The Most Common Truffle Training Problems and How You Can Solve Them
I Dont Think My Dog Can Learn
Some dogs take to truffle training straight away but these very good boys are the exception rather than the rule. The majority of dogs will run into one or more problems while they are in the learning stage. These issues will cause many would-be hunters to consider throwing in the towel. It is easy to become frustrated by the dog’s apparent lack of progress and to start questioning whether he is up to the task.
When learning a new skill, both dogs and humans will nearly always encounter challenges. It is likely that these truffle training issues which are causing you to despair are actually very common. So you can relax – there are tried and tested ways to deal with them.
What Are The Most Common Problems?
You may not be making progress as your dog keeps running off when you want him to find the truffles you have buried. Other dogs go outdoors and are so distracted by their surroundings that they cannot focus on the training. Or perhaps the dog just has no interest in finding truffles. He can’t see the point of the whole exercise. Other dogs have the opposite problem, they become over-excited and will attack the practice truffle and even destroy it with great zeal.
Know Your Role in All This
Before we begin looking at these issues one by one, you need to think about yourself and your role in the training. It is not enough to focus solely on the dog’s behaviour when all stages of truffle hunting are a joint endeavour.
It often takes first-time truffle dog trainers a while to realise that they are taking on a new role. You are adding another dimension to your relationship with your dog, going beyond your previous roles of owner and pet.
You and the dog are now combining your skills towards a common goal -finding truffles. It is up to you to work out how best to do this. You see, the dog is the talent – like a young athlete, you, on the other hand, are the brains of the operation. It is your job to guide and direct.
Think of yourself as the coach trying to understand and bring out the best in the athlete. You help him hone his skills and you find the best ways to motivate him. To be successful as a coach you will have to practice being patient. Frustration can destroy your efforts, especially if you tend to vocalize or display these feelings..
Instead, make sure that you reward your dog for his successes and encourage him. Be patient with him when your sessions together are not going as planned. You may find that you need to work on your own self-control and that your annoyance often gets the better of you. However don’t be too hard on yourself either, remember that you are also learning. You will make mistakes.
Learn on the job by analyzing what you might be doing wrong as a coach. It will help if you try to understand the training from the dog’s perspective. Understand too, that it is ultimately your dog that will help you to work well as a coach. We are often blown away by how much our pets love us, it is in their nature to want to please us. Now you just have to find the way to make the dog understand what it is that want him to do. Once he gets it he will jump through hoops to make you happy.
The way to achieve this understanding is through a combination of behaviours on your part. You need to be consistent, patient, firm, enthusiastic and affectionate. You should also be generous with your rewards. Know your dog but know your dog’s favourite treat and use it to your advantage.
Hopefully you now see the huge part that you play in helping the dog rise to the challenges in training. So we can examine these challenges through the eyes of a coach. .
What about the dog’s role? Put simply, the dog has two instinctive talents that we want to harness and utilize. The first being his amazing ability to sniff out scents which are way beyond the human nose, the second his tireless capacity to explore. Learning how to harness and utilize these talents will be your job. If you can do this the pair of you will make a formidable team.
The Distracted Dog
In this most common scenario, the dog will not limit himself to sniffing and exploring truffles. He will usually want to sniff every single thing of interest to him in the vicinity and explore every corner.
The second problem is that the dog has many other competing instincts besides sniffing and exploring. We want him to forget the instincts we are not interested in like rolling on the grass and chasing game and to focus on using the sniffing and exploring instincts. Your job is to get the dog to want to focus on them. Again we can do that with rewards and our own behaviour.
It is unlikely that in training you will ever be able to entirely eliminate the instinctive behaviours we have no use for. However if you are consistent, then with time the dog will improve.
In the meantime, you can take practical steps to help the dog stay more focused. Choose your training ground carefully especially if you intend to have the dog off leash. Try not to vary the places where you train at first. When the dog is familiar with a place he should find fewer distractions.
