Rachel & Esprit FE520

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    Alana McGee
    Alana McGee

    Hi this is Rachel and Esprit from Switzerland. Esprit is my 5 year young Malinois boy. He and Vidoc share the same well-known grandfather (Larry de Vulcain). While Vidoc took all the K9 nosework and first truffle hunting class at FDSA as a gold student Esprit worked all the games and exercises too. He passed the prerequisites. Esprit also does SAR training where he looks for “insured” people in the forrest.

    Looking forward to class!

    Alana McGee

    Welcome back! We are very excited to see Esprit in action!!!

    Alana McGee

    I apologize for posting two videos to get an idea where I stand and what to focus on with Esprit this week.

    Oh boy Esprit was totally excited to search for truffles 🙂 Whereas Vidoc methodically searches Esprit kind of blew off and got easily distracted in his first search. He was so happy and it seemed to me he knew he’s going to have an audience 🙂

    [b]1st search: outdoor hides with visible game boxes (on leash)[/b]
    I didn’t use the white cottage cheese container with the oh so yummy wet cat food smell I had in Vidoc’s searches as Esprit already managed to open the lid and licking it. I also had Esprit on leash because there were a number of bikers driving by. The leash helped him to connect.

    [b]2nd search: outdoor hides on patio, no visual aids (off leash)[/b]
    He nailed those 3 targets like a pro 🙂 That tells me to prep Esprit better when we do a search in a new environment with more distractions and just in general to get him focused.

    Alana McGee

    We think it is great you decided to use the Leash with Esprit. To other students who have been watching the differences between Rachel & Vidoc and now Rachel & Esprit: this is exactly the kind of scenario with distractions present where it helps to have a physical connection with your dog. Not to correct, but as a guide and a way to stay connected and in the game so to speak. You can see the different working styles between the two dogs and again, Rachel, we commend you choice to try practicing with a lead.

    Kristin & I both think Esprit is a hoot! You are going to such fun with him. He is a zippy firecracker! You can feel the energy from him.

    I love it when he picks up the box and again and delivers it to you, like HERE mom. That behavior becomes an outlet for energy- we talk about this more in a moment.

    At the 1:16 mark you do a Fabulous job of cuing him again away from distraction. That is the same box he alerted on initially when he was very excited about the environment upon entry.

    He may end up being one of those dogs that will take a minute to settle into a routine in new environments as well. We do think you are correct and agree with you about the routine with Esprit prior to engaging in a new environment.

    You can decide if you do it all the time or only in new or challenging locations. We suspect it will mostly be relevant to new environments and that Esprit will likely associate location with activity. Eventually that yard area you practice in will become “This is what we DO here?, just like a regular truffle spot would. But the priming can be a great tool for transferring to new places with more controlled focused energy.

    We have a couple of other thoughts:

    The outdoor environment is stimulating to Esprit, but it could also be the boxes in that environment which are also arousing him.

    He finds that first target right away, no problem, but doesn?t stay with it. You are absolutely correct in what you did though allowing him to move on. He knows he found it via the alert, he was just so stimulated he moved on to the next. What is great about that sequence afterwards is he does come back and re-alert on it later instead of mentally having cached it as a ?found that one already!”

    Even though the environment is different, we are somewhat inclined to say you should try to quickly fade the boxes. In addition to the distractions, we get the sense that Esprit is aroused BY the boxes…so the environment AND the boxes are amping him up. So, two thoughts:

    We suggest you try both of these and we can then see what may work best

    1- Try fading the boxes and continue rewarding with food.
    2- Try to use a toy reward (if that is exciting for Esprit…which we assume it is) when moving into a new environment and using boxes.

    What it boils down to is matching the energy/ excitment of the reward to the environmental impact on Esprit. If the environment is stimulating, he may need a reward that has more intensity. In a familiar environment, your genuine style of rewarding with food is a VERY nice match and therefore keeps you is sync.

    Just as the handlers ideally match the energy the dog brings to the search, the energy of the celebration/reward needs to match the stimulus of the environment.

