Tim Rinaldi & Molly

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    oh no its all going wrong!!!!!!!!

    Molly has started giving the target a very light nosing and then moves away from the target completely . If I didn’t know it was there I would never pick up on it . I’m having to encourage her to get at it. Once I’m down there with her its fine- she will nose touch as much as you want. I think that in focusing on the later stages of the alert sequence I’ve lost the start, which is a bit of an issue as this tells me there is something there.

    I have changed the truffle in the tins thought maybe it had gone off- this made no difference. Any suggestions?

    Alana McGee

    In response to your first Post Tim, you were doing a great job with those ball toss rewards. You can build to a longer staying at source, but no need to jump too hard and fast into it to get that end result- much like you said 🙂

    In the last video Molly was offering a re-alert of feet down, lying down nose touches on source. That is great and something to build to. Remember she won’t offer the exact same alert every time at this stage. That’s okay. Pick one (or two) skills (for you or her) to work on in each session. Example: During session A you’re going to focus on nose touches on re-alerts with duration. So you reward for nose touches, and heavily reward for anything that is over 2 seconds in duration. Say you set up 3 hides. 2 of the 3 you’ll accept any criteria for success on a re-alert which involves a nose touch. 1 of the 3 you’ll push and wait a few extra seconds to see if you can’t build duration…. and so on.

    Session B you’ll be focusing on YOUR reward delivery- meaning your ball handling, treat delivering/ clicker timing skills. You’ll follow the same kind of model as above but your focus is on the reward sequence and less on what alert Molly is offering. You’re not ignoring the alert, but you are allowing her more leeway in criteria, because that’s not the focus of your assignment during session B. Make sense?

    You ask what are you looking for (Re: the alert) at this stage- Just what you have been- the Initial foot tap, then Nose touches, repeated nose touches, staying at source. Just build that history.

    Clickers are great for precision, but some of it is your timing, you are correct and she’s a smart cookie and yes, if you’re off it’ll be confusing to her. It’s not irreversible though so don’t freak out, it’s okay if you’re slightly off some days. No one is perfect 😉 It’s not ideal, but you realize you are doing it, which is key. If you’re having a day where you struggle with this- ditch the clicker for that session. Part of truffle hunting is adapting to the moment and what you and your dog need to do together for improved communication. You can use a verbal marker in these instances.

    Because you are very technically capable we would like to see you try to still keep working with the clicker occasionally as it can be so helpful later when honing precise behaviors.

    If you want to practice precise alerts/ behaviors in general with a clicker (and work on YOUR Timing) you can even do it in a game that doesn’t involve truffles at all, and those skills will translate. I believe Kristin mentioned this, but use a yogurt lid, or some small object you can move around and teach Molly to touch it. Click the moment she touches. This way if you are nervous about clicking in environments involving truffle related games and sending the wrong message, you can do it in another arena wherein the stakes may not be as emotionally high or weighted. You’ll start to notice that you may be clicking a moment too late- when she is pulling her face away. Try to self analyze. Video it, and watch the exercise, you’ll be surprised at what you may see. If you take it out of the truffle arena, it make make you more comfortable. Another thing is tricks. Molly is obviously very seasoned when in comes to understanding training and cues, but try shaping something new.

    Have you ever heard for 100 things to do with a box? Have a small box, set it outside and see how she interacts with it. Click initially for any interaction. Then pick a behavior she offers in the course of being around that box, such as putting a foot in the box, click and mark that, and so on and so forth. Skateboards or Big soccer balls are also good for this. The idea is you to work on your timing. We think you are very savvy and capable of using a clicker, so play other games with it and work on you, Tim, being more comfortable with it.

    You’re doing great as you are though in terms of alerts. Just keep building history. You’re doing awesome.

    Alana McGee

    Hi Tim

    Re: Molly leaving source

    Can you film it? Is this a one time thing?

    It could be exactly as you have self analyzed or it could be due to other factors. Hard to say until we know more.

    Often we call these fly-bys or drive bys… Usually the reason they are happening is an indication of external pressure/ stress of some kind and often the state of the handler has an impact on it. Remember Molly is extremely sensitive and as you up the difficulty level in environments this comes into play more and more. Has this happened in more than one or two sessions? It is good to know it is happening now. Information is power. Don’t worry, and don’t stress, everything has a solution, but it does require you to reconnect and be calm, and to try to eliminate possibilities as to why this occurring.. There are techniques for that.

    Seeing it will help us know if that is what is indeed happening (drive-bys) or if it might be something else, such as you do need to build more history on the initial alert because you have been working on precision.

