Alana McGee

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  • in reply to: Curt & Mo #6219
    Alana McGee

    Nice Line handling Curt!

    Were like that first alert as well. You’re doing a wonderful job reading him. When you come over he even offers you the paw which is a really nice indication (even if not fervant) on target that yes, that’s it dad.

    Nice cue transition at 1:01. Even without sound we can tell 😉

    1:21 nice distance you’re allowing him.

    This is a nice space to work in. 1:45 good. This in a freeze frame shot is a perfect example of you providing a lot of information to Mo. Your body is cheated towards the area you’d like him to go, you’re giving a verbal indication here (we can’t tell- but it looks like it) and your arm is pointing a directional towards the space you want to move into. Perfect.

    This was a really nice set up with distractions. You guys handle it well.

    We see exactly what you are talking about at 2:21. We didn’t really see any indication either earlier on that find in body language. What we will say is he is approaching it from a different angle, so depending on the breeze he may not have hit the scent column unless he was approaching from this side which looks to be down wind. Nice re-alert to show exact location.

    He is still a puppy, so the leash play rodeo can be a play break. You do a GREAT GREAT job of giving him some time and the refocusing. Being down on his level really helps.

    This is a lot of distraction and he is doing well in it.It is very interesting to notice just what you describe on the proficiency in locating targets when he’s focused.

    He’s young, so that mental endurance is building, and will continue to do so the more you practice these games. For such a young lad he is doing fantastic on that score. Focus and impulse control are tough for most dogs under a year. Mo is doing great.

    This was a good session Curt.

    in reply to: Bev & Wolfy #6218
    Alana McGee

    Don’t ever feel shy about either posting or not posting video. We learn the most and can often provide more critique from situations like this wherein you may not be sure why something is happening.

    Manufacturing hides is PERFECTLY OK. Try not to have a stigma around it. It is about support. If you go out and have a session where every single hide is a manufactured one, you still win. That is still a good day.

    It is likely a combination of factors. From everything you are saying he probably was feeling pressure and stress. This can stem from a lot of things, but often we as handlers can have a much larger impact on our dogs that we think!

    So you have to view it as fun and relax! Easier said than done we realize. In level 3 we go over this kind of connection and grounding a lot. Sometimes it is just about taking a moment to breathe and connect. We do have exercises for it in level 3. It is one of the more complex facets to truffle hunting is understanding and really feeling the connection when working as a team. And it is a team. Handler and dog balance each other. When one party is off it is amplified in the other, which is what we are hearing from you in your narrative above.

    All of us handle this kind of stress in different ways. As an example from me personally, I have learned over the last two years that if I am crunched on time for hunting it adds stress. This stress begets more stress which intern dramatically effects the quality of the search & alerts performed by my dog in question. The dog feels this shift in energy from me as a handler and behavior is altered. I could view these outings as a failure, but instead internalize it as a learning experience. Positive take aways.

    So now, I don’t go hunting if I am stressed, and if for some reason I am when I am out there, I take a minute and ground and really try to let go of the expectations and just be present.

    If you have ever attended a Yoga class, it is along those lines. Don’t worry about what Wolfy is or isn’t finding. Just be present in the moment of the search. If you manufacture successes (and we suggest you do here), that is just great. there is nothing wrong with that.

    You said he found the hide eventually, but it was a struggle. Bev this is a GREAT learning opportunity and experience. We’d rather in the future (and you may have gathered this from your experience this weekend) just stop for the day. Don’t force it. If something isn’t feeling right, it isn’t feeling right.

    As Taylor Swift says, Shake it off.

    Digging holes in the dirt is a stress displacement behavior for many dogs.

    You don’t have to find the targets. It is hard to internalize we know, but it is far better just to leave them all out there, and leave happy and connected than to stress yourselves collectively finding the target. It’s great you did end with some manufactured hides and successes.

    One of the hardest parts of being an handler for many teams is the ability to let go. Let it go. There is no failure, nothing is bad. Living up to our own expectations sometimes applies more pressure on ourselves and on our team.

