Shannon & Cricket (DRTDT)

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    Alana McGee

    Kristin, I love that Callie insisted he pick it up – that is so great!

    Ok – so I have two clips – one inside and one outside, but video limits me to showing you one 🙂 I am going to show you the outside one from the other day because it is the one we had the most trouble with and tell you about the big success you are missing in the second video 🙂

    In this video I am wondering what I could have done better. I really didn’t feel like Cricket was into the game, I didn’t think she was having fun – we didn’t seem to be clicking. You can see she is in her new harness on a long line. We haven’t been working on the line enough because of my broken hand (cast comes off Thursday!), and she dislikes the harness, so I bet those two things threw her off. We didn’t do any more truffle hunting that night, we just relaxed.

    [b]Plan[/b]: Work in the house on easy hides where she has had a history of a lot of fun while on the long line and in the harness. I am considering abandoning this big harness since it bugs her and just use her day-today one but use another cue to indicate we are truffle hunting (as you explained to Lois and Monza). I’m going to have to think on it; I don’t want the harness to make this a not-fun-game, but she probably needs the additional protection from the elements/forest that this harness or a jacket will provide.

    I’ll work on more hides outside and hopefully feel confident to try a multi-target hide this week! I think I will work her off leash until the game is consistently super amazing fun outside.

    Video you aren’t seeing: I did a three target hide in the house tonight. We worked on a floor she has never hunted on. She was able to move between the first and second hide with no problems! She got a bit stuck between the second and third, but she got it – rock star!

    Alana McGee

    First off- yay for getting casts off! It will feel so freeing!

    It?s always great to show us the videos/ hides you feel not as confident about. We are here to help you problem solve and work through what may be happening, so those are the videos that tend to, in the end be more beneficial, so that?s good. Although we always love rockstar moments 🙂

    In regards to the harness- yes, it and the combo of the long line could very well make her feel a bit off. We agree that you should try to practice with the Harness on inside if you plan to use it, as you suggested.

    Just as an example, just so you know and to provide perspective, Callie doesn?t love the jacket she wears. She really doesn?t. If it wasn?t for her protection and safety Kristin wouldn?t insist, but we do. It protects her from cold, branches etc, and has more than once protected her from other puncturing/ ripping/ unfriendly obstacles she has encountered.

    Kristin says this, but I also see it, and it is true: Callie really doesn?t love her cloud chaser (and the body signals are dramatic to tell us this) despite all the counter conditioning that has been done, but the game of hunting triumphs the jacket. They built to that. But Callie needs that jacket on when hunting, and has become accustom/conditioned to the fact that the jacket means FUN BALL TRUFFLE TIME.

    The game, it?s all about the game.

    The other thing is we think Cricket may find benefit, and enjoy ?scoping out an area? before you ask her to work. We have seen it in multiple videos (she does it in this one too- albeit brief), and it allows Cricket more time to get comfortable with her environment. This is totally ok! Just be aware that this may be her preferred method of entering a scenario is to check things out first, and then start to play the game. Perfectly ok- just be aware that she is doing that. She may not do it every single time, so just be aware. Some dogs after they have done the initial checking out the scenario can begin working rather quickly. Some take more time. Some, like Kristin?s Cash, are extremely formulaic. He must smell, pee, and poop before they can start. Seriously. It?s a routine for them. Every single time in a new space that is his routine. Like clock work. Not all dogs are that literal with it. Cricket likely is not quite like that, but we have seen her check out the area several time in different scenarios before she goes back to the hot box. It will likely manifest more commonly in new environment as opposed to familiar ones.

    Speaking of boxes?. We are suggesting you try (outside) once just using the tea balls, no Boxes. Cricket seems to really enjoy playing with the tea balls and depending on how she reacts in this scenario outside and how she interacts with the cold tea balls as well as hot, it might be a nice alternative. She has never seemed all that excited by boxes in general. Curious and interactive yes, overwhelming pumped, no. She does however demonstrate focus and heightened awareness/ stimulation (i.e. anthropomorphizing here: enjoyment) by the movement, and anticipation of the tea balls.

