Among those who approach the world of truffles there is often the belief that the search for this precious mushroom is still done, as in the past, with the pig. The Italian law on truffles (Law of 16 December 1985 n. 752) allows the only use of trained dogs. Moreover it mentions of truffle search carried out with the aid of a trained dog and an apposite tool for excavation (the “vanghino” or “vanghetto”).
The breed has not been specified by the law, even though, generally speaking, every dog can be trained to truffle search. However, the experience has shown us that the best results are obtained using one of the following breeds or crosses, among these:
- LAGOTTO ROMAGNOLO: it is considered by many, the ideal dog for the search of truffles as it is specialized in searching in any type of terrain. It has a good nose, it is very docile, intelligent and it remains focused. The only flaw is that, in some cases, it is a bit slow. Having a long, curly, thick hair it needs to be mowed at least twice a year. During the summer it suffers of heat and it needs lots of water.
- POINTER: it is a hunting dog with a very fine nose. It is famous for its pointing, it is gentle, easily trained, fast and obedient. In search of truffles, the only flaw is represented by its speed which is often an obstacle in the recovery of the precious mushrooms.
- ENGLISH SETTER: it is a hunting dog with a good nose, a tireless worker; it fears neither water nor cold. It is also great at finding truffles, its only fault, like Pointer, is that it is a bit too fast.
- KURZHAAR: another great hunter, it is very good at searching. It is intelligent and very affectionate. The only drawback is the short hair that makes it vulnerable to persistent rain, especially during the winter.
- ITALIAN BRACCO: It is a powerful dog, very resistant to fatigue but slow. It is not difficult to train since it is inclined to learning and it has a very affable character.
- ITALIAN SPINONE: it is one of the breeds that are most commonly used to find truffles, it has a sensitive and highly developed sense of smell, it is obedient and resistant to fatigue. Its size is rather large; it is also a very fast dog.
- SPRINGER: it is a great seeker with a good nose. It is a medium size and all these qualities are appreciated by many truffle hunters.
Besides these major breeds, there are several others that will not be mentioned here. Many truffle hunters use successfully mixbreeding with the breeds listed above. By crossing these breeds one combines research skills and physical endurance, without neglecting the appearance. Generally the crossed dog presents much resistance to fatigue, more robustness and greater longevity.
In theory one can start the dog training at any age, although the best results are attainable during the first months of life, usually from the third to the sixth month.
In training one does not have to use coercive methods, since the training should be a time of fun and game. This explains partly why the dog has to be young!
In the beginning it is important to establish hierarchies between the conductor and its dog; the animal must understand and obey the commands of its master.
There are some basic commands which can generally apply to dog training; not only for truffle hunting but also for other types of activities (drugs, explosives research …)
The dog will have to understand phrases such as “sit”, “down”, “come” and others.
The main purpose of the training is to impress in the dog the characteristic smell of truffles, stimulating its research and maintaining it focused, thus preventing him from getting distracted by mouses or other animals.
At first the puppy will play with a tennis ball, a little plastic box or a camera roll container with pieces of fragrant truffle inside or, alternatively, truffle oil. Once the ball has been launched, the dog must get used to chase it and to take it into its mouth. These exercises should be repeated constantly every day for a few minutes and has to be stopped as soon as the puppy gets distracted and bored.
Gradually we must teach him to bring it back and when it does, it will be rewarded with a petting and a treat. Then we will bury the ball on an open hole or a crack in the ground and we will cheer the dog to scratch and reach for the ball.
Afterward we will bury the real truffles spreading the smell in the ground. After several research simulations, one can try and bring the dog in a natural truffle bed where it could be useful, for the first few times, to go together with an expert dog but only if necessary.
The training phase ends when one is sure that the dog is able to dig the truffles up in nature with confidence and successfully. You just have to step up the outgoings to allow the dog to “pick up” as many times as possible; thus it will become a real truffle dog. The best results are obtained at around three years old for the female, while the following year for the male.
During the research it is important that the dog keeps a playful side; since only by experience and time it will become a proper job. Do not forget that the dog is stimulated by awards its conductor gives him whenever it finds a truffle.
TRAINING OF YOUR TRUFFLE DOG
Our company has several hectares of cultivated truffle beds where you can try your puppy.
TRUFFLE DOGS FOR SALE
In addition to our personal litters, we have contacts with several professional and amateur breeders. Depending on the resources as well as the target budget, we can find the right dog for your needs.