Truffle Hound Training
If training your hound is something you have been thinking of doing, contact me for a chat and I will see what I can do for you and your dog. A training course over a period of six weeks is recommended . Most of these courses are group courses. However individual days can be arranged to suit your needs and I can also travel to you for private one to one sessions in your home and garden to start with.
I prefer to start truffle training as soon as possible, it can enhance general training which includes fun and games so the younger the better. Dogs after the age of five seem to be harder to train and although not completely out the question, it is not recommended. People often ask me which breed is best, quite honestly as long as your dog has a good temperament, a good nose and is happy to please (perhaps encouraged by a treat or two) you're onto a winner! All my training is based on reward but with a fun and serious approach, they will be working dogs after all! I chose a lab because they are working dogs: they have excellent noses, they are loyal, greedy and mostly very willing to please their owners.
A dog that is specifically bred for truffle hunting which is broadly used in Italy is the Lagotto Romagnolo the Romagna Water Dog. However, many breeds of dogs are used: Spaniels, Beagles, Poodles, Dachshunds, Retrievers and the trusted mongrels too!
Zebedee's breeder allowed me to put truffle oil on his mothers teats when he was suckling. This was the first stage complete and it was not easy to find a breeder willing to do this. Zebedee has loved truffle oil and truffles ever since so occasionally as they do in France I give him a little broken piece if he has been an especially good boy! Hence the picture below of him licking the truffle oil bottle, taken by Nick Weston.
Training has to be consistent but when you see your dog developing into a successful truffle hound, it's a great feeling and moment. Not all dogs are the same and they learn at different rates, some will get it straight away while others might take a few years and need a bit of fine tuning or not get it at all.
I now train dogs to sit instead of digging when they indicate a truffle. I learned the hard way with Zeb who was initially trained to dig. He likes to do this especially as he is partial to eating them so if I don't get there first, he will. It's hard to wrestle Zebedee but not as hard as struggling with a pig. Zebedee is generally on the lead when truffle hunting to have my share of the finds and to minimize upsetting nearby wildlife, especially pheasants. Pheasant rearing is prevalent in our woodlands today so training your dog to have no interest in them and other wildlife is a huge benefit and will not detract them from their work. A blood lust is not want you want!
I use homemade local truffle oil for training in winter and fresh truffle during the season as much as possible. There is always a dry one lurking around, they work well too.