    Truffle hunting is not Rally or OB where you have strict rules you must follow in order to succeed. Truffle hunting successfully is all about connection and communication with your partner. The most successful teams are those that work with one another and understand what is comfortable and natural (for them!) and to build on those tendencies as a foundation for more confidence and even better, more clear communication.

    We think your video was actually great! We do think that cricket likely will be a dog who needs a minute outdoors to acclimate and adjust. That?s ok! Her alerts, when she?s ready, and her re-alerts are great 🙂
    Being one of your first times outside doing this, honestly you shouldn?t be frustrated, we thought the video was good.


    Before you began this search did you prime Cricket for the scenario?

    [quote] She was able to move between the first and second hide with no problems! She got a bit stuck between the second and third, but she got it – rock star![/quote]
    Awesome! Go Cricket & Shannon! That?s a big step 🙂 Glad you recognize it and enjoy it. Just takes a bit of time!

    This looked really good tho. We think your plan you came up with is good, and yes, try working with the harness inside, and outside try the tea balls- we are curious to see if there is a difference in animation/stimulation levels. Also remember, outside, she likely will want to smell around a bit. That?s ok, let her. You did a good job in this video of being patient. Keep that up.

    Alana McGee

    Thanks for the feedback as always!

    It is funny, when you see other people’s dogs you can assume all sorts of things – it would never have occurred to me that Callie didn’t like her coat, so thank you for sharing that story with me. I have an alternate theory – they know they are so cute and they just don’t want to cover up one inch of cuteness.

    I also really appreciate your advice on letting Cricket check out her environment, I will definitely do that.

    Question: should I prime and cue her to work and then she explores the environment and organically goes to work when she is ready, or should I walk out to the search area – let her explore for a bit and then prime and cue her when she seems ready to work?

    We’ll also use the tea balls and fabric outside this week. She loves that and I have no idea why I thought she needed to use boxes 🙂

    For some reason watching Heidi in the demo videos this week really helped me see how individual dogs move through environments differently. I don’t know exactly why her video stood out for me, but seeing her work somehow made me more “comfortable” with the way Cricket is hunting – not quite the right words (I was ok with what Cricket was doing before), but maybe it just reminded me a bit of how Cricket can move through a search.

    About your question – yes I did prime Cricket for that search. I’ve only forgotten once in the last two weeks and I saw how much it impacted her confidence and ability to get into the game. So, I try to always prime her for each search – maybe in time she won’t need it- but I suspect it will just become (if it hasn’t already) a ritualistic cue to start working.

    Alana McGee

    So as for priming pre or post area ‘scoping out? or ?casing the joint? as I call it… Try both ways. There isn?t a hard and fast rule on this on what is better. It is what is better for you. I would normally suggest following the pattern you have already established and allowing it to happen organically as that is what you have built to and it is an already established and understood pattern of behavior, but try it where you let her out and then after a period of time- maybe a minute (she doesn?t seem to spend too long checking out an environment- partly because you have purposefully kept the environment small- this will likely change as you increase the area), use a recall to bring her back and then prime.

    Cricket doesn?t seem so literal that she must have the cue/prime in order to find (some dogs are VERY much like that), but we hypothesize it does give structure, confidence, and boundaries to your game with her- and so we highly recommend you keep doing it for the time being. The ?when’ is honestly going to be trial and error. Try it once or twice and see how it goes and feels.

    I suspect doing it as you have been is going to produce more confident successful results, and confidence on your part as well in anticipation of outcome of events, but dogs surprise us all the time.

    What is easy and natural is likely going to be the best fit for you- but try it both ways.

    As example (just for insight on another set of teams even though you haven?t seen us yet on video:
    I actually do both of these things with two of my dogs Duff & Lolo in the field. One one way, and one the other. They both almost always need to check out an area before they will in earnest begin searching, especially in the woods. Duff I prime ritualistically before we set feet away from the car (he is hyper specific- but that is another topic all together) and he?ll then spend a minute or two checking out his surroundings, and Lolo is much more comfortable working after she?s had a minute to cruise around and then comes back to me and we prime and then she?s off scenting truffles.

