Last week I was reading an article about truffle dogs in the New York Times and spotted a Bark shout out! Elizabeth Kalik, a former search-and-rescue trainer in Oregon, read about canine truffle hunters in our magazine and decided it would be the perfect activity for her crew. She tracked down the man we interviewed and trained her Newfoundland and Beaucerons to hunt for the prized fungi.
Kalik loved the work so much that she co-founded NW Truffle Dogs in 2010 to train interested people and their pets. So far the school has had 46 students. Truffles from Oregon fetch $400 a pound and truffles from Italy and France command up to $4,000 a pound. But so far all of the graduates are amateurs and mostly use their finds in their own cooking.
Training is as much for the humans as it is for the canines. While the dogs must learn to find truffles (and not eat them!), the people have to learn to detect changes their pup’s behavior and body language as they find the treasure. Experienced handlers can distinguish if their dog has locked onto the scent of a squirrel or have located a truffle.
Since canines are already talented with their noses, Kalik says that scent training is easy. The individuals that excel are athletic, have an ability to think independently, can focus on a task for hours, and are able to tolerate variable weather conditions.
While working breeds, like Retrievers, are most common, any dog can be trained. NW Truffle Dogs’ graduates have included a Papillon and a Pit Bull.
If you think your dog would enjoy hunting truffles, but don’t live in an area with the fungi, you might try the sport of K-9 Nosework.
At Bark, we celebrate the rewarding relationship between people and dogs, and that includes introducing our readers to the variety of activities we can do with our beloved pets. It’s very cool that the magazine inspired Kalik to pursue a new hobby with her crew that is now benefiting many others through her school!