Always hold your training sessions in an enclosed space. Go to a place that is not wildly popular with other dog owners. Or with wild animals like deer or rabbits. Theoretically, areas which are fenced off should have fewer distracting scents. For the same reason, it is best to start in small spaces and gradually build up to larger areas as the dog becomes better at focusing.
Before you start the training session, give the dog some time to explore and familiarize. Have a signal or command word for when you want him to come and start training.
While he is doing his own thing, don’t play games or get involved. This will only serve to give the dog mixed signals. Don’t forget that you need to draw clear distinctions between his daily activities (eg. exercise) and truffle training.
If the dog has not been exercised and is in need of a good run around then he won’t be able to concentrate on your sessions. Make sure the dog gets adequate walks, runs or play time in addition to truffle training. If possible keep different locations separate for your different activities. This will help avoid confusion in the dog’s mind about why you are there.
We train our dogs off leash so that they can explore all the parts of the forest and do a lot of the leg work for us. In order for this to go smoothly, the dog needs to have excellent recall. If your dog runs off and does not return when called then you need to go back a step and focus on obedience. Train your dog to always return to you when called before you teach him how to truffle. Nearly all dogs will get excited at some stage by something or other and rush off to sniff it or chase it. When this happens, call the dog back immediately. Remember that it is a more effective strategy to reward him for coming back rather than shouting at him for his momentary lapse of reason.
Unlike pigs, dogs have no natural desire to root for truffles, you have to motivate them to do this. So if you have a dog who just doesn’t see the point, then you will really have to step up in your role as coach.. Fetching a stick may be fun but truffling hunting is the most fun you can have. This is the message you need to get across. If you are having fun the dog will pick up on this and respond eagerly. If you are tired and grumpy the dog will similarly be affected. So do try to watch your own mood. Be as enthusiastic as you can, embarrassingly so. Be wildly affectionate and use your rewards as you lavish your dog with praise and hugs.The dog will work to please you.
If he won’t work just for the fun of it and to be told that he is the best boy in the world then this is where the calculated use of the snack comes in. Don’t skimp when it comes to rewards, what is your dog’s favourite treat? That is the truffle reward. Don’t give that snack on any other occasion and it becomes a more powerful tool.
If your dog still seems disinterested after all your efforts, timing could be an issue. Try altering the time of your sessions for when the dog is of a livelier disposition. The dog should also be slightly hungry, he will work harder if he really wants the snacks. It makes evolutionary sense too that a hungry hunter is a sharper, more focused hunter. So don’t feed the dog in the time prior to your sessions.
The Overly Enthusiastic Dog
This issue can be a real headache. This type of dog goes crazy, digs up the truffle and runs off with it. Or else he attacks the truffle, won’t give it to you and has totally destroyed it by the time you have prised it from between his teeth.
It can be exasperating to deal with this behaviour but take comfort because this is actually a really good problem to have. These excitable dogs invariably make excellent truffle hunters once they settle down and some of this excessive exuberance has been calmed away. Dogs who exhibit this kind of behaviour get excited by the truffle smell and get into the whole process of locating them and unearthing them quite passionately.
With this manic truffler, you need to be more affectionate than enthusiastic as you ultimately would like the dog to be more controlled and focused. You also have to insist that he gives you the truffle. This might not happen at first but that is what you have to work towards. Don’t reward him for running away. Often so much is going on at break neck speed with these hyperactive dogs. This means you need to make sure it is very clear which action he is being rewarded for. The reward is for finding the truffle.
When he gets his treat hold the truffle to his nose while gently restraining him . When he won’t part with the truffle, try to persuade him to give it to you in exchange for the treat. If this is proving difficult to achieve outdoors, go back inside. Try practising the truffle-for- treat exchange indoors where there are fewer distractions.
Hopefully this covers your particular truffle training difficulty. If you have another issue, please get in touch and perhaps one of the team can help. Good luck!,