A little over 12 months ago in 2015 Silhouette Luca and I joined a K9 Nose Works class. Luca had developed reactiveness to some other dog breeds and could be quite anxious thanks to a scare he got from a huge thunderstorm. Nose works gave us the opportunity to work alone with no other dogs.
I remember sitting in our first class watching K9 Nose Works trainer, Angela’s, presentations and when she asked if any one has any questions I popped up saying how does one find truffles? Yep the class all laughed!!!
Luca loved this sniffy game with each class his confidence grew and he was slow and very methodical, most of the other Koolies were fast and furious.
We moved on from scenting Birch to Anise and finally in level 3 class we added Clove oil..
It was about this time my truffle dream popped back into my head. I did lots of reading and bought some ‘fake’ truffle product from France called Canitruff as the truffle dogs in Europe seemed to be trained on this from birth.
3rd July we left for Canberra to trial at a Truffle farm!
On the 4th July (AKA Koolie Independence Day) we drive 1.5 hours from Canberra to the Truffière. Minus 1.5 degrees at 10.30am heavy fog and ice everywhere, but no rain. I meet the owners we chat and offered coffee and headed to Truffière with coffee and dogs in hand.
There was no guarantee there would be any truffles the truffle dogs had been over it the day before.
I was asked what dog did I wish to start with and said Luca. Coffee still in hand and Luca’s leash in the other off we go.
There are a variety of trees 25+ long (I think) and I don’t know how many rows all up. The first row Luca picks up a scent and heads to the tree. I am told ‘yep we pulled one out of their yesterday’ He does this another 3 times (by this time farmer Barb can see he has some ability) 4.5 rows in he is on scent again. This time Barb didn’t say ‘oh we pulled one out of there yesterday’, Barb coached me ‘let him smell, there is something there see him sniffing’ Luca looks at me (his signal to me he has found the scent) and I know he has something!
Barb said, ‘ok time to dig, don’t move him away’ as Luca starts to lightly paw the ground. Both humans put human noses to ground to smell for the truffle and start to move the loose top covering of soil, Luca drops onto his belly and shoves his nose through 4 digging hands and Barb says ‘dig where his nose is’ and she lets me dig.
At the tip of Luca’s nose, I see what could be (remember I have only seen them cleaned up and ready to eat – not in situ) the very tip of a truffle, he showed us exactly where the truffle
It’s at this point I forget everything in the exhilaration of what has happened! Thankfully Barb brings me out of this and says ‘let him smell it and treat him’! This reward went on for some time and then Luca started licking my face in favour of chicken treats, Barb said ‘let him, he did this for you, you are his reward, he did this for you let him lick you all he likes’
Luca found an 85gm (uncleaned weight) truffle and made history as the first Australian Koolie in the World to do such
Luca and I hope you enjoyed our adventures and it also reinforces and proves the diversity of the Australian Koolie anything is possible! Dream BIG
‘Koolies Nose’ and have spent the past 12 months training and bringing Silhouette Kyra onboard for the last Truffle season. At the time of writing, we still hold the ‘Worlds First’ two Koolies to be trained and proven Truffle dogs.
Ballarat to Bright, Main Ridge to Mansfield and Bendigo to Beechwoth the Koolies Nose Team did get about and for our first Truffle Season seeking T Melanosproum and T Borchii.
Along the way we all have learned so much and shared this with many of farm owners we met along the way. One we met bought their farm a few years ago and had never seen truffles, let alone had dogs over their 500 trees. ‘Silhouette’ Kyra and Luca identified truffles and when we asked the owners if they wanted to play in the dirt they confessed they had no idea what to do. The Koolies Nose humans went into training mode on many aspects from digging to grading to selling and the future coming seasons.
In July Kyra found our biggest Truffle 332gm (washed)!
Our last farm for the season in August Luca air scented two and a half rows away from the row where we were working a 521gm (unwashed) monster. This was also the biggest this truffle farm had ever unearthed as well!
The Winter weather was ever so kind to us minus 7 degrees in the high-country mornings and crisp sunny days. August saw us in the Beechworth area in below zero, sleet, hail, rain and major river flood watches.
The Team found over 9 kilos of truffles, met many lovely folk, visited some areas of Victoria of outstanding beauty (and great local produce) and secured bookings for 2018 Truffle season!
I am currently training a human and their two dogs to be used by their owners on their Truffle farm in the coming years. I also plan to train another Koolie before next season to join the Koolies Nose Team and possibly another Koolie owner and their Koolie for the future demands.