Why use dogs?
Why not, we say. Using dogs allows us to find only ripe truffles, thus preserving and ensuring optimum culinary value.
Unripe or immature truffles have no flavor, or nose, and thus no culinary value. Dogs also pinpoint the location of the ripe truffles and thus less of the environment is disturbed, including the fragile duff layer of soil and the fungi mycorrhizae. In plantation/truffiere settings, dogs are key indicators as to when to begin harvests.
Using dogs (or pigs) for locating truffles is far more gentle on the environment than using rakes. Using rakes damages not only the ecosystem from which the truffles are removed but also negatively impacts the truffle economy, devaluing the quality of Northwest truffles.
Why using rakes damages the environment and is bad for the industry:
While using rakes provides results if you know what to look for, it inherently damages the truffle habitat. Immature truffles are dug up, and so the quality of the truffles is diminished, and a majority of the truffles which are excavated are not ‘ripe’ and have no culinary value. There are some who claim one can ‘ripen’ truffles, but this akin to picking an unripe tomato and expecting it to ripen to its full potential. Many truffles can never ripen if picked too early, and when they are artificially ‘ripened’ it changes the flavor profile. We are currently working with the Washington Truffle Society which is performing experiments to showcase the effects of artificially ripening of truffles.
In established truffle industries such as those in Europe only dogs or pigs are used, never rakes because rakes unnecessarily damage the fragile top soil and duff layer surrounding the tree roots, and can also damage the truffles themselves. Rakes also damage any truffles that are not harvested, in the process dislodging them from their support network with the trees depriving the tree of a vital nutrient network and damaging the fungi itself, diminishing future harvests.
Dogs vs. Pigs:
While pigs can locate truffles often without training, they have one major drawback they eat the truffles. These days in the truffle fields of Europe, dogs are preferred. They also tend to make easier pets