Are you getting the urge to go truffle hunting and want to know which is the best truffle dog breed?
Great, I’ve wondered about that too!
That’s why I created this detailed guide, where I ranked the 15 best dog breeds for truffle hunting and answered the most frequently asked questions about these wonderful working dogs.
What are the best truffle dog breeds?
There are many dog breeds suitable for truffle hunting, and professional truffle hunters mainly use these dogs:
- Italian Bracco,
- English Pointer
- Lagotto Romagnolo
- Italian Spinone
- German Bracco,
- English Cocker Spaniel
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Hungarian Bracco “Vizsla
- English Setter
- Scottish Setter
- Irish Setter
- Epagneul Breton
- Border Collie
Rare, delicate, fragrant, and simply unique: these are the adjectives that best describe the truffle.
This prized hypogeous mushroom that is to say, with an underground life cycle represents one of the greatest culinary vices that gourmets from all over the world, Italians in particular, are willing to indulge in.
However, one of the essential characteristics of the truffle is its rarity, which is why its market price (also depending on quality) touches such high peaks.
The search and business of this delicacy of the forest is, therefore, an activity that can be extremely profitable, but it would not be possible to carry it out without the help of a good and trustworthy truffle dog.
What distinguishes a good truffle dog
As it is easy to imagine, not all dog breeds are suitable for truffle hunting, which is why over the centuries, some have been identified as particularly suitable for this type of activity.
In fact, there is not only one type of dog suited to this work but several! However, the characteristics to look for in a truffle dog are well or badly the same, valid for all and transcending any breed and sub breed.
- Extremely developed sense of smell, an indispensable gift for a self-respecting truffle dog;
- Physical performance and stamina, physical characteristics necessary given the exhausting nature of truffle hunting;
- Mental balance, a character trait that will ensure a dog focused on its task, uninterested in other amusements and smells;
- Poor predatory instinct is considered of secondary importance but fundamental for a dog focused on the search for truffles and free from distractions;
- Good behavioral education, which is necessary for the animal to respond to the owner’s commands during practice;
- Good specific training, the real cornerstone to set a dog to such work.
If it is your goal to become a good truffle hunter, you can’t rely only on your knowledge, skills, and experience: a faithful truffle dog, predisposed to the activity and well trained, is indispensable.
In case you are not yet particularly accustomed to the search for truffles (or you are not particularly accustomed to the canine universe), let me help you by indicating which are actually the best breeds of truffle dogs in all their peculiarities.
List of the Best Dog Breeds for Truffle Hunting
1. Pointing breeds (Bracchi)
Bracchi (plural of bracco) are generally known and recognized as excellent hunting dogs, particularly suitable for the task of “pointing / stopping,” that is, sniffing and indicating to the hunter the position of the prey by pointing at it while standing still.
However, thanks to their receptiveness to learning, their physical performance, their obedience to their master (only if well trained), and their masterly sense of smell, they are also used with great success in the search for truffles.
There are various pointing breeds; below, I will present 4 of the most famous and suitable for this task.
1.1 Bracco Italiano
An iconic dog, with a peculiar “bulge” muzzle, very pronounced, with a vigorous and powerful physical structure (up to 26.3 inches (ca. 67 cm) at the withers for males) and a smooth and spotted coat.
Originally from the Italian peninsula, this ancient breed of dog has an exceptional sense of smell and, despite its strong hunting instinct, admirable self-control.
He requires firm and decisive yet respectful and dignified leadership, and upon training, will prove to be a loyal companion, tireless worker, and caring family member.
1.2 German Pointer
Another Bracco of rather ancient origin and very closely related to its French cousins, with a physical structure that is muscular but at the same time sinuous (up to 25.9 inches (ca. 66 cm) at the withers for males), with a coat that can take on 4 different specifications but tends to be characterized by a mottled pigmentation.
Vital and powerful, but also docile and affectionate, this breed (in spite of its vocation for hunting par excellence) has all the necessary requirements for the search of truffles: an incredible sense of smell, dedication to work, loyalty to the master, and strong learning skills.
After training, it may prove to be a masterful ally for the truffle hunter, as well as an affectionate pet.
