Here in the burgeoning American truffle cultivation world, our foraging dogs are commonly German Shepherds, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Belgian Malinois and other hunting breeds. In Italy though, site of some of the most famed and prodigious truffle and wild mushroom growing areas, the official Italian hunting dogs are Lagotto Romagnolos, or “lake dog from Romagna.”
These dogs who hunt for “black gold” are worth their weight in gold, fetching prices as high as $13,000. While commonly trained to hunt for the most desirable truffles on a seeded farm—the black Perigord (Tuber melanosporum), the white or Alba (Tuber magnatum), the Black Summer (Tuber aestivum), and the Bianchetto (Tuber albidium pico)—they can also be taught to hunt for mushrooms.
Along with dogs, female pigs are traditionally used in truffle hunts in Europe, primarily because they’re attracted to the male pig pheromones similar to those of some types of truffles. What’s the difference between the two hunters? The most significant advantage to using dogs—as well as having the companionship of your friendly canine companion on the hunt—is that while they are excellent truffle hunters, they don’t eat them as do pigs. Another practical consideration is transport: a pooch, unlike a pig, is generally eager to jump into your car’s backseat.
Training dogs to hunt truffles starts early. Puppies are acclimated to truffle scent by being taught to fetch socks stuffed with mature truffles, then gradually work their way up to finding hidden truffle treasures.
Canine scent detection training specifically for the domestic truffle industry is the specialty of Master Dog Trainer and NTF presenter Alana McGee, of the Truffle Dog Company. She presents two premiere truffle dog training sessions: the Science of Canine Truffle Scent Location and Practical Implementation during our first-ever Scientific Grower Truffle Cultivation Seminar on January 17, and History of Truffle Hunting: Pigs, Dogs, Robots and Common Misconceptions during the January 18 All About Truffles program. Both sessions include the truffle orchard tour at Sinskey Vineyards, a winery lunch (optional), truffle orchard tour and dog training demonstration. Join us to learn about regional and recreational truffle hunting with dogs, how dogs locate truffles, beginning hands-on training, and much more!