Truffle Dogs: The Ultimate Secret Weapon for Finding Culinary Gold

When it comes to gourmet cuisine, truffles are a prized ingredient. But if you want to go truffle hunting, you’ll need the help of special truffle hunting dogs to help you find those prized delicacies.

truffle dog searching for truffle

Because most varieties of truffles grow underground, truffle hunting requires the help of special truffle dogs to sniff them out.

For more information on truffle hunting dogs and the methods for training them, keep reading.

Truffle Hunting Dogs: Helping Owners Sniff Out Big Bucks!

Truffle hunters come in all shapes and sizes, looking to find truffles to market, or to grace their tables. To aid in finding truffles, hunters use a truffle dog.

Dogs have a keen sense of smell which can be used to hunt truffles and guide their owners to the proper location among tree roots. With the proper training, most dogs can be taught to help with truffle hunting.

What kind of dogs find truffles?

In theory, any dog breed can find truffles with proper training. As long as they’re trained by a proper dog trainer on what to look for, have a working nose, and know what scents to follow, it’s possible any pooch could assist in truffle hunting.

On the other hand, there are some dog breeds that are more popular for truffle hunting than others. Dogs with a keen sense of smell are trained to search the woods for these treats and guide hunters to where to dig.

The Most Popular Truffle Hunting Breeds

While just about any dog can be trained for truffle hunting, the most popular dogs to use are medium-sized dogs, and dog breeds that are often used to retrieve games, such as retrievers and water dogs.

Some popular breeds of truffle dogs are:

  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Poodle
  • Golden Retriever
  • Beagle
  • Springer Spaniel
  • Belgian Malinois
  • German Shepherd

In general, the most popular dog breeds are various types of hounds.

The best truffle dog breeds

When it comes to truffle hunting, the following breeds are considered the best truffle dogs.

  • Lagotto Romagnolo
  • Springer Spaniel
  • Beagle
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Border Collie
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Poodle

Of all of these, one breed is known as the official truffle dog of Italy – The Lagotto Romagnolo.

Best dog Breed for truffle hunting

The Lagotto Romagnolo is affectionately known as the ‘truffle dogs’ of Italy. They’re easily trained, with an excellent sense of smell, and are often taught to search the woods for mushrooms and truffles using their keen nose.

About Lagotta Romagnolo Truffle-Hunting Dogs

The Lagotto Romagnolo is a medium-sized dog with a keen nose. This dog is highly prized for its ability to sniff out the scent of mushrooms and truffles, or any delicacy that grows underground.

Lagotto Romagnolo dogs are affectionate and eager to please, making them easily trained. These animals are also very sociable and get along well with other dogs.

All of these make them ideal dogs to use to hunt truffles.

How much does a truffle hunting dog cost?

Purchasing a dog with the pedigree and the natural instinct for being a truffle hunter can be quite expensive. While any breed of dog can be trained to hunt for truffles, it’s easier with a dog that’s been bred for that purpose.

A truffle hunting dog that’s been bred and trained by a professional can cost up to $1000 to $5000 or more, depending on breed and level of training.

Skills for the Beginner Truffle Hunters

While the dogs are a necessary resource for truffle hunting, they can’t do all the work. Their human partners need to know how to guide their dogs to likely locations.

Here are a few things truffle hunters need to learn to do before they start hunting:

  • What kind of truffles they’re looking for, where do they grow, and what do they look like? A white truffle grows in a different place and looks different from a black truffle.
  • Determine when the best time to go truffle hunting is – many prospective searchers hunt truffles at night or evening, but other truffle hunters look at specific weather patterns.
  • Know what types of trees to look for and what they look like – truffles, like mushrooms, grow underground at the roots of trees.
  • Be able to identify what kinds of growth and insect activity might indicate truffles growing nearby.
  • Train their dog how to properly search for the truffles, rather than a mushroom, and make sure their pooch can’t be easily distracted by another scent, such as a rabbit or other animals.

Truffle Hunting Training

The first thing truffle hunter needs to do is train themselves. You’ll need to get used to spending time outside with your dog, exploring the ground you’ll need to hunt.

If you plan to go hunting truffles, you’ll need to have strong legs so you can keep up with your dog. Truffle dogs need to be trained and handled by their owner for the best results.

Once you’ve prepared and learned what you’re hunting for, you can begin the process of training your truffle dog.

How to train a truffle dog

The most important thing for a truffle dog owner to do is to make sure they know what their dog is hunting for. To do that, you’ll need to make sure your truffle dog knows the scent of truffles and the difference between them and a mushroom that grows in similar areas.

Every breed of dog responds to different tricks, but the most important factors are:

  • Teach them to know the ground they’ll be hunting on.
  • Teach them to identify the scent of truffles, using actual truffles or truffle oil.
  • Give them positive reinforcement for properly identifying the scents of truffles.
  • Make sure they can’t be distracted by the smell of other things you or they might eat, such as a rabbit or other food.
  • Learn their behaviors and communications, such as barking, so you know when they’ve found what you’re looking for.

To train your truffle dog, you’ll want to use the same truffles you’ll use for cooking, though you may want to use more common white truffles or truffle oil if you plan on being a white truffle hunter, rather than the more expensive types of truffles.

Truffle Hunting: From Pigs to Dogs

Truffle hunting has a long history as a food-motivated practice. The taste and rarity of truffles have made truffle hunting a highly profitable activity.

Many hunters are particularly eager to hunt for the prized white truffle, which can earn the owner hundreds of dollars.

Truffle Hunting With Pigs

In the past hunters used pigs to find truffles, as their sensitive noses could detect and dig for the sweet treats. However, using pigs to truffle hunt was outlawed many years ago.

The reason? A pig is likely to dig into the ground and damage the truffles, even eat them.

Dogs are able to smell the mushrooms and truffles and alert their owners but are less likely to eat them.

The Most Well-Known Truffle Varieties in Italy

When you’re training a truffle dog, part of the training is knowing what to look for and where to look. Some of the most well-known varieties that truffle hunters search for in Italy are:

Where to Truffle Hunt in Italy

If you want to go looking for truffles in Italy, there are several locations you can go truffle hunting with your truffle dog. Prime locations for truffle hunting include:

  • Piedmont – specifically a region known as the Langhe, where you can hunt for the famous White Alba truffle
  • Bologna and Modena – you can find both white and black truffles.
  • Along the Adriatic Coast
  • Tuscany
  • Umbria
  • Le Marche

Any of these locations may provide a source of white or black truffles of varying types and rarity.

Truffle Hunting with Dogs in Italy

Hunting truffles with dogs takes patience and endurance, as well as a keen understanding of the environment truffles prefer. It can be a rewarding activity, so long as you remember the rules:

  • Safety First: be careful and make sure people know where you are and that you have the necessary supplies and equipment to stay safe.
  • Take a Dog: They’ll help you search, and a truffle dog is the easiest way to find what you’re looking for.
  • Preserve the Environment: Truffles are rare, and ecology experts want to preserve their natural habitats so more will grow.

Why Are Truffles So Incredibly Expensive?

Truffles are expensive because they’re highly sought after, but also because they’re incredibly rare. They’re hard to find, and even harder to cultivate.

These days, scientists are working to grow truffles on truffle farms, but it’s a long and slow process, so truffles will continue to be a rarity for some time to come, making truffle hunting and raising truffle dogs a profitable venture.

Final Thoughts

Truffle dogs are the best way to go hunting for truffles, and it’s easy to train just about any dog breed to search for truffles. Once you’ve trained a truffle dog and done the necessary preparations, you’re ready to go truffle hunting.

Andrea Arthur