Tim Rinaldi & 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.

    Class begins June 1st but you already have access to the first lesson so go ahead and check that out!  You can begin posting video homework and questions June 1st.


    Hi all,

    I am based in lincolnshire UK. I have two dogs that I have worked dogs as gun dogs the older one being a fantastic retriever and beating dog. The younger one Molly has only had one year working and it’s her that I will be working with for this course.

    I have always been fascinated by dogs scenting ability so when the opportunity to search for truffles in a plantation came up I jumped for it.

    Molly seems to be picking things up very quickly, she is indicating on box hides very confidently. see video

    Alana McGee

    Welcome Tim.

    Lincolnshire is a beautiful place! This will be lots of fun for you all we hope.

    We are very excited to see you & Molly work together. Kristin and I will take a look at the video Monday, but from your brief description, fabulous.

    You’ll find that there is a lot of cross over in the early stages of training between gun dog training for fowl and truffle hunting. Differences to be sure, and techniques to follow that will be helpful in the long run, but Molly already being obedient to an odor (even if it is not truffle odor) will be an advantage in your foundational training.

    Are you currently working Molly as a retriever or flushing/beating/pointer? It likely will become evident in the video, but any background you can provide on her & your previous hunt training (including your experience with your older dog) will be helpful to us in providing suggestions and alternative to regimes you may already be familiar with. The more we know about you & your current working style, the better we will be able to adjust facets of the program to fit your needs!

    We are excited to see more and work with you through the program.

    Make sure to check the square box below this typing field to receive all replies from us.

    Alana McGee

    Hi Tim. Great job with the first video homework! You and Molly are well on your way. Here is a video analysis of the homework. Well done!

    Go ahead and add more boxes. Also mix up the arrangement for every pass down the line of containers.


    Hi Kristin, Alana,

    I have not worked Molly a huge amount, my main focus has been to establish a connection between myself and the dog so we are working together and not Molly heading off on her own into the wilderness on the trail of something stinky!
    What I have done is try to harness her natural instinct to hunt so she is quartering the ground in front of me and when she flushes game we are looking for a sit. We are not at the stage where I would be 100% happy with putting her in deep cover for any length of time.
    She has done a bit of directional work where send her out and handle her into an area where she can hunt for a retrieve.
    She is usually a very quick learner.

    Okay back to truffles. Firstly something I should have mentioned before I posted the video It is not going to be practical for me to train indoors. My house is very small with two little kids and my dogs are very excitable! The house is a place where I’ve always insisted the dogs are calm. I don’t see this as an issue as when they are working they are always very focused. If you think this may be an issue let me know.

    Thanks for the video feedback. The incident you picked up on with Molly on the first run – I’d not got the clicker in my hand and as I rummaged around in my pocket the pressure on the leash changed, Kristin you are right she is a sensitive dog.

    A couple of questions ; I am using frozen truffle as scent, how long is it usable for? Secondly you picked up on the lead I’m using, do I need to have her on a lead? I’m more than happy to work her without………but I’m not a dog trainer!
    Video post with multiple boxes coming soon…….

    Alana McGee

    Training outside will be just fine for you and Molly. Just create an environment as free of distractions as possible. Be very mindful of wind and other environmental factors. Molly is keen to work on the truffle scent so we don’t see it as a big problem. If you need an indoor space, do you have a garage available?

    Since she is that sensitive to a change in tension on the leash, we recommend you move to a harness as soon as possible. Her equipment should be something she is allowed to pull on. You will be able to work her off leash, but for now, let’s get her accustomed to a harness so you have the option to work on or off leash later. Since you are outside, we recommend having her on lead for awhile since the working space is not restricted as it would be inside.


    not sure whats happened there, did have a bit of trouble uploading . Try this

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 12 months ago by tim.
    Alana McGee

    I like your introduction Tim.

    What an enthusiastic worker she is!

