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Hi Kristin & Alana, Did more of our Drop it, Drop it practice makes perfect homework again, outside on our deck landing at dusk with a breeze through the surrounding shrubbery for a change of scenery. When I take her 2 blocks down the street to the off leash field, there’s no way she’ll bring any ball or frisbee back despite repeating Treat over and over. Plus I usually have to go retrieve the ball or frisbee then she’ll sit at attention for the treat. Hence more of the Drop it exercise! Kristin, about her attention to toy or food, I tested her tonight with several of her fave toys and treat in other hand and she never took her eyes off the treat hand and when I tempted her by shaking her toys, all she did was walk on her hind legs and followed the treat hand up close until she had it. So this one talks through the tummy! Have to attach one more practice with the containers – slow reaction on my part trying to manage the iPad & grab a treat & keep the video trained on Fancy & clicking!
Hi, Launie! I’m glad the feedback is making sense to you and you are able to make adjustments to training. Keep it up! Can you give me some more information wrt Fancy’s love of toys? What kind of toys? Do you pay with her regularly? Do you ever use toys as rewards for other behaviors? How readily will she give the toy back?
I’d like to know these things for later down the line in training. If you put her favorite treat and her favorite toy down, which do you suppose she would go for?
Hi Alana, Have to re-message. Lost my thread from timeout! Thank you for hints & reminders which are not obvious to me until you mention them and suddenly I see the significance and importance of noticing them. You convinced me that I should stick with the program and not move the scent into a bigger tin. Instead tonight I practiced with the original tin repeatedly letting her go after it then rewarding her each time I got a “drop”. It worked well. We progressed and I learned the lesson of not justifying an alternative! After some practice with that, I noticed she drops it when she sees me turn my wrist towards the clicker. Perhaps that clicker will need to become a permanent appendage. She is starting to show a lot of eagerness by searching high and low and getting very fast at going after the hunt by being very methodical. First she traces even the sound of where my footsteps went, then it’s quickly over all the known hiding spots finally followed by the nose sniffing high and low until she finds it. Will try to capture more footage this weekend.
As for the slapping every container, don’t worry. That is common. Fancy is clever, she is having fun and trying to figure out what exactly it is that gets her rewarded. Just keep rewarding on only the one container that has the sent, and at the source.
I suspect, as is the case with many dogs, that once you remove all visual identification (read that as truffle container hiding in grass, under leaves etc) this behavior will cease entirely, and you won’t have a problem with false alerting. We won’t know until we get to that stage. There are a couple of exercises we could have you do to proof for this, but I would like to wait and see if it becomes an issue first.
There is a catch here though that you want to be aware of:
DO make sure that when she finds the correct target you praise lavishly and have a party! The more party the better as long as she doesn’t seem to be backing away from you and scared when you do so. Do watch for signs of that.
Think higher pitch voice and a loose wiggly body. It may sound silly, but it can make a big difference. Do a little dance, get her excited every single time she finds it! Spend a minute doing this. You want her to be excited in not just the finding an indicating where the truffle is, but waiting for you to get there to give her that party! That doesn’t just mean treats and jackpots. It means excitement over her interaction with you.
What is happening when you do this is you are building value for the digging, alerting, and waiting for you to get there, behavior- the whole package- not just the alerting. What you don’t want to have happen in the field is have the dog alert, and then move on before you can get there. That is why the beginning stages and foundations are so important. They can have a long lasting impact down the line.
In the field, truffles are not always just right under the surface. Big ones can be deep and difficult to find sometimes. It can take several minutes to dig one out after the dog has indicated, and you don’t want Fancy off finding more (and eating them) without you knowing.
While we CERTAINLY don’t want fancy to choke on anything (!!!!), be very careful to try and not scream at, yell or chase her when she does pick it up with her mouth. It is ok, and it happens. Many dogs eat a few truffles during their training, and even after. They often eat them because they are over stimulated and because we have made it such high value game.
Chasing after the dog is very counter productive. Not only are you exponentially increasing the value of the object she has in her mouth (Especially if she already plays keep away games), but you are increasing the likelihood she will a) eat it b) run away with it c) stop indicating and waiting for you to get there all together. She will smell the truffles out and know they are there, but just not tell you. Young dogs especially tend to eat more of them.