1.3 Weimaraner, or Weimar hound
Magnificent hound dog selected at the court of the German town of Weimar, with a strong, elegant, and extraordinary beauty.
His iconic gray coat, usually short and velvety-haired but sometimes long, is his hallmark.
The Weimaraner, capable of reaching up to 27.5 inches (ca. 70 cm) in height at the withers, is endowed with an excellent sense of smell and a great predisposition to physical exercise and work.
If combined with good training, these characteristics can guarantee the perfect success as a truffle dog, even if it doesn’t enjoy particular resistance to excessive temperature changes.
If educated well, it will also show its affectionate streak and great loyalty to its owner, despite its sometimes somewhat shy nature.
A breed that has been rediscovered in particular in recent decades, the Hungarian Bracco is an animal with a thousand talents and extraordinary beauty, characterized above all by its short-haired coat of tawny and golden hues.
Despite its powerful musculature, the physical structure of this dog is rather sinuous and slender (up to 25.1 inches (ca. 64 cm) at the withers for males) and is particularly suitable for what historically has always been its task: hunting in extremely inhospitable environments.
His excellent sense of smell and dedication to his master makes him an excellent truffle dog, “discovered” very recently.
With good training, it can give serious satisfaction to the truffle hunter, but in addition to the truffle, it is a very affectionate breed, loving and attached to his family.
2. English Pointer
This incredible breed of British origin has many points in its favor as far as truffle hunting is concerned. First of all, the dog’s athletic, muscular and slender physique, capable of reaching 27.1 inches (ca. 69 cm) at the withers in males and, above all, an inexhaustible source of strength, vigor, and speed.
The sense of smell of English Pointers is extremely precise and developed, and it is not by chance that these dogs, with their convex and recognizable muzzle, are considered among the best pointers in absolute.
Combined with truly amazing stamina, dedication to their work makes this breed a viable option for the most experienced and fierce truffle hunters.
Be careful though, the hunting instinct runs strong in the veins of the English Pointer and, if not trained in the most rigorous way possible, could easily prevail over the much less adrenaline-filled aroma of truffles.
A quiet, sociable, and adorable breed in the family, but which gives the best of itself only inexperienced and knowledgeable hands.
3. Lagotto Romagnolo
There would be almost no need to introduce it, but how can we not talk about the prince of truffles?
The Lagotto Romagnolo, or simply Lagotto, is a dog breed specially selected for this purpose, unlike any other.
The results of this work were, to say the least, remarkable, not only as far as the truffle is concerned but in general at the level of the animal.
The Lagotto is, in fact, a strong and athletic dog, not particularly tall (up to 18.8 inches (ca. 48 centimeters) for males) but with admirable athleticism.
Covered by its special curly coat, characterized by a thick and woolly hair that protects from shrubs and weather, it is able to work together with its owner without getting tired for hours.
Its vocation for truffles is a characteristic trait of the breed, so it is easy to imagine how efficient it is for this purpose and how training for this activity requires much less effort than with other breeds.
Suitable for both amateur” and professional truffle hunters, the Lagotto is also an adorable dog, extremely docile and polite, loving life and his family.
4. Italian Spinone
This is a dog breed with very ancient roots, originating in the Italian peninsula. Although its appearance may betray it, it is appreciated by the most humble population and the highest social strata.
The Italian Spinone was born as an extraordinary hunting dog, used both for hunting and especially for retrieving.
Tall (up to 27.5 inches (ca. 70 cm) for males), slender, with excellent musculature, furrowed by a shaggy and long furry coat perfect for protecting from the cold and from any natural obstacle, athletic, fast and tireless: there would be nothing else to add if to all this we did not add a lively intelligence and a more than enviable nose.
This last characteristic makes the Spinone particularly appreciated by truffle hunters, especially those who are already experts, as to get the best out of these dogs a serious training is necessary, early, and conducted with regularity and awareness.
The stubborn nature of these dogs and their hunting instincts could, in fact, give a hard time to novice truffle hunters, but in the family, the spinone will be everyone’s favorite cuddler.
5. English cocker spaniel
How can you not recognize the cute little face with the dangling ears of the Cocker spaniel? This noble breed of English origin, selected for hunting but on the basis of strict aesthetic criteria suitable for high society, is among the most versatile of all when it comes to hunting and truffles.
