Barbet News (page 21)
Barbets training to search for truffles.
Expert instruction on the truffle search.
After Dolly’s’digging at tree roots at our Barbet picnic in September, on behalf of the Club I investigated the idea of training the barbets in the art of truffle searching. Historically, as a very versatile type of dog, this was one of their skills. I was lucky enough to find that a day course was available relatively close to us, and made contact with Marion Dean (Please see Marion`s postscript at the bottom of the page) who runs the only course of its kind in the UK. Four barbets attended, Bepop, Remy, Baxter and Dolly. After an initial romp round the field after their respective car journeys, it was soon down to work as the dogs settled into the first stage of training. Once the scent had been absorbed, and the dogs began to learn what was expected of them, the day got harder as each stage in their training grew progressively more challenging but more rewarding as each dog achieved its target. Every step forward was well rewarded, always a good incentive to learn! The dogs were eventually able to go out into the open field and locate the scent. As is the norm with dog training, it was the owners that sometimes struggled with the instructions and the correct time to reward the dogs for using their natural ability. Marion herself has a rather sweet Lagotto Romagnolo, and it was very beneficial to see her work and for us to see a fully trained dog at work. The puppies were restrained and extremely focused, and without exception picked up the scent and showed a keen nose. Bepop also excelled herself, although she had the advantage of having maturity on her side. While many of the training methods could be verbally passed on, we all agreed that listening to the wealth of knowledge that Marion passed on and her relaxed attitude towards training and the encouragement she gave was invaluable.
Whether our dogs go on to keep us all in truffles for years to come is yet to be seen, but we have all learnt another skill that will benefit the bond with our dogs. It was worthwhile using the scenting ability of the breed and is something we can adapt to our home environments, and most importantly it was really good fun! The training for us has only just begun, but as can be seen from the quote below the barbet is once again being used for truffle hunting in the UK.
“The dog, as is well known, is at the head of domestic animals with an acute smell; and there is no doubt that dogs of all races, provided they are somewhat docile, may be used in truffle-hunting; though water-dogs (pudelhunde) are preferred for this purpose, and next to them are spaniels and setting dogs. The last, in contestably, would do quite as well for this search as poodles or water-dogs, if their instinct did not lend them away from the search of truffles, to follow the track and scent of game. Pudel, or as we spell it in English, poodle, is a German word, and is used to designate that race of dogs which formerly used to be called water-dogs. Poodles seldom pursue such track of game; and even if they start it, they appear frightened, and keep closer to their work, from which property they are peculiarly fit for truffle dogs. Dogs are taken indifferently of the pure poodle breed; no matter whether those from which they are bred have been truffle-finders or not. The colour, upon which some lay a stress, is of no consequence.”
THE GARDENER'S MAGAZINE, AND REGISTER
by John Claudius Loudon - Gardening - 1837
Liz with Baxter.
Postscript to the truffle training day by Marion Dean .
Last Sunday achieved many ‘firsts’.
It was the first time I had met a Barbet. Meeting four at once was amazing!
It was the first time I had taught a group of dogs all of the same breed. This group worked wonderfully well.
It was also the beginning of my own personal research into the scenting abilities and behavioural characteristics of different breeds of dogs.
My work was easy – I had four happy, healthy dogs. They each showed:- huge interest in scent work, a willingness to learn, very good noses and above all else, the desire to communicate with their owners. These are all highly enviable qualities for truffle work.
I consider these four dogs to be excellent.
Marion Dean (trainer)