    We as handlers need to let go of expectations in scenarios as it applies pressure. So that’s what we want you to do for the next few days: No expectations. Really try to go out into your scenario not expecting anything from Wolfy either than the two of you communicating and being present in the scenario. Have your target on you to throw out for him. Keep this search short, under 5 minutes. If he doesn’t find it, that is A-OK. Don’t expect him to find it. It sounds trivial, but just take some deep breathes, roll your shoulders and enter the search scenario with a clear mind and throw out the hide for him more times than you think necessary. In 5 minutes shoot for 5 tosses and manufactured success. No other expectations. Focus on beathing and being aware of your surroundings without analyzing them. Notice the presence of the trees and the wind and the dirt and the cars going by, but don’t go into your head thinking about ‘how’ that is going to effect Wolfy during this session. Just be present.

    in reply to: Mary & Lola #6216
    Alana McGee

    Priming meaning before you go into a search area performing a simple alert sequence on a target.

    For example, before I start hunting with Lolo in an area (although she generalizes the game and knows what is going on) I drop a target on the ground in visible range or view (or sometimes hold it in my hand) and ask for an alert. It is a way to provide information on the game being played.

    You could do a couple of easy ones for Lola in a new area before you ask her to search for partially buried ones.

    Does that make sense?

    in reply to: Mary & Salu #6215
    Alana McGee

    Stumbling on a truffle while investigating something else is totally ok. Surprise find! He alerted which is great 😉

    no worries on another post- but yes, getting in the habit of throwing out a manufactured hide can take some time, but it is good to do! We learn a lot though self-analysis. Good you noticed it.

    As for distractions, here is what we would suggest you do: If you have that park nearby where the deer are- go grab some of the leaf litter and dirt. If you can find some of the deer scat, even better. You can order online various animal odors or sprays that might be novel- like fox and coyote.

    The idea is that we want to start introducing some interesting, odd, different things into his environment for him to practice working in opposition too. If there is a dog park nearby that may provide an interesting opportunity too. You can either grab grass from there to use or if you are brave- place an orange cone (some kind go plastic object) there and leave it for a few days. No doubt it will be peed on by many neighborhood dogs. You can then go collect it and use that as a distraction as well, as that is always very interesting ‘reading’.

    When you use these things at home or more controlled settings, you can put them inside containers (think tupperwear with holes in it) so it doesn’t soil the house but can still release odor. The more things you can grab out of the environment to work with the better.

    You then can play discrimination games. Start very simply inside with your distraction & truffle. have then both relatively close together. when he alerts on the truffle huge party. Don’t reward obviously if he is super interested in the distraction. You ignore it. Eventually he’ll choose the truffle. If not we can take a step even farther back, but try that first.

    From there you increase distance and even add in more distraction. Parties and treats only happen for alerts on truffles. Everything else is ignored. It is about getting him used to working around novel odors.

    If you remember the Video of Lois & Monza from the Best of Forum where it’s in the basement of her house with the Kayak and lots of boxes? That eventually is what you want to get to except that in many of those boxes you’d have distraction odor as well.

    We LOVE his alerts here. Confident, calm. VERY pretty. The two of them have such different styles it is wonderful to see.

    0:54 great transition. He still seems “in it” at that point and again, it’s fantastic to see how far he has come on the transitioning from one hide to the next. It’ll continue to improve and build endurance in this behavior over time as you practice it more and more.

    1:18 you did a nice job with the line there. That is exactly why it’s great to have in these scenarios as you can control perimiter of the search area.

    2:27 is interesting. You do a great job there not moving in too fast. That is what we call an exploratory behavior. odor is in the area, he is still trying to locate. His alerts are very clear, that unless he flops down on the ground he is not confident about it in this session. We do think he is still working here. The digging around 3:00 is tinged a little more with frustration, so yes, this would have been good time to toss out a target. Now you know though what it looks like around the 2:00 mark when he starts to get a bit distracted. That’s when you throw out a hide. It’s okay to throw out lots of hides in a session if you think he’s being distracted. Every day is different.

    in reply to: Mary & Lola #6213
    Alana McGee

    Before you had Lola in this area, when you were trying to find the ones placed last night that Salu did not find, did you ‘prime’ Lola prior to going out in the area? If not, we suggest you do.

    As for do we offer manufactured success during the hunt: The short answer is yes, we do! It depends on many different factors as to ‘when’ we offer those as we read our dogs and each day and each area are a little different, but yes, we will manufacture finds for the dogs out in the woods and on orchards if they are not finding anything. We aim to avoid putting pressure on the dogs, and as we say, it should always be fun!

    Great on the Party on the way out!

    As always, you two are a joy to watch your connection. We think it is great you want to stay at this level of difficulty and gain more practice in new situations. That is perfect for Lola. You know her best. The more you can do that in newer locations with successful outings (aka fun and confidence building!) overtime the more confident she will become in even newer areas feeling more comfortable performing these same scent related tasks.

