Truffles, among the world's most expensive delicacies, are fungi that grow under the soil and leaf litter at the roots of several tree species. They require dogs or pigs to find them. The Italian dog known as the Lagotto Romagnolo is specifically bred for truffle hunting, but other breeds are suited to learning the task. Not only must you train these dogs to find truffles, but you must train them not to eat the little fungus fruits. The same canines that hunt for truffles can also find morels.
Any dog can potentially become a truffle or mushroom hunter, but not every breed is perfectly suited to the task. You can try out your dog's skills at truffle hunting clinics held throughout the country. The training period for "professional" truffle hunting canines lasts between two and four months. If you want to purchase a well-trained dog specifically for truffle or mushroom hunting, expect to pay in the six figures.
Originally used as a water dog in the Italian marshes, the Lagotto Romagnolo has been used for truffle hunting since at least the 19th century. Between the end of World War I and the start of World War II, the breed was used by virtually all Italian truffle hunters. The medium-size, curly-haired canine appears in various shades of brown. Besides his keen nose for mushrooms, this smart dog is easy to train and makes a good family pet.
Dogs that shine at detection work often succeed in truffle hunting. These breeds include the German shepherd and Belgian malinois, dogs used by law enforcement and security agencies worldwide. Not only are these dogs talented truffle hunters, but they're also smart and easily trained, and they possess a good work ethic. While scenting is paramount in truffle training, it's of little use unless the canine is also obedient and cooperative. The same sort of discipline required for truffle hunting is needed for the more serious pursuits of bomb detection or search-and-rescue.
Dogs bred specifically for sport, such as Labrador and golden retrievers, can excel as truffle hunters. So can various types of setters and pointers. Even beagles can make good truffle hunters, since they're especially ruled by their noses. If you want to train a sporting breed for the task, choose a dog from field lines rather than from show lines: Breeders of the former make a special effort to pass on hunting talent in their dogs.
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