Rachel & Esprit FE520

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    Alana McGee

    Hi Rachel. Sorry for the delay.
    We do hope you are feeling better!

    Scanning the area is just fine, and actually we would encourage you to allow Esprit a moment to do that. Playing with him before hand, it also seems to make quite a bit of difference. We are not concerned really about contamination from either of the dogs with your guys, but it is good to know. Both of your dogs work in complex environments in other realms, and Esprit?s (& your) background in SAR will only help!

    The difference between Esprit and Vidoc is clear, and distinct, but subtle. This is the part of truffle hunting that is most difficult, is matching your partners intention. You do a wonderful job with both dogs, you really genuinely do, and it is very clear you have an extremely strong bond with both.

    Your connection to Vidoc is slightly more relaxed and fluid. And that is perfect, for Vidoc. For Esprit, and this is subtle change in a behavior on your part, we would like to see you a little more on your toes and vibrating with energy. (We know you were sick- but bear with us a sec) This is tough to translate into words, but it is a subtle difference. We want you to almost anticipate his alerts and be right on the ball. For Vidoc we don?t suggest this actually. Calm approach and what you are doing now is perfect for him, but for Esprit, again, it is subtle, but we want you to match his vibrating energy a little more.

    At about 0:11 even just a little bit more pick up and high tone in your voice. Elevate your Energy it a little. Just a touch.

    We are not picking on you when we say this ( 🙂 ), it is actually an extreme compliment and testament to your training and connection with your dogs; we are just trying to be very specific with you because you are already operating at such a high level we are trying to pull out the very best performance we know you two are capable of. Don?t take it the wrong way. You guys are doing AWESOME. STELLAR. FANTASTIC. And we mean that, honestly and wholeheartedly. That is why we feel like we can mention some of these very slight details to try to help you hone in on factors that will help later when you are hunting for long period of time!

    Esprit does a wonderful job. Nothing but kudos for you guys, especially in terms of mechanics and searching skills, and alerts. It looks superb.

    Esprit is going to be one of those rare dogs capable of rapid fire hunting with 2 or 3 people (or more) in his wake, and just be unstoppable (* in a good way). (Vidoc is fantastic too and also capable of this, but it will be a different style)

    Hides 1 and 2 were good, great even, but again, a little bit more energy on your part. Hide 2 we can see more of that anticipation and call to action on your part- and that is exactly what we want. Notice your hands and body posture (0:52) right as you see him getting on odor and close to the target. Granted they are not blind hides, but you were quick to get there and connect. That was nice.

    Hide 3 felt like you were much more timely and ready to jump into the dig and a moment’s notice from Esprit. That felt more matched to us.

    Again, the specificity we talk about is because you guys are operating at such a suburb level as is. Does this make sense?

    With Esprit we just want you to be super on your toes, almost tense with energy waiting to explode- like he is! A firecracker.

    Great job on your rewarding, and you have perfect timing on calling him back to attention at 0:40. We really like that you don?t automatically just cue him to work, you give him a minute. You read him really really well.

    As always it is great to watch, and I know it can be hard to internalize these very subtle changes in behavior on your part, because they are so very subtle but with Esprit, just remember to be on your toes with anticipation- and pick your voice up a touch in pitch. (We know we are being nitpicky- and you guys are great as is, but that itty bitty bit of pick up with Esprit will make a big difference in the long run when you are out hunting for an hour in the woods, so it?s good to try to practice now)

    You guys look fantastic though and we can’t wait to watch buried hides as well as larger area searches a bit later.

    Fantastic job though. And again, I do like this training space for you guys!

    Alana McGee

    A couple of frustrating training days behind us practicing with buried metal tea bags. In hindsight I think I buried them a bit too deep and closed the hole with heavy, solid earth.Both Esprit and Vidoc found the first hide but it took forever for the 2nd one so I called them off. In yesterdays 2nd session it got too dark, both boys didn?t find their hides (it was their 2nd session) so I just had Byuti (my third Malinois) finishing up. Boy did she nail those hides, took me by surprise. Talk about a zippy firecracker LOL and boosting my confidence about my dogs? level of experience.

    Failures are learning opportunities so today I was confident that Esprit could find all hides.
    As you might tell we had a beautiful fall day. That makes for a lot ?traffic in the background? and needless to say he noticed it and had to stare at it. But then he is so good at his job when he snaps back in working mode.
    I read Esprit?s last feedback before our 2nd session so you can hopefully see I tried to move in a lot faster with more enthusiasm. Will certainly make an effort doing so as it makes totally sense. Hopefully it helps with his scanning for distractions a bit too!

