The Lagotto Romagnolo — The World’s Best Truffle Dog Breed!

Intelligent, relentless, and with the keenest sense of smell — the Lagotto is undoubtedly the top truffle dog breed.

Sure, Pointers and Spinoni have a fair claim to be efficient fungi hunters, but the Lagotto Romagnolo is the only canine to be specifically bred for this purpose. Having a coat that suits outdoor work and a temperament that wants to seek and find — it’s little surprise they’re the ultimate truffle hunting dogs.

How the Lagotto Became the Italian Truffle Hunting Dog

truffle hunting dogs

The dog is from the Romagna region of Italy. Its history begins by being bred for duck retrieval — Lagotto actually means duck dog in the Romagna dialect. These dogs worked tirelessly on the swampy lands where the ducks bred and lived.

Depending on what history you look at, the marshlands of Romagna were either drained or naturally dried up at the end of the 19th Century. So obviously, duck retrieval became a non-functioning job for the dog. 

Their sense of smell was already fairly keen. So, the Lagotti — the now unemployed duck-hunting marshmen working the dogs — decided to develop their dog’s sense of smell and train them to hunt for truffles instead. 

Today, that’s left the Lagottos as the only registered truffle dogs in the world — and the fungus they locate today is as desirable as it was in the 1800s. Sure, you can get anything that can hunt for truffles — but this is the only canine with that as its sole purpose.

And in Europe, when Lagottos become fully trained as a truffle dog, they sell for anything from 10 to 15k Euros. 

Why Lagottos Are the Best Truffle Hunters

Lagottos aren’t the only animals that can hunt truffles. Around the world — pigs, birds, and even flies are used to find these natural delicacies.

However, the Lagotto Italian truffle dog does have the advantage that it’s fairly easy to train, works on command, is swift and agile, and is also a fantastic companion.

As I mentioned earlier, some hounds, pointers, and spaniels also make effective truffle sniffing dog breeds. But, the Lagotto has numerous traits that, when combined, make it the top fungi hunter:

  • Sense of smell — able to discriminate between general fungi and valuable truffles, the Lagotto’s nose can detect the delicacies up to a foot beneath the surface.
  • Intelligence — skilled naturally at learning and problem-solving, they’re straightforward and eager to train.
  • Build — compact and strong, Lagottos can drive through thick bushes and gorse, and easily navigate rough ground.
  • Coat — the dog’s dense curls protect them from sharp plants, provide a waterproof barrier, and discard dirt when dry, keeping grooming to a minimum.
  • Temperament — focused, tireless, and motivated, Lagottos love pleasing their handlers and working together.

Truffle Hunting Training

Teaching a Lagotto truffle dog needs dedication, patience, and experience — not just in the correct techniques, but also in understanding the breed’s nature and character. Admittedly, I’m no expert — but I do understand the methods.

Usually, it all begins with obedience training — the basic commands you teach every pet canine or working dog. Recall is perhaps the most important command, as you need the dog to return to you as soon as it finds a truffle. Socialization training is also crucial, as your Lagotto needs to be fine with hunting alongside other handlers and dogs.

When the dog is comfortable and confident with obedience, it’s time to introduce the Lagotto Romagnolo to truffles. Often this means training with low-intensity truffle scents, otherwise the dog can become overwhelmed by the strength of the aroma.

You should always use positive reinforcement — whether you’re training a dog to hunt truffles or just to sit and stay. Personally, I’d say it’s better to use a toy rather than a treat as a reward, as food smells could confuse the dog during any aroma training.

When the Lagotto can successfully find truffles, trainers then hide the fungi in tougher locations — like buried underground or in dense undergrowth. Choosing to train the dog in wind and rain also helps — it’s not much use if your dog can only find truffles on nice sunny days.

One thing I would say is that although Lagottos are generally amazing truffle hunters — not all these dogs are fantastic at it. Humans make great artists and musicians, but I can’t draw or play an instrument. The individual temperament, age, aptitude, and interest of the Lagotto can affect how efficient it is at hunting.

My Truffling Experience

As a Lagotto breeder, it’s unsurprising I wanted — and still want — to have a go at truffling with these amazing dogs. The problem is, my first attempt was a bit disappointing.

I’m lucky enough to live on 27 acres of land — so I thought I might as well start my own truffle farm and put my dogs to work. About six years ago, I went to my local council and explained to them that I needed to speak to someone in planning — my idea was to remove some of my existing trees and replace them with elm and birch — trees that promote the growth of truffles.

So, I was led to meet the council planner — a young boy who literally looked like he’d only just hit puberty yesterday — and explained my plan. He asked, but why do you want to remove trees to plant more trees? And again I told him because I want to start a 


He said — a what? 

A truffière, I replied, I’m going to grow truffles.

He looked at me confused and responded — but, don’t you just get them out of the fridge!?

This guy then went on to ask me whether the plan involved transporting with trucks — obviously concerned that I’d be having containers loaded with truffles leaving my land 24 hours a day. Jeez, if I was moving that amount of product, I’d be able to buy the whole council and still have change.

Anyways, I just gave up. I wasn’t going to spend hours of my time explaining to this teenager what truffles are and the serious unlikelihood of me shifting tons of the stuff. I’ll get it sorted one day — but I’ll just dedicate my time to breeding and caring for my Lagottos at the moment.

That said, there are lots of truffières around Australia — there’s one just outside of Canberra, and some in the Adelaide Hills and Clare Valley. Everywhere where there’s good, but not constant, rainfall. And frost is really important, together with high temperatures to encourage truffle growth.

Lagotto Romagnolo — The Ultimate Truffle Hunters

italian truffle dog

With characteristics such as an excellent sense of smell, eagerness to please, a dirt-repelling coat, and a physical build ideal for driving through bush and gorse — it’s unsurprising that the Lagotto is the supreme truffle hunter.

But, hunting for truffles means more than being faithful to the breed’s original job — it’s a fun activity that can strengthen the relationship between the owner/handler of the Lagotto and provide the animal with enjoyable outdoor exercise and stimulation.

The French can keep their detective pigs, and the Chileans their birds — but personally, I’d rather go out with my Lagottos, the ultimate truffle dog breed, to find my fungi delicacies.