The historical uses of the cocker generally included chasing, retrieving, and aquatic hunting actions, practices that have stimulated the selection of an animal, although small in size (16.1 inches (ca. 41 centimeters) for males), with good muscle tone, incredible resistance, and predisposition to physical activity.
The unobtrusive size, the long and fringed coat, and the incredible agility of this dog clearly favored him for actions in the middle of the woods, among trees, bushes, and brambles, although extreme temperatures were not for him.
The cocker spaniel also has an exceptional nose, perfect for helping a truffle hunter with their work.
Be careful, though: in addition to the lively hunting instinct, it must be specified that this breed, although intelligent, is not at all easy to train and manage.
To get the best out of it, the cocker spaniel must be entrusted into expert hands, as much for what concerns the truffle as for the family.
6. Jack Russell terrier
Don’t let the small size of this dog fool you; the Jack Russell Terrier is one of the most energetic, bold, and full of character dogs around.
Specially selected for fox hunting, this small dog (maximum 11.8 inches (ca. 30 centimeters) in males) is endowed with an incredible physicality: speed, endurance, and dedication to work all concentrated in one animal.
The intuition and intelligence of Jack Russells are also well above average and allow them to learn numerous tasks and adapt to many situations.
Their employment as truffle dogs is particularly appreciated because of their excellent sense of smell, even if inferior to that of other breeds, and the incredible concentration that this breed shows towards its work.
Faithful and loyal to the master and the family, to enjoy the best that a Jack Russell can offer, it is imperative to have solid training (not only truffle) as well as proper education and socialization.
His temperament, if managed properly, will be exploited to the fullest.
The Setter breed refers to a series of hunting dogs, probably originating in Spain but selected and specialized for the art of hunting in the last instance in Great Britain.
They are animals with a generally balanced temperament, particularly appreciable for their work attitude and excellent character qualities.
The elegance and dignity of these dogs do not preclude, in fact, the possibility of being perfect pets, loving and affectionate like many other breeds more famous in this sense.
There are different sub-races of Setters, whose peculiarities and aptitude for truffle hunting we will shortly see.
7.1 English Setter
The English variant of the setter is easily recognizable by its long and fringed coat characterized by mottling and blotches of various shades that cover the entire body.
Beautiful, slender, and elegant, this dog reaches a maximum height at withers (in males) of 26.7 inches (ca. 68 cm) and presents a dry but extremely powerful musculature.
Dedicated as much to work as to physical activity, in spite of the strong hunting instinct, an expert truffle hunter with excellent training and leadership skills will be able to educate the English setter as an extraordinary truffle dog.
Sniffing and obedience certainly does not lack, as well as attachment and affection for their loved ones.
7.2 Scottish Setter
The Scottish setter, otherwise known as Gordon, differs from its cousins in three main aspects: the more massive physical structure (despite its almost identical size), the color of its coat (dark brown with reddish or gold highlights), and it’s more docile and mild temperament.
All this should not be misleading: this breed was selected in order to obtain a virtuous hunting dog, fast and explosive, especially in the running.
The sniffing does not lack for sure, but the hunting instinct remains well-rooted. Therefore, in order to accustom it to the search for truffles, a targeted training will be necessary, especially in virtue of its primary vocation, which is so different.
7.3 Irish Setter
The Irish setter finally differs from the other two sub-races for the coat with a tendency to single color, oriented towards shades ranging from dark golden to mahogany.
Physically very similar to its English cousin, only slightly shorter, it has a firm and extremely performing musculature in spite of its dry and tapered conformation.
Hunter by nature and full of energy, the Irish setter is a dog with a very lively and sensitive temperament, perfect for a family eager for an affectionate companion but also equally serious and dignified when it comes to working.
If effectively trained, and to do this, you need expert hands; it will be a very good help for all truffle hunters who will be able to direct the energies of this breed towards the search and the retrieval rather than towards hunting.
8. Épagneul Breton
From the French region of Brittany comes one of the most versatile and appreciated truffle dogs ever: the épagneul Breton.
This medium-sized breed ( 20 inches (ca. 51 centimeters) at the withers maximum in males) has a balanced build, tends to be square in shape, strong in bones, but equally slender in muscles.
