Rachel & Vidoc FE520

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    Alana McGee

    Looks like I can only buy truffles from the local market. But only on Saturdays and I am usually trialing on Saturdays. Will have to ask my Mom if she can get one for me. But it will be most likely an Italian truffle again as I called the guy who sells them. If you have some contacts in Switzerland I would like to check with them for fresh Swiss truffles.

    This afternoon Vidoc searched 3 vials in the grassy area behind my house. I marked all spots with a pink ribbon. As you can see we had a short and sweet session 🙂 He tends to kick them a bit away with his pawing so he has to search again. I forgot about the verbal encouragement as I learned to be quiet when working my dogs except in agility. Now have to learn to chat again/

    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!

    I just tried watching the video but it came up as error. Could very well be me as I am uploading two large videos for the lecture currently. Will try again in a bit, but for now until I can see it–

    I will connect with the Swiss gentlemen/reserachers I know and see what they can do, or what they suggest in regards to the truffles.

    The truffles may be called ?italian? but they very well may actually be from switzerland.

    [quote]He tends to kick them a bit away with his pawing so he has to search again?[/quote] that?s ok! It?s actually really good to practice that. We call it ?checking trailings? and it happens with most dogs form time to time. A very valuable skill.

    Will wait to see video for the rest!

    Alana McGee

    I hope the video is working… otherwise I have a do a new one 😉

    That would be awfully nice if you could help with getting me fresh Swiss truffles on a bi-weekly basis! Good to know the “Italian” truffles might be local.

    Actually they have truffle markets in Switzerland (not in my area right now for quite some time) and I was under the assumption they sell mainly Swiss truffles.

    Alana McGee

    Yes, the truffle world is full of misleading…. most “French” truffles actually come from Spain. In fact the majority of Perigords in general are from Spain- not Italy or france! Video coming- going to try again!

    Alana McGee

    Very nice video Rachel. It looks really well done here.

    We really like the second find in this video because it provides info and is a good experience. Very nice job on the encouragement when you are at source. He really works so hard and is so dedicated to locating odor.

    It looks like he kicked it out behind him, and I think I can see you shaking your head?It?s ok! So, can?t quite tell if you actually picked it up or touch it, I don?t think you do. It looks like he tracts back to on his own- with your verbal encouragement? Can you confirm that?

    If not, instead of pointing right at it, pat the ground near it. We know he?ll find it! Also get in the habit of you looking in the hole.I know he picks them up and spits them to you on occasion, but he won?t always be able to do that with the larger truffles, because he won?t be able to get it completely out of the ground. So start peeking your head in the hole before you encourage him to check behind him.

    Luckily the truffles you will be finding- primarily Burgundy truffles, but also possibly Perigords tend to be bigger and easier to see to some degree because of that, inside the holes. You rarely find tiny ones of those- but I suppose it?s possible, so this is good practice with the small vials. But start to get in the habit of peeking in the hole to see what he sees there before helping or encouraging him to check behind. You can verbally communicate and confirm while you check the hole (it doesn?t have too be more than a second or two- its just to start getting used to it? even if you saw him kick the vial behind.)

    At 1:52 he does this beautifully on his own. Textbook perfect for tracking backwards for checking trailings.

    The video was great Rachel- looks really good.

    I?ll check back through the forum to make sure we don?t contradict something we said earlier about plan of attack- but In this area which is more familiar start burying them a little deeper. It is still familiar and not a huge space, but it is a good space for this level with some topography features and distractions and plenty of room to move around still. Build value on working on slightly deeper hides in this area.

    Like Kristin mentioned in the previous video- you can use that area too but maybe decrease the space used a little bit and don?t have them as deep. And marking will also help relax you a little.

    But well done- very good. Vidoc was much more relaxed in this scenario. He will try and try and try for you, and keep going until he finds it- but this was a nice short sweet session. Well done.

    Alana McGee

    Looks like I just found a great source for Swiss truffles. Tried a new sheep herding instructor this afternoon and somehow we ended up talking about truffle hunting. She does it for some time with her Border Collies and she has fresh ones. I will know this Sunday if it’s fresh (and not frozen and she taught the dogs with pieces of frozen truffles too).

    Alana McGee

    That’s Awesome! Maybe she has local locations too 🙂

    I’m waiting to hear back from the contacts in Switzerland, but I’ll let you know when we do and we’ll get you that info as well 🙂

    Alana McGee

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

    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 and I also marked each vial. But then I forgot to put the truffles back into the freezer and let them sit around for quite some time. So when I tried yesterday in another new environment both Vidoc and Esprit 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!