    2 sessions with each 2 buried hides:

    Alana McGee

    [quote] Failures are learning opportunities so today I was confident that Esprit could find all hides.[/quote]

    🙂 We talked about this a bit for other students on your thread for Vidoc. But good way to handle it!

    Beging distracted happens, whats superb is how he re-engages.

    Re:Esprit and the being quick in. Glad it makes sense. It is one of those very subtle things, (some call nit picky- we call enhancing performance!). He?s just slightly different than Vidoc so ideally you?d be a little different! We are being like Olympic gymnast coaches here (if I can draw a parallel. it?s the tiniest of variations that make that edge above and beyond 🙂 ) You?re doing AWESOME we just want you to be even better!

    I can already tell off the start line you are moving more. Good. 0:22. AWESOME. you know he?s right there (He?s not concerned about you approaching- and that?s why we can say these things about you anticipating the find etc.) This looked excellent. Also good I heard your voice higher pitch a bit even though you hadn?t read the comments yet 🙂

    ***Other students- please do not move in as quick like this unless your dog is either okay with pressure or so focused on source they almost ignore you. Some dogs (Not Esprit) are much more sensitive to handler pressure rushing in, and will back away from a find. Just be aware if your dog does this, don?t come in fast.

    Esprit actually does an awesome job with the distractions. It?s ok. It?s about how he reneges, but this was good for him I think! You have great communications and instincts on how to get him back into it, no doubt from much of your previous work. We aren?t worried about it in this scenario. This actually makes this an even better place to practice for Esprit because OF those distractions and having him work through it.

    We can see him go in and out a bit being drawn off, but that is ok! For him, this is good to work in these environments and get more used to it.

    Likely where you will be hunting will not have this level/ kind of distraction- it will be more odor/ small game, but you never know! (I did notice both Vidoc & Esprit) track up that hill a bit out of frame-not a bad thing- just noticing. Unlikely truffle odor.)

    Again, you do a great job on the next find with your composure and timing while he is hunting. It really is exemplary.

    EXCELLENT presentation of play at the end. That was really good.

    2nd Environment
    2:26 I LOVED this. Not only his exuberance bounding back over the log barrier and then ?OH!? (*finds scent column) but your response to it. I don?t know how often we can say phenomenal, but this was it. You do FANTASTIC with your approach here. It is a notable difference. And awesome. It?s really really good. He?s more animated about it. We like that.

    3:22 his reengagement is great.

    You?re much more enthusiastic with this round. This is excellent. It is noticeable in behavior, however subtle and makes it more engaging for him. In the long run in the forest, it will make a difference against distraction as well.

    Again, nice presentation of toy.

    Well done. Looks excellent.

    If you can- start doing additional targets.

    The other thing (and this is advanced) but what we are curious to see what happens is if you have two targets in close proximity. Not right on top of one another, and we don?t want to make it too confusing since you just started burying- but if you get to three or more targets confidently (remember they don?t have to find every one!) Try putting two targets within say a meter of each other and then slowly decrease the distance to about a foot. Don?t put all three there. (in fact this works better if you have 4+ targets out in general so you aren?t urging/forcing an alert on the two targets that are nearby one another.)

    IF you do this- do not go any deeper than a inch, and do it in the areas you just showed in these videos, and remember they don?t have to find all of them. We just think they likely could do this just fine- but it is more complex, so just be on your toes.

    Alana McGee

    I don’t mind at all your suggestions and great feedback. I like the nit-picky parts! I am here to learn and you are so nice and generous in pointing out what we did well too! So I am always looking forward to what you have to say and take your recommendations!!!

    I think the boys “track up” in one of the fields behind my house is because we walk there up nearly every day for our walk in the woods. But tooday I just started them from a point so it was clear to them not to walk up.

    Esprit was great how he handled distractions in our session this afternoon. A beautiful fall Sunday afternoon, people going for walks and the neighbors were out. So it started with the “neighbor from hell” whom you hear talking to the camcorder. He used to send me letters through his lawyer about imaginary dog howling during times I was home. But this Friday he came to me and thanked me how quiet the dogs are now. Needless to say I was irritated on Friday (he managed to disturb a search with Byuti in the dark) and today again when he clearly saw me working and the camcorder was one. Let’s hope we keep up the freedom LOL but one always has at least one weird neighbor, right?

