Rachel & Vidoc FE520

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    Alana McGee
    Alana McGee

    Hi this is Rachel and Vidoc from Switzerland. Vidoc is my nearly 10 year young Malinois. Vidoc was my gold student during the first truffle hunting class. We had lots of fun and learned a lot.

    Looking forward to class!

    Alana McGee

    Welcome back Rachel & Vidoc!!!

    Alana McGee

    I was a bit unsure what to video so just went ahead and did 2 searches. I apologize for posting 2 videos but I hope to get some feedback on what to focus with Vidoc this week.

    [b]1st search: outdoor hides with visible game boxes (off leash)[/b]
    For Vidoc the environment didn’t provide any distractions. There is path behind the trees and frankly I can’t remember if someone walked or biked by as it doesn’t bother Vidoc at all. You can’t tell but the small white container in the front, he gives it a sniff towards the end after he found the first 2 targets, was an empty cottage cheese container that contained a smelly wet cat food sachet.

    [b]2nd search: outdoor hides, no visual aids (off leash)[/b]
    We have trained here a lot and also K9 nosework. I think that’s why Vidoc methodically searches the fence and above ground. We haven’t done a lot of hides in the grass and I believe only a couple times I had 2 vails pushed into the grass.

    Alana McGee

    HI Rachel!

    EXCELLENT Rachel. You are correct, this really doesn?t pose much problem for Vidoc at all. Really nice reward sequences.

    In this setting (Video 1), you guys are doing a great job.

    I would work on a few things this week, and this starts bleeding into some of the things we talk about in Week 2.

    It likely will not pose much challenge for Vidoc, but it is all positive reward histories, which is what we want:

    With the boxes, enlarge your area even further and build confidence in Vidoc having successful searches in larger areas. The multiple hides are great, but begin to increase the the search area as well.

    Also try taking away the boxes and just have the tins out. Begin to obscure them with grass/ leaf litter. Start in a slightly smaller area, or the size you are working in the first video, and then you can see how that goes and progress to larger area.

    Because you do practice in that area (Video 2) for NW a lot, Vidoc searching the fence line is totally normal, it is associated with the environment.

    The lack of visual id is great in this one and at the at 1:03 Great! Love that he is actively digging a bit to get at it! I also love when you cue again to he goes back to the same site and checks it thoroughly, but does not alert. That?s great. I love that we can HEAR him searching 🙂

    This video is actually great because it shows us how he works where there is about a minute where he is actively sreaching but not getting on a scent column. Very informative of his work ethic and stress thresholds for searching. At 2:40 when he finds it, that is a perfect place to stop, and you did a great job. This is also how you build endurance, and some of that comes with working in larger areas and more complicated hides, like the ones in the grass where they are obscured.

    I would focus on beginning to work in the area pictured in Video 1 for the majority of the time. You can continue to do hides, just like you did in Video 2, but we want you to start enlarging your search area and building confidence. That and beginning to work in Video 1 area with limited visual ID. We don?t want them buried yet, but start obscuring them more.

    Alana McGee

    Thank you Alana! it’s just pure bliss working with Vidoc and now with Esprit being another gold student; i.e. working him more diligently, Vidoc shows me his excellent work ethic.

    BTW we haven’t done any K9 nosework games since we started truffle hunting and won’t do it till end of the third class.

    Alana McGee

    I did 2 more outdoor searches yesterday. One was a bit more difficult by the children’s playground. Vidoc was off leash and not distracted. In one instance he checked out the opposite side of the playground where there was a bench. Since he just made sure there is no truffle and it didn’t take him long I let him do it. But is it okay to call them off? Generally I don’t like doing it as in real life it could be a truffle area and I trust my dog’s nose.

    Here is the 2nd search about 1 hour or later behind my house. I used 1 tin and 2 vales. Interesting that he alerted the first vale (2nd hide in video); then dropped it and moved on. My thought was that he caught sense. Since he did a nice job continuing searching I just made sure after he found the third and last hide that he properly alerts on the second one.

    Alana McGee

    Hi Rachel

    As for the bench- your instincts are spot on in that ideally we don?t like to call them off odor. Calling off distraction is ok, but it can be tough sometimes to tell the difference. Lots of dogs need to check out their environment but in this situation that was fine.

    The first hide is great. No complaints, nice rewarding, your energy level matches his.

    As for the dropping the vial and moving on, this is precisely why we so highly value staying at odor. Don?t worry about it too much though.

    What you did is perfect in a training scenario, by allowing him to continue scenting, as it did appear he was on something else, and encouraging him back to the space to re-alert later.