    As Lolo?s handler I don?t feel like I actually ?need? to prime Lolo. She has generalized the game to basically any forest/orchard we are in, but it starts her off with a success and a positive fun experience and acts as a way for her and I to take a moment and focus on one another and engage with each other- something that isn?t particularly a natural tendency for her, so I emphasize the finding WITH me and the rewarding WITH me after she has had a few moments to investigate her new surroundings. It sets parameters for game time and sets intention, for both of us.
    (Even for dogs who are harvesting in the field- there are always things you can work on!)

    So in short try it both ways to see reaction in Cricket, and in you. I suspect how you are doing it now will likely be the more preferred method for you both, but we will see!

    Alana McGee

    We did three outside hides this afternoon, each with a single target. I primed before each search and really just let her go at her own speed as far as checking out her environment. Here are two of them.

    Hide 1: Using the fabric pieces
    She finds it, and when I say “show me” she alerts on the tea ball beside us. I am not sure if I handled that right. I don’t think “show me” means to Cricket what I am hoping it does.

    Weather notes: The wind is coming from the right side of the house to the left (the upper level winds must be going in the other direction since the clouds are heading the other way). I think that is why she leaves the frame, the scent would have been behind the target. It might have been too windy for this and the next search – it seems to be getting stronger all afternoon. We are single digits, blue blue skies, and dry here,

    Hide 2: naked tea balls
    She comes out of the house [u]hot[/u]- there must have been something in the tree that catches her attention and I thought we were going to have a full melt down. I’m telling her that she is safe and doesn’t need to worry about it – I knee down because that often helps her to connect when she is worried about something – she then jumps right into the game. I think I’ll continue with naked tea balls as it will reduce the visual cue.

    Tomorrow’s plan is to do a couple of multi target hides inside on a long line.

    Alana McGee

    Today we did 2 hides inside, both with three targets.

    The first one went sideways – the film is 6 minutes long so I won’t post it. We were working on harness and leash inside. She seemed confused/stressed out to me. I watched the video and thought of things to make it better – I tried them in the next search, which you will see. I did manufacture a success in this search and I actually walked over to a hide with her and tried to get her to search in the area – ultimately I probably should have pulled the plug on the search- Bad human.

    I did a second one. I am not sure if I should have or not, we waited about an hour. This time I left the leash off, and she had been wearing the harness the entire time. I think this one went much better. I can see her “building her maps” of the targets.

    I don’t know what you guys see, but to me she seems to be losing confidence/zest for the game overall. In the last couple of weeks it doesn’t feel like she is having as much fun as before. As much as I’d like to keep moving forward, do you think we should go back to easy level 1 hides? I know we are behind the class, but I figure this isn’t a race – she is only 13 months old and I’m not a super experience handler – so I keep reminding myself this might take longer. I really want her to have fun and enjoy this activity and not be uncomfortable or stressed.

    The alternative view is that she is just super serious when she works and I just am not reading her right – entirely possible. She is a sensitive soul where my first dog is bomb proof, so I have had to learn to take more care in ensuring she feels safe – perhaps I am overshooting a little (helicopter dog owner?).

    Alana McGee

    Feedback on the way. Sorry for the delay.

    Alana McGee

    Hi Shannon!!! SORRY!

    Going to address each video separately to keep this more orderly!

    First video

    We really like the way you handle your energy in the situation, Cricket looks loose and happy.
    We do love how once she?s done a quick investigate the world, she saunters over to the target and offers her alert.

    Correct, “show me” does not mean what you think it might. If you want to go ahead and use that you should practice pairing some nose targeting behaviors with hot target and the verbal cue/ command. We know you do use this as part of the alert sequence, but try in less complex environments building that cue with desired behavior.

    When outside I would reward when she does her first alert (IF you know that is the correct target!) and then do the digging, as you have just done, and reward again once it is in your hand. We are building delay and endurance here, but Cricket might decide to try something else if she doesn?t get the response she is looking for from this scenario.

    You did offer her a cookie initially. Great. Before you ask for that ?show me? while she is rooting around- I would reward that too- and then ask for the ‘show me?- as a re-alert behavior. But practice the nose target and the cue as well in slightly less complicated environments too and that connection will build.

