Swide’s interview with Stefano Braccini, a breeder Lagotto dogs, one of the cutest and most efficient dogs on Earth. Trained the right way, they can find and unearth the luxury foods we love most: truffles!
Hunting truffles with Lagotto dogs
Swide has discussed truffles more than once, as all real foodies can’t help but love this tuber, yet question remains unanswered, though: who find truffles, since they are buried under the ground? Swide finds out for you, interviewing Stefano Braccini, a dog breeder of Lagotto Romagnolo.
Can you tell me about the history of your breeding kennel? How did you become a breeder of Lagotto Romagnolo as opposed to toher breeds?
I started the breeding kennel after my experiences in training truffle-hunting dogs, with all sorts of breeds. The good results of the Lagotto – a breed that was among the ones we trained – were so good that clients would ask specifically for that breed, so it was the most obvious path for us. The Lagotto Romagnolo is the only breed in the world recognised as a hunting truffle breed by the F.C.I (International Federation Cinologic) and by E.N.C.I. (National Authority for Italian Cinofilia).
Can you tell us why the Lagotto excels in hunting truffles compared to other breeds?
This breed has a very low instinct to hunt game, close to zero, and this is perfect, as the dogs don’t get distracted by animals while hunting truffles; there are many scents in the forest and the dog has to focus on the truffle, otherwise he can’t find any. Hunting dogs in general and crossbreeds can all learn how to hunt truffles, but growing up they acquire confidence and in most cases instinct prevails, therefore the dog starts to follow the scents of the game, to the frustration of the owner who can’t control the dog anymore. The Lagotto breed has a percentage of success of 98% and the remaining 2% succeed in hunting truffles anyway (just not finding them all the time). Therefore Lagotto dogs work 100% for this kind of job.
Has anything funny or particularly rewarding ever happened to you while training?
Every dog is different from another and they always surprise you, but I still remember a puppy of 4 months who, during a hunt in the truffle fields was following an adult dog with his brothers as he was supposed to do. All of a sudden he started sniffing around and ran towards a specific location. He then started digging all alone and found the first white truffle of his life!
The luckiest find?
Truffle can be found in big quantities and big dimensions for minor quality truffles like Marzuolo (Tuber Albidum) and Scorzone (Tuber Aestivum), whereas the best white truffle quality (Tuber Magnatum Pico) is much rarer. The biggest white truffle I have ever found was just under 1 kilo.
To who would you recommend this breed? Is the Lagotto suitable also for a family environment that has nothing to do with truffle-hunting?
The Lagotto is a dog for everyone, a great companion for kids. It’s a medium size dog, male dogs reach a maximum of 16 kilos, whereas female dogs 12 kilos. It’s easily trainable also for agility, obedience, pet therapy, for finding people (earthquakes/called “surface hunting”…). They don’t shed (but they do need to be regularly groomed). They rarely bark – and when they do, they do it for a good reason! – so they’re perfect to have in an apartment. They are working dogs, so they are very resistant to illness and their life span is 15/16 year, at which point they will leave a void that is going to be really hard to fill.
How long does it take to train a Lagotto?
The training starts somehow when the puppy hasn’t opened his eyes yet. You make him smell a fresh truffle and as soon as he can barely walk, you give him his favourite toy, a round white truffle to chase and bring back to the owner! Then, as he grows up, you start to hide it in the grass, then you bury it in the ground, so he digs and brings it back to you. The next step is to go hunting truffles in a non-controlled environment, the truffle fields (the forest), with his mother, his father and even the brothers if possible. When the adult dog starts to dig, the trainer stops it and lets the puppy go on until he finds the truffle. We do this for some time until the puppy starts to dig in complete autonomy. At 5 months puppies are ready to hunt alone.
You were talking about the “kind training method”: can you tell us more about it?
This is the only method I use to train my dogs: it consists simply of rewarding the dog when he does something right and to ignoring any bad behaviour. Never raise your voice or – even worse – hands to them. A dog doesn’t need to be punished, simply to be educated. When we meet misbehaving dogs it’s always the two-legged owner’s fault.
Can you tell us about the history of the Lagotto breed?
The Lagotto is a very old breed, it was used near Mantova (Lombardy, Italy). I’ll quote Giovanni Morsiani from the Italian Lagotto Club website to explain better his history: “Lagotti are picturesque characters who, before the drainage of the XIX century, were the soul of the lagoons once rich in game. Its name, Lagotto, is clearly a connotation due to the fact that he was born as a water dog. Lagotto, in fact recalls the name “lago”, lake.
The Lagotto dogs often went with their owners hunting, but another activity was pursued by them: truffle hunting, back then, less known and largely available. Inseparable keeper of the house and the boat, the Lagotto would plunge into icy waters and would swim for hours – even under water – to bring ducks to their owners. This was doable thanks to the texture of their hair, which is very thick, thanks to those curls. The natural inclination to hunt, the trainability and the excellent nose brought the Lagotto to be an efficient truffle-haunting dog. After the drainage of the swamps – between 1840 and 1890 – the Lagotto lost his primary function and specialised in truffle haunting.
Interview by: Elisa della Barba
“Dei Tartufi e Cani” Allevamento Amatoriale del Lagotto Romagnolo
Affisso Riconosciuto da: E.N.C.I. e F.C.I. – Affiliato al Club Italiano Lagotto
Località la Felce, 57 – 50067 – Rignano sull’Arno (FI)
Tel. +39 345 4095514 – +39 348 3339174 – Fax +39 055 5609839
web info: http://www.tartufiecaniallevamento.com/
Tagged with: #FOOD TRENDS #INTERVIEW
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