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A Thai truffle dog – lesson 2

June 12, 2010

Today I brought Ruben to another site, and tied the white cotton string to his collar. Since I am not sure if he tracked me or the truffles last time, I threw three truffles in three different directions about 10 meters away. The aim was to see if he followed the scent of me while walking, or if he could track the actual truffles. Ruben seemed excited today again, knowing what was going on. After my command “search”, he immediately ran for the truffles, and I followed using a leash. He found them without any problems and ate them as usual. That is not a good trait for a truffle dog. Preferably he should just mark the site, and then go aside or sit down waiting for his reward. Well, Ruben is still young, and this is just his second lesson. I repeated the procedure, and he found the truffles easily, and I rewarded him verbally and with a cracker.

Then I changed techniques. I walked away about 20 meters, and then buried five truffles under the sand. I walked to two more sites and buried nothing, as controls. If Ruben just followed my scent, he would be equally interested in the empty places. I told him “search” and off he went. He ran straight to the place with the truffles, ignoring my two controls. However, when he reached the area, he seemed surprised there were no truffles, and he just walked around on the same spot, making no attempt to mark or to dig. Therefore I had to teach him. I told him “search” in an excited voice, and then I began digging with my hand next to the truffles. Ruben was excited too, but he did not know what to do. Besides, the bag with truffles was in my pocket, why he was probably surrounded by fumes and quite confused. Eventually the truffles popped up and he ate them, and I rewarded him verbally and gave him another cracker. We repeated the procedure, with the sole change that I hung my bag of truffles in a tree far away. Ruben seemed confused this time too. Next time we shall begin with buried truffles, and we shall work on a way to mark the truffle. Usually it is the dog that comes up with the solution, and the owner just has to pay attention and reward the dog when he does something good, like barking, or scratching the ground with his paw.

Eric Danell

Ruben, the first Thai truffle dog, is relaxing after a lesson outside Dokmai Garden, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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