    Don?t worry. You handled it ok! When she came back over- perhaps prompted by your standing, that was perfect- and actually an AWESOME teaching moment- kind of ideal for this situation as she came back over to alert by her own volition without a verbal prompting from you. I suspect that the delay in getting her reward (from the digging) prompted her finding stimulus elsewhere aka tea balls! Good job on getting her to nose touch multiple times after that find.

    WE LOVE THE TOY. Her nose touches and then frisbee- WHAA! That was PHENOMENAL. SHE WANTED the target and then the frisbee. HOW AWESOME. (*Can you tell how excited we are!)

    WE LOVE Cricket’s response to the toy. We know you were planning on using the toy occasionally when hunting, but have you been practicing with it at all recently much? That right there was Superb.

    Love how you connect in hide 2 (and how she flies through the screen mid air when it transitions video clips! Cricket really likes those teaballs too! This hide was really well done. You guys were great.

    We like her with the toy. We know it can likely be a distraction and as you have said she won?t then focus on anything else, but whatever you?ve ben practicing with that- good work.

    Alana McGee

    This is a long post- I have put some key things in bold to make it easier to read.

    We have a drill for you we would like to try. It will require some grass of medium height (ideally) enough to hide a tea ball loose above ground- as in you toss it and can?t see it.

    This game is based on traditional Italian methods for truffle training. We don?t recommend it for all teams, nor is it the only tool Shannon & Cricket will be using. It is not appropriate for all dogs.

    [i]You, Shannon, are going to play fetch with the truffle tea ball. [/i]

    [center][size=2]*all students please note that while you may have heard of this method, it isn?t by itself a means to learn truffle hunting effectively. We state that point blank, and I will be quite upfront in my stipulation and comments in this regard because it is something we see used as a method all over the world, & when used by itself, frankly, creates teams with lots of knowledge gaps and problems locating truffles in the wild. We think this exercise is great in the right situation, but PLEASE don?t JUST use this as a means to teach your dog truffle hunting. *

    **We know you are all Fenzi students here so you would never think that! but it is something we come across a lot. It is a great tool, and in this circumstance we think that it will help build a certain set of skills for Cricket & Shannon.

    SO what we want you to do Shannon:

    This takes place outdoors. Start with your priming. Then let Cricket watch you toss the tea ball a few feet in front of you and then ask her to find it. The goal here is a retrieve. But as part of that Cricket has to find it! If the retrieve comes naturally- encourage it, and praise it. If not, once she gets there go to her and reward at source. We suspect she will likely pick it up and fling it at you partially at least. She?s rewarded either way because she found it through olfaction (hence why you need grass of at least a little height to obscure it)

    You will slowly increase the distance, but Cricket is still watching you toss it. Eventually you build to where Cricket won?t be watching you and she?ll be able to go find it for a retrieve.

    Try it. The early stages anyway. We are curious to see how she reacts to it and we think it might be a fun game for her to play outdoors and also get her starting to search larger and larger areas with just one target but keeps the element of play associated with the tea balls and movement that she already has.

    [b]Back to traditional hides[/b] you are doing as described for the lesson (not for this exercise of tossing the tea ball yet) we also would be curious to see you present the toy. She responds SO well to it. We know it may be more than Cricket can handle presently- but let us know how that is going as we think the element of play through movement and toys (either tea balls or frisbees)in the truffle ?finding? game for Cricket is something we want to build on and encourage.

    We think you are doing great Shannon. I would never ever be able to guess you consider yourself an somewhat inexperienced handler. You?re doing such a fabulous job. We wholeheartedly commend you for wanting to take to time to train her in a manner that doesn?t induce stress and is fun, and we want to help you do just that. You guys are doing great. She is also young, 13 months is a babeh. We don?t think you need to go back to easier hides- but you can build value at this stage. And try some new exercises. I will explain a few things below.

    Even with our experienced dogs we play the whole range of games. Yesterday Lolo was practicing finding targets in boxes in a row, today she was out actually hunting. You?re not always going to be pushing the envelope. If you feel like you want to do a set of easier hides because you?re just not ?feeling it? that day- go ahead and do that. But you guys look good, again we don?t think you need to do that.

