...but not our dogs. Gaze upon pictures of a Perigord farmer out in the oak woods hunting for truffles and you will see him, beret on head and a Gauloises stuck to his lip, holding a lead attached to a very large, fat and slow pig. Pigs love truffles and are masterly at sniffing them out, but as Fiona says, “You don’t want to get your hand between a pig and a truffle”. Doubtless the old French truffle hunters had their solution, we chose a less risky alternative, the powerful nasal capacity of the dog.
Dogs can scent a truffle from many metres away that we could only smell by burying our noses in the soil. Not a useful means of searching. Dogs do not like truffles; what they do like is the treats that come their way when they find one. A doggy incentive scheme.
Rather than own a dog of our own, we chose to involve others in our truffling by finding local dogs for training. Several dog 'interviews' were conducted (the owners also attended) and a number of dogs made the grade for training.
Meet our current team of graduates and those currently in training.
Hepburn found our largest truffle; over 500g. Hepburn has a beautiful personality and is so intelligent. She loves chasing scents around the paddock. But the minute this young Australian Koolie hears the command “find truffle”, her nose is focused on unearthing these buried treasures. When she plants her paw on the spot, her confident glance says it all. It’s time for the humans to go to work.
Nova is a sable Koolie. She is being trained by a young Vet Nurse and is progressing well. Nova finds the truffles when they are there, but so far, they have been ‘plants’ because we have harvested before she has come to hunt. We are looking forward to Nova’s development this year into a professional truffle dog.
Bindi is a ginger Koolie. She started learning about truffles towards the end of the season. She isn’t sure what to think of them, but we think she will become a great truffle hunter.
Kai is another Koolie. He is only 1 1/2 years old and started his training when he was about 6 months old. He is intelligent; when Kai looks at you, we are sure he understands every word that you say. When Elizabeth speaks, Kai loves to please. As a result, he has so many tricks up his sleeve. This will be his first year to visit the trufferie so we anticipate he will be on his learners and graduate to ‘professional’ in 2023.
Charlie is a 5 year old labradoodle, cuteness personified. She is amiable and loving, but she can be mischievous. You probably won’t meet Charlie in 2022 as she is quite capable of finding truffle scent when she wants to, but is more focussed on the edible reward than the truffle. Hopefully 2023.
Fella came to truffle hunting because he has a great nose, and like all of us, needs a skill and to earn his keep. He is a cheeky monkey, self-reliant, not needy, and looks older than his 5 years. Fella’s reward is a very special treat, kangaroo biltong.
Snoop Dog is a very busy three year old. I don’t think Snoop Dog’s movements ever cease. Training and discipline stimulate his mind, so he has been doing obedience and agility training. Now, truffle hunting. Snoop Dog loves searching and sniffing, and the freedom of searching for truffles in the bush. Snoop Dog is brilliant at finding every ‘planted’ truffle. This year, he will progress to the ‘real’ truffles. Snoop Dog is easy to please, his reward is to chase the ball and praise.
Vino is a Lagotto Romagnolo, an Italian breed, the original truffle dogs famous in Europe for their truffle hunting skills. He is a professional truffle hunter from Newcastle who loves any type of scent detection work, including truffle. He is also trained on to find Koala scat! In the off season, he enjoys the dog sport of Agility to keep him active and physically fit. Vino loves hunting truffles, he works the orchard fast and furious, catching the scent and then sprinting from one side to the other as he narrows in on the exact location of the truffle.
Sky is an older sheep dog who came to truffles late. She is more sedate in her movements, almost blaise. I am certain that she is asking what all the fuss is about!
Tully is a professional truffle hunter from Sydney. She is a Springer Spaniel trained as a nose dog. She dashes from one side to the other as she homes in on the scent. You can almost see her smile when she locates the truffle. She is great to watch. Her sense of smell is amazing, as is how she uses it. Not just truffles, but she also helps locate koalas.
See the dogs in action Winter 2021