Our team of trainers and truffle hunters pour love into our dogs, and, in turn, the dogs help us find over 50-80 kilos of truffles per day.
Why Truffle Dogs and Not Pigs?
For hundreds, if not thousands, of years, truffle hunters and farmers have used pigs to find this aphrodisiac fungus. Fascinatingly, truffles smell similar to the male pig’s sex pheromone, motivating sows to find them even without training.
However, recent years have seen a push toward using dogs for truffle hunting. Truffle Hill implemented this idea because dogs are easier to train than pigs and are better companions.
Furthermore, dogs are more careful about finding truffles.
Pigs not only dig them up but often eat them, while our dogs keep them intact by just scratching the ground to show their location.
Dogs also naturally enjoy this kind of work and have amazing senses of smell, somewhere between 25,000 to 50,000 more potent than humans. They can easily detect a ripe truffle under the ground with a bit of training.
Here’s an amazing fact:
Dogs can find truffles up to 500 millimetres under the ground, meaning they find well-buried truffles that pigs would miss. In this way, dogs find harder-to-reach and higher-quality truffles than pigs.
Quality is critical to our team at Truffle Hill. Our hunters and dogs spend hours searching for only the best truffles to ensure satisfaction. We focus on finding only ripe truffles to improve quality even further.
The Importance of Finding Ripe Truffles
Pigs will frantically dig up every truffle they find. This can be great because handlers don’t need to provide special motivation for the pig to hunt. It’s also frustrating because they’ll uncover unripened truffles.
An important fact about truffles?
They aren’t like fruits that ripen even if separated from a plant: they’re a fungus that stops ripening when removed from the ground. Unripened truffles lack the quality and taste of ripened ones.
Truffle Hill Sales and Marketing Head Darian Cheffers claims truffles are “almost like an egg holding thousands and thousands of truffle spores” that, when ripe, have a rich, black surface that tastes great.
Dogs only dig up ripe growths, meaning our truffle dogs ignore unripened ones and let them mature.
The Best Truffle Hunting Dogs
At Truffle Hill, we believe that any dog can become a truffle dog. Dogs have a natural curiosity and are born searchers, making them great truffle hunters.
Dogs we’ve seen truffle hunting include:
- Irish wolfhounds
- Jack Russell terriers
- Various Labrador breeds
Though we use many breeds, we have many labradors because they’re friendly, easy to train, and highly motivated by food. Over the years, we’ve trained many dogs to successfully find truffles.
What’s the key to our training success? Motivation.
We focus on identifying what inspires breeds to hunt. For example, Labradors are very treat-oriented and need food to stay motivated.
For labs, we stuff a ripe truffle in a tennis ball, play with them, and give them a treat for a reward. Kelpies are also a favourite because they’re play-oriented and feel rewarded during training.
Training Focuses on Fun
As true dog lovers, we don’t overwork our dogs. We train just a few hours a day, keeping the focus on fun.
During each session, we give our dogs lots of love, call them by their names, and make their training and hunting truly enjoyable experiences. They love it because it gets them outside and working.
At Truffle Hill, we ensure that truffle hunting doesn’t compromise our dogs’ comfort and enthusiasm. If our hunters notice a dog seems tired or disinterested, they praise them for their hard work and let them rest.
Furthermore, our truffle dogs never work more than an hour per session, which makes each experience fun and energising rather than exhausting.
A Typical Hunting Experience
Truffle hunting provides our dogs with a fun and stimulating experience. It taps into a work dog’s desire to stay busy and actively support people.
Our hunters have formed a close bond with each dog personally and can properly motivate them before a hunt.
Here’s a typical hunting experience:
- The hunter gets up before dawn in the winter (around five in the morning).
- Each dog is fed and checked to ensure they’re in good shape.
- The hunter picks dogs to take on the hunt, letting tired or sick ones home to rest.
- Most hunters choose between three to four dogs per hunt to ensure none work too hard.
- Hunters travel to our truffle farm and start working with one dog.
- Each pup works just one hour before being rotated.
- Hunters pay attention to the dog’s engagement and energy level and provide motivation when needed.
- Hunters also track the winter temperature to keep dogs comfortable.
- Upon finding a truffle, each dog is rewarded with treats, praise, and playtime.
- The hunter then digs up the truffle and carefully tests it for ripeness and quality.
- All usable truffles are cleaned, wrapped, and bagged for easier sorting.
- Each dog gets a few hunting sessions to keep them active and excited.
- Hunters bring back their haul of truffles at the end of the day.
- Each dog gets lots of affection and treats.
When properly motivated, each dog can find between 50-80 kilos of truffles a day. That incredible output is the key to our success. By hiring true dog lovers, we also ensure each pup gets love and respect on each hunt.
Want To Meet Our Truffle Dogs?
At Truffle Hill, we open this experience up to the public! Our public truffle hunts get you out in the wild and having fun.
Here’s what our founder has to say about this experience:
“Embark on exploring the world of truffles at Truffle Hill, where the revered tradition of truffle hunting takes centre stage. Guided by our exceptional dogs, gifted with unparalleled olfactory abilities, our harvest emerges as a calibration between man, animal, and earth. Join us on this unique expedition, witnessing the finesse and discipline of these incredible animals as they uncover the treasures hidden beneath the soil.”
Note that our Truffle Hunts are only available during the winter truffle season, usually between late May and early August. Each hunt runs between 60-120 minutes.
You’ll get the chance to interact with and play with our friendly dogs and, in the two-hour hunt, enjoy a truffle and wine-tasting experience specifically for adults.
We Truly Appreciate Our Dogs
Truffle Hill sees our dogs as part of our family. They’re valuable and get the respect and attention they deserve. Further, we provide immediate medical attention for any sick dog.
Just as importantly, we don’t leave our non-working dogs behind in crates. Instead, our handlers feed and play with them to ensure they’re happy.
As Darian says: “If you’re not a dog lover, you’re in the wrong industry. We’re all dog lovers here, and we’re happy seeing them enjoy what they do and spend hours with them every day.”
That love and affection make Truffle Hill so special in the industry. We truly love what we do and bring that joy and enthusiasm to our truffle dogs on each hunt.