TRUFFLE DOGS

 
WHO HUNTS FOR TRUFFLES?

The most common way of finding truffles is with the aid of animals. In history, pigs were used to find the truffles but as pigs are not one to give up a truffle once they have found it,  today the most common animal is a human's best friend – the dog.

WHAT BREED?

While the Lagotto has evolved over the centuries, it has always been a good hunting and retrieving dog and a history of truffle-hunting bred into their ancestry.

Due to these qualities it soon became a well recognised breed for hunting truffles. However, there are many breeds that also possess the same qualities and are suitable to be trained as truffle hunters. The real issue is the dog's capacity and willingness to learn.

Some popular truffle-hunting breeds include:
•    Lagotto Romagnolo.
•    Springer Spaniel.
•    Beagles and other hounds.
•    Labrador retriever.
•    Standard poodle.
•    Boarder Collies.

However, much like guide dogs, they are not all cut out for the job and therefore it doesn’t all come down to the breed, some dogs just have a better temperament than others so in fact, any dog can hunt for truffle if they are willing to learn and have the interest to learnSome actually prefer to find a rescue dog at a few years old so that it is more settled, you need to ensure you understand a dogs temperament to choose a suitable candidate.Others have been known to choose a puppy from a litter, of no particular breed, by putting a truffle in their pocket and sitting with the litter and seeing which ones sniff out the truffle.

WHAT TEMPERAMENTS?

Some of the qualities to look for in a trainee truffle hunting dog are:-
•    Willingness to learn
•    Eager to please
•    Takes instruction well
•    Stamina and focus (depending on the size of the orchard)
•    A keen sense of smell“They often need to learn to walk up and down rows of trees and ignore rabbits, kangaroos and cows that are destined to distract the best of them…..”
HOW TO TRAIN A DOG TO HUNT TRUFFLES

There is no hard and fast way to train a dog to hunt truffles some dogs simple won't be interested enough in truffle-hunting to learn how its done and while professional trainers have their own techniques, with a little trial and error with your own dogs, you can find a technique that may work for you.

Training a dog to hunt truffles takes time and consistency. There are many techniques to teach dogs how to pick up the scent of the truffle and to ensure it does not eat it or damage it by digging.

Some of the tecniques include:-

Some suggest it is best to start training from birth by Putting truffle milk or truffle oil on the mothers teet, the puppy soon begins to associate the odour with a pleasurable experience. As the puppy grows, he is given a toy, perhaps a sock or cuddly animal with a truffle hidden inside

Others have imported 'cani-truff', a French artificial product designed for dog training that resembles the fragrance of real truffles.

Many prefer to wait until the dog is a few months old and then introduce toys and games with truffles and truffle scent to familiarise the dog with the smell and subsequent reward system.


DETECTING TRUFFLES

To unearth a truffle, truffle hunters work together with their trained dogs that are able to find truffles by detecting the smell through their keen noses.


TEACHING THEM TO MARK THE SPOT

Generally a truffle dog sniffs out a truffle underground, at a base of a tree, he indicates by digging at the dirt above the truffle or specific sniff movement, often called “coning” where the dog sniffs over the area in a cone shape.

When the dog “indicates” he has detected a truffle, it is a good idea to mark his behaviour by saying, 'yes' and giving him a reward, so as long as there's a truffle there and you continue to dig them up he continues to get the rewards.

It is good to work as a team with the dog, while the dog detects the scent and location initially it is then over the handler to determine if the truffle is ready or not, this is often a skill in itself.


HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO TRAIN A DOG

Well that depends on many things, the dogs willingness to learn, the age you start training the dog, how diligent you are with the training and how quickly the dog picks up the skill.


NOT JUST A HUNTER BUT A PET

For those that are dog lovers and keen truffle growers, it is an added bonus to have your dog join in this rewarding activity.


WHEN CAN THEY FIRST FIND TRUFFLES

This depends on your own experience and expectations, it is wise to keep a close tether on your truffle dog until he can prove to you that he has what it takes.


DOG TRAINERS

There are a few good truffle dog trainers that have programs that you can engage in and others that train truffle dogs for you or even train them up for sale.
(We are in the process of populating a list to share with you).


HIRED HELP

If you would prefer not to share the end of your bed with a furry friend then hiring truffle dogs to search for your forest floor fungi is always an option. There are a number of trained dog owners that will travel to your Truffiere (for a fee) in search of truffle treasures.
(We are in the process of populating a list to share with you).