    But back to Esprit and all the distractions thrown at him in this session. I tried to handle the distraction with the neighbor as I would in a real life scenario. I.e. trying to acknowledge the person so they know I am busy working my dog. Then later a neighbor’s kid biked behind our back up the field (not very well visible on video). And plenty of people walking by (not very visible again). I really think he did a great job.

    As suggested I did more hides and buried 5 targets. 2 were about 1 meter apart and another 2 were only 1 foot apart. Maybe the holes could be deeper as it seemed so easy 🙂

    Vidoc did the same search. It took him a bit longer because a) he is methodical about his searches and b) he kicked the targets away with his digging and I made him search them again.

    Alana McGee


    Instead of going deeper, stick with this and work on getting used to how it “feels” to work like this. We would like to see if you can replicate the team dynamic in this training session because it is very much a representation of how you and Esprit will operate in the field. This shows some beautiful team work, connection and trust. You move through this session moment to moment and don’t take anything for granted. That is such a valuable experience. We train for distractions and while training for the ones we “planned” is great, actually being operational when something unexpected happens is something that we learn in the moment. You did GREAT!

    YOU made this look easy for Esprit. He is wonderful and doing his job perfectly. YOU are the piece that kept the session on target. Nicely done!

    Alana McGee

    Thanks for the great feedback!

    I am not digging deeper holes! For the boys the added difficulty is mainly the kind of soil that I am using to cover up the holes. So I will play with that challenge, trying more packed soil and let it cook more.

    “Poor” Esprit… I made him work extra yesterday. After Vidoc’s session he got to do the same one. While the holes might be less covered the area is more contaminated. But the trouble was I collected all 5 targets, put them in my pants, and was dead-set convinced we only did 4 targets so far. Duh!!! Esprit was brilliant and helped me look for that “missing last target”. At some point I realized this is taking too long, Byuti can “clean up” and I did the “rescue target” to end the session with a successful find for Esprit. And then I discovered he got them all. But I guess this is a bit more real-world scenario where I am like “just one more”. I was very very happy how eagerly he helped me finding it. And I was trying too, inspecting the holes he already worked on.

    Alana McGee

    Happens to all of us at some point! You handled it well. That is exactly what you will do in the field when you and Esprit decide “there are no more truffles here”.

    “just one more” syndrome…we have both experienced it!

    Alana McGee

    Oh my I had such a busy week to the point I canceled the herding workshop (but opted for agility trials nearby). It probably shows that I am chronically tired for weeks now in Esprit’s session today. I made some changes and hope to get back on track soon!

    Same for Esprit: we did 3 sessions in new places for week 4 so far. I don’t think a new environment is a challenge for my dogs as they are used to train in new habitats and do a great job with generalizing. But I think the added difficulty of burying targets is still a challenge. Maybe the frozen truffles (bought a new one a bit before this session 2 started and stored it in pieces frozen) are not that distinct in smell anymore?

    Thursday afternoon I lost one tea egg out of a total of 5 targets.Both boys were unable to find all 5 targets. The targets were buried for about 5 minutes.

    Friday afternoon I had no car, buried 5 targets in the woods a bit behind my car. I let it cook for over one hour (picked up the car during that time). Again both both were unable to find all 5 targets. I think all the heavy and wet leaves added to the difficulty plus the earth was wet and packed too. Lost one small round tin.

    And today, Sunday afternoon, our 3rd session with buried targets in a new environment. I used 2 small round tins and 5 plastic valves. Esprit didn’t have to deal with the grumpy old man but right in front of him was a pond. Near water is a huge distraction for Esprit or it’s rather where self-control goes down the cellar ;-). I tried to get into the water a couple times before we were ready to start. Then I got him searching and after he hunted that first target I spelled a handful of treats while giving him his rewards. Needless to say he found them all (I edited out that part).

    Like Vidoc Esprit did a total of 3 searches in that same spot in the hope to find the 2nd small round tin. He did great job in his second session and found about 3 of the valves non of the dogs were able to locate before.

    Esprit had the added difficulty of searching after Vidoc finishes his part. So there was some contamination and I did a darn good job hiding the 2nd round tin we never found. Chances are I was standing on it for some time… but who knows.

    Same question how to continue as I don’t think new environments are an issue.The digging part – what kind of soil, how deep (I don’t even put 1″ on top of it) and how many targets to bury. I also don’t know what kind of a target to use. I only have one small round tin left and 1 tea egg. I can get tea eggs but they are a bit bulky I think. I have a nice variety of valves left though. And I need to mark it a thread as I can’t remember where I buried those targets.

