It's time I updated our blog! So much has happened since I last posted and I'll get to all of that at some point. Now, and perhaps more importantly, I want to share where we are now. Today, I realized something. I realized that THE story that once was the story defining Callie and I, is no longer OUR story. But let me back up... Some of you may know that we are finding truffles regularly now and that for this first season of reliable hunting, we are selling our dog found truffles as a fundraiser to attend Cynosport 2013 for agility. Cynosport will be the biggest agility event my dogs and I have been to and I'm very excited to have the opportunity to go! We are also doing land surveys for donations and today we had our first one. We were accompanied by a colleague and friend with her 3 dogs. Add in mine and it was a total of 6 dogs. There were some observers present too. Five to be exact. As I got Callie out of the car, she raced to the field where the property owners and observers waited and proceed to wait for direction
What an exciting truffle hunting lesson! ALL THREE pups got to go to today's scent lesson. This batch of truffles would be our last for the season so we had a lot on the agenda. We needed to progress the dogs to the next level before we lost access to fresh truffles and we wanted to test out some truffle oil during an extensive search session to determine if it would be an appropriate training tool. Ideally we will train with actual truffles, but the oil would give us something to use for maintaining skills when we don't have access to the real thing. We wanted to see how Da Vinci would handle moving away from scent boxes and continue to develop Cash's indicating skills. We also really wanted to get Callie some practical experience before the season came to a close too...the challenge there being that she still has to be on leash and her activity carefully monitored. She continues to rehab and is making very nice progress, but her environment must be controlled and activity limited.We started by placing the truffles in two fields. One larger field would be for Cash to search with several truffles tossed into
We received a new shipment of truffles yesterday and I got Da Vinci working the scent right away. He has been off for about a week so I gave him a couple easy ones to remind his puppy brain of the game. Then it was time for some challenge. This time I set the scent box in a not-so-obvious place. He tried to be lazy and walk from box to box waiting for me to mark and reward...when that didn?t work, he decided he might want to use his talented little Terv. nose. Got it! For the next few, he was much quicker to put that sniffer to work! Good Da Vinci! I'll repeat this exercise again tonight and tomorrow try a larger search area.- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
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.
It is fascinating to see how quickly dogs learn! Since our last lesson, all three dogs have been continuing to work on the truffle scent. I've had to modify training for Callie temporarily while she goes through stem cell treatment and rehab for her knee...she has a pretty short leash right now, but still working the scent successfully. Hopefully in a month or so, we can go to some off leash or at least long line hunting. In the meantime, I hide the truffle for her inside or in a designated area outside but make it harder for her to pin point the source. The day after our last lesson, I tried taking the older two to a nearby field to hunt for a truffle I had placed. Poor decision on my part! One...they weren't ready for that large of an area. Two...it's the same field we take them to to play ball or frisbee so it's already "charged" with excitement for the game we always play there. Three...WAY too many distracting smells from the snowman making fun the previous day. Four...Callie can't have that much freedom yet if we are to get her healthy. Ooops. My mistake! We somehow managed
Today marks day 5 since the dogs were introduced to the truffle scent. I've been having them work on the scent source 2-3 times each day and they are all progressing nicely. I spent a couple days working on identifying the scent and pairing their reward with it. Callie is moving along the fastest, but that is to be expected because she is so high drive and ball motivated. Cash seemed to have an "ah-ha" moment yesterday and he all of a sudden was confident that he knew what he was looking for. Da Vinci is still working on identifying the scent and will probably take some time to really make the association between his reward and the truffles. His older brother and sister have played many "find it" games so they are familiar with this game already. Yesterday was the first day I actually hid the truffles for Cash and Callie without using the scent boxes and that seemed to clear up any remaining confusion they had ("ahhh, it's that smell you are looking for...not a scent box!!!! I get it!").We met with our instructor for a second lesson. This time, they would be searching outside and greater area.
The grand adventure officially began today!!!! Our first training truffles arrived, just 30 minutes before our first scent detection lesson...perfect timing!The lesson went great...after the olfactory assault of opening the box! The aroma of these gems is intense, offensive, enchanting, euphoric and addicting...and gives me a headache! I took Cash and Da Vinci to the lesson. Callie is still on restricted activity and would be TOO excited to focus so she had to stay home. Cash worked during the lesson and I learned how to introduce each of the dogs to our "scent source", accommodating for their motivational differences. All three dogs begin with scent boxes...learning to associate their reward with the box containing the truffles. For Cash, it was a click and hot dog reward for "hitting" on the correct box. For Callie, the truffles get paired with her squeaky ball. Da Vinci will start with the clicker & food reward and possibly transition to a toy later. In these beginning stages, the goal is to get them familiar with the scent, associating the pungent truffles with a reward, learning a verbal cue and possibly finding an "indicator" behavior. By the end of the session, Cash offered a down,
Yesterday, I finally introduced Da Vinci to the the "find it" game. He did pretty good. Tossed a cookie a couple feet away and said "find it". After a few of those, I tossed it a little farther while cuing him. Then I had him wait and watch me place one even farther away. Then I released him to "find it". He doesn't have a solid stay so I had to use the crate for this part. He did well. He was really using his nose for the last one. Good boy!
Today, I let Callie do her first outside "find" since her injury. It was short and she only got to do one, but she did great. I hid the treat under a large cone so she would be likely to continue learning to indicate the find. She found it quickly...after the initial spazzing out when she realizes I was freeing her from the confinement of a leash or that strict off-leash heel! Took her awhile to realize she needed to indicate to me, but she did and sparkled with joy when I gave her the sqeaky ball. I tossed it into her mouth and she gladly made lots of noise! Overall, a day of progress...both toward finding truffles AND getting healthy.- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
Training dogs to do just about anything is so much fun!!!! They (as well as us) learn so well through games! Today, Da Vinci continued to play the "fetch" game with me...and with an interesting blip. He ran after the toy as I said "fetch"...picked it up and started back...got distracted and dropped the toy, but continued to trot toward me...as he arrived about 5 feet from me, I threw my hands up as if to say "where's the toy?"...without my saying a word, he paused to think for a moment and then went back to the toy which was a good 20 feet away...he brought it right to my feet. What a little thinker. I love that! It's amazing what can happen when you keep learning fun, allow them to think and make decisions without us barking orders at them!!!!!!! We followed that game with a chase & tug game...letting him figure out that eye contact would earn his release to get that exciting toy...then we would tug with it, practicing our "outs" and "take its". Prey drive is an amazing motivator and a powerful tool...which is why it is so important to also practice self control during these
Fetching is a very useful skill for all sorts of canine activities so, naturally, I have been teaching Da Vinci to "fetch". Among those activities, truffle hunting will certainly involve fetching...whether it's bringing the truffle to me or as a fun game as his reward for the find. No matter how it is used, fetching is important. Callie plays this game tirelessly...Cash, well, he's more of a foodie, but he will run with the other dogs while they chase a ball or toy. Since Da Vinci came home, I've been working with him on bringing tossed objects back to me. He's been progressing nicely and figuring out that returning the object to me is a good thing that he often gets cookies for. Until now, these were always exercises or I was taking advantage of a play moment to encourage what I wanted. Last night, Da Vinci "ASKED" to play the game!!!!!! He took off in the yard during a potty outing and came trotting back (very proud of himself) with the toy we have been using most recently. He looked at me with the big purple ball dangling from his mouth as if to say "can we play that