Alana McGee

    So we’ve had a mix of hides the last few days. And hit some situations that were too much. So we are backing off a bit and working on building up again.

    10/25 backyard am
    rained in the morning, cool
    3 buried 3 normal
    30 min cook

    Ashley was just not into it this morning. Not sure why. If it was a mix of the rain and the newly cut trees.
    Also, there is now quite a bit more visible bird activity.

    Ashley was having trouble focusing so I manufactured a hide. She then tuned in and found a hide. We partied and stopped. Good thing, since she was done.

    We went inside after a while and did a simple priming game. She was not her usual bundle of energy.

    Went to anOktoberfest, she had time to rest ! 5.5 hours.
    We came home and she had some time outside with us.
    I got my bag and she was ready to play!
    She found 3 hides: 2 buried and 1 easy. and we ended happy. She was still ready to play more.

    new place – park by the library
    blind hide
    targets were placed in too large of an area
    Ashley found a hide in scoping out mode and did not alert. We were on leash and she continued to check things out. After a few minutes, I manufactured 1 hide and Ashley found 1 and we stopped.
    In the future, Bill needs to be less optimistic.

    I did an inside hide this morning with 6 targets to build value and boost up her alerts. All went perfect!


    1. Going to go back to doing some hides in the house to building value and reenforce alerts

    2. continuing with outdoor hidden hides where she is comfortable along with one buried hide (if she doesn’t find it – no worries).

    3. Add using a long line in the backyard.

    4. For rain: I need to bring hides back to simple and build.

    5. For new places: I will keep the area small and place the hides myself with easy hides.

    I am just about done stacking the ~2 cords of logs and cleaning the little stuff so the yard is less distracting= more back to normal. The huge change in the yard along with the rain was too much. We might get rain on Friday, so I’ll be able to see if rain is an issue.

    Does this look reasonable?

    Alana, Kristin, Thanks again for all your help!

    Alana McGee

    Hi Annie- sorry for the delay.
    Ashley was having trouble focusing so I manufactured a hide. She then tuned in and found a hide. We partied and stopped. Good thing, since she was done.

    This is great Annie. We can?t emphasize enough the fact of stopping while you?re ahead so to speak and building value in the game and having fun! As that is what it should be, fun!

    Sometimes, for whatever reason, Ashley may not be interested in playing. It could be due to hows she?s feeling or distracted, etc. We know you know this, but they are not machines, and that?s why we try to make it as fun and rewarding as possible- but we never force them to play the game- we just stage situations in such a manner that they want to.

    Glad you manufactured a success, and it sounds like your parties are great 🙂

    Your commentary is funny regarding Bill. 🙂

    What we would even suggest you do in those situations is plant more hides than you intend on finding. If he is going to continue to be ?optimistic? but more out there and plan on not finding them all- but stopping as you have been doing. It sounds like you are really connected to Ashley in this regard, and that, is fabulous.

    At this stage as long as the targets are more than 6 feet apart, we don?t have a problem with that- we just don?t want to cause too much confusion from different scent columns form when targets are placed too close. Also take a look at the terrain and wind direction and see if that could be impacting things- depending on where you start from.

    Your plan sounds ideal. Well thought out and right on point.

    Alana McGee


    I will keep going as planned and add maybe add a tin or two. Bill made be a bundle of them. 🙂

    I did a new place hide in a small area out front 4 hidden, 2 buried. She found all except 1 buried. We quit
    when we were ahead. I was having concerns about her alerts, so I set this up to really be able to observe
    her alerts and all is fine. It appears that a difficult area can lower her alert and I will just adjust for that.

    Her alerts are consistent when she is confident:
    If there is too much plant in the way, Ashley will paw at it.
    If there is a little bit of plant, she will do the play pose.
    If she can easily get to the tin, full down.

    I just realized, she gently dug out the buried tin this time gave a great down alert and did not go into crazy, fun digging time!

    So I’m really happy with where we are – she did great in a new area with strong alerts intact.

