Training a good truffle dog is an on-going process, it does not just stop when the dog is able to locate truffles, you should always be looking for ways to sharpen your dog’s performance.
One of the best ways to take your dog’s detection skills to the next level is to use the off-season to your advantage.
Some of the team have not been working for a few months and they might be starting to get a little rusty. We would like our truffle dogs to be at peak performance when the new truffle season comes around. So we start training well in advance.
About a month or so before the season starts, before there are truffles worth harvesting, we start taking our dogs out into the field. Although we are not actually out collecting truffles, these trips are vital.
Firstly, we need to go to all of our hunting grounds to monitor the truffle situation. Which patches are showing signs of life?We want to get a general idea about the quantity and quality of this year’s black truffles.
However the main purpose is dog training. Before the season begins, the truffles are present but they are still immature. Their aroma is much fainter which makes them far more difficult for the dogs to locate. It is like when we are training in the house and we hide the truffles in ever more difficult places. Nature is now helping us to replicate these practices in the wild. To find these unripe specimens requires serious focus from the dogs and top sniffing skills.
There is one more reason why we do this and many of you will be able to empathise with this. What usually happens at the beginning of the season? The truffles have started and you run off with dog and bag to get to work. Inexperienced dogs will take this opportunity to explore the forest, they want to follow the various scents, check out who lives there, urinate on all the trees and this can be very frustrating. Remember it might be months since your dog was last there so they want to familiarize themselves with every inch.
This is normal behaviour especially with younger truffle dogs, but it makes it hard for you to get to work. Bear in mind that you are working with a dog, an animal that has vastly different behaviour to us. If you want to work well with your partner, you have to prepare for these instinctive behaviours and with time, ensure they are not problematic for you.
You are the brains of the operation and the dog is the nose. Use your brain to think your way out of these problems. Take your dog to the truffle patches in this more relaxed time before there is work to be done, let him get used to the area and do as much exploring as he wants.
When the time comes to get out and start collecting truffles, your dog will have acclimatized to the places where you will be working together, he won’t feel the need to go dashing off so much. You will be less frustrated and the dog will sense that. In short, you will be a stronger team.