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Training a truffle dog (1991)

truffler1635 at my-deja.com truffler1635 at my-deja.com
Sat Dec 2 21:10:15 EST 2000

>From The Spore Print, Newsletter of the Los Angeles Mycological Society,
Nov-Dec, 1991


	Given the recent infusion of capital into our treasury, your Spore
Print editor began thinking about what new and exciting things LAMS could
do. One idea was that LAMS could be the first mycological society to have
its own truffle dog. Maybe it would cost $1000 or more to train such a
dog, but now we can afford it, and besides finding truffles, a truffle
dog would be fun to have on forays. We would also attract newspaper
reporters and magazine writers who would write articles about the LAMS
truffle dog and thereby stimulate interest in LAMS and mushrooms.
	It soon occurred to your editor that the perfect LAMS member to
broach this idea to was Royce Harvey, who is a dog trainer as well as an
exuberant mushroom hunter. Royce said he had already been interested in
the idea of training atruffle dog and said that rather than LAMS paying
him or someone else to train such a dog, he would, at no charge to LAMS,
try to train one of his own dogs to hunt truffles.
	The dog Royce has in mind is his one-year-old border collie named
Drummer. But there is a major hurdle to this plan: the problem of  how to
find truffles to use for the training and how to preserve their odor long
enough to complete the training. Any good ideas on how truffle odor can
be preserved will be welcomed.
	As for whether a dog can be trained to seek out more than one odor,
Royce says there was a doberman pincher that learned to identify 110
different odors!
	For anyone interested in training his own truffle dog, Royce
suggests that a medium-sized herding breed - or perhaps a hunting breed -
would be best. He has read that poodles have been used successfully in
	Royce advises that anyone who is considering owning a dog carefully
weigh the responsibilities this entails. A dog needs food ($30 per month
for  amedium-sized dog) and water each day, needs a warm, dry play to
sleep, has to be cleaned up after each day (and will sometimes cause
various kinds of property destruction), needs immunization shots each
year, should have regular check-ups to screen for internal parasites, has
to be cared for when injured or sick, needs a licensed (currently $18 per
year), needs to be given exercise each day, must be raised to be good-
natured and even-tempered, needs either to be neutered or spayed or else
controlled during times of mating urges, and may need to learn to spend
hours in a crate in order to be transported. In short, owning a dog
requires money, dedication, and love.
	As for training dogs, Royce emphasizes that it needs to be done
every day (Royce teaches his dog training classes only once a week but
his student dog owners need to train their dogs every day on their own)
and that most dogs will work only for the person they are trained to work
for. He also mentions that training should be based on love and respect
and not punishment.

Comments by poster: As pointed out in the article, a dog has been trained
to identify 110 odors. But searching for truffles in the US can _still_
be a problem. Why? Several hundred species of hypogeous fungi are known.
Over 150 species of Rhizopogons are currently known from the Pacific
Northwest alone. Ethylene is often used to train dogs with. Ethylene is
the ripening gas used to mature truffles, pears, bananas, tomatoes and
many other fruits. But training a dog to search _only_ for ethylene will
produce a lot of false alarms. This is not the dog's fault, only the

You _could_ always purchase a small quantity of truffles to keep frozen
until you want to train your dog, or have a fresh supply for that reason.
Different dogs will take different training regimens. Training dogs to
find truffles may take 2-5 days or 6 months: it mostly depends on the
trainer and the dog. Fortunately, truffles can be kept frozen in a zip-
lock bag for at least 6 months without much loss of aroma. In fact
truffle aromas are so strong that unless they are frozen in a tightly
sealed bag or container, every food in your freezer may become
"truffled." It's not that truffled ice cream is bad...but it isn't what
you were expecting, either.

BTW, poodles are especially popular truffle dogs. But before getting one,
you need to know if the dog can smell truffles or is even interested in
them. The easiest way to do this is to get some truffles, and take one
with you when looking at potential dogs for training. A receptive truffle
dog should be calm, attentive, and interested in the aroma of truffles.
Just holding a truffle in your hand before looking at potential truffle
dogs should have some dogs paying more attention to the hand that held
truffles than to you. These are the ones you are interested in. In
addition, smaller dogs are easier to feed, train, and easier to control
on a leash.

Posted as a courtesy by:
Daniel B. Wheeler

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