The Breton is certainly not a heavy dog, and, together with all its other physical qualities, this characteristic makes it extremely effective on a great number of surfaces and in just as many tasks.
Although the hunting instinct is indeed strong by selection, the intelligence and adaptability of the épagneul make it malleable according to the needs of the master.
Therefore, the truffle hunter will undoubtedly be able to rely on the Breton’s exceptional sense of smell, as well as its predisposition to learning and the task assigned to it.
In short: a versatile animal, to say the least, energetic, bright, and obedient, as well as extremely sociable, tolerant, and respectful of others.
A famous hunting dog of English origin, the Beagle, is probably one of the most recognizable breeds in the world.
Born for the hunting activity in moult, these small but robust hounds (15.7 inches (ca. 40 centimeters) maximum in males) are equipped, in addition to a powerful and robust musculature, with a more than an enviable sense of smell.
They are also extremely energetic and active dogs, vigorous and participative, which can sometimes be stubborn and nervous if not looked after properly or if not educated correctly.
Despite its well-developed hunting instincts, an experienced truffle hunter will know how to best enhance the Beagle by relying on its extraordinary nose.
However, it goes without saying that training, education, and socialization should be put at the top of the priorities for such an active dog.
The Beagle also tends to be a very sociable and affectionate dog in the family as long as, as already mentioned, one avoids leaving it to its own devices and making it undisciplined.
10. Border Collie
The Border Collie is a very famous dog of British origin historically used as a shepherd, but spread throughout the world as a popular pet and as a formidable show dog (not only beauty).
With a maximum height of 20.8 inches (ca. 53 cm) at the withers, a lean but muscular physique, and a not inconsiderable athleticism, the energetic Border Collie craves and needs a considerable amount of physical activity to live peacefully.
Devoid of any predatory instinct, it is endowed (even if not many people are aware of this) with an excellent sense of smell, allowing it to recognize and detect numerous types of substances.
In spite of the initial mistrust, also this breed is beginning to be taken into consideration by truffle hunters, even if in Italy there are still very few.
If trained correctly, in fact, and do not underestimate the value of training despite the intelligence of the dog, it can guarantee excellent performance and results in this activity.
In the family, it is an expansive, lively, and affectionate dog, but it is very important to educate and socialize it to avoid it becoming wild and developing dominant behaviors.
Frequently asked questions about truffle dogs
How to train a truffle dog?
I am not going to answer this question in full, going into great detail about each procedure and phase of the training, because there are specialized manuals and professionals much better versed in the subject capable of providing such information.
I will limit myself to listing what are the fundamental elements, the canonical bases of learning on which the training to the search of the truffle must be based.
– The dog must always perceive the work he is asked to do as a game; it must not be a duty or an imposition. This condition is fundamental not only for the success of the training but in general also for the psychic health of the specimen in question, regardless of breed.
– The specific exercises must be carried out with care and constancy, but individually they should not take more than half an hour each. This is for the same reason as before: the dog must perceive this activity as a playful moment of excitement and satisfaction; consequently, the longer it goes on, the more boring and less interesting it will be.
– The emotional involvement of the dog is fundamental for the success of the training and must start from the owner. The task of the truffle hunter is to make the dog passionate about the search, making exciting what he will be asked to do. It is the truffle hunter’s duty to transmit his passion and love for his job to the animal in more poetic terms.
– The exercises must all be characterized by extreme gradualness. The training process must be developed in various phases, and at various times, you cannot expect everything immediately from the dog, and you must proceed step by step. For example, when the dog is a puppy, it will be necessary to make him play with a cloth wet with oil or truffle essences, then it will be necessary to teach him how to retrieve it, then retrieve, then search and retrieve, and so on. From a simple toy or aromatized cloth, you can hide under the ground real truffles or special instruments that replicate the shape and the smell; the important thing is that everything happens gradually and in a way that includes every little gesture that the dog must master naturally.
Is it better to have a puppy or an adult dog to search for truffles?
It’s hard to determine if there is any real solution that is better than the other for this dilemma, as each option may best reflect different needs.
An expert truffle hunter should certainly aim at a puppy (half-breed or breed) to raise and train on his own, thus strengthening the relationship with the dog and saving considerably on costs.