    Your truffle source…. Do you have more than 1 truffle (as in actual fruit body) you are using? Did you just switch sources when this happened? Was the weather different. Was she not feeling well? Right now we are trying to eliminate possibilities on this behavior manifestation.

    In our Level 3 class we address this more thoroughly as it deals with elements of connection and being grounded and really in sync with your dog. If we could see it, we’ll be better able to analyze.

    How was your stress level? If this happens again, try to internally.. take a deep breath and just relax, your heightened tension adds to the situation.

    When this happens take a break. In our experience, young excited, highly seek driven motivated dogs will exhibit this behavior when there is a disconnect from handler to dog. And will often exhibit behaviors exactly as you just described. However it also could be as you assume and you haven’t been reinforcing the initial alert as much. So take a step back and for a few sessions- and in general reinforce the initial more heavily for bit. Build that history for a while.

    It would be good to know more about the situation so anything you can tell us will be helpful, and if it repeats. But let us more and were can try to figure out why and then provide techniques for resolution.


    OK been thinking about it today, the initial alerts molly offers- pawing at ground has been consistently the same since we started this, so this behaviour has been rewarded heavily for about a month, this is also a behaviour that has come naturally I’ve not had to shape in any way and until a couple of day ago has been consistent, every target she has located this alert has been offered.

    The weather should have worked in our favour nice breeze not to hot. Usually she would have been on the source in no time at all.

    The drive bys have happened on the last two sessions, this has been along side different hunting body language, more speed less snif if you like, clearly not hunting effectively. This other factor makes me thinks its more to do with something I’m doing rather than reward history. Here’s my theory, the last two session we worked on hides that she would find easily – much easier than some we have practised on. the scents hadn’t been cooked and I’m 100% sure the truffle is ok, different fruiting bodies. The purpose was to work on her guarding behaviour and get the ball back without her leaving the target area, this was reasonably successful. Got ball back rewarded with food. However she will still guard it even if she’s about to drop it on the floor. IE Molly alerts gets ball, turns head , turns her back to me drops ball on floor. Reading what your last post says i think i’ve put to much pressure on her to give that ball back without guarding, I think I need to work on this a bit slower.

    Indecently she went wild for food reward was turning ball down in favour of tinned hot dogs . I prefer a ball reward just because I’ve always got a ball somewhere and often forget to take food reward to work, where alot of the training takes place. Also you can never run out of ball!

    Moving forwards I’m going to go back to box hides for a session and reward with food. Then back to easy searches being concious not to put to much pressure on her whilst trying to eliminate the guarding behaviour. How does that sound?

    I’ll get a vid of the next search session so you can see whats happening.

    Alana McGee

    If she is wild for the food, use that now. You know she loves the ball so using food will allow you to work on the ball rewarding away from truffles.

    You have a couple of options for working on the ball game.

    1- You can play a two toy game where she gets the one you have when she OFFERS to release the one she has. You will still need to have treats for the final time you take both balls away (unless you teach her to “put it away”. My dogs put their own toys away for a treat.

    2- You can teach her to put the ball in your backpack for a treat. I highly recommend you do this. Not only does it give Molly and “end of reward” and “start hunting again” cue, it gives her the power to release the ball herself instead of you taking it away from her. I can’t take a ball away from Callie but she is not actually resource guarding it. She simply doesn’t want the fun to end. By adding a fun trick of putting the ball away, she happily drops it in my pack for some treats and then goes off to hunt again. There is no pressure involved in the entire sequence. Every part is rewarding.

    It will be valuable later for you to be able to work with toys and treats so this is a great time to work with treats while she wants them and sort out the best toy reward option for you and Molly away from truffles.

    You may even consider working with treats and ending with the ball, making it very clear that you are done hunting. Then she can keep the ball.


    Ok How do we go about getting the dog to put the ball in the bag? I have never done tricks or any thing like this. Can you break down the steps for me?

    Alana McGee

    The easiest way to teach a trick is through shaping. We recommend researching some trick training classes or online resources. Because your request is outside the scope of this class, we have put this out to some of our contractors and instructors in training as an opportunity for them to practice teaching. Please continue with your truffle training and we will pass along information we gather on the topic.

    For now, use option one to make giving the ball back fun for Molly.

    Alana McGee

    Hi Tim

    Just checking in and making sure everything is going ok! Let us know.


    Hi Alana,

    We are getting back on track, Having a few IT issues!!!! should be able to post vid again in next couple of days.
    Ok This is whats been happening.

    Tried to reward with food, worked briefly then lost its appeal.

    Tried two balls, kind of worked.

