Observations From A Truffle Dog Trainer During The 2022 Season

Truffle Dogs 2022

1. The 2022 season was quite a wet year and so I have found some potential additional challenges for truffle dogs and their handlers. It is more difficult for odour molecules to escape the wetter soil and into the air when the truffle is surrounded by water or wetter than usual soil.

Dogs are able to find scent from water but this is a trained skill. The molecules get to the surface of the water and can escape into the air. E.g. cadaver dogs searching bodies of water.

The sensitivity of the dog needs to be fine-tuned to allow for the dog to pick up even the most minute odour molecules. I think the next year will be another wet year. So, in my training course I will be emphasizing training in wet conditions and working with the dogs to up skill them to be able to find truffle wrapped in wet paper towel, thereby trying to replicate wetter soil conditions. Slowly increasing the number of wet paper towel layers.

During the off season I will be wrapping my hides in wet paper towel to refine my dogs searching and to give me confidence in their ability to pick up truffles in these non-ideal conditions. If any of my paid clients asked for a demonstration, I would also ALWAYS be happy to get them to put a blind hide down, so I don’t know where it is, and show case my dogs’ ability. Don’t be afraid to ask for a demo, especially from a new search team. They should be happy to show off their dogs’ skills.

E.g.: “Would you mind if we did a demo hide, so I can see your dog’s body language, then I can understand when he/she is ‘on odour’?”    

2. Truffle farms without dogs may have a more difficult time if their contracted search dogs aren’t as comfortable with wetter conditions. If your search dog isn’t finding as much as you would expect always get a second opinion. If the second opinion can’t find much more then you can be confident that your first dog is still performing well in these different conditions. Each dog has its strengths and weakness.   

3. Dogs can alert to truffle which is ripe right now and truffle which is ripe in a few weeks. Farms without dogs can really benefit from dogs who alert to ripe and unripe truffle as they can get weeks’ worth of searches in one paid session. Mark the spots come back each week. Farms who have their own dogs may benefit more from dogs who only alert to ripe truffle. If a client has access to ripe and unripe truffle, only alerting to ripe can be taught.

4. Challenges when training truffle dogs: Finding the right personality of dog who wants to work. Getting a puppy from a breed which usually is a working dog doesn’t mean they will want to work. Unfortunately, sometimes the dog you bought to be a truffle dog has a pet personality as opposed to a working dog personality. Having someone who has trained truffle dogs come to assess your dog’s drive to be a working dog could be beneficial to work out whether to put the hours and hours into this dog to train them. As hard as it may be sometimes the dog you want to be a working dog just wants to be a pet. Sometimes a breed of dog you least expect to be a truffle dog has the right personality. Search for the personality rather than the breed when looking for a new dog to train. You could also search for adult dogs so their personality is already evident.  

5. Have a trainer come over and make sure you are rewarding the dog in his or her currency. You wouldn’t want to be paid in another country’s currency, what would you do with it? My dog will not work for food or pats. He actively avoids pats when working but will want all the pats when off duty. He is completely and utterly ball driven. One time the ball rolled under the fence, I had half a row left, he went on strike until I got the ball back. If I offered food he would resign on the spot. Their payment is so important to them. No one wants to work for free. You have to know your dog’s currency; they are all so different. Food, ball, pats, tug of war, chase the toy. There are so many options. You will get the most from your dog when you pay them right. You will have an efficient, motivated worker, who is eager to please. 

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