When she does drop it, party! You give her a party not just for trading the truffle odor object for a treat, but that it isn’t in her mouth. She learns that being near truffles is great, but only when they aren’t in her mouth! This takes time.
Even the best of us make these mistakes from time to time. I certainly am guilty of it on occasion with Lolo. Some dogs are more sensitive to these things, and so it is just something to be aware of. I would rather have Lolo eat the occasional truffle out of excitement than run away and cease to tell me where they are. The waiting for you to get there and retrieve the truffle is important on many levels which will become apparent later.
Also: Opening the bottle and just putting one or two drops on the cotton is fine. In fact, if you keep that cotton in the airtight container that was part of your kit, I would even suggest you don’t re-apply the solution all that often (maybe once a week). As long as there isn’t a huge threat of scent contamination you should be just fine.
As for real truffles:
Ideally we like students to use oil, solution, and real truffles (of all varieties they want to eventually find), so the dogs learn to indicate on all different levels of volatile organic compounds. Remember Truffles are organic (each one smells different!), and dogs don’t generalize well, so we want to give them a sufficient sample size to draw the conclusion that anything truffl-y should be found.
We only have frozen Oregon blacks at the moment, but we can get you some. It is not counter productive at all, but we will not have fresh ones for a couple of months. If for some reason we do get fresh ones, I will let you know, but I think it will be highly unlikely until at least October at the earliest.
A Trick for the harness: Give it a word “harness” and click/ treat/ reward her (with something AWESOME) when it comes near her. Then luring her with food through etc etc. My dogs are way too. it is still a work in progress, but keep at it. Eventually she may LOVE it and shove her head through (As Duffy does) it takes time!
Uh oh. Time out. Did container exercises tonight and Fancy has taken to pawing each container until it flips over then proceeds to sniff only the one with the tin then flips it over. That’s the good part. The down side of development is that she suddenly decided tonight to steal the truffle tin and I had an awful time trying to wrestle it from her jaws. She just held it tight and so far down her tongue that I was scared she’d swallow it. She wouldn’t let go of it even when I threw down a handful of treats. I was lucky I had some bits of freshly cut smoke salmon skins saved for when she deserved a super reward of several non-stop locatings. Anyway it did the trick and presto “Drop”! I let her find it one more time under a carpet corner but stayed close by so I could grab it first. Cut this practice short since I had panicked and yelled at her when I got worried she’d choke . I just happen to have another identical tin but this one is 3″ across so I’ll switch to that. Alana – can I buy a real truffle to use or is it too soon or would that be counter-productive at this time? My truffle squirter won’t spray so I am just opening the tube to dab the cotton. I will try to capture some footage this weekend. Kristin, in reply Fancy loves treats AND toys (all are disembowelled) and yes, I bought a harness that Alana recommended from MudBay when I was in Seattle for Fancy’s brother Faio’s birthday. She hates when it’s coming & tries to hide but OK once it’s on.
Hi, Launie. Fancy’s enthusiasm for the game is much better! Excellent. Now that there are containers involved (that are somewhat rewarding), I would like you to build YOURSELF into that excitement. When she finds the truffle, click and go to her. Reward at the source and tell her how brilliant she is. She is definitely getting excited about the game. Lets make sure you are part of that excitement
Question…does Fancy like food or toys best?
Hold off on moving the box hides outside. Let’s solidify “the game is about the truffle…not the containers” before adding the distractions and added challenges of outside. Also, try some inside sessions on leash. Since you will have her on leash outside (at least at first), lets make sure she is OK with working on leash in the familiar environment. One of my dogs didn’t work well on leash as he interpreted any tension as a correction…this is important to know. Another dog of mine works better on leash. It will be good to know these things before you increase the challenge. Do you have a harness? She needs to be allowed to pull so if you are a stickler about leash walking on a collar, use a different tool like a harness where she knows it is ok to pull you.
Can you put Fancy in another room or crate where she can’t see you placing the truffle?
