Last Sunday, we had another scent lesson working on truffles. And it was fantastic! I only took Cash to this lesson. Callie is continuing rehab for her knee injury and Da Vinci is working scent boxes. We were going truffle hunting at a local high school! I arrived and walked with our instructor into the football stadium. She had me toss 3 truffles outside of the perimeter fencing into the adjacent fields. Three more were placed within the fencing at various locations…including one very tough one at the edge of some brush. We went to get Cash and sent him to work…down wind from the first truffle. I gave him his cue and off he went into his joyful gallop waiting for a waft of truffle scent to hit him and change his behavior into a scent seeking hound. This was his first working environment with distractions…a dog at a neighboring house and a runner on the track. I knew it would be hard for him. Fearful Sheltie + strange dog + runner would usually lead to barking, defense mode and lack of focus. However, I have seen glimmers of true confidence in him during two activities…herding and scent work. Every so often, I see it…his face relaxes, the worry just drains from his body and he does what he instinctively knows how to do. Those moments are few and far between and the most obvious times are when he is working the sheep. But…when he is working a scent, I see moments of it…he calls off of distractions easier…and he seems to find that continuing to work the search is more rewarding than perusing that runner or barking dog near by. We walked in a pattern on the fields waiting for him to find the first truffle. He caught it’s scent and zeroed in on it. Good boy. Time to teach him an alert/ indicator. We asked him to “speak” and then sent him off to find another truffle. He was on it right away. This time he stood still over the truffle…we asked him to “speak”…he came to us and barked and then I asked him to “show me”. He took me right to it, poking his nose at the ground until I found it, placed it in my pocket and rewarded him. I believe she called this a “recall re-find”. On to the next truffle…he barked, showed met the truffle and got his reward. That particular truffle may have gone bad because it’s the only one Cash had difficulty finding. We leashed him up and went into the stadium. Truffle #1…got it! Truffle #2…Rockstar!!! Truffle #3 at the edge of the brush…he worked at that one for longer, trying to figure out how to get to it…but he stayed on task and got it in the end. This time he would bark at me and bark at the truffle…even getting impatient with me when I couldn’t locate it! He nudged it my way so I would pick it up and give him his reward. Excellent!!!! We gave him praise for a job well done and he walked next to us back to the car with a calm confidence that oozed with “I did it. And I did it good!”
I’ve got more truffles on the way thanks to Oregon Truffle Oil (http://www.oregontruffleoil.com/) and am hoping the season will last long enough for Callie to get out and do some off leash hunting in a couple weeks. Da Vinci will continue to work on the scent boxes until he really understands the scent he is to hit on.