Tim & Molly

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    Alana McGee

    Welcome to class Tim!  This is the forum topic where you will post your questions and homework videos for feedback from the instructors.  Please take a moment to tell us about yourself, your dog and your interest in truffle hunting (and what you have been working on during the break).



    hi all I have been working on keeping Molly at source. For about three weeks now I have been burying targets in various locations. Been using this field and the grassed area with trees shown in the previous course.

    Molly struggled a little at first with finding the buried targets i mention this in one of the videos. She’s back on track now and finding them with relative ease.

    What next I’m thinking I need to allow the scents to cook for longer at the minute i’ve only left them for a max of 30 mins

    Alana McGee

    Nice harness Tim!

    Forgot how FAST she was. Wowza. That is a start gate procedure. Love watching it.

    In the first video, is this the size of area you’ve typically been working in the last few weeks tim?

    Molly certainly has style. 0:36 BEAUTIFUL headcheck. 0:45 good work you Tim on providing the encouragement when you realize she is honing in but not yet at source. For other students reading this, when we say encouragement when dog is on odor working to pinpoint, this is exactly what we mean here when Tim demonstrates it with Molly. Notice WHEN he is saying it in relation to Molly’s behavior. NICE Tim! Notice how he is also closing the distance to Molly during this time. You get to be an example today Tim 😉

    She’s so genuinely excited when she finds it Tim, it is hard not to smile. Well done on your part with all of this. She does a GREAT job, much improved on staying at source.

    How deep were those buried ones?

    2nd Vid: 1:08- again, Great timing on when you ask her if she “got something” it is information to her. Nice closing distance. You’re an excellent example! Well done Tim. AWESOME re-alerting on it outside of the hole at 1:28

    As for your question on buried vs dry/ wet.

    Yes. When you start buying it becomes a complex environment in multiple ways.

    Buried is harder because it does mute and disperse. How it does that and to what degree is determined by moisture content in the soil. Also Odor doesn’t necessarily come out of the ground right where the truffles is. It depends on how friable the soil is and moisture content. (Ice is a whole other issue that can dramatically impact it- but you won’t have to deal with that luckily!)

    Dry can be hard because odor doesn’t cling, but when a dog is right on source they can pinpoint easier. Imagine a yellow tennis ball in middle of a football field full of red tennis balls (It’s just what came to mind because I am staring at Lolo asleep with one as I type). It’s hard to find initially, but when you see it, you see it and can go right to it.

    Wet is easier and harder (each dog handles it a bit different). It is easier in some ways because odor is now clinging to the ground more and so there are larger volumes of particles for the dogs to find. However it can now (when wet) disperse odor over a much larger area, so you’ll have false columns of odor leading not to source, aka higher concentrations of odor can pool more easily in more spots. With experience in damp environments dogs naturally adapt to this pretty well. But that is why you really need to practice when it is wet. Dog’s need experience to draw from navigating those soil conditions. It can be more challenging at first for sure because there is more odor they have to sort through to find the correct one that leads to source.

    Does that answer you question? I can wax on about it forever, so let me know.

    This looks good Tim.

    Try an experiment where you cluster some targets. Not right on top of each other, but close, that adds complexity as well. Do it when wet. (DONT BURY THEM TOO DEEP) Molly finding one then another discerning the specific and individual odor trail of each when they are close and mingled around one another. something to try anyway! (Also realistic for your orchard)


    Thanks for the feedback here, Sorry was a bit late getting started with this got my dates confused!!!

    I have varied the size of the area I’m working. depends were I am. I have been spreading the targets out. This is mainly so Molly can run off a bit of excitement and start to ‘look’ properly!

    I have used the harness as a trigger to let her know what we are about to do. It only goes on just before we start training.

    When I ask the question ‘have you got something’ I try to move away from the target initially. If she is hitting on a scent that isn’t truffle she will move away with me. If she stays in the area I know we’re in ,then I move in and continue to encourage her. so we go escalate the situation from a question ‘what have you got’ to go find it good dog when she stays in the area.

    Not buried very deep 1-2 inches under the soil

    Clustering targets
    what kind of area should I be working within couple of square feet, yards? Are we likely to find several truffles in one area so i would find one then get Molly to check in vicinity for more??

    Alana McGee

    Hey Tim.

    Great, thanks for letting us know. That all sounds good above (the moving away and then when she is persistent with odor you know you’re in. That’s the important part is being able to read her).