    GREAT improvement on your truffle party at the source. Look at that tail go. Good job. By staying at the source for the entire reward sequence, as Kristin mentioned in the previous video, you are also building value in that location. It is also fabulous that she after you release your touch on her, she goes right back to source. That should also be encouraged and rewarded. We love and encourage dogs who are pushy in this regard. It will make you life much easier on the orchard later.

    Thank you for clarifying the switch in lead.

    If you need suggestions on harnesses to use, we can provide a few that we like and use for our dogs and recommend to students which are available online, but for now any harness will do.

    *The important thing for a harness down the line is fit. You don’t want it to be cutting into the neck via the chest strap, nor too close behind the elbows and rubbing/ restricting movement. We tend to prefer the K9 Julius type working harnesses and it is what our dogs wear in the field and on orchards.

    Working with a long line is also great, and for working on the orchard getting used to how to handle longer lines without applying pressure on the dog, or getting tangled will take some time, but it is a very valuable skill. You do a good job not applying pressure on the line.

    0:52- Wow. Watch this part of the video again. See what she did there. When she hits the scent column there is no question she is on odor.

    Your timing on your click for the one you thought was early (0:54) was actually ok. The click wash at the moment it appears that she was at odor. Your mechanics were spot on, and she responded beautifully by coming back to the source where you were. THATS where the party was, and she wanted to be a part of it. Even though she moved past and checked the next box nearby she came back to odor. Notice your body orientation on this hide and how she approaches you when she comes back. I also like how on your way out she is checking the other visual targets (boxes). Eager worker!

    You have a very nice & clear start cue.

    Good job rewarding/ praise at source at the 1:58 mark.

    2:07- GOOD. Do notice the wind. It makes a big difference in how dogs work and eventually how you will approach searching on the orchard. Good for you for realizing the eddies that form at the back of the buildings where the cross wind can come through and make it harder for Molly & you to detect the truffle scent. This was a good choice.

    She is a keen working dog! Love it.

    What lesson are you currently working on Tim, just so we can offer a bit more advice without giving you too much at once on continuing things to try in terms of scenarios to run and set ups.

    Alana McGee

    As for your question on Truffle odor: I assume you are using frozen Summer truffle yes? Tuber aestivum?

    The short answer: a few weeks to a month or more if you are only having them out of the freezer for short periods of time.

    The more complicated answer:

    They are pretty darn hardy, but there are a few things to watch out for. Odor does change and degrade over time and the volatiles change in the freezer. We say only keep your frozen truffles to use in training in the freezer for a 1yr. The truffles continue to off-gas during that time and slowly change aroma profile. It may not be detectable to us, but dogs can notice the difference. We talk about it in future lessons but what we are doing in training is teaching the dogs to alert on an array of odors, not just one single volatile compound.

    Eventually (and in level 3) we will encourage you to use fresh truffles if you can source them. Your truffle season is coming up, so use fresh in training when you can, and stock up. Summer truffles last a pretty long time fresh- multiple weeks if cared for properly. We have a guide for how to care for Tuber aestivum. I’ll see if we can figure out where to post it, or what lesson it may be included in.

    Frozen truffles may look squishy on the inside as freezing and refreezing will breakdown the cell walls, but the volatiles should still be ok.

    If the odor starts to get funky at all, throw it out.

    Do try to use pieces in training from more than one fruit body if possible. We explain why again, later in the course.

    You can also use cotton stored with your frozen truffles in training. This is good as it changes the odor concentration you and Molly are working on. We don’t foresee it being a problem with Molly but remember that changing the density/ intensity of odor changes the scenario and makes it more complicated. It is good to practice with varying degrees of odor.


    Hi Thanks for feedback,

    I’ve used long lines quite a bit in the past mostly for basic training getting the dog ready to be off the lead. Ie when I first got Molly I spent about 6 weeks training her on a long line until I was happy I had a strong enough connection with the dog to make a few basics command 100% reliable. I’ve also used the long line to create a quartering pattern for flushing game.

