In older days “truffle hunters” used pigs to trace and root up the tasty – and very expensive – delicacy. However, it has changed and dogs came into limelight. Why? Because pigs had a tendency to consume the “money” on the spot. Some dogs may also want to eat the tasty fungi, but they are more likely to “give” it. What breeds are the masters? How to TRAIN Mr Dog? Read on:
Actually, there is a breed that is famous for its “truffling” skills. It’s Lagotto Romagnolo, an old and rare breed originally used as a water dog in the Italian marshes and its traditional function is a gundog, specifically a water retriever, as Lagotti have a natural instinct for retrieving.
THE NAME means “lake dog from Romagna”, originating from the Italian word lago, meaning lake. This breed makes a fine companion and a family dog. He comes in many colors: from white to black, but mostly in “earth tones” (tweedy or patchy effects). Two serious challenges you must be aware of are:
1) grooming (with his dense and curly coat – like a poodle)
2) intelligence (you really have to WORK with him – its as mission-hungry as any border collie).
Lagotto Romagnolo has been used for truffle hunting since ca. the 19th century and between the two World Wars the breed was already used by all Italian truffle hunters.
Of course, this multipurpose working dog doesn’t hunt truffles by instinct (actually no dog does). You have to teach them to search for fungi. So Why this dog? Because he sports all the “Truffle Dogs features”:
– a sensitive NOSE of course, as truffles grow underground
– easy to TRAIN
– strong CONCENTRATION ability, so that he doesn’t get distracted by other scents
– good working RELATIONSHIP with his guide, so he gives the fungi to the man (and does not eat it)
Any dog can become a “truffle-sniffer” (any breed or even a mixture of breeds), but the above QUALITIES are the KEY to success.
Also miniature poodles and dachshunds have been successful as truffle dogs, but here it’s more the question of individual preferences than the breed.
How “Truffle Training” goes?
If you want to have a “truffle hunter” you must know that the training period for “professional” truffle hunting dogs lasts from two to four months. Of course, you are free to buy a “ready well-trained dog” for truffle or mushroom hunting, but reportedly it costs ca. X.00.000 (6-figure price).
So why don’t you try to train your Mr Dog to hunt truffles?
1. Start with a piece of cheese, the best is gorgonzola (an Italian blue cheese), as its smell is said to resemble that of a truffle.
2. Gradually play the game and head toward burying the cheese in the ground.
3. When Mr Dog finds the cheese, don’t give it to him – reward it with a treat instead.
4. When you reach the stage, when Mr Dog can find the buried cheese, buy a small truffle and let him smell the cheese and the truffle at the same time.
5. Bury the cheese and the truffle together for Mr Dog to find.
6. Once he can do this, work just with the truffle (without cheese). When he can do this, you’re ready to go for “the treasure hunt”.
WHERE CAN YOU EXPECT TRUFFLES?
Look for warm and moist soil (10 to 14 days after rain), under the certain trees (pine, oak, hickory, birch and beech) and look for traces where squirrels or other animals have been digging.
If your Mr Dog finds the FUNGI, have it verified by an expert to make sure it’s edible, so that you don’t get poisoned by some toxic toadstool.