    Now hopefully we get some rain tomorrow and I can see if rain is a concern.

    We have another new place searched planned for this evening and we will continue proofing with indoor and outdoor simple hides.

    I was a good check for me that she is doing fine. She just seemed to be a bit tired that day. She’s still growing and learning so much. I really focus on making sure she is having fun. Even in classes, when I can tell she needs a break, we will go to the side and play a game of tug or just let her walk and sniff. I even changed a class, because the mix of dogs and training style was just too overwhelming for her and she was very stressed. It’s my job to make sure she feels safe and is having fun. Ashley does let us know when she is not feeling ok about something.

    We ‘play’ so many learning games right now, basic obedience, focus games and mushrooming and she is still just a little baby. She was learning how to ‘take it’ last night with a new item: a little halloween basket. I really love how when we are trying something new, she really tries all kinds of nose touches, paw touches and downs to see if that’s the right answer. She really wants to play and please.

    Now I need to bake & start smoking some high value treats for our seminar this weekend!

    Alana McGee

    Annie we commend you for all the care and thought you put into Ashley?s training and wellbeing- and just having fun. She?s lucky to have a happy home with you.

    I also love the fact that when she is unsure of what behavior you are looking for she offers behaviors. Building creativity in shaping 🙂 One of my favorite training exercises to do with any dog is try to get them to think creatively with new objects. It?s fun to watch individual personalities come out in those sessions. They are all so different 🙂

    Have a great time at the seminar! and Tell Denise hi! (It?s the one in Santa Clara right?)

    Alana McGee

    It is interesting to watch how different dogs work. Ashley is very pawy so something new comes with paws and a down (her alerts) and eventually little barks. I have been very careful to let her try things and not stop behaviors that I will want later.

    It sure is fun for both of us. We are working on a routine for our Circus Class and it’s long but at the end Ashley looks at me like ‘why did we stop?’ The more we do, the more she wants to ‘play’.

    Yes, the seminar is in Santa Clara and I’ll let Denise know you say ‘hi’.

    I’m really looking forward to learning how to improve our tug game and create an ‘out’ when we are done.

    Alana McGee

    First of all, a wonderful weekend! Ashley was so focused and did such a great job! With a new place, people, dogs etc, her first seminar, first time being in a kennel with so many dogs so close (this was a little stressing). Seven weeks ago, even 3 weeks ago, this would not have happened. We would go to training and the environment was just over powering and getting any focus just did not happen. Not bad for a 6 month old puppy! Yeah Ashley!

    Denise was wonderful! I learned a lot and have many changes I would like to work on for me. Ashley is just fine.

    So for our last few hides…..


    lots of rain! Rain!!!!!
    backyard – 5 normal hides, 1 buried
    cooked: 30 min

    This was just find-alert-find-alert…… through all 6 in no time. Nice strong alerts. I have noticed that after I pick up a tin, she is ready to go again.
    Interesting that she did not do her normal checking out the area first.
    It had rained early morning and was raining at the time we were searching.

    Bill tried a hide at home. He was not together enough – treats were on the table. She found one and he partied to the treats with her, then called it quits. I’m he was stressed and Ashley wasn’t focused enough. So I have to give him lots of credit for making sure she found 1 and partied and stopped. Yeah Bill.

    On leash
    Cool weather – slight wind
    Out front: 5 easy hides 1 buried (newer area)
    Cook time: 20 -25 min
    We took a little walk. The neighbor was using an air compressor. She we played a game of tug from across the street from the distraction and took breaks as Ashley needed to feel safe. After a good 15 min of this
    we started our hunt. She did great with all the distractions and found the 5 easy hides with pawing alerts.
    Again, once I get the tin, she doesn’t want to stay too long. She is ready for the next one.

    If we were really hunting, I would be looking for mushrooms also, so I used this as a way to find the buried hide. I got in the area about 2 ft away and started just messing around. Ashley came to sniff what I was doing and found the tin no problem.