    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 each piece with some paper towel. Because it’s easier and even cheaper for me to buy new truffles vs. getting new small containers I gave it try.

    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) 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. I don’t think Vidoc searched with his eyes but I will soon find out as I am my next search will be without markers.

    Alana McGee

    Glad to hear about the truffles. The truffles you get from you herding instructor are likely fresher than some things you will find at market- so they will be stronger in odor- also this time of year your local truffles Tuber aestivum/uncinatum (its the same thing) are stronger this time of year- but it will vary from batch to batch. Always does. But that?s great you have a source! if you need back up let me know as I got the contact of a group which distributes in Switzerland and can likely get you small quantities.

    We don?t have any complaints about this search. It looks great. Short & focused and you both did awesome. Vidoc doesn?t seem to know you were ?finished? as much, so if it is important to you- that is something you can work on. Give him a toy after ways maybe to play with- or personal play on the way out? But your call.

    You don?t say how deep these were, but you can start going deeper. Don?t do that in the same session as you try unmarked ones though! Just to be safe 🙂

    It didn?t look like Vidoc was using visual cues. Looked like his nose! Well done.

    *One other thing to be cautious about if you do this again here, in this location- unlikely in this spot as that tree in the foreground does not look familiar and those look like alder and maple (and some firs/pines in the way back) and maple (acer) does not host your species. But if he alerts somewhere you didn?t plant one- check- because your truffle season is now- and you never know. If that tree in the back left is a beech (again, really hard to tell from here) careful, as Burgundy truffles do associate easily with Beech.

    Well done though. That was great.

    Alana McGee

    I am so challenged when it comes to the kind of trees and stuff like that. Well will better do an effort and educate myself!

    As for the toy… I was lazy and didn’t want it to stuck out of my “butt’ on film so to speak. In our last search on video Vidoc’s toy was placed by the camcorder. But today I had it on me each time. You are right it’s a nice and clear way to end a session plus very rewarding for my dogs!

    Today we did two searches. The first one was by the edge of a forest. I worked both boys in the same area but their search areas were apart. Neither Vidoc nor Esprit crossed the other dog’s area on the way there and back.

    Vidoc struggled in his first search. He located the covered hole (was about 1” deep and unmarked) but dismissed it as “already done”. I actually started to fear another dog came by and stole our training truffles as I walked the dogs for about 40 minutes after planting the truffles. But they were all there.

    What I noticed is that they lost their smell – at least for my nose. It seems to me when they are wrapped in a paper towel and hidden in earth they get all dry and loose their smell. Using a fresh piece is fine but not re-using training truffle pieces. But then Esprit had no issues finding his and he had the same conditions except the search area.

    For that reason I did a second search in a more familiar area. We never did a search there but cross this grassy patch nearly every morning on our walk.

    I think the struggles lie in the quality of the truffles. What is the best way to store them? I can buy every week a new truffle and I am willing to do it if it helps our training. It seems to me the paper towels in combination with earth suck up all the smell.

    I don’t care if I use vials or wrap my training truffles in paper towels. I can also buy more tea eggs. Whatever you suggest to provide ideal learning.

    I didn’t really understand the vodka part. I did buy a tiny bottle just in case 😉

    Alana McGee

    The truffles will still have odor, even if you can?t smell it, but instead of using a whole new training piece, just cut it a little bit again and this will release more of the VOCs. Truffles do dry out over time (they are mostly water) and the paper towel will wick away moisture, but it shouldn?t be impacting it all that much. The paper towel itself doesn?t hold odor very well. The earth around the truffle and the paper towel shouldn?t be ?stealing? all those delicious vocs.

    Summer/Burgundy truffles in general tend to be milder in general.

    Every two weeks should be just fine. But for Vidoc for a few weeks if you want to get new truffles, I?d say that is fine and might help as he starts to generalize and make the transition to hides at depth. We want to solidify the behaviors we want with what he is comfortable with, and then you can start working other older, pieces with different/ less volatiles.

    In general, you shouldn?t need to buy every week– but for the next few weeks– if you have access to them, it might not be a bad idea. You might noyt always have that chance! You can let Esprit use the ?already used? pieces- as it doesn?t seem to pose a challenge for him. For whatever reason, and there are a couple I could suppose as conjecture, Vidoc does seem to struggle with it.
    Vidoc may be hyper sensitive/selective to other odors and has too narrow of a spectrum for what is acceptable for an alert. (One of my own dogs is this way). So for the next couple of weeks, while you start practicing more advanced scenarios, use fresh pieces for him. They don?t need to big.

