Previous Student Biographies

Name: Bonnie

Breed: Black Labrador

Age: 6 Years old (2023)

Reward: Food

Location: Near Ballan. Living on a 2.5-year-old truffle farm (2023)

Previous Training:

Bonnie started her truffle dog training in February of 2023 when she was 6 years old. Hides consisted of a treat and edible truffle oil (olive oil based) on cotton wool within a silver ball and netted bag. Bonnie would pick up/dig up the hide and throw it around a bit before bring it to her owner. Then sometimes jumping up to get a reward. She would find this paired hide very consistently within the shed and was keen to search once she got started. She would need to be reminded to keep searching often throughout searches and would be distracted easily.

Main areas to work on:

  • Working towards unpaired hide (truffle scent without reward)
  • Independent searching.
  • Increasing focus especially in areas of higher distraction (i.e. outside)
  • Reduce jumping
  • Reduce digging/picking up of hide.

Course: Intermediate

Once hearing about her history, I was happy for Bonnie to skip the beginner course and go straight to intermediate. We worked through the course focusing on unpaired (non-edible truffle training oil) with independent searching in increasingly distracting environments while keeping Bonnie at the source of the hide without digging/picking it up nor jumping up.

Outcome:

After 6 weeks she was searching independently on unpaired hides outside without the need to keep reminding her to ‘search’ and she was staying at the source to get her reward. Not picking it up and not jumping up demanding more treats. She would show the location with her nose and sometimes paw tap the ground before looking at owner for reward while still standing in front of the hide. She transitioned to real truffle hides instantly and was finding the real truffle hides outside under increasingly distracting environments. She would re show a location when asked and was accurate in her alerting at the source. Once a hide was found with simply stepping forward, she would continue to search for the next location without the need to re tell her to search, showing independent confident searching. She understands when the game is finished by a “All finished” command and taking off the lead. She better understands her role in the truffle hunting team and is a much happier dog because she understands how the game works and what she needs to do to get her treat.

Future:

Bonnie has completed Intermediate Truffle Dog Training in August 2023 and will continue to the Advanced Course during the off season between 2023-2024. I have no doubt she will be finding real truffles on their farm once it starts producing sometime between 2024-2026.

 

Name: Peri

Breed: Beagle Cross

Age: 4 Years  (2023)

Reward: Food

Location: Double Oaks Estate, Lancefield. Winery and Truffle Plantation.

Planted 9 Rows in 2019 and remainder in 2021.

Previous Training:

None

Main areas to work on:

N/A

Course: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced.

We started Peri’s truffle training journey in 2021 starting with the Beginner Course at 4-month-old late April 2021. After 4 weeks she was ready for the Intermediate course all because of the excellent training and consistent approach of her owner, Kristy. She was finding unpaired truffle hides, pointing accurately with her nose and sitting as her alert. She has amazing focus and extremely keen to please. She absolutely loves the game. She began the Intermediate course in mid-May 2021 and then moved on to the advanced course in mid-June 2021.

I returned in 2022 to do 3 refresher sessions with Peri to see how she was going and continue to keep her interested in the game as real truffles were still a few years away on this farm. She was confident in unpaired truffle training oil hides off lead and was accurate and focused even within the truffiere.

In 2023 I returned to do refresher with real truffle hides. Peri found the real truffle hides without difficulty.

Future:

Peri will be working on lead keeping focused and working on the “Show” command while building search stamina during the off season between 2023/2024. There could be truffle in 2024 so it could be an exciting year for her, 3 years in the making. Once the truffiere is producing we will be marking real truffle locations with Kovu and continuing her training in advanced while cross checking her with the real underground truffle locations. So keep a eye on Double Oaks website in 2024 because there is every possibility they will be starting their truffle hunting experiences.

 

Name: Tessa and Rita

Breed: Labradors (Black and Golden)

Age: 3 and 2 years (2023)

Reward: Food

Location: Truffle Valley, Seville.

Previous Training:

From 2020-2021 Tessa had been trained with frozen truffle hides/truffle training oil by her owner, Joan, and had been taking to the game like a fish to water. Knowing that their farm could produce truffles as early as 2021/2022 they wanted their dogs to be ready for the job therefore wanted to double check their current training and tips for improvement.

Main areas to work on:

  • To observe a Kovu, a professional truffle dog, in action and his training techniques.
  • Double checking current level of training/accuracy and tips for further advancement
  • Maintain focus, stamina, accuracy
  • Increase focus under distractions.
  • Prevent digging

Course: Advanced

In 2021, Truffle Valleyfound their first truffles with their dog Tessa.

