I have a great interest in well trained dogs, especially those trained for specific tasks. Dogs with jobs are fascinating to me. I want to know if the job skill has to do with the breed or if there is any trait that can be trained up for a job. My first job curiosity is the truffle sniffing dog. Can any dog become a truffle sniffing dog or can only certain breeds be used?
There is a great demand for truffles, mostly because they are rare, hard to find, and thus very expensive. Pigs are instinctively drawn to truffles and love to eat them. The hunter has to be very quick to rescue a truffle from a 300 pound pig. The risks are pretty great! Apparently one can lose a finger or two in the process. So other means of truffle hunting evolved – that of the truffle sniffing dog who does not have the innate instincts to eat truffles.
The best dogs for truffle sniffing are dogs with a keen sense of smell, dogs who are calm, obedient, and are not easily distracted, and dogs who are sociable and have great endurance.
Some of the breeds successfully trained for this job include the Italian Lagotto Romanolo, Belgian Malinois, Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Dutch Retriever, Springer Spaniel, Poodle, Fox Terrier, and Dachshund. But this job is not limited to those breeds as long as the necessary traits are there.
Dogs can be trained as young as a few months, but young dogs around 8-9 months are desirable. These dogs are trained with a variety of methods, but training for the scent of a truffle is foremost. Some trainers use truffle oil to develop the scent. Others may use gorgonzola cheese and move to the truffle in a gradual process. Apparently gorgonzola cheese has a similar scent to a dog as the truffle. The truffle scented item is buried and the dog is trained to smell until it is located, then scratch the area until the handler can come and dig up the truffle.
Each time the dog successfully finds the buried treasure the dog is rewarded with a food treat or something else the dog loves like a game of ball toss.
Dogs who are successfully trained for this job are in great demand.