    I love watching spaniels work its all about that moment when they pick up the scent change direction and accelerate. I’ll have to post a video of my other dog Meg she makes Molly look slow !

    Might have to get some new truffle not sure how long they’ve been in the freezer.

    What lesson am I working on? Good question-I’m not really sure. I’ve only spent about an hour training with Molly (in ten minute blocks) I am 100% she can find and alert on the truffle no matter what box scenario is used without me having to help out. So I think I need to make it a bit harder so she has to really use her nose to find the scent, so this could be using blind targets in a larger area. She has plenty of drive and will not get discouraged if she doesn’t find something quickly. Not sure where this fits in with the lesson structure.

    What would you recommend to work on with the alert? At the moment she will paw a box or try to pick up one of the little tins. I’m happy with either as I think eventually she will end up pawing at the ground as the truffle won’t be in a little tin!

    I’ll have a look at week 2 re the environmental factors. Are there some other set and scenarios to try out?

    Alana McGee

    sorry for the delay Tim. I’ve been traveling.

    Blind targets are great if you can have someone help you. Start in a small/ same size area you are using behind the garages for this the first time out. When you don’t know where the odor is the stress level goes up, and it becomes about you trusting Molly. If you think she is alerting, Check the box to see what is there. We do go over this in later lessons, I am checking to see what course it is in. It may be in Developing a Reliable Truffle Dog Team, but there are things to take into account when you start blind hides, such as walking and leaving your trail elsewhere too.

    Then, after you are confident with that, go back to knowing where your hides are but increase your space. Also increase the amount of other objects and distraction in the search scenario. Look at Lesson/Week 4 and the video demonstrations of Monza performing this exercise. It shows this maneuver of teaching a precise alert as well.

    Another modification addressed in Lesson 6 is multiple targets. After Molly finds one, the hunt continues. Read that lesson and it will provide a bit more perspective on things to take into consideration when doing so. Also setting up scenarios where the targets have time to ‘cook’, as this changes odor density in an area and how odor moves through space. How does molly react or choose when she is working in an environment with more than one “hot” scent column. This idea of “cooking” is important. We would ask you to try that first if you haven’t been doing so before moving to multiple hides. And gradually increasing the amount of time you allow the targets to cook.

    What we would like to know when you do these scenarios and set ups ideally is how long have the targets been been cooking out in the environment, what time of day it is, is this your first, second, third attempt of the day, has another dog gone before Molly etc. Any pertinent information will become helpful for you to think about later and start to take into consideration. So it is good habit to think about, if not tell us. You and Molly are doing great, but understanding your environment and all the factors in it are components that will allow you as a team to be successful later as the games get more complicated and the source of the odor becomes more difficult to locate.


    As for alerts, that is a very good question. It prompts us to ask a few questions about the nature of where you and Molly will be working, which include the following:

    Do you plan on harvesting only on your own orchard, or others? What about wild harvesting in the UK?

    We tend to recommend students use what comes naturally to the dog as part of the alert behavior chain, but also strongly encourage nose touches for precision. You can work on that right now in the small area of your yard behind the garages by opening up the containers you are using after she finds them. Please see the videos in Lesson 4 for this as well. Let us know about the above questions, as there may be different things to take into consideration depending on where you will be hunting, and for whom- whether it is going to be mostly personal in nature or as a business on other orchards where other orchard owners may have very specific protocols for harvesting.

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 11 months ago by Alana McGee.

    Week Two

    Hi have been working on blind targets and tonight had a go at looking for scents which had been cooked for about 15-20mins. The second one was Noticeably more difficult to find,(poss due due to position near garage door?) really got the dog working. Nice. I think I need to work on this type of target for a bit to really get Mollys nose working.

    This next vid shows me trying to shape the alert, ultimately looking for a the dog to hold its nose on the scent. looking at the film this actually went better than I thought.

