The beginning of Koolies Nose –
Australian Koolies: ‘Silhouette’ Luca and Kyra were the first two of their breed in the World to become professional working truffle hunting dogs!
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 huge thunderstorm in his developmental first two years. 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 at me!!! The feedback I have had since from those who were there hahah they no longer laugh!!!
Luca and I progressed rapidly and we moved on from scenting Birch to Anise and finally in level 3 class we added Clove oil. Next was ORT (Odour Recognition Trails) and the next step was Competition……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 and started training Luca on truffle scent and hunting in dusty 100 acre paddocks out the back of Echuca (thanks Silhouette Koolies). I developed my own way of training our dogs and they are the first of their breed in the World to be proven truffle hunting dogs.
Kyra was also being trained to hunt truffles on dusty dirty paddocks out the back of Echuca (the secret weapon we called her) she was a gun! a top secret mission I trained her.
On the 4th July 2016 AKA Koolie Independence Day we drive 1.5 hours from Canberra (we left the day before from Mornington and stayed in Canberra – as we were offered a real go on a truffle farm) 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. Luca’s training paid off as he indicated a 85gm (un cleaned) black truffle even after the Lagottos had been on the farm the previous day (Thanks to Katherine & Macenmist black truffles and wines)!
2017 saw the team hit the road from Ballarat to Bright, Main Ridge to Mansfield, Bendigo to Beechwoth, Wangaratta to Whitlands the Koolies Nose Team did get about and for our first season. The team identified 10+ kilo (black and white), Kyra identifying the biggest at 332gm washed!
2018 saw the team spend a lot of time in the Victorian High Country and we can proudly say this year’s haul was 25+ kilo black and 3 kilo borchiii over 3 regular farms. The highlight was Luca air scenting a 521gm unwashed truffle from 30+ meters and three rows away from where we were working! The farmer still speaks of this as he was there watching it all unfold, and often tells people ‘he wouldn’t have believed it if he had not have seen it!!!!’
I studied Animal Husbandry and Agriculture at boarding school and held a keen interest over the years in the rural sector. I continue to update my skills and knowledge by attending various seminars and workshops and can confidently discuss many agricultural/husbandry topics including truffles. This now includes the emerging topic of truffle bugs and pests in the Country (you would be surprised how many & various bugs/pests we see as we hunt on farms in the State/s it’s our noses in the ground also). I am by no means an expert and my focus is on the dogs, hunting and sharing information I have learned on my journey.
I have completed a number of seminars on Truffles and continue to follow my passion in positive reinforcement dog training in the area of truffle identification on farm. Luca and I have worked one on one with Fred Helfers (he’s a legend in the USA!) while he was in Australia in 2016 delivering training on K9 Olfaction. Luca first Australian Koolie Fred had met.