Getting down to the serious business
of finding truffles
Dogs can be very good at learning all sorts of different jobs but they are designed with literally an outstanding feature – their nose. It is positioned at the leading edge and just above the cutting edge, in other words, the most important place possible. Fortunately for most ‘pet’ dogs in Britain, supper is normally provided, but this may mean that their nose is only employed during play. Ask a dog to ‘work’ using its nose and its amazing skills begin to be revealed before your very eyes.
Scent work is not restricted to any one breed, size or colour of dog, indeed some dogs are specialists in this field whilst others find other pastimes far more engaging, but to try and define categories and groups would be a pointless exercise as there would be too many exceptions.
I train dogs to find truffles for me, not merely because they have been told
to do so, but because they want to. I create a working partnership where the dog realises very quickly that it has the power to make me exceedingly happy. I show my happiness in my facial expression, in my voice, in my
body language and of course in my lavish praise on the dog. Dogs like that.
That very early stage of training is soon left behind and the partnership enters a new dimension as the dog learns to train the owner. Just as we used our body language to reinforce the behaviour we wanted in the dog, now we must learn to watch, look and listen to what the dog is telling us. This, I find fascinating. And the more you are prepared to listen to your dog the more it will tell you. This is not new. What does a dog leaping up and down with its lead in its mouth mean? In my situation, good communications can save hours of work.
There’s another aspect of training dogs that I really like, they never seem to question “Why?”. Make it seem good fun and they’re happy to give it a go. My dog Mufti knows she can find truffles but I can’t. She doesn’t appear to hold that against me, in fact, the deal is, that she gets a piece of cheese for each truffle she finds, and in her book, that is an excellent rate of pay.