    I should do 2 different hides for each dog, right? But then in real life I would take both along.

    Alana McGee

    Let’s take the same step with Esprit as we suggested with Vidoc.

    – work on buried hides in familiar/ easy locations. Keep the search area small and really encourage them when they are working the scent column. It isn’t uncommon for difficulty to change dramatically once that target goes underground. Familiar location for working on buried. Add a transitional step for buried hides to help them out. Place the target on the surface and sprinkle a little dirt over the top. Then a little more dirt, and so on. This will help them start to sort out how the scent travels through soil.
    – continue to work on new locations, but with surface or obscured hides.
    – mark anything you aren’t 100% certain you can find if the dogs don’t.

    Additionally, go ahead and start putting out 2 more targets than you hope to find. So, if you plan to do 3 hides, hide 5 and leave after the 3rd. You will need to go collect the remaining 2. For Esprit, you may consider putting out 3-4 surface hides and 1-2 lightly covered. Just observe which targets are found. All of them count as a successful find so consider it an opportunity to set him up for success while providing the opportunity to complete a more complex hide.

    In the new locations, try to set Vidoc and Esprit up in different areas. Yes, in real life you will have them search the same area, but let’s give them clean search spaces for now. Searching areas that have had a dog in them previously is hard, but searching areas where truffle soil has been turned up is even harder.

    Alana McGee

    Thank you Kristine! I am very happy with Esprit (and Vidoc too) how he works so hard and knows what I am would like him to do. I have to give him more practice with buried targets though.

    Yes the last truffle was a vale Esprit kicked away and dislodged it so he went through the whole search again to locate it. Because of the color of the vale, the leaves and grassy area Esprit used his nose to find it again and I couldn?t see it either.

    Esprit actually located 3 more vales later when I took all dogs out again. I agree he (and me too) needs more confidence with the buried truffles but knows what it?s all about.

    When you say ?keep the search area small? how can I do that? I can?t use the grassy area behind my house every day due to contamination. Then the soccer field is often not available because kids are playing soccer.

    Alana McGee

    Esprit doesn’t wander to far from you so you might be able to keep the area small by remaining kneeling on the ground.

    Of course you can use a long line too.

    What about a patch of grass/ dirt/ bark bordered by pavement (often seen here in parking lots or near sidewalks. Similar to that bark hill in the demo video. Do you have access to areas like that?

    Alana McGee

    Esprit’s task this afternoon was to search for 4 vials buried in the grassy area behind my house. I marked all spots with a pink ribbon. Esprit had to relocate his truffle after he dug it out as it got lost in his enthusiasm. This was adding some time. I did a better job with Esprit using verbal encouragement. He was very focused on his job and didn’t even glance at the environment for distractions.

    The vials were cooking for about half an hour and I had the top opened risking to loose truffles. All vials were buried and covered with earth (maybe 1 to 2 cm on top). I varied the soil – loose and more packed – but I aimed for success and not difficulty.

    Alana McGee

    Hi Rachel.

    Great job.

    Esprit is incredibly focused, and as Kristin pointed out in the Video analysis from your previous video regarding the dislodged truffle- this is actually very advanced, and you should be very proud of how he handled that. Repeating a search on a micro scale when that happens can be difficult as well because soil that carried odor is now more dispersed as well and so he is having to pinpoint with lots of other truffle odor contamination around!

    Love watching the two of you work.

    At 0:31 you do a nice job of verbally gently encouraging him to come back to the smaller area where you had intentionally buried the truffles, and he is responsive to that. Very nice.

    Kristin also mentioned something in the last video analysis I wanted to point out to you and other students which is manifested here really nicely at 0:37 to 0:43 and that is Esprit?s scratch alert, and then digging. It first is a scratch ?alert’ to indicate location and then it shifts into a ?expose? location behavior.

    There are many styles of digging (expose location behavior), and what Esprit is doing here naturally (in this example) is not so much of the rototilling we see from some dogs as a play behavior as well, but it is relatively precise and downwards– away from the body. Performed with his nails and the very front upper part of the toes pads. The truffle may still dislodge in this scenario and be cast out of the actual hole, but what is more common to see is dogs do is this large scooping kind of digging using the nails and toe pads in a motion starting in front of the body and then scooping backwards.