    When home- store your fresh truffle pieces in the fridge, together, in a sealed glass or tuperware container. (I will attach the Burgundy/ summer truffle care guide here too)

    The wrapping in paper towels should be just fine- and that way if you loose them, you aren?t concern about lost gear and it will be eco-friendly and degrade over time.

    I would argue that it was something else at play, not the truffle odor itself. Remember Dog?s nose?s are exceptional for detecting odor, we just have to try to get them in the right place to do so, and understand if they don?t alert, what exactly is going on. Was it the environment, or why did the source not meet Vidoc?s previous specifications.

    Remember we also want the dogs to be able to detect and alert on varying concentrations of VOCs as every single truffle will have a different concentration of volatiles at any one time. I think Vidoc needs positive reward histories on a large sample size (in terms of variety) to practice with.

    If your herding trainer where you get the truffles from has several small ones, or pieces from DIFFERENT truffles you can have/buy- get those for Vidoc. Ideally, because we want to check and see if this is WHY he didn?t alert, you want him to work on a variety of different actual truffles. Not just pieces from the same truffle. I think, that may be what?s going on to a degree. We want to reward and encourage positive histories on a variety for him.

    The vodka is used to sterilize the outside of the truffle to help keep it in good shape for longer- so you can use them for longer in eating or training.


    He?s working really hard! and he is finding them, you are right, but dismissing/ leaving the area.

    I would suggest you go back a step and mark his buried hides when you do this with the new truffle pieces. That way you know when he is on one and can come in to reward/ praise encourage staying at source, solidifying that reward positive reward history before he leaves the area. You can build up that behavior and engage at source. This was a bit atypical for him, he normally stays at source really well, so we want to go back and address this.

    He does seem more stressed than I have seen him before in this scenario. This may just be a one off too- we all have those days!

    He does a good job of working it out at 1:37. And you do a good job around the 4:20 helping him. That is exactly right. we want him to win!

    Also good choice on then working in a familiar spot.

    Alana McGee

    Thanks for the great in-depth answer and observations!!!

    I will ask my herding instructor for a couple small, fresh truffles for Vidoc so we can take advantage of our last training week before we have a “video training – feedback” break for a couple of weeks.

    [quote]I would argue that it was something else at play, not the truffle odor itself. Remember Dog?s nose?s are exceptional for detecting odor, we just have to try to get them in the right place to do so, and understand if they don?t alert, what exactly is going on. Was it the environment, or why did the source not meet Vidoc?s previous specifications.[/quote]
    That puzzled me too as I know my dogs have brilliant noses. I think 2 things happened:
    First we had a nice long walk in the woods. And I got yelled at again… This time 3 angry old women because my dogs were off line. They were wrong (dogs are allowed off leash) and it really aggravated me a bit that so many people have the need to let off their steam at the next dog person they see. I don’t think the walk with all the sniffing tired Vidoc (nose and/or mentally). Then it was windy too.
    But the main thing could be that we were training with Italian truffles for quite some time. Since we started training I bought only 2 truffles. This new one had a very strong odor (still has even in the glass jar but less the ones I wrapped in paper towel and used already). Since he easily showed me each hole (I didn’t need a marker to see it but will do so the next few times) maybe he didn’t generalize this new truffle with the other ones.

    Alana McGee

    People, are, ugh. Sorry they yelled at you. Your dogs are exemplary off leash, don’t know why they have a problem!!! Frustrating I know.

    Wind could certainly be part of it too- but what was interesting, and VERY ATYPICAL, was him leaving source. I could tell (and you could too) that he found it, he just left it.

    Vidoc is amazing. What I think is that Vidoc is very specific. Hyper exceptional perhaps. I say this because I have personal experience on this one too.That is why trying to use different sources may help him generalize that everything within this range of VOCs is acceptable for an alert.

    He’ll pick it up really quickly I have no doubt, but since you’ve only been using the truffles you had previously- it might not be a large enough array of scent source. this truffle has some different VOCs and he wasn’t as confident about it because while it was close it didn’t match what has a history on.

    See what happens if you can get a couple of different sources (as in individual truffles- shavings work too) and work on those and mix it up. He soon will be solid on all of them.

    I bet if you asked your instructor for pieces of other ones she had, and explain why, she’d be amenable.

    Alana McGee

    Will get 2 new truffles this Sunday, they are pre-ordered and my happy herding instructor is happy to have found a good new customer (herding lessons and truffle buyer).

    I did a short session behind our house. Not in the grassy patch, just a bit off before the trees start. Before I headed out had Vidoc primed first. 4 holes, approx. 2 inch deep and marked. Easy peasy for Vidoc – I was so happy!!!

    Alana McGee

    It is posted on the forum about Truffle care, but here is the Care guide for Burgundy Truffles.

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