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 to be successful, but only with a lot of luck! So, I had to remind myself that I need to make smart decisions when planning out their training sessions and decided to raise criteria in a different way...
With Cash, I stopped using a box or bag to put the truffle in and started hiding a single truffle outside and, after he found it, asking him to "show me" where it was...encouraging him to be specific and then giving him his reward at the source. He did fantastic so the next step was to remove any sort of track I might be laying that would lead him to the truffle. Next time, I walked out on the deck, tossed the truffle into the yard (while he was inside so he couldn't peek). I Brought him outside and he knew what game we were going to play before I even said it..."trovarlo" ("find it" in Italian). Winner! Great find, Cash!
Da Vinci has been working the scent boxes, but I started to find that the leash may be giving him mixed signals. He IS a puppy working on leash manners so I can't be upset that he was paying more attention to me than the boxes. So, I gave it a try without the leash and he definitely used his nose more. Made sense after I thought about why he wouldn't sniff the boxes...he was offering me good leash walking and waiting for a reward for THAT behavior, not the searching. After taking the leash off, the game was a bit more disorganized, but the end result was what I wanted...he used his nose, stayed engaged in the game and worked to find the scent box that would earn his reward. I think he started to "get it" that day!!!!! Good puppy! Not bad for a boy just shy of 5 months!
My goal for Callie this week was to remove her ball reward from the actual truffle site so that it came from me after she found the truffle AND showed me where it was. Piece of cake. She figured that out quick. She even picked up the truffle and tossed it at me!! Funny girl.
Today we raised criteria for Cash and Callie! Today, I buried the truffle under a light layer of dirt. ROCKSTARS! Both dogs found the truffle and Callie even uncovered it with her nose. Nicely done!
I'm fascinating at how quickly they learn if I take the time to think about the progression, raise criteria appropriately and take a step back when I've over-faced them. They really don't train on the truffles a lot....maybe 2-3 hunts (less than 5 minutes). I honestly spend more time thinking about my next training plan. And when they get it right, I know I planned well. I'm learning to be more thoughtful about training, rather than going for repetitions. I'm so proud of all 3 of them!