    *As a personal side for reference and perspective my Aussie is 3. He only this year started to really play the game. We went slow, still are going slow, but it will pay off hugely in the long run, and already has. Part of that is because ?I? finally learned what it was that was a strong reward for him. It wasn?t food, and it wasn?t toys. Once I accepted that, everything has come much easier. When he plays the game now he loves it. Ryu is very resilient, and precise, and a genius, and I?m anthropomorphizing, but as I have been told by other instructors we?ve worked with, he hates to be wrong. Not bombproof as you say, sensitive but in a weird way! So we are building on that and it has taken [i]me[/i] some time but I finally have a set of rewards he responds really well to and we now use it in multiple environments with Lots of success.

    I mention it as an example because for you & Cricket It isn?t a lack of enthusiasm, or connection (you have GREAT CONNECTION and engagement)- it just might take some time! And that is perfectly ok. Kristin and I honestly think that the use of the toy may bring out a WHOLE ?nother side to cricket when playing this. But it will also take some time to have her not obsess about the frisbee and be able to transition from truffle finding to frisbee play. She seems so very much like Callie in that regard. Callie didn?t learn overnight either, and you guys are doing great.

    [b]We thought the video was good. [/b]Cricket doesn?t always have to be keyed up to 155% to play. Ryu & Callie are both super serious when they truffle hunt but have different speeds- you?ll see more videos of Callie as we go on. You & Cricket are still learning working styles together and what works- but you are doing AWESOME. We really mean that and we love watching you guys.

    We do think she is more comfortable searching off lead- but we have seen plenty of videos inside on lead where she seemed just fine, so it is good to practice when you can because that is the reality of the situation.

    What I do in the field for my dog whom I do not feel comfortable having working completely off lead for a few reasons,(but whom works better off lead, generally) is she drags a long line. This isn?t for everyone, but it does work for us and allows us to work on things as they arise. It provides me an avenue to stay connected to her to help her remain at source for rewards while I can get a truffle out. I don’t use it for control. I also put it on and take it off frequently based on her body language as even though we have spent the better part of two seasons in the field working together, We are still learning.

    [b]Back to the video and explanation of some things going on:[/b]

    Cricket makes a map. I think that is very accurate.
    Something that was really interesting to see is at 1:43. You ask her to show me. You can see right there (she has perviously done not only a ?map? but a subtle alert at each of those two locations ?it?s as little as putting her nose on odor source- or close to it- it is really subtle- but it is a recognition of source–)? and you can see her thinking which one to show you. She takes step one direction, and then back to the left. She knows two targets are there- but which one to show you? For us, the handler, we think it obvious: the one you were last at doggy! But Cricket doesn?t see it that way. That?s ok. It takes some practice and repetition in these multiple hide scenarios to really start solidifying behaviors.

    This is why wouldn?t say go back to easier hides at all- what we want to do is [b]build value of staying at a hide once she has found it-[/b] and you are doing a great job of that by just trying to keep her engaged. Where there is a slight disconnect is after she initially finds it (not counting the mental map- because you can see her ?find it? there too) offering a more substainal and/or repeatable alert. This comes with time and practice. You’re doing everything great, we just want to keep building value at source and staying at source in all of these scenarios.

    The other important thing, when you?re having a bad ?human? day, is don?t beat yourself up over it and don?t dwell. There are more chances!

    The video is totally okay though! interesting to see this ‘pulling’ between two odors and what to re alert on- and the staying at source manifesting, but it was insightful, and not a bad session. I know many of us have that drive if we had a less than stellar training session, we want to do it again as soon as possible. (Hard for me too!) It’s hard not to want to, but try to remember it’s the long game we care about and to stop while we are a head. It’s always better to do less than more. And if you were going to do a training session after a first stressful one (for you or dog!), set yourself up for success and don’t make it too hard.

    Alana McGee

    Wow – thank you for the feedback! I’ve read through it 3-4 times and every time I read it I find another piece of wisdom. Thanks!

