Truffle Dog Services is a boutique company that provides personalised truffle surveying of your truffière, or Truffle Orchard.
My name is Karen and I have been involved with dogs for 20+ years in a variety of different roles. But this is the most exciting and rewarding of them all. The enjoyment I get from teaching a dog to complete a set of tasks leading to searching for a specific scent. Truffle is only one type of scent, there are so many more that dogs can learn.
Learning is carried out using reward based training using either food or ball rewards, which the dog chooses. Our truffle dogs are enthusiastic learners, and more importantly enthusiastic hunters. They utilise both ground and air scenting during their searches to locate the specific scent and gain their chosen reward. They are worked up wind to keep them focussed on hunting close to the ground, as winds swirl and change around the search area, during which they have the opportunity to air scent as they work, and return up wind if required.
The Beginning…As I sat with friends, Maureen and Colin, chatting over wine at their property the discussion turned to getting a dog to search for truffles in their truffière. I was already working on a dog for scentwork, and suggested that I teach Ollie, a Sydney Sylkie x Jack Russell, the truffle odour and he would be ready for the up and coming 2011 season.
It was 2011 when Ollie started training and Truffle Dog Services began.
It wasn’t the start of my love for working with dogs but was the start of building a working relationship with my dogs. I have been involved in formally training dogs since mid ’90s, at the local dog club. Learning the intricacies of training through Paddington Bear (Paddy), a Tibetan Spaniel, and understanding what labels people put on their dogs. Tibetan Spaniels have a reserved character, and don’t lend themselves easily to learning obedience training, tricks and agility, but doesn’t necessary mean that they cannot learn, and he did. Paddy learned amazingly quickly, moreso he extended my learning throughout the 14 years of his life. His highlights were presenting at a large dog gathering in Mangere in 2001, through to gaining his one and only clear round in agility. At the age of 14, and the same week that he passed away, Paddy had started to learn to track using Steve Whites HITT tracking method. Paddy helped me with a number of dogs that came and went within my care, Ollie being one of them.
Paddy and I started our formal training through an online course with Kay Laurence, completing both Clicker 1 and Clicker 2 courses. Kay inspired me so much to question about how we train and how dogs learn, and has led me on the path of questioning, and meeting, other great leaders in the dog training world, including attending Clicker Expo in San Diego 2005!
Clicker Expo 2005
I was sitting at Auckland International airport waiting to meet Karen McCarthy who I had only talked on the phone with. We had had a number of conversations since both had decided to attend Kay Laurence’s training days at DogTec* in San Francisco, then travel down to the Clicker Expo in San Diego. After having never met, or seen photos of each other, we spotted each other very quickly at the airport starting an exceptional learning opportunity.
San Francisco was amazing. As well as attending Kay Laurence‘s training session, meeting Veronica Boutel of DogTec*, and spending time with Kelly Gorman, and Ian Dunbar, Karen and I had the amazing privilege of staying with Kelly Gorman, and Ian Dunbar with Kelly being incredibly hospitable host who introduced us to local people, taking us SPCA San Francisco, including Martha Hoffman from San Francisco Hearing Dogs.
One of Learning About Dogs successes from San Francisco was to confirm Ian Dunbar for his inaugural visit to New Zealand which occurred in 2008.
The Clicker Expo was beyond my learning expectations. Meeting Karen Pryor, Ken Ramirez, Kathy Sdao, Steve and Jen White, Jesus Rosalez-Ruiz, Alexander Kurland, Emma Parsons, Jane Orr and Theresa McKeown from TAGTeach, and so many more was an incredible experience. We become know as the two Karen’s from Middle Earth when providing a human solution for Kay Laurences Clicker Challenges that were completed during the lunchtime break.
The learnings from then, and the additional learnings since, have sent me on the fascinating journey of arranging international speakers to present here in New Zealand and now the enjoyment of working with my dogs as a team through scentwork.
Learning never stops, and we believe in continuing professional development.