    In that outdoor scenario, we feel like Esprit needed more of an outlet during his reward. At least in that video. Once the area becomes familiar that may cease to be the case as much. Some dogs when stimulated in searches or complex environments will ?shake off? the added stress as a release, but for some matching the energy with a reward that matches the pumped up level acts as a release. Not all dogs will shake off the added stress or excitement.

    The play reward acts as a stress release to focus afterwards. You don?t want to amp them up more but provide an outlet (Tug works well for this too, but it depends on the dog). Priming in a location will help with this as well. So can physically exercising a bit before beginning a search. This is common place when we go in the field to locations far away and dogs have been car crated for a while. We will allow the dogs a way to release some of the overwhelming excitement of a new location before we ask them for complicated behaviors. Some dogs you take a calming approach as opposed to play and allow them to become comfortable before asking for those behaviors. We think Esprit is likely going to be in the play for release of stress category.

    We would like it if you could try both 1 & 2 listed above. Maybe with no boxes might be too hard in that larger outdoor environment yet, but maybe not. If it is, the physical outlet may be a way to redirect energy. OR he may be just fine with surface targets in the grass, and the lack of visual ID will bring his buzzing energy down a bit.

    It will be interesting to see how he responds.

    Great job. It is really fun to watch you two.

    Alana McGee

    I had an agility trial on Sunday morning and had to get up very early. But it just made my day when I read “zippy firecracker”:) Yes so true, Esprit is a hoot, my darling zippy firecracker and is full of energy. I think he was so proud working. Was it my attitude, the video camera, the boxes or just Esprit who is always a happy kid, fully of energy and giving me his best performance.

    Yesterday I did as you recommended. On the first search I forgot to prime him so we want back into the house for a quick primer. I was also tugging with him. That certainly helps to get off some edge. Plus no visuals was certainly good. Esprit LOVES to target with his front paws and he used to pivot on nearly everything doable (even less advisable). Props make him go in overboard.

    in his first search by the children playground I had him on leash. He got distracted a wee bit. If he hears and/or sees something he hast to give it a glance. In obedience not what you want but in fairness I am not better either. As long as he returns to the job on hand I don’t have a problem. I don’t want to interrupt as this turns into punishment instead keep him upbeat and confident.

    In one instance I called him back as he drifted away too much of the search area. However in real life I wouldn’t have done it as there are no time restraints for videos but mainly he has the nose and finds truffles whereas I have no clue if there are any truffles or not.

    The second search just behind my house was easy for him and I had him off leash. Not distracted either as no people walking by, area more limited than the one before.

    Here is a video of his 2nd search

    Alana McGee

    Hi Rachel

    [quote] Props make him go in overboard. [/quote]

    I have one of those too, so I understand 🙂 That is also what we were suspecting was the case with Esprit to a degree.

    [quote] He sees something he hast to give it a glance. [/quote]

    That?s ok. Distractions happen, and are a part of life. You aren?t given awards in truffle hunting for extreme single minded obedience or work ethic. In the real world, distractions happen. It is in knowing how to move forward, productively, safely, and with intent that matters.

    A great example was actually in Lois & Monza?s video from this week (Week 1) that Kristin did a voice analysis on. Monza got distracted by music from neighbors. That?s Fine, it happens! What was awesome is she snapped right back around to work. Not all dogs do that as quickly or effectively, and not in all scenarios. It is in how you try to manage the situation for the highest possible success rate after a distraction (or in preparation for), and also in gradually building endurance and attention spans and value in your current task. Which you do!

    Just like in any other training scenario, truffle hunting or not, you have to build to that 🙂 And you are absolutely right, it shouldn?t be punishment, this should be fun! Always it should be fun! We can?t stress that enough!!!

    [quote] I wouldn’t have done it as there are no time restraints for videos but mainly he has the nose and finds truffles whereas I have no clue if there are any truffles or not. [/quote]

    That is right! Speed, honestly, is not an issue. He?s the one with the super sensory olfactory organ! It is ok if you think he is actually distracted by something, and pursuing it, to call him back and re-engage. If he does something like that, that is a break in your connection. It?s okay, it happens, just know that you need to then re-prime perhaps and get him to be re-enthused about your current activity. Again, it isn?t about punishment, it?s about making this fun, together. This is also why, again, you have that extra target on you! For just such scenarios.

