Harvesting the truffle of Teruel: the truffle dog
The truffle of Teruel, which is a hypogeous or subterranean fungus, is harvested with the aid of dogs that have been previously trained for this hard job. They can be different kinds of pure breed or cross-breeds, such as Griffon, Drahtaar, Braco, Pointer, and so on.
The dog must be young, affable and obedient, medium sized if possible and with hard hair to resist to the winter low temperature and the continuous rub against the shrubs.
Training a dog to find truffles is not an easy task; you ought to be patient and not get discouraged, as this purpose requires a great deal of dedication and quite often it is hard to achieve the goals we had set at the beginning.
The dog’s training begins with games: you throw objects and then your dog has to find them and follow your instructions to bring them to your hands. The best objects to be thrown are balls made up of clothes hiding a small portion of truffle inside.
The animal needs to be stimulated by eating small portions of truffle, so that it gets familiar with the smell of the valuable fungus.
Afterwards, we will hide truffles under the soil some hours before our daily training. This is done so that the smell of the truffle impregnates the soil and this way it resembles the real conditions of nature.
Every day, at the very moment the training starts, we must take the dog to the place where we hid the truffle some hours before and encourage the animal to search and scratch the land. When the dog finds the truffle we will show the fungus and let the dog smell it. Then, we will pet it and give a reward, which can be a piece of bread, very small bits of cheese, pelleted feed or even a portion of its favorite food.
The dog needs to be stimulated with stroking and games; we ought not to force it too much as it can get tired soon. Little by little, the smell of the truffle will become familiar to the dog and it will need 2 or 3 years to be a professional seeker of the valuable fungus.
It is very gratifying to see how a dog seeks truffles in the plantations. It goes round the producer trees with its nose stuck to soil until it detects where the mature truffle is, then the dog scratches into the earth with its front legs until the order to stop is heard.
The harvester extracts the truffle with the aid of special machetes; narrow machetes that are not pointed. He will dig carefully and unearth the truffle, covering again the hole with the same earth extracted before and after showing it to the dog he will give it an award. It is advisable to leave part of the truffle production on the earth in order to ensure the spores are scattered.
The dog will not detect the truffle until it is mature enough. Thus, it can pass several times around the truffle but never show the indication that the truffle is there.
The harvester and the dog should have a good relationship and mutual understanding.