Scent Training Your Dog at Home; Expert Truffle Hunting Dog Tells How

June 18th, 2018
By Kaylee Hamar

Alana, Founder of Truffle Dog Company, shares how any dog can be a truffle hunting or scent trained dog!

Your dog is not just there for you to snuggle with. These special living beings need to be mentally stimulated and exercised. It is important to find ways to do this and create a special, deeper bond with your pup. One way to mentally stimulate your dog is to provide them with scent based work. I had the chance to interview Alana, founder of Truffle Dog Company, and she provided information and guidance on how you can start right at home.

“I studied animal behavior and have taught and trained dogs for years. I live in Washington, and I knew that if people were finding truffles in Oregon, they were also likely to be found in the similar environment I lived in. I decided to train my dogs to find truffles, and realized that people were really curious about this.” Alana takes people out to watch her dogs, and also works with them to train their own dog to find truffles. “Using animals to find truffles is a much more sustainable way to tap into this delicious and valuable food source. With the alternative technique, called raking, you are not able to select only ripe truffles, digging truffles that are not actually ready. Unfortunately, those that are not ready cannot be put back after they are dug up. Additionally, the raking destroys the ground leaving large holes up to 4ft deep causing erosion issues. Using trained dogs allows us to select only ripe truffles and also sustainably dig and refill the dig spot, leaving the ground like we found it.”

Alana has realized how valuable scent training is for dogs and their owners. “It doesn’t have to be taught with truffles. You can start to scent train your dog at home with anything, even a wine cork.” Alana makes it clear to me that any dog can be trained to hunt truffles or simply scent trained in general. Here is how:

How to Start Scent Training your Dog at Home:

  • It needs to be FUN! It is very important that the training is fun for your dog!
  • Use Rewards: You can use kibble or treats to reward your dog in the beginning.
  • Start Inside: If you start outside, there are too many distractions. Start inside so your dog is comfortable and focused.
  • Start Small: Simply hold a wine cork or object of interest. Introduce it to your dog, and reward when they interact with it. Once they are comfortable, move it a little ways away, and as they approach it and interact with it, reward again. Keep this up until they have an interest.
  • Provide Encouragement: Your dog loves you and your praise is important. Make sure and provide ample pets and words of praise along with the treat.
  • Play Games: Alana calls her game “cocktail hour.” “Instead of feeding my dogs their food in a bowl, sometimes I will throw the kibble out into the yard and they will need to sniff around to find it. This exercises their sense of smell.”

Truffle hunting with your dog is only one way that you can work with your dog to mentally stimulate them with scent training. You can start small at home and have just as much fun with your pup. Your dog is going to love this activity!

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