Update on the truffle exercises…I’ve had to resort to conniving as Fancy watches me too closely, memorizes too easily and then surmises where to hunt first. She must have been an engineer in a former life or Sherlock Holmes! So I used a pretend route & map out an imaginary path that includes the real spot. True to form she traced my steps as well as the previous spots but I notice she recognizes a faded truffle odor & doesn’t linger there then continues sniffing more fervently other places til she finds the new one. I hid the tin behind cupboard doors & she found them easily. When she could not open the doors she lays down & stares at the location. She likes to catch the scent up in the air too because I’ve also hidden it higher like under couch cushions. She loves locating under three identical yogurt containers & developed her own flipping technique. time to quit when the containers become a toy hence a day off yesterday. It is like a kid having fun playing hide and seek! Do you think it’s premature to hide the tin outdoors yet? Do I have to toss it so she doesn’t see me placing it? Also should she stay on the leash if outdoors?
Looks good! It is great you are taking so much video as it is always good to go back through said videos and look at it yourself so you can see what you are doing and how Fancy is reacting to new things you try! AND especially so you can start to notice when she has reached her ‘breaking’ point- such as starting to chew on toys or become distracted. That was very good of you! It is great you stopped there. At this stage you do not want to push a dog too much. It should always be fun!
Please don’t feel you have to post a video every day. Post as many videos as you want, but ideally for us to help you the most and be the most impactful, you would have one longer, say 5 minute video once a week- or a couple very short ones that we can comment on and help you problem solve with after you have practiced with Fancy for a few days. And please ask as many questions as you want.
Doing great though!
Hi Kristin & Alana,
Here’s Take 5 of Fancy’s scent tin under container exercise. Kindof hard managing the video, clicker & treat, sorry for any motion sickness and lag in giving the reward. She had success with the first 4 takes. I stopped at 5 as she was beginning to go to her toys or chew on the container! Gave her (and me) the day off from practice yesterday.
It isn’t incorrect to place it high on a chair. Even though they won’t be finding truffles up high, it is good training for them to consider all possibilities. The height adds challenge and problem solving If the hides remain unpredictable, the dog’s skills will stay sharp. Remember to keep value for the game HIGH. Less is better when you are building excitement for the activity. Sounds like you are having fun. Great.
yes, I’ve viewed & reviewed the Intro & Lesson 1. The videos play when I use my MacBookPro. I did buy Photon for my iPad but I can’t figure it out yet. It is now Day 9 since Fancy started the truffle tin searches & is eager when I am getting the items ready. She’s finding them so fast & only once got sidetracked because I placed it higher on a chair but that was incorrect probably. I’m using a lot of repetition now but it’s consistent & steadfast for both of us. Was thinking of using the box guessing tomorrow, have same size garden pots.
Launie, can you tell me if/ when you were able to view Lesson 1? To clarify, you are able to view the Introduction and Lesson 1 at this point?
When I had Fancy in Obedience class, it was me that always had a short lag between response and clicking so it was helpful to watch a couple of times the clicker training video. Also your video using the flower pots…duh, I have over a dozen of those kicking around and was using Rubbermaid containers which are annoying to handle. Thanks for the tip. Tonight we did a 15 mins hide and hunt but I know darn well she is watching where I go so I have to change the planting strategy! Therese Williams wrote today that Pat Hastings in Portland said Fancy was the best problem solver in litter evaluation. I did about 10-15 mins of toy toss to practice “drop it” and about 5 mins of sit for click/treat. My pickup time is getting smoother. I’m really glad you mentioned the dehydration after the exercises, I felt bad forgetting about that. Grateful for your reminder.
Fancy looks like she is doing is great, and she will be a step ahead. Word of caution, slow down a bit.
Lesson 1 comes soon.
Work on your clicker timing and rewarding. When you press the clicker Fancy knows she did something ‘right’. HOWEVER she associates that ‘doing something right’ with the exact thing she is doing at that moment that you click it- regardless of what she did 2 seconds before hand- even though that is what you are attempting to reward. She is doing really really great, and so are you. Don’t get me wrong. You just want to be cognizant of the moment you press the clicker and have that actually be the ‘exact moment’ (or as close as possible) to the behavior you are trying to reward.
Practice having her sit. Only ask her once (you are much improved in only a day on that score). As soon as her bum touches the floor CLICK! and the reward. practice practice practice. Another useful drill to work on timing requires a tennis ball, no dog in the room, and goes like this:
Bounce the ball up and down. Practice clicking the moment the ball hits the floor. Practice Practice Practice. It can make a very big difference down the road to have timing down well when using clickers.