The Dogs Nose knows

What Breed of Dog?

Whilst selecting a dog to complete truffle hunting for you, you do need to review what breed you would like to live with.  You can opt for the Lagotto Romagnolo, which was previously an Italian Water Dog but has found a new role and is better known as the Italian Truffle dog, another breed that you particularly like, or adopt a dog from a rescue.  No matter what type of dog you choose, it will need to be trained both the basics of how to fit in with the family and your lifestyle, and how to hunt for truffles.

The shape of dogs’ heads and muzzles varies greatly due to centuries of selective breeding.  This selective breeding has also affected how dogs hunt.  Some breeds are still strong visual hunters, such as sight hounds, whilst others have strengthened their nose work, such as hunting dogs, and others have perfected how they sleep on the couch…but don’t discount those couch potatoes!

Although any breed can produce truffle dogs, not every dog may be inclined to learn.  Many a farm and hunting dog that has been breed specifically to do their job have been rehomed as they are afraid of sheep or guns or are just too lazy to get up in the morning.  When you purchase a dog or puppy, you have to work with what you have received and you may have a super pup that is just mind blowingly clever, or a pup who works with you but will always be the clown in the class.  Depending on how big your truffière is will depend on whether you have a pet and start again with another dog, or you use this affectionate behaviour as part of your truffle tours you run.  Either way, you must like the dog you are going to be working with, as the relationship and bond between you, is going to make you an awesome truffle team.

There are seven different groups of dogs with various breeds within each group.  The groups are:

  • Toys
  • Hounds
  • Non Sporting
  • Terrier
  • Working
  • Utility
  • Gun Dogs

Many people look at the hunting group for truffle dogs as hunting dogs have been bred over the centuries to assist humans to search, flush or retrieve the kill,  but any group will provide a dog that may be suitable for truffle hunting.

Although my passion is for Spaniels, the first dog I trained to locate truffles was Ollie, a Sydney Sylkie x Maltese terrier.  Who would have through that a white fluffy Maltese could be a trained truffle dog, but hey, he was still a terrier at heart and had a very high work ethic and a strong drive for food and toys!

Photo: Bruce Mercer

When it comes to your dog, it is all about what you like and want to usethe dog for.  Whether you want a big dog or small dog, the varieties of breeds is sometimes overwhelming, but you have to think about what the final outcome is for the dog.  Are you going to saunter through the trees because you have a small number, or do you need a dog that can work each day as you have a larger number of trees, are you going to be hosting truffle hunts, and does your dog have the looks and appeal to those attending?  A small fluff like Ollie will appeal more to people at a truffle hunt than a Belgian Malanoise which is normally used for milatry and police type of work.

Brachycephalic dogs can also provide truffle hunting prowess.  Brachycephalic literally means “short-headed” and refers to dog breeds with shortened snouts and give them the appearance of having a flat face.  Many of these breeds of dogs don’t necessarily have associated health problems, but they can be more prone to airway abnormalities which can restrict the flow of air into the nostrils when breathing, reducing its sniffing ability and if exercising in high temperatures can quickly cause heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  They should also be kept at a healthy weight as obesity can exacerbate the issue.  Examples of breeds with this type of face are Pugs, Boston terriers, Pekinese, Tibetan Spaniels, Bull Dogs, Boxers, Lhasa Apso, and many more.

JOSÉ: Truffle Pug

JOSÉ: The world’s only pedigree truffle pug in all his glory.

If you are wanting to use one of these types of dogs for truffle hunting, do your research for a responsible breeder and have a vet check them fully before purchasing to try and help minimise the risk of future health issues or abnormalities.

Pug – small short faced, but still a great hunter.  Due to their ‘squished in’ face they should be watched for any signs of overheating.  This has been used as a truffle dog in Australia by Peter Stahle.

Another option is to look at dogs that are on Trademe, your local pound or Rescue Organisation.  These organisation may be able to provide you with a dog that you want that could also search for truffles.

When looking for a dog

So now you have chosen your breed or rescue organisation, how do you pick the right puppy?  Choosing the ideal dog isn’t very easy, and you usually want to ask to see the parents, if available, and find out what they have done in the way of training, playing, hunting, or learning.  If you are looking at a rescue dog, there is no way of knowing what its background or breed is and you have to see if it is showing the traits that you want.

Some of the areas you may be taking into consideration are:

  • no shyness;
  • wanting to keep playing;
  • will work for food;
  • expected energy level and height when fully grown;
  • any health issues in the breed;
  • does the breeder offer a guarantee;
  • can you keep the dog entire or do you need to spay and neuter?

Finding the right dog is a whole topic and discussion in itself, but we can only do the best we can with the dog that we in front of us.

Feel free to contact us if you would like assistance in finding the right dog for you.