    When you are doing the condensed exercise, Yards as the unit. Maybe 2×4 or 2×2…. doing it smaller than that is harder, so in this case start with a bit more space and then shrink it down. I’ll be honest: when you get to commercial production levels, you’ll have (hopefully!) multiples within a few feet. It wouldn’t be uncommon to have them inches away from one another. So eventually, get to a cluster of 6 – 8 inches apart.

    “Are we likely to find several truffles in one area so i would find one then get Molly to check in vicinity for more??” Yes you are- and if you are in wild woodlands in England, same thing. Don’t dwell on her “having” to find everything in that small space right away, but try it and see what happens. She can leave off and come back to it too- but see how she reacts.


    Hi Alana ,

    Did some clustering today, went ok . Found 2 of 3 easy ………. soil was damp,grass a bit dewy, targets been in ground for about 4hrs. target no 3 was at the base of a tree soil was very dry and fine here…….still looking for it!
    she clearly twitched on the scent a couple of time and gave the area a really good going over, and I’m pretty sure she must have gone right over it but couldn’t pinpoint the source.
    This is the same situation she has struggled with before, (although cooked for much longer)I’m assuming its down to the dry soil, what do you think?

    Have been working up to the 4 hours mentioned above this week, an hour longer each day

    Alana McGee

    It’s okay she couldn’t find it. What is interesting and you’ll want to pay attention to- which you know is a fact right now because you are placing the targets (or someone is) is when she is struggling to pinpoint and pay attention to ‘what’ that looks like. It will be invaluable information later. There can be a multitude of reasons why she glanced over it. Dry soil, yes, especially if it is fine as that doesn’t allow odor to escape as much. Maybe it wasn’t off gassing as much. What were you using- truffle pieces or oil? There is far more variability with the real thing in terms of how they off-gas.

    Keep in mind that the longer you cook targets the more the scent will be infecting the environment. If it is dry area, cooking a decent amount of time (4 hrs is pretty darn good) it will have come out of the ground and dispersed, not clinging to much (because it’s dry) and be weaker there despite the fact technically more of it is in the area- so it is not surprising it was difficult to locate. More of it, diluted, with less of a focal point. Does that make sense? It’s ok though!

    An hr jump is a lot in cooking time each day. Admirable, and if you feel she is doing just as well as previous day, keep at it, but when you start to get in the 4-12 hr+ range complexity jumps because now all that off gassed material is moving around the environment more. We kind of urge you, if she seems to be having a tough time, to do 1/2 hr increments, or vary it. But 2 out of three with obvious indication she was close to pinpointing but struggling is a really good step! Those scenarios often take more practice, and that’s why we do it. It’ll get easier the more you do it with her. After a few more successes she’ll have more experience to draw from on how to locate in that kind of scenario.


    Hi these targets had been in for about 2.5hrs .

    I’d churned the area up with a trowel and put in a few false markers , you can see she is drawn towards all of the areas which have been disturbed, thankfully she only alerts on the right one!

    At the end I show the dry soil, Molly has struggled with anything placed in this kind of soil. having said that at least she found this one! The targets placed in damper soil seem no problem.

    I have been using small pieces frozen truffle for quite some time now.

    Clustered targets seem to work OK. After locating the first one I make her search the immediate area , pulling her back in if she drifts off, when I’m happy she’s covered the entire area I’ll ease off her and let her expand the search as we move on. Still working within a couple of yards.

    How long do you think I would need to be cooking scents before she is ready to start looking for the real thing?

    How much more difficult is locating the real thing?
    My understanding is that the truffle emits scent when its ripe. is that correct?
    I’m asking this as I’ve been up to the orchard a few times recently and have had no indication of anything……..could be nothing there, could be she’s not quite ready. what do you think? I have always manufactured a find by throwing a tea ball into some long grasses. which now after working on buried scents she finds really to easy!


    Didn’t mention on the last post, after we lost one last week I’ve eased off blind searches. I’m pretty confident in reading molly, but while I’m doing the more difficult searches in the dry soil I want to know where it is exactly so I can give her a little encouragement if its needed.

    Alana McGee

    Hi Tim, This is a long post so going to try to break it up into sections for easier reading, and maybe a couple posts.

    First off- GOOD Tim for messing with the soil and creating some disturbance. It is a means of proofing to make sure a dog isn’t just following the scent of disturbed earth. Always a bit nerve-wracking the first time.

    Also we think your analysis on backing off on Blind searches when the situation is more complex is a good one. You read her exceptionally well, but we think it will help both of your confidence levels to continue on as you described.

    As for checking the tight area where there are clusters. It sounds good, and Molly is very driven, but try to be aware if you are pulling her off odor through communication. If she’s on odor of a truffle and you really think that is what is going on and she is ranging, honestly, let her follow that scent column. You can bring her back to your condensed spot and have her re-check it.


