The Tough Task of Training Truffle-hunting Dogs in Tuscany

The stunning Tuscan countryside - truffle-hunting ground!


Being a truffle hunter more than a hobby, it is a lifestyle, a religion. It takes patience, and practice, dedication and determination.

One of our great friends is the wife of one such a truffle hunter, and she often complains that her truffle-hunting husband adores his prize truffle-hunting dogs much more than he adores her.

(We are yet to actually hear her husband -also a great friend- deny this come to think of it!)

In fact, spending time with this couple does involve quite a lot of chat about the ugly little tuber.  Lucky for us ardent foodies, it also involves dining on truffles, so we’re quite happy to listen! Particularly as it is quite rude to talk with your mouth full.

Yesterday, as a group of us were out walking up, over, down and around the fantastically undulating Tuscan countryside, the truffle-hunter entertained us with funny stories about the arduous task of training dogs to hunt truffles.

First, two prize truffle-hunting dogs are carefully selected to breed. Then, the litter is fed with milk and food flavored with truffle. This serves to get the dogs to love the unusual flavor and scent of the truffle.

Then, games are played by burying truffles around the garden. Truffles are buried just a little below the ground and the dogs were rewarded with getting to eat the delicious buried treasures they found.

This technique does wonders for the dogs’ training, but is not so kind on the lawn!

The truffle treats are thrown up in the air to the pack, the puppies tumbling and rolling in their efforts to get to the truffles first! Eventually after the frantic puppy scrum, one proud pup manages to roll out triumphantly from the moving ball of tiny paws and pointy wagging tails, distancing himself from the group to enjoy his treat and enjoy the praise of his owner.

Luckily dog-breeding season falls at the same time as the least-precious truffles are to be found!

A good dog will eventually be taken out to the forest to search out the real thing buried deep below the fecund soil. An excellent truffle-hunting dog will be obedient enough not to then eat it!

The truffle-hunter must recognize the signs of enthusiasm the dog displays when it has found a buried treasure, then arrive to the dog in time to shoo it away before it manages to eat it!

Our friend showed us a few scars on his hands where his greatest truffle-finding dog let him know who was really boss when he tried to dig up the dog’s finds. The dog, a feisty female, would bite his hands whenever he attempted to get away from the truffle. No trick worked ? not a thrown stick, an alternative edible treat, nothing. That truffle was hers, and her teeth were sharp!

Once the conversation turned to actually eating the truffles, the wife perked up ? ‘Ah, now we get to why I put up with you!’, she said  (only half) joking.

The truffles are carefully cleaned with a soft brush (most suggest buying a dedicated soft-bristled child’s toothbrush), and never washed or the truffle will get water logged and lose its fabulous flavor.

Served over simple foods like butter-coated fresh-made pasta, over scrambled or fried eggs, or mixed into soufflés, the flavor of the truffle must always be the star of the show.

Truffle oil is a nice consolation to the real thing that can similarly be served over simple foods to exalt the flavor.

If you’d like to learn about the traditional Italian ingredients and learn to make delicious, typical dishes before indulging in a delicious meal made by you by signing up for our hands-on cooking class in Florence.

If you would like to immerse yourself in the Tuscan countryside and be part of the scenery that has inspired so many great artworks, we have a small-group Best of Tuscany tour visiting Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni, and stopping for lunch and wine tasting at an award-winning wine estate. See the highlights of Tuscany in one spectacular day tour from Florence, the Best of Tuscany small-group tour.

For the Best of Tuscany tour, Uffizi Gallery and Accademia guided tours, plus a city walk tour (our acclaimed Original Florence Walk small-group guided walking tour in Florence’s historic city centre, we have a great discounted Florence and Tuscany tours package.

The Best of Florence and Tuscany discount tours package includes Original Florence Walk tour of Florence, the Masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery tour, the Accademia tour and the Best of Tuscany full-day tour from Florence to Tuscany in one fabulous discount tours package.

You can also see where the makers of the Mona Lisa and David worked and played, see where Leonardo da Vinci tested his historic flying machine and the shaded hillside stone works where Michelangelo learned his craft on our Perfect Morning in Tuscany small-group walking tour. Leaving from Florence’s city centre and heading to the surrounding countryside, this small-group walking tour includes, well, walking in Tuscany, as well as lunch with wine at a stunning Renaissance Villa Estate, accompanied by an expert tour guide.

Visit our site for more wonderful things to see and do in Italy (besides, of course, just meeting the Artviva staff!), and email us on staff@artviva.comfor more information, and email for an exclusive day out in Tuscany.

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  1. Rather enlightening article. Has certainly provided some interesting ideas. Many thanks, looking forward to more like this.

  2. Quite interesting post. Definitely given me some food for thought. Much appreciated, hope to see more like this.

  3. Peace be upon you all!I’m going to florence, italy next week. My relatives all moved from venice to florence. HAVE A GREAT DAY!!

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