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 11 months ago by tim. Reason: addition comment
    Alana McGee

    Hi Tim,

    I love your intros 🙂 Life is good!

    We are going to make two posts, one to work with each video:

    First Video:

    EXCELLENT noticing (and telling us- thank you!) where the wind is coming from and how to pick an appropriate angle from which to enter the search area.

    0:37 nice letting slack out on the line. Wow she is fun to watch. What an enthusiastic approach she has- but we want to be careful here too because we would say that Molly is one of those dogs who when stressed in a situation will likely get “higher” in energy level. It will appear she is working, but it becomes frenetic. You see this from her at the very very beginning of the video and again when she is behind the cans under the trees wherein you’re not sure if the target is there or not.

    0:41 you do an excellent job of cheating your body to the side, directing Molly in the opposite direction. While this may seem subtle, and you may do it instinctually to a degree at this point- it is something very very good for other students to note. Our dogs are very sensitive to pressure, and Tim, by allowing his body opening up and cheating to the side, opens up the space for Molly to explore and actually provides Molly with information on where to search. You can send you dog into an area to search through the way your body is facing/ or blocking.

    Question- Do you have her trained on a whistle for quartering? Is that what we are seeing there? She is doing a good job of working in front of you. Just want to make sure because the birds are so loud too, so that we comment accordingly. Well done on using that training to your advantage in these situations.

    You do a great job of giving her space to work and not crowding her. You have excellent communication with her, and it is apparent you have been working on directionals in other realms because she is responsive to your cues to check certain areas. For working on orchards later in your case this will be extremely helpful.

    We think this was very good practice for you as a handler Tim in how to read when Molly is or is not on scent in more complex situations. We would say it would be beneficial to back off on the multiple blind hides. We’d suggest going to marked (but not visible) simply because you both need more reward history, and you need slightly more reward history on how to read her in those situations wherein you’re not sure if she is on odor or not. Someone else can still place them- you just need to know the general area where they are. You did very well though.

    It will be helpful for you to know what Molly’s behaviors look like when she is on odor when you know where the target is, so you can start to see subtleties, and acknowledge & praise her when she is in odor vs the differences of other things such as we saw in some of this video. Her alerts are very clear when she finds it, but the process of “being in odor” isn’t quite as solidified yet.

    Molly’s tail when she finds that target… Wooo—eee. She loves this. Well done. Nice re-alert nose touch on the “show me”. Notice how she actually offered you one unsolicited alert very quickly before you arrive at the scene 1:04. Excellent reward and playing with Molly here.

    At 1:36 that was absolutely right. Way to Go Molly. YES there was a truffle up there! Good job on your part for recognizing her trying to alert at elevation and rewarding, even though it wasn’t what you, Tim, were looking for. She was absolutely right. Luckily truffles don’t grow “in” trees, but this is likely to happen in multi hide scenarios. She is not wrong by any means. Dogs will learn context eventually that truffles on your plate, or in the kitchen (unless you ask them to find one you dropped—— it has happened), don’t count. Dogs also pick up on the dimished energy you put off on these kinds of finds and so over time they are less enthusiastic about them as well. You did great here but you’ll want to be conscious and careful about your energy in those situations.

    As we say often, truffle hunting is an odor messy sport. You learned a valuable lesson here 😉 When a dog who is strong on truffle odor finds odor…. she’ll alert on it. No matter where that is. While at elevation, this hide was exposed (meaning aside from the height, it was easy to access). It’ll be interesting to see as we progress how she does when she cannot as readily access the hide. We would suggest that while you are working a search area with multiples you either pocket the truffle container, or put it inside another container and keep it with you- or if possible remove completely from the scenario. For example, in the field when Kristin & I are truffle hunting, after we find one truffle, it goes into a container and then into our pack. This is a signal for the dog that that truffle is no longer part of the game.

    A lot of truffle hunting is about these routines and chains of behavior that act as transfers of information to the dog. If the truffle is in my backpack, the dog does not get rewarded anymore for alerting on it. That make sense?