    The dry soil issue will hopefully cease to be a problem soon, on your Orchard anyway. Different if you feel like wild hunting. As your season develops you should hopefully be getting rain, which will also help the truffle fruit bodies grow. So win win if Molly seems to be doing better in the wet. Some dogs the reverse (working in wet) is much harder.

    If you have irrigation on the orchard your soil shouldn’t be too dry regardless.

    Talk to Paul, and we’ll email him, but soon you’re going to want to start practicing with fresh if you can. That is going to be a precursor, if you can, to looking for real truffles. Use different individual fruit bodies. We’ve discussed this with Paul at length and he knows what you should be working with. We’ll email him about your position. Luckily summer/burgundy truffle last for a long time so you should be able to use the same truffles for a while.


    For your question on is the real thing more difficult. Yes and no. While some dogs have a disconnect between real truffles and staged, we don’t think Molly will have a problem transitioning, however the first few real finds, and the first few times you are out on your orchard you want to be very sensitive to what she’s telling you. Alerts may be truncated. Make sure when you are out (and it sounds like you have done this and had them with you) on your orchard that you absolutely have a target with you to manufacture success. You may have to do it frequently. Keep any time she is on the orchard fun of course. If she looks interested in something but doesn’t alert, mark it, and investigate later with out her.

    When you start on the orchard, just as you have in new areas, build up to working for longer periods of time, Don’t expect to be able to work for an hr right away.

    We cover it in Lvl 3 but prior to working on your orchard you & Molly should ideally be able to do blind hides in a large area with naked truffles buried 1 to 4 inches, with compacted soil above, with cooking times from 2 hrs to over 24+. That’s ideal. We know that doesn’t always happen, but to be really solid, eventually, that’s what you want to shoot for.

    If you do go and practice on the orchard and can film it, show us that. There may be some other things we can point out. Feel free to use a longer video and not edit it for time. We’d like to see all of it.

    You & Molly also should ideally be able to handle concentrated or flooded areas of blind hides. That is what you are doing now basically when we asked you to put bunches of targets in one spot. We call it flooding because that is what is happening to the odor. Truffle odor is inundating the area and it can be hard for dogs to single out one source among many.

    When you practice on the orchard- stage a couple things. How does that go, is that what you have been doing when you checked previously. Don’t be afraid to bury a truffle piece there. It’s the species you are growing, so no harm!

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 9 months ago by Alana McGee. Reason: added
    Alana McGee

    Truffles emitting scent when ripe:

    Ah yes, this question. Yes, truffles give off odor when ripe. HOWEVER they will give off odor when they are not quite entirely ripe (but some of it is), mostly ripe, perfectly ripe, and over ripe.

    It’s nitpicky, and most consumers will have NO idea. In fact I often see distributors selling summer truffles far before they should. Do they have aroma? Yes, but not a lot, but there is a marketplace for them. The truffles that are coming out of the ground now have more aroma and are more valuable. This is where the Summer truffle vs Burgundy truffle debate comes in. It’s a big topic, and Paul’s specialty, but the “burgundy” truffle is basically a letter ripening time on a summer truffle so aroma is more concentrated.

    OVER time (and we consider it an advanced skill–we cover in Lvl 3) you can select for alerts only on the ripest truffles through discrimination. We don’t advocate starting that process in earnest until you have a very solid reward history, and in your case until you have production really coming out on your orchard. Right now Tim you’re in the phase of proving concept that your orchard is ‘online’. That’s your focus. Any truffles at all coming out are AWESOME. It is also is unlikely to be an issue for most summer truffles as you can control ‘when’ you are looking and thus the spectrum of approximate ripeness.

    Truffles off-gas when the spores are maturing, but just because some of the truffle is mature doesn’t mean all of it is. This is where you as a handler come in to play more at this stage in your dog’s training, As well as you as an orchard owner. It’s your job as an orchard owner/ harvester to know what season/ weeks are the best to harvest. In the UK for farmed truffles, it’s still a bit up in the air, but now through the end of the year and beyond is good. Anything you & Molly find now, ripe or mostly ripe is incredibly valuable information.

    Right now if Molly were to find truffle on your orchard- awesome- no matter where it is in the ripeness “spectrum” awesome, go Molly! A green dog without a lot of reward history will select and alert usually on off gassing (meaning ripeness) of any kind within reason.

    A dog will not alert on a completely unripe truffle because there is no aroma they can detect. Dogs are detecting a gas that comes off the truffle with maturity.