    If this were to happen in a real world scenario with real truffles, if you can bring him back to the general area so he can re-find, great. If not, don?t bother, just mentally make a note to work on some of these staying at source drills. One truffle is not worth frustrating you or Vidoc. There will be more. Ideally we try to keep dogs at source, but things happen, dogs get excited, or distracted or on to another odor. We like that excitement and encourage it. Just mentally note that this may happen in the field and keep working on rewarding at source for a long time and building value & excitement there.

    Instead of staying crouched down at the source were he dropped it, stand back up and treat it as he is off finding another odor. Be ready when he does (which you were).

    At the 2:16 that was good, but something else you could do is very similar to what happens with a dropped truffle. Get down there with him and pat the ground, pretend like you are actively looking for the ‘lost? truffle as well! You?d be surprised how often not just ?cuing or asking? but actually actively working together and looking yourself will reengage the dog into a re-alert in a situation like this where either there is a lack of confidence in criteria, or the dog considers the find to have already happened, and criteria met.

    This didn’t happen, but I say it for the benefit of other students:

    If you can’t get him to re-engage the source he left (be that truffle, vial, whatever) this is when that handy extra target you always have on you comes into play. We want to manufacture a success in that scenario, so we can bring the connection back and re-establish a game. Make it obvious, make it easy, make it fun. There is a possibility after that he may be able to help you locate the missing ?truffle?. But if not, don?t dwell on that. Just leave the area. It is better to leave and move on. After a scenario like that you may need to take a break and play, relax, etc. The point is to reestablish connection and intention.

    This can be a stress signal though, so if it happens repeatedly (in the field as well- and it may, I speak from personal experience) end the session and re evaluate what in the scenario may have been proving difficult/ distracting.

    Also in the real world, it is rarer truffles will be so easy to get at, so his pick up retrieve to you will be a longer sequence- and he?ll be more engaged with real truffles as they will be under duff, grass or pine needles. They can occasionally be on the surface, but truffles you will be finding tend to only be an inch or two underground most times.

    Good job over all though and you are read for the next lesson, which is basically what you are doing now. I would say pick up your energy level a little bit in rewards. Not over the top, as you are pretty well matched, but I have seen Vidoc more excited and animated than that about hunting.

    Alana McGee

    Thank you Alana!

    Did I get that correctly, to carry an extra target always with me?
    Because I must have missed that as I never did. But if this is the case I certainly will do it.

    I was tired after a full weekend of trialing and I guess it showed in my manner rewarding my dogs!

    Alana McGee

    You’re great Rachel, no worries.

    Yes, always have an extra target on you. There are times when it is advantageous to manufacture a success, or to move a dog safely out of an area. If you have a target on you, you can do that much more easily in complicated scenarios.

    Alana McGee

    Motion is another way to increase the energy level for both of you. If you find that certain environments or scenarios are more difficult to maintain excitement about the work, simply adding some motion can make a world of difference. That motion can come from you or even the truffle target 🙂

    It’s also OK for one of you to not be “feeling it”. Truffle hunting is an activity of partnership and if one of you isn’t feeling up to it, it is often best not to force it. This is actually a very nice lesson for all of us FROM Vidoc! Given your description of how you were feeling, responses from Vidoc and Esprit may have been very very different. Vidoc reads you like a book and reflects your energy right back. That is a wonderful source of feedback for you! If he seems low key, check in on yourself 🙂 Esprit, on the other hand, might just keep on hunting without you and respond to the disconnect by “pinging” around. All speculation, but things for you to observe in these situations. It’s all information that helps us become reliable truffle dog teams. Each team is different so these are very valuable learning moments when the same handler can observe two different dogs 🙂

    Alana McGee

    The first hide, placed somewhat in the middle of the small soccer field, was a difficult search. So far the hides were always placed on the edges of an area and/or there was some visual aid such as a post, bench, etc.

    The first part of the video shows the last part of Vidoc?s hunt. Initially he spent some time searching along the edges of the field thus also using up some stamina. I recalled him a couple times and moved away from the camcorder towards the middle of the field. I tried to help him to check out the middle of the grass by moving vs. standing idle by the camcorder. Should have walked with him right from the start as I would most likely do it in a forest. Furthermore it was very windy so I am happy how he solved it.

    The second search was easier as the area was narrower. But again had to recall him once and the video shows the last part of his search.

    Alana McGee

    Hi Rachel

    A few questions:

    Have you and Vidoc worked in this soccer field before (for specifically truffle retailed activities)?Do you know which way the wind was coming from?

    We ask because there are a couple things to mention depending on your answer to those questions which would be relevant and offer explanation.

    We can see Vidoc doing the perimeter check, which is completely ok. He created an area for himself, and that may develop into a search pattern/style for him— he creates an area, does a perimeter sweep and then does your typical coursing. It looks like he created a perimeter from the difference in ground height with the bank. That is ok. Depending on wind direction, it also could likely be that he was headed over there so that he could start from a place of working ?into? the wind (This is I think more likely)

    If you start Vidoc upwind of the odor it is very hard (which it looks like may be the case). This may also be a case of Vidoc just being smarter than us all, and knowing he needs to go to a barrier where odor will collect from a downwind position and then follow it to source.