    At this stage if you put the truffle in your pocket as opposed to on top of the trash can she is less likely (although probably will still try) to nose and alert on your pocket. Her imprint on odor seems very solid so we would say that you can praise her for this behavior, because again, she is right, but she isn’t rewarded in the same fashion. Eventually she will distinguish that truffles in Dad’s pocket don’t get toys.

    Good idea to unclip the lead as she was working behind the cans, as that was likely preventing or causing more difficulty in searching or accessing the hide around those cans. It is evident you have done a lot of leash work, which is great and we honestly would say, if safe, either work off lead or on a harness as Molly is reacting to the slightest amount of pressure on the collar.

    When she does find it- oh my goodness that bum! You guys have such a nice bond and it shows. Overall very well done.

    If you want to make it harder for her Tim while still doing marked (but obscured) hides increase your search area- Make sure you always have a target on you when you do this though so you can manufacture a success if necessary to keep the reward history high.

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 11 months ago by Alana McGee. Reason: Added content
    • This reply was modified 8 years, 11 months ago by Alana McGee. Reason: added
    Alana McGee

    Nice Tim. This is an excellent example of how to use a toy as reward in short precision movements/ training sessions. She had a couple of really nice trials (that’s what we call an execution of an event or repetition) where she was holding her nose on target for longer, but a few things to watch out for. Watch this video again with this in mind:

    Sometimes she is mouthing, sometimes she is not even touching it. You are shaping an alert here, but what do you want that alert to be?(you told us- but keep that in mind during the session) Think about the criteria for success. If she touches it for 1 second does that count towards your shaped alert, or must it be two seconds?

    We are being nitpicky because you guys are doing so well, but watch this video again and look at when Molly is touching the object and your click. You are just a hair late. If the click happens after Molly is pulling her face away that is what she will begin to associate as the desired behavior. 0:38 was better. 1:03 was good too as duration was building, but that was open mouthed- just fyi so you are aware of that. Again, this is just the beginning of shaping an alert, but things to watch out for down the line. Again, we know this is just foundational shaping but want you to start to notice these subtle differences.

    Would Molly be willing to do this exercise with food? She might be a bit calmer and deliberate. If so we would recommend you put the target under something stationary/ stable, like a log so it isn’t moveable and use your clicker to mark for the contact.

    You do have an amazing bond with her, and it shows.

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 11 months ago by Alana McGee. Reason: typos

    First video

    Thanks good points raised there.

    A few questions, will try to be brief

    Yes have her working on the whistle.

    Using body posture intentionally – done lots of this in the fed with other dog.

    Not seeing the stress in that video can you tell me where you think its occurring?

    When you say in Odur do you mean she has picked up the scent? The incident near the bins she had definitely picked up the scent of something Poss a rabbit maybe next doors cat left us a present in there! See 2.01. My interpretation is that the change in direction is the start of the chain in the alert. when she come out of the bins and looks at me I should have carried on. if you look at 58 secs you can see this same behaviour which leads to an unsolicited alert. She also offers this pawing alert at 2.45

    I think possibly need to trust her more she didn’t complete alert chain near bin should have moved on quicker.

    Shaping Alert

    Been trying for a nose touch with long term aim of a nose held on target.
    Is this how to proceed; click for nose contact. when this is happening consistently try to hold click back for a second, when this is mastered leave click a bit longer.
    Ok this is were it get tricky. Have just tried with food still very exciting. prob I have is she is too quick and too clever I’m miss timing clicks -she then offers the wrong behaviour for next couple of goes. In this situation she is definitely getting stressed . Have only been doing very short 5min sessions on this due to stress. The problem is I’m not able to be consistent this is leading to the dog being stressed as she is unsure of what is being asked of her. Any tips here very gratefully received!

    Sorry not been very brief! Hope you can see from the videos how much we are both enjoying this.

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