    When Esprit is doing what we will call tiptoe digging- as described above, with the body force directed forwards, the truffles that pop out and are dislodged for Esprit are more likely to be off at a 45 degree angle or parallel (and closer in proximity) to the initial find, whereas with the other form of scooping digging, the targets are more often dislodged and thrown behind the dog at a much more severe angle, and possibly further from the point of the expose location behavior.

    There is another form of digging which is like a less exaggerated form of the scooping dig with quick, shallower movements and that is what you are seeing Esprit doing in the hide at 4:18. In that scenario the truffle if it pops out would go behind him but at an even more severe angle (aka really close to the body) and still be not too far from the initial hole.

    We mention this because if you are attempting to help him relocate the dislodged truffle, understanding your dog?s style in digging can help you help your dog on where to focus the search. If you have a dog that scoops, for example, like my dog Duff, you know better where to aid in helping your dog re-locate and build confidence in those scenarios. I know when Duff does that kind of digging and the truffle is dislodged, I need to take several large steps backwards because the truffle is usually thrown quite a distance. We have had truffles dislodged and thrown 2 to 5 feet away.

    Just another tool in your tool box.

    I?ll make a note to create a diagram about this when we cover training drills for this exact scenario later in FE530.

    Around the 2:20 mark you do a FABULOUS job of verbal encouragement and engagement. Again to reiterate in text what Kristin said previously, how the dogs interact with odor once the truffle goes unground changes because odor is moving differently and you do a nice job of really trusting Esprit here. Really well done.

    This was a great video Rachel and you have a really nice connection with him and a great amount of trust- referring to the scratching and you not rushing in at that hide in the middle at the top of the edge line where the grass meets the trees. You read him really well. He is one very dedicated and intent pup!

    Very nicely done. He is very dedicated.

    Alana McGee

    I got my new truffle today and boy what a difference it made! This truffle is from my herding instructor?s yesterday’s hunt.

    We were practicing in new environments this Friday and Saturday using vials and an about 5-week-old truffle that I thawed and re-froze for quite some time. Our Friday hunt – in a bit high and very wet grass – was pretty decent; I marked each vial with a pink ribbon so I felt confident. But after I got home I forgot to put the truffles back into the freezer and let them sit around for quite some time. So when I when I used them again in another new environment yesterday both Esprit and Vidoc found 2 out of 3 vials. I couldn’t smell truffle scent either.

    In hindsight I even think my new truffle smells a lot more of truffle than the 2 previous ones I bought at the local market. Anyhow I now have a great truffle source!

    Is it okay to store the truffles wrapped in paper towel in a glass jar in the fridge for about 2 weeks? I don?t mind getting rid of the truffle then and buy a new one (my agility and herding lesson are more expensive than one truffle).

    Below is a picture I took this afternoon. My herding instructor, the lady who sold me the truffle, told me to cut it into pieces and wrap it with paper towel. Because it’s easier and even cheaper for me to buy new truffles vs. getting new small containers I gave it try. With Esprit I have to be quick he seems to like eating them (Esprit LOVES to eat).

    I know we shouldn’t go into the forest. But it was another beautiful Sunday afternoon, tons of people out and walking, just got yelled at by an angry woman (I still don’t know why as I was on a path) yesterday so I just opted for something behind my house that is quiet and provides me with the necessary peace to search 🙂

    All three truffles were buried and again marked with a pink ribbon. However Esprit traced Vidoc’s empty holes so I don’t think he used his eyes to search (rather to scan for deer).

    Alana McGee

    Wrapped in papper towels is fine- and we suggest you remove form paper towel and change paper towel every couple of days. If you want to prolong shelf life, dip them in vodka every few days. It sterilizes the outside. Burgundy truffles LOVE to attract this white mold that grows on the outside. Harmless, but you wouldn?t rather have it not all over your truffles. It is normal, and ok. Don?t worry-it?s just something burgundy truffles do.

    Again, Good job. Not a lot to say. Nicely done. You did a good job keeping the targets not too far in the brush but on the trail, slowly increasing that difficulty. We noticed they are on the opposite side from Vidoc?s, and he does then go to Vidoc?s holes on the way out.

    One thing we might recommend, for Esprit?s sake more than Vidoc, is you give Esprit a clean search area to work in- and try to perhaps work the dogs in different areas. So slightly farther apart.

    Well done though.

    Also- no toy when ending? We know it?s a pain to carry supplies into the woods- but we think it is a good way to keep Esprit engaged all the way out, and also acts as a ?all done!?

    You do do a good job of staying engaged on the way out with him- but it?s another thing you can use if you want.

    Overall great! How deep were these?

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