Truffle Hunting Has Gone to the Dogs

Sniff Out Some Fungi With Fido!

Posted by Jessica Roberts

A culinary delicacy unlike any other type of mushroom, truffles are lauded for their distinctive, earthy flavor. Because they are rare, difficult to find, and can fetch as much as $95 per ounce, embarking on a truffle seeking adventure is truly an ecological treasure hunt. And your best ally might be sitting right beside you.

Truffles grow underground, which makes them impossible for human noses to detect. But with proper training, dogs of all breeds can use their sniffers to forage for this fungal treat. Truffle season in the U.S. typically runs from November through early March, depending on the year and where you are foraging. There are a few privately owned trufferies in California, Oregon, North Carolina and Virginia, but they can also be found on public lands in the Pacific Northwest.

Here are a few resources to help you and Fido become expert truffle-hunters. And even if your search doesn't bear fruit, or fungi, this activity is a wonderful way for you to be outdoors with your best friend.

The Oregon Truffle Dog Festival

Eugene, OR
Truffle finding is a muddy affair. Photo by Kathryn Elsesser

Truffles are a fickle fungus, but skilled seekers in Eugene, OR, can come back from a hunt with up to a pound of truffles on a single foray. Sign up for the two-day Truffle Dog Training Seminar at the annual Oregon Truffle Festival, where you and Fido can learn about the different types of truffles, where to find them, and the fundamentals of scent training. The event culminates in a guided hunt where many “pawticipants” successfully find their very own truffles.

No prior experience is required, and any dog is welcome. Just ask Gustave, the rescue Chihuahua who won the 2018 and 2019 Joriad™ North American Truffle Dog Championship!

Truffle Dog Training Classes

Seattle, WA
"Look what I found!" Photo by Truffle Dog Co.

Even if you can't make it to the Oregon event, you can still sign up for truffle dog training classes with Truffle Dog Co. The Seattle-based company offers virtual classes, small group and private lessons, or a private Guided Truffle Hunting Experience. These lessons will teach you and Fido everything you need to know to become a successful truffle-hunting team, from the fundamentals of scent training to how to apply these newly acquired sniffing skills to forage for truffles on your own. Classes with Truffle Dog Co. have four participation levels: Full Student, Auditor, Self-Directed and, in some locations, a hybrid online and in-person option. The Level 1 class costs $249 for an eight-week course.

Further Foraging with Fido

“A Wilderness Explorer is friend to all, be it a plant or fungus or tiny morel.” Photo by Tom Hills on Unsplash

If you are intrigued by food foraging and scent-tracking, you might be pleased to know truffles aren’t the only delicacy you can train Fido to seek out. Other fungi like morels, chanterelles, lions mane, and matsutake can be found across the U.S. Tracking can be a fun and rewarding experience for your pup, and is an excellent way to exercise a dog's brain and body. Before taking to the woods, your dog will need to learn basic scent-training tasks. If you plan to let her hunt in an area off-leash, be sure she also knows a reliable "come" command. Finally, be prepared with lots of treats to reward your seeker for a job well done.

Many State Parks and National Forests have provisions that permit picking certain types of edible mushrooms for personal consumption. Harvesting vegetation and fungi in National Parks is highly regulated, however, so always check before embarking on your food-finding adventures.

Do you have a truffle-finding pup? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

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