    Nice search Mary She does many nice head checks like at 0:57. You do a great job of encouraging her to stay in a certain areas through verbal engagement. Nice mary! (1:03)
    1:24 we love watching her when she hits the scene column, pinpoint (1:24, and at 2:34)- beautiful nose touch on target on that first one!

    The section at 2:42 is a PERFECT example of bracketing. Bracketing is a terms we use when describing this behavior of the dog catching parts of a scent column or scent field in this case, and then creating and setting boundaries on where the scent has flowed around and slowly narrowing the search area. You can see her here going back and forth slowly narrowing down the area where true scent is coming from.

    That was really nice!

    Do you have any questions about anything in the video. It looks good Mary.

    in reply to: Mary & Salu #6199
    Alana McGee

    Too long is relative, and it is hard to say

    The night before would be fine as morning dew would allow the odor coming out of the ground to mingle in the grasses. If it did rain, that’s okay!- Odor will be more widely dispersed in that instance, as there is more wet. Overnight when it is dry (with dew in am) is preferable actually to planting in morning then trying to find later in the day when dry and thermals have come into play.

    General rule: odor clings to wet things. The more that is wet, the more it clings to.

    in reply to: Tim & Molly #6198
    Alana McGee

    Hi Tim. Thanks for the photos. Yes, we would suggest you start to hide some targets on the orchard. Again, some of it is about generalizing. Because the grasses are different here and the way they are laid out will create some barriers, you are correct, it doesn’t hurt.

    Also has a handler you need to get used to digging under those grasses. They create soil mats which can be a pain to get through for you and Molly.

    It is not ‘that’ different as you say, but the more you can practice here the more she’ll feel confident in this environment. Mostly we aren’t concerned about her failing to alert as much as gaining experience working in this specific scenario, as you mentioned, because those grasses will create some scent barriers she’s going to have to work through.

    Bare minimum on the orchard have a target with you to throw out.


    You are right Tim that throwing a target out on the orchard is different than targets in the ground there- another reason to practice that (burying some) on the orchard. See how she moves when you plant a few right at the base of trees. And do do that. They aren’t always at the base of trees, but plant a couple that way.

    As for how to manufacture, yes, just throw one out. Success is success, and that’s the goal in that scenario, not necessarily working through soil to find a target, but success in the game and generalizing to an area.

    You timing on encouragement looks great. We think you are reading her well, and it is fine to encourage here, that is what her behavior looks like when on scent.

    3:17 she is working SO well on this.much harder for her to find in this scenario. She’s doing well, and we think you are correct. There are mixed odors here, which is why it is a complicated scenario. The more this is practiced the more versed she will get at parsing out just one and following it to source, and then doing it again discriminating against the ones she has previously found.

    Well done on the last one- that timing was just fine.

    Here’s a link to the third class- Email us and we get you the info you need for sign up- as some of this material will be pertinent to you on the orchard.


    in reply to: Bev & Wolfy #6189
    Alana McGee

    It does appear that way (re the scent pooling) you’ll notice that in wet environments as well as eddies can be created there. Yes, 2 weeks, so submit away! Truffles season by us is approaching fast Bev. We’ll let you know when we start to see the first things here, but we need rain. We are finally getting some this morning, hope you are too on the island!

    in reply to: Mary & Lola #6188
    Alana McGee

    We think that is a good idea Mary.

    PLEASE do let me know about the show sheen. I would love to have something to Use on Lolo for matting. Cornstarch isn’t perfect, but it does certainly help with burrs- and makes them easier to remove when caught- tip from a groomer friend.

    in reply to: Gwen & Millie #6183
    Alana McGee

    Indications/ alerts being weaker is ok. Remember when changing locations/ scenarios to be more difficult, reduced criteria is fine.

    And yes, the spaniels. Always so excited!

    If you have questions on something Gwen, please feel free to ask away. That’s why we are here- assignment or not, we are here to help. If it gets to be too much for some reason, we’ll let you know 😉

    in reply to: Bev & Wolfy #6182
    Alana McGee

    Good for you on the backpack. It is good to get used to gear, as you’ll have to figure out how to manage it in the field later, so well done Bev.

    Wildlife is often a hard distraction to work past, but the more you can do it, and set yourself up for success in those scenarios, the better. If you have to, cut the hunting short and work on building duration in that environment in small increments.