On the contrary, an “amateur” truffle hunter might prefer to invest much more money, but with the certainty of finding a truffle dog, already weaned or properly adult, with proven skills and well-established training.
It all depends on the availability of the future owner and the degree of seriousness they have decided to undertake this activity.
Is a male or female truffle dog better?
Although there is no “scientific” answer to this question, truffle hunters like to rely (with a certain amount of superstition) on a couple of rules.
In fact, some claim that female truffle dogs are more likely to learn the “trade.”
Others, however, tend to postpone this question and rely on the sex of their previous truffle dogs, who proved to be particularly gifted for the search.
Is a trained or untrained truffle dog better?
Assuming that a truffle dog, even if only to be considered as a truffle dog, MUST be trained, the question can have different points of view.
As already mentioned, a truffle hunter with previous experience might prefer an untrained specimen to educate it according to his own principles.
On the contrary, a truffle hunting hobbyist could choose a shorter but immediately (at least on paper) profitable path with a specimen already trained by professionals.
Is it better to have a purebred dog, or are crossbreeds also fine for truffle hunting?
Just as there is no breed that is perfect or superior to others for hunting truffles, a similar argument can be made when trying to prefer purebred dogs to half-breeds.
This is because each breed has in itself merits, defects, and peculiarities with respect to this work that truffle hunters can exploit to obtain good results.
The same can be said for mixed breeds where, if we really want to find a handicap compared to their own breed, they will be less “predictable” as far as the characteristics inherited from their parents are concerned.
How much does an already trained truffle dog cost?
There are too many answers to this question because too many variables come into play: the prestige of the breeding, the age of the dog, the breed, if the training is already given or not, etc.
Nevertheless, to any serious professional of the sector, we can simply affirm that a truffle dog already trained to work, both of breed and half-breed will have a starting price close to a thousand dollars and a maximum of around ten thousand dollars.
It is, in any case, an indifferent investment.
How much does it cost to train a truffle dog?
Training costs also vary significantly depending on the type of education you want to give your dog.
From a few hundred dollars you can reach a thousand or two thousand, depending on many factors such as hiring a professional, doing it yourself, the use of materials and land, etc.
How long does it take to train a truffle dog?
Considering that for training, in this case, we mean the specific training aimed at the search of the truffle, we can consider it as a more or less canonical period that goes from 5 to 6 months.
However, this is an indicative figure, although fairly accurate, depending on the dog’s age at the time of training, the breed, and the consistency with which the exercises are carried out.
In any case, before proceeding with this type of training, the specimen in question must already have a basic education behind it.
What to keep in mind to choose the right truffle dog
By the end of this article, you should have focused on which breeds are the best for truffle hunting, what needs each one requires, but also what specific qualities each one can bring to the table.
The choice of the truffle dog of your dreams clearly falls on you and must be made according to your needs, but not only! The one you will adopt is, in fact, not a mere truffle hunter’s helper, but a dog in its own right with its needs, its peculiarities, and, why not, its quirks (and “flaws”).
Here, then, is a short list of points that you will have to consider carefully and consciously to bring home the most suitable dog for your requirements and the one you will know how to take the best care of.
- Evaluate the level of your truffle hunting activity: are you a simple enthusiast or a real professional? Depending on the answer, choose a dog that reflects the commitment you will put into such work, more or less demanding to manage according to the case.
- Think about whether the dog you will adopt will have to spend a lot of time with the family, thus directing the choice towards a breed more or less predisposed to such a situation.
- Calculate how much time your dog will have to spend alone: there are breeds that, already naturally but especially after having been trained, tolerate loneliness much better than others. Adjust your preference to this variable as well.
- Be well aware of the commitment you will have to make regarding the training of the dog, which is obviously necessary for all breeds but for some breeds much more than for others. Then, depending on your skills, your available time, and your experience, try to choose a well-adapted dog for what you have to offer.
Having said these last things, there is not much else left for me to do other than to thank you for following me up to this point.
As always, I hope this article has been informative and helps guide your decision-making process when it comes time to adopt a new pet into your family.
If you liked this article on truffle dog breeds, please share it so others can find out about these amazing working dogs.
Until next time!
A big hug.