    Last night we worked on staying at the source and building lots of value for that. It was a two target hide and we primed using the frisbee, and then did lots of food rewards for finding the target, keeping her really engaged there, and ended the reward sequence for each target with the frisbee.

    I did re-prime between the first and second target using a food reward and then sent her off again. I wish I had it on tape, she stopped and went around behind me looking for the frisbee (tucked in the back of my shirt) and then ran out alerted on the target and we had a party. I was completely prepared to manufacturer a hide and quit the search if she couldn’t get back into it, but she rocked it!

    The other thing I did was put the sources as far away from each other as I could. She knew they are both there, but I am thinking it was less distracting for her to decide what to alert on.

    We just did the one hide – I think that we stopped on a high point, she was happy and so was I.

    I predict that she is going to LOVE the fetching of the tea ball. I’ve been looking for a grassy area that will work for us (not too many distractions, no loose dogs, long enough grass, etc ). I think I may have found one – we’ll try it as soon as the sun comes up on Saturday or Sunday when it will hopefully be the quietest.

    Thanks again!

    Alana McGee

    Awesome she is doing so well with the frisbee! Love that she went back to alert- that is simply phenomenal 🙂

    Let us know how the tea ball retrieve goes 🙂

    Alana McGee

    We did a truffle session tonight with the focus of building duration at the target and using the frisbee as a reward. Cricket is getting so fluent in being able to move from the frisbee reward to working again. I was going to re-prime her before the second target in both searches, but she just started working again. I didn’t even cue her.

    There are two searches in this video, one on leash one off-leash. Both searches have two hot targets. First hide the targets cooked for 15+ minutes, second hide targets cooked for about 5 mins. I really think this practice is paying off – she seems to be getting more engaged with staying at the source. Hopefully she’ll start to figure out that as soon as I put the truffle in my pocket she gets her frisbee – she may have already 🙂

    Alana McGee


    This was a BIG BIG shift in the game for you and Cricket! WOOHOO 😀

    Alana McGee

    Thanks for the feedback! I also thought she seemed to be enjoying herself more, I love watching her have fun.

    So we did the truffle toss exercise today, and as you can see we got a little snow (started yesterday). I think the snow was excellent – the tea ball really skittered around and buried itself as Cricket knocked it about. I saw the video you guys posted on Facebook with Callie pinpointing the truffle and I think we got a bit of a start doing that here.

    She does have a good retrieve with her ball and frisbee, but I didn’t ask for that here – I was thinking that just rewarding at source was ok – thoughts?

    So, I started off by going to the area I initially identified with the medium grass. Well, it is quite a steep hill and even though we don’t have ice, the snow is so water logged that I was sliding everywhere. After ~10min I decided we could accomplish the same thing in the backyard. I’ve included two tosses here, but I should really do a blooper reel of me falling all over the hill. I was super impressed by Cricket’s ability to get into the game here – is is a relatively quiet place but still TONS of detractions – she did really well. Note – when I say “This is terrible” I am referring to the conditions, not Cricket 🙂

    We came home and worked in the snow in the backyard. With better footing we were able to have more fun with the frisbee. I’ve shown two tosses here where we had to look for the truffle together, I didn’t want her to become disengaged from the game so I tried to help her a tiny bit (in both cases I could see the target). I think as we play this more I’ll help less and less to help build persistence (?) – thoughts.

    Overall, I think this went well. Watching the video I noted I was asking her to find it – which is not a cue I use for truffle hunting, and I was repeating cues for her to “show me”. I need to be careful with my cues! With the forecasted temperatures, the snow should melt this week so we can try in grass.

    What do you guys think we should work on the most for this last week of class (I can’t believe we are at the end of another 6 weeks!)? I was thinking a round of blind hides inside, simple one target hides outside – maybe covering the tea ball with some leaves, and more ‘fetch the truffle’ games. I don’t think we are quite ready to bury hides (?), but I am wondering whether we’ll be able to do that with the ground frozen – maybe it will just take a little more elbow grease. What skills would you like to see me video?

    This time change also hinders us a bit. It means it is dark by the time I get home from work now – so I’ll need to be creative in our outdoor practice time 🙂

    Alana McGee

    hang on there Shannon- Analysis coming in a sec!

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