    You can see at just about 0:21 right at the end of the screen he does what we call a ?negative?. As in he reads the area as having a negative odor in that direction and so reorients himself to the area in which you are focusing, generally speaking.

    It honesty looks like during that sequence when he is running along the bank that he hits a weak/ uneven scent column (0:29 to 0:31). That?s why he pops off the bank and follows it out but loses it, so continues to search looking.

    Calling him back over is just fine. It?s a team, and you know where it is right now, so it is ok to help him for success!

    0:57 is BRILLIANT! SMART smart Vidoc. the party at 1:07 is magnificent! we love how you both light up when he finds the truffle!!! Very very good work! That was a very good search in a decently large area.

    The second search is great! He is funny. He?s very thorough and we actually like that he checks the perimeter and post at elevation.

    When he does hit the odor column it is obvious and clear. Which will be helpful for you!

    The second reward was a little more subdued. We were curious why the party was much less enthusiastic?

    We think Vidoc Brilliant! And you too of course.

    Motion works well for you as a team. You, Rachel, do a fabulous job of identifying when you should or should not add it to a scene, when Vidoc asks for support, and when you are trying to get him to re-engage in an area! It?s a really nice connection and you read his subtle language VERY well. This will come in handy in the field because Vidoc will probably continue searching until he finds a truffle…in the field, you will need to recognize “if Vidoc hasn’t found one yet (after a certain period of time), there probably aren’t any here” and move on to cue him to search new areas, through the use of your body movement. He is, of course, responsive to recall as well, which is great, but your movement often seems like it can move him from location to location.

    overall, great job. Especially with wind and new area.

    Alana McGee

    Vidoc says thank you as always and is so happy to be in class!!!

    To answer your last question ? why the party was much less enthusiastic: It?s called chronic fatigue, sleep deprivation plus feeling under the weather. I am going to stay in the next couple days (Monday and Tuesday), as I need to recover and get some much-needed energy back. The last couple weeks were way too busy to the point that I have only done one search with both Vidoc and Esprit

    [quote]Have you and Vidoc worked in this soccer field before (for specifically truffle retailed activities)?[/quote]
    We never worked truffles in this field before. I believe only a couple K9 nosework searches and only along the edges. The concept of having a hide in the middle of a field was new for my dogs and me.

    [quote]Do you know which way the wind was coming from?[/quote]
    Bummer forgot to note it except realizing the wind was quite strong when standing still and watching my dogs working. In hindsight I believe it came left to right (in camera view aspects). I basically sent Vidoc against the wind initially.

    My question: when I am asking an assistant to set up hides how many should they dog and where? Because I don?t think we are ready for a plain soccer field and we would actually do better (based on experience) in an area by the forest that has some bushes.

    Alana McGee

    [quote] The last couple weeks were way too busy to the point that I have only done one search with both Vidoc and Esprit [/quote]

    Take care of yourself, first and foremost! We know how it is. Get some rest. Breaks are ok, and just fine 🙂 They boys will be there when you want to get back in it 🙂

    The middle of the field issue:

    This is completely understandable, and totally ok! We would suggest you practice that more. It is common tendencies to put odor targets at the periphery because we want dogs to search an entire space, but soon you?ll be getting to quite a few hides, and it?s good practice to do some right dab smack in the middle!

    As for Blind hides:

    Right now you guys are doing about 3 to 5 hides as is. So, as long as your helper either can tell you later were to find them, or makes a crude map, I?d say do that many. Don?t do more than that.

    When you and Vidoc (or Esprit) are working though, don?t feel shy about finding the 3rd one and then calling it “done?! You don?t ?have to? find each one. The point is to stop while you and Vdioc (BOTH) are feeling ahead. We have absolute confidence in you guys in a scenario like this, but do make sure you have your extra target on you incase you think Vidoc needs a success. Vidoc will likely keep working until he does find it, but if about 2-3 minutes elapse without (and that is a LONG time at this stage) an alert, offer him one. It can be as simple as throwing it in front of his path and making it SUPER easy. You can continue to keep searching, but build that confidence.

    Another good thing to do with your helper is show them ?how? you want the target hidden. You don?t want to be surprised later when your helper has buried your target 3 inches down and you are just working on obscured hides with no visual id.

    If you think you and the boys are more comfortable in the area on the forest edge by the trees with the bushes, then do that. It is about your comfort level as much as theirs. We like to push boundaries, and we will. Eventually you?ll be searching that whole soccer field. But right now, especially when transitioning to blind hides, go with what ?feels? best for you. If they seem less distracted in that environment than the soccer field, by all means do the area by the trees.

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