    As for distracting things, it will take time to get used to all the odd and interesting things in truffle environments. You know this, but just like any other training, it is in practicing in those environments where you learn a lot, just don?t push too hard too fast- which we aren?t concerned about with you guys. The fact you are aware is good 🙂

    The video behind your house is great. You are spot on that it poses little actual challenge for him. The lack of boxes as stimuli is a big improvement, and the tugging is good 🙂 While still a happy zippy fellow (!) he is slightly less frenetic when searching– which is good.

    At the 0:59 I love seeing him do what we call the ?head check? which means he hit the scent column and reorients his body towards it.

    That video was great and fun to watch! It will be matter of keeping building value at this stage and increasing the distraction level for Esprit.

    The tug and the re-alerting are EXCELLENT on that last find. Put a huge grin on my face. You guys are fun to watch! nice work.

    Alana McGee

    I liked this a lot! It FELT more like you were connected 🙂

    At :50, was that a bit of a shake off? You will have to tell us, Rachel. Since we don’t know if he was physically shaking something off or it was an attempt on his part to “shake off” and re-focus…which he certainly did.

    If it was and if it happens again, offer verbal praise for it 🙂

    Alana McGee

    In hindsight I would think Esprit’s “shake off” was his way to re-focus again. I am pretty sure there was nothing on him and I don’t think he was stressed at all. That’s so typical for my lively boy 🙂

    He did the same 2 searches as Vidoc did. I was pretty confident that it will easier for Esprit than for Vidoc as Vidoc is the more methodical one and has more of a history searching fences, corners, and edges.

    In the first search, first part of video, I had to recall him ones as he might have gotten stuck searching the fence (bushes and not visible on video as in the back of the camcorder). Still windy conditions when Esprit did his search.

    In the second search Esprit was very eager to go down to the field so I had to recall him. The field is so full of reinforcement for my dogs as we do a lot of fun training and then just an hour or so before we did the first search down there.

    Alana McGee

    Rachel – your comments are on the way. Just coordinating our observations 🙂

    Alana McGee

    Great searches with Esprit Rachel. The only thing we really want to note in this video is you are going to want to keep an eye out for that ?head check? behavior (when he whips back around 1:25). That will likely be your first indication that Esprit is on Odor distinctly and that you should close distance quickly. He does it each time in this video.

    We LOVE that he was ?digging? in the second search.

    Again we think wind played a interested role here, much as it did Vidoc. Notice how Espirt has to get downwind of the target before he can do that all important ?head check? and zero in on location. This is at 0:17 to 0:23. we like not only his retrieve but his ?spit it? at you, followed by a bow/ down. Great job on the reward.

    We think you are spot on in your assessment that Esprit has a different style than Vidoc and likely will not be quite as methodical (as in terms of a grid pattern) in checking. Not bad, just different!

    His pinpointing precision skills are so quick! When you see him do this, be aware he is soon to find the target odor.

    Looks GREAT though! Just keep an eye out for that head check.

    It’s also ok, if he checks out his surroundings a bit. Give him a chance to loosen up before putting him in the game is totally ok!

    Alana McGee

    Oh thanks so much for the great feedback!

    Will definetly have to pay close attention to Esprit’s “head check”. He is such a quick boy – to put in your work and my favorite name for him now – he is a [b]zippy firecracker[/b].

    He makes me smile when he finds the target, puts it in his mouth and spits it at me showing off a nice bow. He is such a character 🙂

    Before each search we played a bit of tug and I also primed him. He is such a happy camper when he can work and tends to get very excited to playing a bit with him is a good start.

    I also asked in Vidoc’s thread how to approach the other search, the one with an assistant. What area and how many hides. Due to rain tomorrow (Monday) I might have to wait till Tuesday.

    Alana McGee

    [quote] Before each search we played a bit of tug and I also primed him. [/quote]
    Awesome- and perfect.