    Here is a photo (of Perigords in various stages of ripeness- Summer truffles will look a wee bit different, but same idea)

    Dogs will not alert on truffle #1, unlikely to alert on #2, A green dog may alert on #3, and all well trained dogs should alert on #4. That’s what unripe truffles look like. Again, not as much of an issue for those of you growing Burgundy/summer truffles as it is for folks in colder climates growing Perigord.

    Having dogs alert on the “perfect” ripeness takes time and a decent reward history on a variety of individual fruit bodies. The more you can practice or have positive histories with finding them, the better!

    There are very specific things you can do to hone in on certain Volatiles of ripeness, but again we consider it an advanced skill and one we strongly urge folks don’t jump to until after they have had some harvesting under their belt and are comfortable.

    This is overkill, but you asked 😉

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 9 months ago by Alana McGee.
    Alana McGee

    Now Tim you are getting into a stage of what professional harvesters do. When you get to the point where these become “blind hides” you are going to want to carry “markers” of some kind with you.

    We use ribbon tape tied on metal washers and hazard flags. You can use anything, but these are visible and allow you to mark areas of interest, or truffle locations. You’ll want to think about what you want to use. I should have taken pictures from last week of my Kit, ohwell.

    Here is a photo of a harvester in Australia. All those ribbons are tied to washers. He throws one out on a spot the dog alerts on so he (or someone) can harvest later.

    Some of what you do is going to depend on the size of your orchard as well. I personally will tag things differently if I am working on a 600 tree orchard vs a 4,500 tree orchard. 4,500 orchard we want to be able to see the tree from far away so in addition to ground markers where we find truffles, I ribbon the top of the tree.

    Here is a photo of Stuart on one of the productive farms in Tennessee. Each of those flags represents a truffle find from previous (or this) year

    Eventually You’ll want to practice with Molly likely going from tree to tree as well- but again, this is going to depend a bit on the size of your orchard.



    OK, so we’re going to talk to Paul, but your next step while doing this (and again we cover it in Lvl 3 is you’ll want to start working with Molly on naked truffles. You’ll want to know how she interacts with them so you can work on various skills. She’s so excited! She may respond a bit differently to a whole truffle unprotected. You’ll want to see what that looks like.
    You guys are so fun to watch!

    The video looks good, no complaints or concerns really. You are incredibly good at reading her and waiting for a more pronounced alert. She certainly has a zippy style 😉 and yes that is very dry, but well done Molly. With enough Time Molly can find it. How is the soil on the orchard?

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 9 months ago by Alana McGee. Reason: pics
    • This reply was modified 8 years, 9 months ago by Alana McGee.

    Hi Alana,

    Thanks for the detailed info. here is a picture of the Orchard. the trees are quite close together with quite narrow alleys formed by all the grasses that don’t get cut by the mower thses alley are about 10-12 feet wide, the prevailing wind blows at a right angle to the alleys. The soil up here is dampish we’ve had plenty of rain this summer! when I’ve been up here I’ve tried to go when conditions are best ie at the weekend I went up after we had a wet morning and then an hour or two of sun, even I could smell the grasses and trees and my sense of smell is bad even for a human!

    ‘When you practice on the orchard- stage a couple things. How does that go, is that what you have been doing when you checked previously.’

    In the above are you saying have I been burying targets on the orchard? if so the answer is no. I can’t see any reason why it would be any different from some of the other areas been training on. my main issue up here is making sure I get Molly over the ground effectively. I think the alleys or lanes make it more difficult for the scent to travel around. so I will need to very careful not move to quickly allowing her to cover the ground thoroughly.

    The next vid I put up will show she s starting to slow down after her initial excitement, this will help. looking for the longer cooked scents has made her ‘look’ more carefully


    These targets had been in 3.5hrs
    In this vid she hits the first target at 1.42ish the second she seems to be on almost straight away. the third she has a bit more difficulty with getting a little bit confused with the first target. she’s on it from at least 3.03. Just before at about 2.58- 2.59 she gives a tiny little twitch / look to her right and i think shes caught a whiff of something there. May have been a little premature on encouraging her on the last one. Love watching her work at this pace, now the scents seem to be more dispersed/ weaker she has slowed down and is working far more effectively.

    Next time I’m on the orchard looking for the real thing what going to be the best way to manufacture a find? is it going to be just throwing one out there as i’ve done previously? I only ask be cause these kind of targets are clearly different in scent pattern, shape strength whatever you’d call it ! to a buried target thats been in the ground for a few hours.

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 9 months ago by tim. Reason: more info
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