    My biggest concern was Molly leaving the source – lead me to thinking reward wasn’t enough,

    looked at how she interacts with ball with my other dog when playing and guess what she runs around wit hit in her mouth encouraging the chase then turns, guards the ball and off again. Pretty much exactly what she was doing with me.

    So I gave her a week off truffling and got her back on the ball.

    Alerts have gone backwards a little, but thats fine we are back to hunting at full force, maybe even keener than before. Its like the key to the dogs drive is having possession of the ball.

    Oh yes she is starting to anticipate me giving her the ball and moving off scent towards me when she’s located target. Think I’ve pretty much stopped this.

    alerts at the minute look like this Molly alerts with PAW I click and throw ball in to source. (trying to stop her coming in to me for ball) at this point I’m moving in on target- kneel down molly jumps up getting mucky paws all over my shirt shoulder receives a darn good fuss. I take ball. she immediately re alerts with paw.

    I’m intentionally leaving out nose touches for the time being but will bring back at later date. Might possibly work on show me command in completely different scenario.

    I can really see the value of a nose touch over a paw but at this point in time I want a rock solid initial alert with paw.

    At the mo just doing lots of searches similar to the last video posted and it seems to be working she is red hot keen again!!

    Alana McGee

    Hi Tim.

    That was a wise decision to take a week off and just work on the ball. Good news, we have some contractors and instructors-in-training who started writing out some directions for you to teach Molly to put the ball in a backpack. This will be a good skill for you to work on (away from truffles) during the break between this class and Level 2 (begins August 9th).

    Molly values possession. We can work with that. Dogs who value possession often are much more comfortable being the ones to end the ball game by putting it somewhere. The key is that it needs to be fun and motivating for the dog to do. That is why advise teaching it as a trick.

    We would like you to post an experiment (if you are willing) with your next video. Let’s see what happens if you remove the resistance of giving the ball back and ask Molly to begin searching again while she still has possession of the ball. She may or may not go back to work. If not, no big deal. Just end the session and be neutral about it. She isn’t wrong. We just want to observe what she chooses to do if you ask her to work with the ball in her mouth. Carry a second ball with you in case she drops the one she has while searching. That way you can still reward at the source of the second truffle. You will just leave the one she dropped on the ground and collect it after the session. It’s just there…no big deal. This is purely for observation. Let’s see what Molly’s choices are.

    To make a habit of staying at source, start picking up the target before you reach for the ball.

    Working on a “show me” in a different scenario is a good plan. All of these components can come together later so you are correct to present that training in a different picture for Molly. You might do that training in a low distraction environment with treat so it is a calm behavior that she can learn in a less stimulating environment than a truffle hunt with a ball involved. Be willing to accept just a few repetitions. She may get bored quickly. Quantity isn’t important. The quality of the training experience is. Use very high value rewards. If she loves her dinner, this might be a nice dinner game to play with her. Let us know how it goes.


    Hi Kristin,

    Always willing to experiment! will leave her with the ball in next vid. I’ve had a complete reversal of thought with the guarding/ possessive nature of Molly. I have been actively encouraging it, its what drives her to keep hunting , its what sends her straight back to the target re alerting without any que from me when I take the ball from her. I suppose I got hung up on guarding and possessiveness usually being seen as undesirable traits. All I’m concerned about is her getting her nose down and going for it to locate the target then staying at source until we’re done. if that means she turns her head and wriggles a bit when I come to take the ball I can live with that!

    We are getting there but still plenty to do.

    Just a thought…………. Re leaving ball with molly , where is the motivation for molly to hunt going to be if she already has the ball? she values possession, but she has the ball.? I’ve no doubt that she will still hunt as I’m pretty sure the finds that behaviour gratifying in its self. But I think she will have more drive and go if she thinks she’s looking for it. Only one way to see!

    Alana McGee

    Realistically, you won’t be asking her to re-alert on a truffle in a hole after you have given her the ball in the field. She won’t get the ball until you pick it up. The criteria for getting the ball will be a truffle in your hand. So, it likely won’t be a problem. She is motivated enough that you can start picking up the truffle and having a party with the ball. She will likely start offering 1-2-3 nose targets to get the ball. That’s a good thing. It builds persistence. “Dad, it’s right here! Pick it up already!”

    You might be surprised what happens when you allow her to keep the ball! One of my dogs highly values possession. Sometimes we train with a toy and I never touch it! They often value the interaction with you more than the object itself. Just make sure that Molly sees it this way…
    Object alone (possession) – mildly/ moderately rewarding
    Object + you – MASSIVELY rewarding regardless of who “possesses” it.