    I forgot to make sure I buried a tin with extra mushroom. Even with the extra mushroom in the tin, I am beginning to think there is really not enough scent to do much more than get through the soil. This week I’m going to make some oil and see if that might have more scent. There has been a consistent pattern of she needs to be really close to smell buried hides. Once she gets near them, it’s no problem pinpointing them.

    I’m feeling much better about sessions this week than last. Alerts intact and rain is not an issue. The trees and major yard disruption was a lot of change and overwhelming smells. So all is good.

    I will proceed to do some more new areas this week with 5 easy and 1 buried and see how we do. Along with home and yard hides.

    Thanks for all your help.

    Alana McGee

    Each of us tied a hide earlier this week at the edge of a natural park. Ashley was not interested. I think it ended up being that the dried mushroom sample did not have much smell.

    New place – first time there – edge of a natural park area, but in a landscaped spot
    We took a 1 hour hike before doing the hide.
    On a leash
    Fresh dried mushroom samples.
    Distractions: people walking by on trail
    3 easy – blind hides – Bill did a fantastic job on the hides- he works for kisses 🙂
    Ashley found them no problem.

    I could really see her catching scent. She went down the little hill and followed it up.
    Bonus: I got to ignore Bill as he told me we were cold. 😉 We had a good laugh about that today.

    New place: local park, distractions and large area
    Distractions: kids, dogs
    On a long line.
    Fresh dried mushroom samples.
    Blind hide
    Large area search with 6 targets: under duff, 1 in grass – very spread out.
    Ashley found 5 and was done.
    This search took a long time, but Ashley kept going with good energy.
    I added a little play in between and that got her all excited and really increased the energy in her search.
    Some redirection to get her in the right general area or off of pee-mail. I gave her a little time for the pee-mail then got her focused on mushrooms again.
    Over all a great search for such a large & new area!
    Some of her alerts were not as strong, but this has been her pattern. As she gets comfortable with a big change her alerts get strong again.

    So my plan for the next few weeks is:
    1. increase the number of buried hides at home
    2. mix in easy yard and in the house hides
    3. continue with new areas and alternating between expanding the area or adding buried hides
    3. take a few hour trip to where we might actually find mushrooms
    4. start adding a new odor
    5. work on precision alerts

    Fake Mushrooms
    I’m also thinking of making some ‘fake’ mushrooms with potatos (similar to your suggestion with truffles) and some mushroom oil. A place these out to see if there is an issue with picking them up.

    We will also be watching some video of Ashley’s finds and see what she is doing for alerts and what we want to bring out. She likes both nose touching and pawing – even better. Bill and I did discuss barking for
    an alert and we came to an agreement that barking is a good idea.

    Alyssia, Spring and Alana thanks for your discussion on barking. That helped us think of what we will be doing and how barking as part of the alert will be good. Ashley can be fairly vocal when she is playing or trying to understand a shaping exercise and she can bark when asked, so this should be easy to add.

    Alana, Kristin, Any thing else we should consider?

    Thanks for a wonderful class!

    Alana McGee

    Hi Annie

    All of this is incredibly great and very mindful and thought out. Really fantastic and right on track. We don?t really have any other suggestions, you?ve pretty much covered it in your plan for what to do- and it looks great!

    As for alerts, many mushrooms are fragile- you know this- so just be mindful of that! They will respond differently than your dried samples 🙂

    If you get into Downtown SF at the Ferry Building our friends at Far West Fungi I know just brought in some beautiful boletus- so it depends what you are working on for odor, but start having her practice with real mushrooms if you can and you?ll find out pretty quick what works and what doesn?t.

    Alana McGee

    Hi Alana,

    Thanks for the reality check. I’m just feeling a bit behind and we are going to work on getting caught up so we are ready for the next class.

    We have been taking 3 classes (2 local) all teaching very different things so it’s been a challenge to get everything in and not over train and keep things fun.

    This weekend we will be going out to see what is out there that we want her to alert on.


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