TRAINING OF TRUFFLE HUNTING DOGS
It can seem trivial but to hunt truffles we need a reliable friend, a dog. In fact, according to Italian law, truffle hunting is possible with dogs only and not with pigs, as the French do.
Pigs are bulky, have long teeth ruining plant roots. In addition, their training and getting them obedient is difficult.
On the contrary, dogs have a high ability to obedience and learning, so they are perfect for our activity.
The dog’s name is very important; it must be short and come first before our every order. In addition, the best breed must be chosen …
All dogs and breeds can be trained to hunt truffles, above all half-breeds.
However choice is not simple, in fact the place and time of hunting must be analyzed.
Considering that in Piedmont truffle hunting in the night is allowed, winter is very cold and above all white truffls are searched, which are found in depth, a dog breed for cold weather, with clear fur easily visible in the night and high sense of smell must be chosen. We must also consider whether a dog is for professional purposes and if hunting takes place every day or only at the weekend.
In case of frequent hunting, a suitable dog must be chosen, deriving from a bloodline “for work” with a body appropriate for long lasting searching and in all circumstances.
Dogs with shaven hair such as Pointers are not suited to our climate, as they lose weight due to cold temperatures, show ribs and tend to go back to the car. All hunting dog crossbreeds like Bracco/Pointer Springer/Pointer, Drathaar/Bracco, Drathaar/Pointer are very suitable however.
Hunting dog breeds could be suitable too but often tend to have a high hunting instinct.
According to my experience, the best breed adapting itself to all circumstances is Lagotto Romagnolo. It is the only one approved as a truffle hunting dog by ENCI (Italian Kennel Club).
The Lagotto is above all suitable for beginners as it is extremely intelligent. In few training days it can find truffles, it has not got a hunting instinct and its thick fur is not sensitive to cold temperatures. However, it must often be shaven in spring and summer so that it does not suffer from heat and, in addition, weed and foxtail cannot stick to its coat.
In conclusion, hunting dogs require a lot of resolve, they need strict rules and therefore I suggest them only to skilled truffle hunters, while the Lagotto is recommended to everyone.
In order to train a puppy to truffle hunt, it is necessary to let the dog gradually connect the hunting with playing, without expecting immediate results. Such training must occur little by little, with patience and trying to repeat the different below mentioned steps until the dog understands each single exercise.
Under the premise that the dog must consider such work as a game, it has to be as focused as possible and must be constantly followed. Exercises must be short, so each exercise can be repeated several times over the day but for a short time (5 to 15 minutes approximately), because the dog is very young and its attention/concentration levels are limited. Insisting on longer exercise is not suggested because the dog considers it a game and if it gets bored and we oblige it to continue, we will have the opposite effect so it will not want to repeat the exercise again.
Day after day the dog will respond to orders increasingly better and exercises as well as duration can become gradually longer. It is complicated to specify time for dog training, as concentration level depends on both dog character and the trainer’s ability to involve its dog.
I have had a passion for dog training for several years and I must say that each dog has its distinctive trait and must be treated in a different way. The Lagotto must be treated with a lot of kindness. If it has not got a bloodline for truffle or work, it will be difficult to let it hunt. In fact, during the last few years I have been noticing that many people arrange profit-making broods without considering important factors. For example, they breed the Lagotto dogs with dysplasia, low inclination to work and learning crossbreeds… they will become perfect pet dogs but very bad truffle hunting dogs.
For many years I’ve been selecting dogs for work, both crossbreeds and Lagotto dogs, and on average more than 70% out of 7/8 puppies are already strong when they’re 3 months old, if training is diligent, dedicated to truffle hunting and there’s little distraction.
Before training, we usually let the dog undergo simple tests in order to understand it has an inclination for truffle hunting.
During the first test we investigate whether it likes the taste of truffles or not, then we will try to make it bring a truffle-scented cloth back. Another significant test consists in evaluating whether the dog is curious, or attentive to our actions… If the dog is shy, fearful, tends to hide, doesn’t eat truffles, is not interested in us nor in truffle-scented cloth, surely it is a good dog but as pet…
Not necessarily, could such a kind of dog never become a truffle hunting dog but before training it surely needs long behavior training in order to strengthen its character to trust in human beings and tackle its fears.
For further info about training, suggestions, brood.
Luca +39 348 8699649
“Fin da bambino seguivo mio nonno che oltre ad essere cacciatore, era trifulè come si dice in torinese, tartufaio. Lo vedevo uscire di casa al mattino presto, quando era ancora buio, per recarsi, segretamente, con i suoi cani fidati nelle valli circostanti alla ricerca del prezioso Tuber Magnatum Pico (tartufo bianco pregiato). La passione di mio nonno era, oltre la ricerca, l’addestramento dei cani da tartufo, passione che mi ha trasmesso dopo avermi insegnato passo per passo”
I Sapori della Collina di Torino di Luca Bannò