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truffles

5 Ways to Improve the Effectiveness of Your Scent Material

I talk a lot about handling scent, because that is the one area people seem to have the most “ah ha” moments.  I hate people to feel like I am “picking on them” in class, but honestly, they come up with the best teachable moments and DSC03950striking while the iron is hot just my nature.

So from the last couple of classes I have found a couple of scent material related teachable moments that I want to share.

1.   If you store your “hot” scent articles with your “cold” scent articles in baggies in your purse, you now have two mediocre “hot” scent articles.  While your scent all over the target scent article is a great cheat for a beginner dog, as you progress, it becomes an obstacle to advancing your training and encourages guessing for many dogs.

2.  When you prepare scent articles and blanks or cold articles for your training week, prepare several sets and ideally store them in different locations.  I suggest tackle boxes, one for hot and one for cold.  If you store treats in one you have to store treats in the other….and as you progress you won’t want to store treats in either.

3.  If your target scent is prepared in mineral oil, olive oil, paraffin or other scent carrier, your blanks should also contain the same material in similar quantities.  It is fine to change the scent carrier from week to week and any container you use to hold your scent material (plastic, pvc, stainless, aluminum), but your hot and cold should be identical in your training session with the exception of the target scent.

4.  If you have been using the same scent material in the same scent containers week after week, you have successfully taught your dog to find things that smell like you plus that particular “blend” of container, scent, carriers, etc.   If you have passed the target training phase, you should be changing your scent material weekly, preferably preparing fresh training aides each training session and sanitizing your containers, or preferably acquiring new ones in between.

5.  If you place scent with latex gloves, you should use latex gloves to place your blanks as well.  If you are trying to minimize your scent on the article, have a well trained friend prepare it for you.  Try using food service gloves instead of latex.

As training progresses, you will want to contaminate scent material as little as possible.  Try storing it in jars in your freezer and warm for 20 minutes before placing in the field.  Avoid bare hands handling when you think your dog is nearly ready to migrate their training to a production environment.

Some dogs make the leap from locating truffle scent in a training setting to a wild or orchard setting with no problems.  Most dogs will need more help and it is this transition that is the most challenging.  For those dogs, it will be very important how much control you have had over your scent articles and how you place training scent in the field.

As you progress your training, your dog will use clues such as your scent on targets, to disrupted soil to help them locate the target, but as you advance it is important to remove or mitigate as many of these clues as possible.DSC01991sm

In my technique for more advanced dogs, I like to use my right hand for placing cold targets or blanks (or making disturbed soil) and my left for placing hot.  I always place cold, then hot to avoid contaminating the cold targets with target scent.  After the targets are placed, I walk through the area touching various spots so that the dog cannot use the age of my scent to identify the hot targets.  A little superstitious perhaps but that is my routine.

What Makes a Great Truffle Dog?

One of the first things people tell me when describing their dog’s scent detection potential is that their dog “has a really great nose!” and I smile and nod.  The truth is, barring any abnormalities or medical issues, all dogs have really great noses.  And the variation between breeds is so minute as to be irellevant, particularly in the realm of an aroma as potent as a truffle.

The real talent comes in your dogs desire to barter their skills for whatever is in your goody bag.  Your job is to make sure that it is the BEST TREAT EVER.  But outside of the scope of the nose and your dogs inclination to trade their skill for your cookie, what characteristics make a great scent detection dog?

In classe as I begin to describe characteristics of what dogs have been successful in our program in the past, people begin to giggle.  They think I am describing the attributes about their dog that drive them nuts.

    • dexterDoesn’t Listen
    • Exists in Own World
    • Looking for the Next Adventure
    • Doesn’t Make Eye Contact
    • Total User
    • Couldn’t Care Less if I Exist

The less needy, clingy and dependent a dog, the more independent, curious and distracted a dog, the easier it is to turn them into a scent detection dog. But you have on job to find that ONE SPECTACULAR TREAT. This treat will make your dog flip. Wallow at your feet. It is the treat that your dog will take a momentary pause in their busy schedule to retrieve from you. But the treat is another blog. Today we are talking about the dog.

This dog is a total user and only wants one thing from you. Your cookie! They aren’t interested in your scratches or even your praises. Affection is fine but superfluous, the bottom line is this dog does what this dog does and and no amount of ASB (attention seeking behavior) from you is going dissuade them from being a total user.

When it comes to scent detection training, we love these guys. They know what they want in life and they know how to get it. They are smart and independent problem solvers who think you apparently need the help they are prepared to give. They like you on their own terms and tolerate your quirky need to touch them. Does this describe your dog?

If you find you are living with one of these rogues, help them find their purpose. Put their aimless wander to good use and train yourself a truffle dog!

Free Truffle Dog Class – WHY?

People keep asking me why we have started providing truffle dog training free at Kalik Acre. We have fumbled around the answer and decided to try to better answer it here. It is a multipart answer really, no single reason really stands out for us.

2011_02_DanaBravo

1. Our truffle training patch was clear cut.  We had a very reliable, highly accessible location six miles from NW Truffle Dogs HQ. It made moving truffle dog teams from the classroom to the field a breeze.

2. Laws changed.  While NW Truffle Dogs always sought and received permission to foray on properties we practiced on, new Oregon laws make it more challenging: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2013R1/Measures/Overview/SB0578

3. Competition.   A number of our clients and former students started truffle dog training businesses of their own, thereby diluting a relatively small pool potential clients.

4. Ethics.  Deception and dishonesty amongst some people in truffle community created a distasteful atmosphere. If we are no longer accepting payment for training we no longer have a dog in the fight and can be honest with our students without appearing biased.

We are glad classes are full, we hope people are learning a lot and having fun. You are always welcome to give feedback about the training or the content by sending us an email or completing an on-line review.