    Yeah, we have no real concerns about what you are doing, everything really looks good, he is just a very different style than Vidoc and it is fun to watch them both. He [b]is[/b] a zippy firecracker. He’s SUPER fun to watch. You can just feel the energy coming off him.

    As for the Blind hides etc- I just touched on that in Vidoc’s thread. Something to note though: While it is easier, and totally ok to do both dog’s hides in the same area (it is reality, trust me, we know this), do make sure that they both feel the same away about the environment, relatively. For example, if Vidoc seems to be able to do the soccer field, let him. It might be too much for Esprit yet with the openness and distraction, or vise versa, Vidoc may just run perimeter on the field.

    Don’t push too fast (and we heartily commend you for not doing so, as with these two boys we know how easy it would be to throw them hard scenarios and get decent success. In the long run this is going to pay off in leaps an bounds. It already has. They are rock stars.)

    The other thing: right now are you working one dog before the other more often then not? Also, we would be curious with Esprit, although we don’t think it is going to be an issue at all, to provide more physical obstacles for him that encourage him to interact with his environment. For example, if you see a low branch that would hit Esprits head carriage, place a target near that. [b]We want to be careful here though[/b]. Esprit is so fast with his movements we don’t want him to injure himself pushing past obstacles, but I guess we are looking for information on if you think that might later his alert sequence. We don’t necessarily recommend you do this, just curious on your thoughts on the matter. We doubt it would alter his alert significantly, but it is valuable information either way.

    We wouldn’t think he would have an issue at all based on behavior we have seen, more likely he’d be overzealous and prone to injury in this regard but we don’t know unless we ask.

    Another thing is if you have enough targets-you could have your helper place quite a few more- like 7 to 9, [b]but[/b] stop each dog after a certain amount of finds. Say Esprit goes out and finds three really well, and then you stop him, and then Vidoc goes out and finds 4 and you stop him. Then you can go retrieve the rest later.

    Yes, contamination of space by previous found targets and other dogs, but we think these guys can handle that. You need to just be very aware in the scenario of what hides where found and where so you can correctly interpret the second dogs behavior when on odor and act/ respond accordingly. It is a very real world working scenario. We would suggest if you do this, you’d run Esprit first. And we would suggest you don’t do it in the large soccer field. That is too much space. If you do this scenario, do it is a smaller space. You don’t need to do this, but it depends on the logistics of your helper. Ideally you’d set up each scenario for each dog, but we understand reality, and this is another alternative.

    Alana McGee

    Been sick since the weekend, helper not available today but is looking forward to help on another day and then soccer field unavailable this afternoon as kids were playing. But I will practice in that field some more so they both become more comfortable that hides can be in the middle of a field!

    I then opted for the patch of grass behind my house where I hardly train. I believe only once and that was for the first video last week. There are 3 hides in small round tins hidden under leaves. The second hide that Esprit found was covered by a twig. Vidoc was first to get his search so the area was a contaminated as I didn’t mark and remember each of the 3 spots and just put the tins down somewhere. Also they were only cooking for less than 5 minutes – just exchanging dogs but playing with Esprit before he got his turn.

    My sweet clown had to scan the area and I then just called his name to bring his attention back. Not on video but a neighbor was gardening and it some odd sound to it (I was distracted during Vidoc’s search). But Esprit wasn’t looking towards that direction. Probably curious if luck was on his side and would present him with a bolting deer 🙂 But we practice SAR in the woods and he never scans for wildlife when he works.

    He is so darn cute when I finds the hide, happily retrieves it to me and spits it out right by my feet. As you know he is very quick.

    Alana McGee

    Hi Rachel.

    It looks awesome overall- just letting you know. And yes, Esprit is cute. He makes me giggle.

    Kristin and I do have more comments we think deserve more time & analysis/ review (nothing bad/troublesome- don’t worry), we are just collaborating on a couple aspects so we can give you the best recommendation and advice about a few things we noticed in this scenario and with You & Esprit in general that we think will strengthen you as team. Again, don’t worry! It’s great, and you guys look really good, but we might not get it entirely finished tonight.

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