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Hi Bev- We do have experience with this and with friends and colleagues who do both truffle hunting and competitive NACSW in the US. You are correct the passive alert more in line with competition. Competition and truffle hunting are very different contextually, but do Wolfy a favor when doing it and provide him as many additional clues as possible to help him understand the contextual difference. This can includes things like a different start routine, different gear etc.
We have many students who compete in both. I myself am likely going to be starting my older dog who can no longer work in a forest much on competition odor and will be changing his alerts for those odors to passive ones. Canadian rules for your scent trials are a little different than here and I’d have to brush up on them- but more than happy to consult on the switch.
It won’t necessarily affect his truffle hunting at all, but notice if he starts to offer you a more passive alert in the field (truffle hunting) you can then put the more active related alerts on cue and solicit a more pinpointed approach in the field.
Gwen – post it when you can (and let me know that you did via email). As you can see, I am behind as well here!
Not necessarily. You can have a variety of alerts or behavior chains that are situational. After confidence in an alert is established you can fine tune it based on situation. Confidence & clarity in an alert is the most important thing, once you have a little more experience you can certainly teach situational alerts. For example, over the course of the past 2 years I have taught Lolo & Duff that more passive alerts are appropriate on orchards- whereas in the wild, having them help me dig can be incredibly helpful and I encourage it. On Orchards I do not and when we were training for this specifically I would if neccessary truncate the behavior (with praise & reward) and taught situational awareness in alert behaviors. Even different forested environments can have different alerts.
There are situations on orchards when digging is encouraged- but we’ve put it is on cue.
When Karen and I are talking about alerts on orchards as location services we are also referring to orchards in production which is a bit different than what we’d consider the majority of North American orchards at present.
In Australia for example they have 100,000 tree orchards that heavily produce. It would not be time efficient for the dog handler to harvest, so the dog harvest team is followed by a person who actually excavates the truffle and then takes it back to the grading shed. The dogs & humans have a limited amount of working time per outing. So it is a true location service.
It is true however that most orchard owners won’t want to have a dog tearing up their tree roots.
Digging in of itself is not problematic as an alert until there is a stage of commercial production. Being able to fine tune and or arrest a behavior with positive reinforcement when you get there is helpful. But again, confidence in criteria of searching (aka clarity in the alert and at odor source) is the foundation on which you can build these more subtle behaviors. That is why we like to encourage nose touching when possible. AKA we wouldn’t be too concerned with the digging in Wolfy’s case. Some dogs, it is something you want to set perimeters on (one of my own dogs was this way- Duff- but you have to understand rototilling is his natural alert, so we spent time after he was confident in searching working on those fine motor skills and more gentle behavior.) Confidence & Clarity are paramount at this stage.
- This reply was modified 6 years ago by Alana McGee. Reason: additional material
Hi annie- I’ll chime in in addition to Karen’s comments, which are spot on and give a good indication.
The biggest difference for many dogs is mental & physical endurance, as well distraction. In the PNW and orchards here that often comes in the form of wildlife of some sort. When you are searching Large orchards for long periods of time with limited success it can be mentally tedious for the dogs. Even a small orchard, to be thorough can take a long time. It’s our job as handlers to keep our dogs on point and to watch for subtle shifts in body language, and to know when to take breaks.
For a handler there are added protocols as Karen discussed, such as bio security. It’s also important to set your team up for success and to be best be able to do that it is important you understand scent dynamics and shifts in the wind and how to adapt as you are working.
Working on more passive alerts and nose touching is also beneficial. As Karen said, on many orchards, aside from perhaps the 1st truffle found, you won’t be digging it up. So gentle precision touching is important.
We do have an exercise for this for those over active/ aggressive diggers. If you’d like to see it, let us know and I’ll dig it out. It involves the use of a yoga mat (or similar) and treats and teaching them to push with their nose to unroll the mat. Using their feet won’t cause the yoga mat to unroll- thus no reward. It can then be transferred to truffles.
The other main difference is the pressure applied. As Karen mentioned there are often people around, even if not close in proximity, but they are watching you work.
On orchards it is relatively high stakes because you are being paid for a service provided. It is a lot about the handler mental state in these situations as that can directly impact your canine partner- and vise versa.
Safety is still a concern on orchards, but often for different reasons. It’s always critical to listen to what your dog is telling you, but on orchard situations handler teams often apply more emotional pressure because of the nature of the work, so you need to be extra sensitive to your communicative bond.
Orchard work is far more tedious for a dog because of the exactness required to be proficient and professional. So endurance is one of the main things.
And let us know how it is going. We know things are happening over there, and Hope you and Molly are doing well!
We are right at the cusp of the season. Where you are will begin production before here in Seattle. The thing is, there are all of 3 to 5 (maybe 10 if we are really bold in assumption) dog teams in all of BC. We’ll ask those we know to see if anyone has been looking or can get you samples. Dr. Berch is probably out.
Here in Wa, our site that produces whites early just started (whites start before blacks), but the truffles are not quite mature. The blacks we have found have been hard won and small, and also not at the ideal maturity.
In essence, it’s early in the season still, but maybe. It is possible.
However proven highly productive truffles grounds on the island are somewhat unknown, but we know they exist. So it is a bit delicate.
Yes, Oils are fine- we use those all the time in training and in the field. Be sure to manufacture success often- far more frequently than you think necessary, and stage those scenarios for success. That will help you if Wolfy comes across something in the wild. I’ll reach out to Dr. Berch and see what she knows as of the last few weeks and let you know.
Short answer, yes- but early, and yes, oil is good.
The link is fixed now, Bev.
Gwen. That’s fine 🙂
This is great! Thank you. I will begin creating your profile page. I think your schedule will work well and fits the seasons nicely. Send along actual dates when you have them please.
We posted this assignment early in the session so you can get it all organized. You will want to have a schedule set before the session ends. If starting in Jan/ Feb, we need to get the class listed on the website with plenty of time for folks to plan ahead.
Registration goes through the TDC website.
Can you explain what you mean by a “schedule program”?
Your volunteer video will be edited to cut out unnecessary footage. You will get more information on this in your next assignment.
Looking forward to seeing it!
Let us know how it’s going on the orchard.
Welcome Sandra! We are excited to have you and the Tippet back in class!
🙂 Sounds good. The other aspect to working on orchards is the human component, as you’ve probably discovered. You Karen are there usually to provide a service for the orchard owners. If you are feeling pressure, or they are applying it, work on asking them to give space. If it makes you & your dogs more productive, that is ultimately what they would want. Everyone is different, but we have protocols we follow when on orchard we should talk to you about.
Yes, the matting is an issue for harvesting. It needs to come up depending on what it looks like around the tree prior to actually harvesting. Thanks for photos. Is the weed fabric just in a small square section around the tree or down the whole row? Either way, it’ll need to come out. While scent can permeate it, accessing truffle should molly alert there is a pain, among other things. It makes harvesting difficult as well and makes odor move oddly and pool in odd spots. So if you’re ready to start checking, we recommend it coming out.
As for the disurturbed earth.
It is something to be aware of. As soon as you start finding real ones that point will be moot. Make sure when you plant some to really compress the ground around it.
It also depends on what you want, but as far as overall training goes, a little dig is fine IF you can tell the difference between exploratory digging and alerts. You are really good at reading her, so if you can do that, then yeah it’s fine (and as long as it is a little dig, not a pit). If you have a hard time telling the difference between exploratory digs and alerts then we should address it by you investigating each time when she manifests the behavior proving that you will come in and check whenever that behavior is offered. She won’t get rewarded unless there is a target.