In June 2022, we went to Truffle Valleyto do a truffle dog assessment to cross check the dog’s work and provide feedback and tips for further advancement. At this time only Tessa was working as Rita, their second dog, was still a puppy. Tessa did an excellent job finding truffle hides constantly and accurately. Joan, was given a small list of training exercises to further Tessa’s training.

In 2023, we had a visit early July where Kovu did a hunt through their truffiere. Due to last year being a right off due to the high rains, the owners weren’t expecting anything. Kovu loves to surprise us and found 2 big truffles with more locations of potential unripe truffle. We turned this hunt into a mini training exercise with her two dogs, Tessa/Rita. I found a few areas of improvement which Joan implemented and it made a huge difference to their searching. So, they opted to get us back to do the Advanced Course in late July 2023. The dogs then did exceptionally well under the guidance of Joan, finding challenging hides in difficult weather conditions.

Future:

Tessa and Rita will be working through the more challenging aspects of the advanced course during the off season between 2023/2024.

They are both excellent truffle dogs and I have no doubt that they will both be finding truffles at Truffle Valleyin the 2024 season.

 

Name: Jasper

Breed: English Springer Spaniel

Age: 1 Year old (2023)

Reward: Food

Location: Red Hill Truffles, Red Hill.

Previous Training:

Training inside the pavilion with paired real truffle within visible tea strainer. Had been doing well in this low distraction indoor environment. But it was time to ramp things up a bit and challenge him.

Main areas to work on:

  • Focus under distractions (with many people)
  • Doing outside searches in varying weather conditions
  • Confidence searching by himself
  • Stable and easy to understand alert
  • Obedience
  • Good Search stamina
  • Re showing location

Course: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced.

Jasper’s training is a little bit different to my previous students. Unlike the other dogs where I was training the owner to do the training, with Jasper I was visiting Red Hill every weekend during the truffle season. I personally was doing most of the training with Jasper and providing updates to his owners as I went through the sessions.

I started the Beginner course with Jasper mid-June 2023. Starting indoors and working our way to outdoors. We had to build up his confidence to work away from his other doggy friends. It only took one training session for him to realize he could search and find all by himself. The second training session he was eager to search independently outside. Jasper’s is an amazing truffle dog, he flew through the Beginners aspect in 2 sessions (over a weekend) mostly due to his prior training with his owners. He spent the last 2 weeks of June in Intermediate. I realized that he was finding the hides too easily and needed new challenges. On 1st July 2023 he was showing us real underground truffles marked by Kovu and found his first unaided truffle on 21st July 2023. He moved into Advanced mid July 2023. By early August he was helping his owner to pin point the exact location of a truffle which they had been attempting to find that Maddy (their other truffle dog) had alerted to.

Future:

Currently (August 2023) we are working through the more challenging aspects of the Advanced course and also some challenges specific to Jasper’s working conditions. He will be hunting with large crowds following along during the truffle hunting events. I think he will be ready to do truffle hunting events during the summer truffle season of 2023.

 

Name: Kingston

Breed: Black Labrador

Age: 2 years old (2023)

Reward: Food

Location: Yass, NSW

Previous Training:

Kingston and his owner are a professional scent detection team working on wind farms to identify animal carcasses. They were wanting to learn more about the specifics of truffle hunting and searching.

Main areas to work on:

  • Learning about truffles
  • Searching for truffles
  • Truffle Oil vs Real truffles hides
  • Practical aspect of truffle digging

Course:

Kingston and his owner were provided a combination of the beginner, intermediate and advanced course work. She trained Kingston to the new truffle odour using the training methods which Kingston understood from his previous scent training. Due to Kingston’s previous scent detection work I was able to condense the 12-week (Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced) course into a 6 weeks customized course.

Due to distance, we opted to go through the course work via video chat and had our first video chat on 22nd May 2023 where we went through Beginner/Intermediate and I explained how I did my training with Kovu. Our second video chat on 28th June 2023 we went through the truffle specific aspect of the course and the advanced session. In between the video chats I would receive videos and then send back detailed comments and feedback.

We had our practical session on 2nd July at Toolleen Truffles where we searched for truffle oil and real truffle hides. To increase searching/diggi

ng confidence, I used a 3D printed rubber truffle hide with truffle scent inside which I dug into the ground to practice with Kingston and his owner. This stimulated a real truffle searching and digging scenario giving her increased confidence to dig up a real truffle. I had searched the farm prior to this practical so I was able to mark a location of ripe truffle and left it in the ground to cross check Kingston. He found it extremely easily and accurately due to his extensive training by his owner. I then helped explain and instruct when to know when to dig and also the digging process.

Future:

Kingston and his owner have become a proficient truffle dog team and have been practicing searching multiple farms over the 2023 season. I believe next season they will be working as a part time truffle hunting team servicing parts of NSW.