If you're a serious foodie and a dog lover, you can combine your two passions by training Fido to truffle hunt. If you're truly a "truffleophile," spend big bucks purchasing a dog specially trained in the art of truffle hunting.
The mushroom equivalent of diamonds, truffles are almost as hard to mine. Found buried 6 to 9 inches in the dirt, generally under certain species of trees, connoisseurs pay top dollar for these distinctly tasty and aromatic fungi. Humans don't have the ability to sniff and dig out these delicacies -- but dogs and pigs do. Once found primarily in France and Italy, truffle-loving Americans no longer need to leave their shores for the hunt, as Oregon and Washington forests provide ample amounts of the native variety.
If you do want to try your hand at training your dog to truffle hunt, find a seminar such as that offered annually at the Oregon Truffle Festival. Your dog must be well-behaved with other dogs and people, with sound obedience training. While you and your dog are not going to learn all about truffle hunting in a two-day seminar, you can learn the basics and watch skilled dogs go about their business. Just as truffle hunting for people is handed down through generations, the best way for a dog to learn is by following a well-trained dog.
Dogs Versus Pigs
While pigs are used for truffle hunting in many parts of the world, they have serious disadvantages over dogs. The major problem concerns eating. Pigs develop a taste for truffles, so while they're good at finding them, they also tend to eat them. Dogs, on the other hand, have the nose for truffles but not necessarily the taste buds. They'd rather find the truffles, then receive a dog treat as a reward.
As in any endeavor, the pros will beat the ammies the overwhelming majority of the time. If you're really serious about truffle hunting, consider purchasing a professionally-trained truffle-hunting canine. According to the website Truffle Hunting Dogs, German shepherds make the best hunters, followed by Labrador and golden retrievers. Teaching a professional truffle-hunting dog takes up to two to four months of obedience, scent and search training before he's ready to work. Truffle Hunting Dogs states that while some professional hunting dogs adapt well as house pets, others are too high-energy and should live in outdoor kennels. The price? As of 2012, your basic truffle-hunting dog will set you back $12,500.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.