Training Dogs to Hunt Truffles

How to train a dog to hunt for truffles.
How to train a dog to hunt for truffles. | Source

Why Train a Dog to Hunt for Truffles?

Truffles, also known as "black diamonds", the "magic fruit" or "white gold" are quite a precious gift from mother earth, and as so, many people are getting rich fast with these tasty tubers. Commonly found in Italy and France, these strong smelling diamonds cost an arm and a leg if you have an interest in trying them out. The largest ones are often sold by auction sites for thousands of dollars. These precious diamonds are often used in the culinary field to add aroma to a risotto, make a tasty oil or a gourmet balsamic vinegar. Due to its amazing cost and pungent taste, this tuber is used very sparingly.

When it comes to truffles, only two species of animals excel in finding these fragrant nuggets: dogs and pigs. Female pigs offer the advantage of being naturally drawn to the truffles because truffles contain a compound that smells similar to the boar sex hormone "androstenol."However, pigs are being gradually replaced by dogs for the simple fact that once pigs find truffles, they're very difficult to part from the prize. In other words, they will try to eat as quickly as possible and some may even be possessive over it!

While dogs are not naturally drawn to the tuber as pigs are, they can be trained to search for this precious tuber. Different types of dogs excel in truffle hunting, and just as truffles, these hounds are definitively worth their weight in gold.

What it Takes to Become a Truffle Dog

Equipped with a nose capable of detecting explosives, drugs and stranded people, what better species can be used to track down these tasty tubers. While virtually any dog with the right qualities can be trained to search truffles, certain dogs seem to be best suited to work in terrains where truffles are grown. In France for instance, where high-valued truffles are produced, terrier-types of dogs of no discernible breed are used. In Italy, where a prized type of white type of truffle is produced, the canine par excellence for the task is the Lagotto Romagnolo. As of today, the Lagotto is the only dog breed in the world specifically used to track down this valuable tuber.

A dog needs though special qualities to hunt truffles and they are not exclusively based on scent . A good candidate must obviously have a superior sniffer to accurately detect the distinct, musty smell of truffles growing below the surface. The dog also must be able to focus on the job and possess a strong search drive, a calm demeanor and the ability to tune out the presence of wild animals and other dogs. Several of these qualities are born in the dog; if they're present, the other traits can be trained.


How are Truffle Dogs Trained?

Teaching a dog to love truffles starts right after the pup is born. Some owners start by applying truffle oil to the nursing mama's teats to give the puppies their first taste of truffles. Later, the puppy is enticed to play fetch using a toy stuffed with a piece of bread soaked in the oil. The toy later is buried in different areas and the dog is praised lavishly for finding it. Finally, the truffle scent is buried without the toy in several different places. Exposure to older, more experienced truffle dogs is often part of the training.

If you are intrigued by the whole truffle-hunting adventure, you don't have to move to Italy or France to give it a try. In Oregon, where an Oregon Truffle Festival is held, dogs are trained to hunt truffles. With the expanding growth of truffle orchards, along with the abundance of native truffle species scattered throughout forests, the interest and demand for such truffle hunting dogs is significantly increasing.

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Introducing the Lagotto Romagnolo

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Comments 2 comments

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

It is interesting to me that the dogs trained for truffle hunting start at birth by the method you described of using a bit of truffle oil when the puppies are nursing. I also did not know that so many truffles are cultivated in Oregon. Up and interesting!


alexadry profile image

alexadry 3 years ago from USA Author

Yes, those training methods are still used as of today in many small Italian towns. Thanks for stopping by!

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