    Sometimes, they stick around more when they realize you aren’t going to take it from them. What is the act of taking it from them anyway? It’s interaction with you and the toy. It’s a game that we don’t enjoy.

    If you allow her to keep the ball and send her to hunt again, she may just drop the ball once she catches the scent. It’s hard to sniff with a ball in your mouth. Not that it can’t be done and she just might. She will soon realize that you have an unlimited supply of balls and the one you have is ALWAYS more exciting!


    Apologies looks like the camera man needs a talking to! Nearly forgot to leave her with the ball!

    I think rewarded at the wrong time 0.18 she was looking at me rather than source. She’s definitely working better than when she was doing the fly by’s, could do with slowing down a little, I think this will come when the scents are harder to find. You can see 1.44 she hits it and does a u turn. .55 looks like the scent is travelling along the edge of the long grasses again she hits it from a distance. Has to work a bit harder for the one that’s covered in soil.

    I’ve been having a look at the videos on your site and I see a bit of digging going on. I think this would be very easy to achieve with Molly. bury the ball with target i reckon she’d make the association very quickly. At the minute I’m looking for an alert chain that goes ; Hits scent, paws ground eventually nose touches precise location.
    Is there any reason not to get her to dig?

    Alana McGee

    Hi Tim.

    Well done encouraging her on the first find. She might not need it for the initial search at this point. Start saving verbal encouragement for when she appears frustrated and needs some reassurance. When she finds it and then moves around like this, just be patient and let her be certain. She isn’t disregarding the target. She is being absolutely sure. Good girl. Remember to pick up the target before delivering the ball. 0:25 we would really like you to refrain from giving verbal corrections while truffle training and while you are working on her ball behavior. 0:38 Allow her to keep the ball and have another one in your pack (sounds like your recognized this).

    0:59 was a BEAUTIFUL find by Molly! Next time allow her to show you where it is, pick it up and then deliver the ball. 1:17 THIS is how you continue the reward with her!!!! She loved getting praise and affection from you while she was allowed to keep the ball!!!! Use that to your advantage. The party is praise for Molly while she is allowed to keep her ball. Love it! Refrain from asking for her to drop right now. Just let her keep it and move on to the next hide.

    1:54 Pick up the target before delivering the ball. This will put you in Molly’s picture as well.

    2:14 Give her a chance to sort it out. If she doesn’t eventually find the truffle and drop the ball on her own, no big deal. It’s just information. But do try this again and allow her the freedom to figure it out on her own. If she does find the truffle and drop her ball, you will be at the truffle to give her a new ball. If not, no harm done. You have simply gathered more informations. By allowing her to keep the ball, she may settle into her searching behaviors more and you will have fewer “highs”.

    I have a very ball motivated dog myself. She loves to work for her ball but when there aren’t truffles to be found and I see she is becoming frustrated, I allow her to have the ball. This removes the stress of “working harder and faster” to earn the ball and she settles down quite nicely. Molly is very similar. The true value for my dog (and I suspect with Molly too) isn’t the actual ball. It’s the game of truffle hunting or playing anything ball related WITH YOU. I suspect Molly will continue to work with the ball in her possession (or drop it somewhere) because her reward isn’t just a ball. Her reward is playing ball with you!

    2:35 pick up the target before giving Molly the ball 🙂

    Molly will likely dig on her own so we don’t recommend encouraging it right now. IF she doesn’t naturally dig, we can address it in the next class. Burying the ball with the target is not advised because it completely removes you from the picture.

    You and Molly have made wonderful progress during the class! We look forward to seeing you in class again August 9th. During the break:
    -Practice the same level hides but wait to deliver the ball until you pick the truffle up. Make observations as to how this changes Molly’s behavior at source. Is she persisting? Is she holding a position until you pick it up? Is she re-alerting until it is in your hand? All are acceptable. Just observe.
    -Try an entire session allowing Molly to keep the ball. Carry 1-2 extras so you have one to deliver when you pick up the truffle. If she finds the truffle and goes off to find the ball she had (if she dropped it), calmly encourage her to come play with the one you have. Once she realizes you have more, she will likely stay with you. Start to make a routine out of it. Example: Molly alerts, you arrive, you pick up the truffle, you pull a ball out of your pocket. Be sure the be consistent with where you bring the ball out from. This will be a pre-cue to her that it is coming and will likely be important to Molly. If the session goes well, continue allowing her to keep the ball. If she completely disengages (and we mean COMPLETELY, as in leaves the search area altogether and chews on her ball), then simply make note of it and let us know.
    -Away from truffle training, work on the trick of putting the ball in your back pack. I will post this here as soon as the instructions are compiled (even though your topic here will be closed for commenting).

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