Truffle dog: which breed to choose? Which training method ?

The search for truffles, known as cavage, requires that the dog used be perfectly trained for this particular activity, which is nowadays considered a sport. It was initially carried out by truffle growers who mainly used pigs. But it must be acknowledged that these animals are less docile than dogs. Let's discover what a truffle dog is, the qualities he must possess, and how to train him to learn how to cavage.

The qualities required in the truffle dog
For cavage, truffle growers use the abilities of their dogs, which have generally been trained for this purpose. But the truffle dog must be naturally endowed with special indispensable qualities. It is necessary that he is :

  • Endowed with an excellent sense of smell,
  • Disciplined,
  • Enthusiastic,
  • Able to stay focused on his research only,
  • Able to never eat the truffles he found himself.

Breeds of truffle dogs
Hunting dogs tend to be used as truffle dogs because they are renowned for their flair and courage. Indeed, hunting dogs are tenacious, willful animals that do not count their efforts to please their master. But is there a dog breed that is better suited than others to cavage?

According to the Italians, the best truffle dog would be the Lagotto romagnolo, better known as the Romagnolo Water Dog. It is a hunting dog that specializes in waterfowl as it has the ability to survey the marshes with an iron will. These small dogs from the Romagna region of Italy have an extraordinary ability to adapt. They are extremely gentle, docile and obedient. His character is renowned for its gentleness. Dynamic, he is also very intelligent which facilitates his training to cavage. It is in any case a dog that is not reluctant to scratch himself when he sneaks under brambles if he has sniffed truffles.

But many truffle growers have been cavorting for years with other dog breeds among which we find for example :

  • The Brittany Spaniel,
  • The German Shepherd,
  • The Dachshund,
  • The Labrador retriever,
  • The Australian Shepherd,
  • The West Highland White Terrier or Westie,
  • The Rottweiler.
All are docile, intelligent, dynamic and hard-working and can react to the first call of their teacher or educator.

It should also be noted that many professionals use the real dispositions of dogs not listed among the pure breeds to dig up. In fact, some corneids give excellent results in this field and prove to be fine truffle makers. In the end, it is not so much the breed that makes a good truffle digger as the education.

Getting your dog used to recognizing the aroma of truffles
To initiate your dog to cavage, it is necessary to start by getting the animal used to the smell of the truffle as soon as possible. The younger he is, the easier it will be for him later on to spot this particular aroma. Professionals add a few pieces of truffles to their dog's diet so that the food is impregnated with them. Others start even earlier by rubbing truffles into the teats of their nursing bitch and thus condition the very young puppies.

The difficulty with this method, which is very effective, is to quickly teach your dog not to eat the truffles he finds in the wild. It is therefore necessary to be patient. And even if many dog owners associate this method with educational nonsense, it remains the best and most effective. It is also the most widespread among truffle professionals.

Treats to learn how to look for truffles
Not all dogs are equal when it comes to using their sense of smell. Even though the sense of smell is particularly well developed in these animals, many of them do not know how to focus their research on a specific object for a long time. It is therefore essential to work on this point, and in order to make it less tedious, a playful method is preferred. At the same time, the dog should be encouraged to continue and congratulated when he reaches his goal.

You don't start with truffles of course because it is an extremely expensive product. But you replace them with the treats that the dog prefers and that you hide in the house and then in the garden. Little by little, the search area is extended to the surrounding fields where the treats are hidden in places that are more difficult to reach.

Finally, to make things more difficult and to test the animal, they are buried under a good ten centimetres of soil. Since the aroma of the object of research is in this case more or less masked by the surrounding odours, if the dog finds the treat, this tends to prove that he knows how to use his nose wisely, but that he is also able to concentrate on a specific exercise without getting distracted.

Teach the dog not to eat the truffles he finds.
All that remains is to integrate the aroma of the truffle into the treats used during training sessions so that the dog can combine the two scents and go in search of the precious mushrooms with as much pleasure as when he was looking for his treats.

Of course, the dog should not devour truffles that are buried in the ground and that he digs up by scraping frantically after having sniffed them. He should simply indicate to his master the place where he has sniffed the truffles by placing his paw on the area concerned. It is the master who has to take care of the digging in order to collect this "kitchen diamond". To succeed in this feat, it is essential to congratulate the dog as soon as he has located the truffles and pointed the spot, then to give him some treats immediately.

It is important to multiply the educational sessions so that on the D-day, the dog is ready to cavage. It is also necessary to take care to respect the animal by avoiding weariness and excessive tiredness. It is therefore highly preferable to impose short and repetitive sessions rather than a few long sessions. One can entrust the education of his truffle dog to an experienced educator because this professional knows and respects these animals perfectly as well as the best method of education so that the dog becomes a pro of digging.