    You guys are doing a great job, and he’s working the space nicely and thoughtfully. 0:38 was really nice sequence. And the sequence upto 1:28, GREAT. Wolfy is being very thoughtful. We love that. GREAT work on his part pinpointing. It looks dry. It is ok he didn’t find it there. In the future in this situation we’d encourage you (bc you do know it is there for right now) to encourage him (I’m assuming there was something there) and interact with him more in that situation, get down and pat the ground near where he is looking. You can see he is in odor but having a tough time finding source. Help and support here and engage near the truffle, it may be all he needs is a little confidence in this area in order to alert. You’re working on reward histories in these areas, and more success means more confidence.

    3:18 nice head check. That was tough!

    You both did very well and it is great to see him working in this environment. All things considered we thought it was nice and a good indication of his style which is fairly methodical. Smart boy. Yes, eventually you won’t jump in right away to assist if he is working odor, but again, this is a newer place for him to be practicing, so be willing to support.

    Wolfy will excel in areas over time as he gains for confidence in them and has more continued reward history in them. When he’s confident, its a very clear alert, it is more when he is struggling to pinpoint odor, which you can see he’s in it, that’s when, if possible, support should be provided. Be ready if the struggle is too complicated right at that moment to manufacture success.

    This was great. Nice connection, nice allowing space, and fun to watch, Well done guys.

    in reply to: Mary & Salu #6181
    Alana McGee

    It is perfectly OK Mary to be excited and accept any alert in these situations. In fact, in this case, it is more than okay, it is preferred. Don’t expect or require super hard & fast criteria when you are changing the game to a much more complex scenario. If he offers it, awesome, but this is still a new place. You don’t have to have 100% compliance so to speak.

    0:11 really nice Salu! Notice ever here how it is not as exact- that is A-OK. See that Log, see where he is, see where you are? Things are in the way, that’s okay. If he approached from a different angle and you were in a different spot it might have looked different. He told you where it was clearly. Right now, that’s what we are going for. Well done team. Very well done.
    His re-alert here was fantastic. Laying on a log is awkward. even more kudos. His expression is great there.

    NICE transition to the next one.

    Even better transition after that- no cue needed!

    2:00 awesome- he had nose touch duration there! You may not have even intended it, but hey! that’ll be great later.

    2nd video 0:26- YAY. This is great. We should start to call him Mr. precision.

    These were really good set ups and scenarios at a perfect level for him. Nicely done.

    That IS interesting about the alert- I chuckled and FANTASTIC. That is exactly what he is doing. Really well done and persistent on his part. you can see him starting to get a bit tired after that one- but that was great.

    Well Done Mary on setting Salu up for success.

    in reply to: Mary & Lola #6180
    Alana McGee

    Hi Mary!

    For stickers & Burrs, ah yes the Lagotto Nemesis. Poor Lola.

    So, shorter cut coats, in cool enough weather protective gear (we use ruffwear cloud chaser jackets), and CORNSTARCH liberally applied and worked through hair. Like everywhere. Lolo will have puffs coming off of her when I pet her but it works. I keep a huge jug in my car 😉

    Also I know an italian who has sprayed the dog with PAM before…..

    I’d ask in one of the Lagotto groups online via FB. It has come up before I think there were some other suggestions too.

    We would say go for it with the white oil- just make sure you do a bit of imprinting and some easier hides to make sure she understands it is part of the bigger game still, and that this counts as an odor to find!

    It looks really nice in the first video Mary! Nice re-alerts and all! Tall grass/ bushes is hard, she’s doing really well- also considering she doesn’t normally wear a harness nor drag a leash. Well done. You can see the stickers starting to collect on her face, and while she’s trying to fight through it you can see her getting to a point where she’s like get this offffffff! She loves hunting though, that is for sure. When it first happens you can see a slight shift in her energy, but that drive and determination is still there. Sweet Lola!

    2nd Video 0:14 REALLY nice searching. She’s using the Log here as a vehicle for scent transfer and as a guidepost. Really nice alerts. This was good Mary. You can see her working through things and it is certainly more difficult, but it doesn’t seem to pose a problem for Lola (burrs aside). She is handling the distractions/ complications REALLY well.IT’s very impressive. It is also incredibly clear she loves doing this, which is so lovely to see!

    Your video skills are great! Well done.

    in reply to: Tim & Molly #6175
    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 6 years, 4 months ago by Alana McGee. Reason: pics
    • This reply was modified 6 years, 4 months ago by Alana McGee.
    in reply to: Tim & Molly #6171
    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 6 years, 4 months ago by Alana McGee.
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