How to Train Your Dog to Hunt Mushrooms

Hard
12-24 Months
Work

Introduction

Hunting for your favorite mushrooms is a great pastime with a very tasty end result. Imagine how much more successful your hunts would be if you had a trained assistant with a nose for mushrooms. Well, good news! Your pup has a nose that is so much more sensitive than yours that it can smell out mushrooms from a distance you wouldn't even be able to see them from. Even if they were in plain view. This makes his nose one the best tools in your toolbox.

For centuries, dogs were used to help people find mushrooms in the wild, but with so many mushroom farms, this skill has all but died out. Training your dog to sniff out patches of mushrooms is easier than teaching him to hunt game, as the mushrooms don't move around. It also takes less time to complete the training. 

Defining Tasks

This is a hunting command or seek-out type of command. You are training your dog to use his sense of smell to sniff out one particular type of mushroom or a range of mushrooms. What you train him to find depends heavily on what varieties of mushrooms happen to grow in your area. As for the exact command word you should use, create a simple command like "go find mushrooms". Choose your word and stick to it, try not to make it to much like any other command to avoid confusion during training.

Whether you hunt mushrooms for the dining room table or are after more valuable varieties like chanterelles, which may sell for up to $30.00 per pound or more on the open market, having a trained nose to help is the only way to go. At the same time, you are training your dog to hunt mushrooms, you should use the time to make sure you recognize the edible ones from the poisonous ones to ensure you don’t make a mistake that could kill you. 

Getting Started

For this, you need a place where you can hide mushrooms above ground at first and underground later in the training as they grow under both conditions. Your dog has a natural curiosity that will help him follow a scent to something as long as he thinks there is a reward at the end of the hunt. The reward can be a treat during the early stages of training, but should slowly devolve into simple verbal praise and maybe a pat on the head. However, you will need:

  • Treats: For rewards each time your pup finds the mushrooms.
  • A quiet place: The quieter your training areas are the better at first.
  • Mushrooms: Always start out with one specific mushroom, preferably the one that is most common in your area.
  • Patience and time: You need plenty of both in order for this training to be successful.

Since you are hunting for stationary fungi instead of a moving animal, you might think this would be easier. But the scent may be fainter, making it harder for your pup to locate its source. Also, note that your dog should already have mastered the basic commands before training him to hunt. 

The Sit and Sniff Method

Effective
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Step
1
Grab one mushroom
Start with a single mushroom and call your dog over to you before making him sit. Allow him to sniff the mushroom. If he just sits and sniffs, give him a treat. If he tries to eat the mushroom say, "No!" and back off before trying again, this lets him get used to the idea of that particular smell and not eating what's in your hand equals a tasty treat.
Step
2
Hiding around the house
Slowly start placing mushrooms around the house while your dog isn't paying attention. Once hidden in plain sight, like under the table or couch, call your dog in. Let him sniff a mushroom and then tell him to "go find mushrooms" and give him a treat when he finds one. Repeat this training until he goes and finds the mushrooms successfully.
Step
3
Move outside
Now that he is finding the mushrooms in the house on command it's time to head out to the backyard while he is not looking and hide a few mushrooms.
Step
4
Bring him out
Bring your pup out to the backyard and tell him to, "go find mushrooms." Each time he finds one and looks back at you to let you know about it, give him a treat. Repeat this until your pup can find every mushroom at least 90 percent of the time.
Step
5
Out in the fields or woods
It's now time to put your pup's training to the test in the real world. Take him out to your normal mushroom hunting grounds, tell him to "go find mushrooms" and let him go. Thanks to his highly tuned nose and training, your pup should be pointing out the mushroom patches in no time at all.
Recommend training method?

The Hide and Seek Method

Effective
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Step
1
Prepare the decoy
For this, you need a rag that has been wrapped around your favorite mushrooms for a few days to fully absorb their scent.
Step
2
Teach the scent
Place the rag in an area where your pup is likely to encounter it, then sit back and watch what happens.
Step
3
Time for play
The strong earthy aroma of the rag should draw your dog's curiosity very quickly. When he starts paying attention to the rag, say "good boy" and give him a treat. This will encourage him to seek out the rag.
Step
4
Add the command
Now when your pup starts to show interest in the rag, add in the command "go find mushrooms" so that he associates the command with the action. Use treats as rewards each time to reinforce the behavior.
Step
5
Hide and seek
Start hiding the rag around the house and telling your pup to go find it. Each time he does, reward him and find a harder place to hide it the next time. Keep practicing for a few days until he has mastered this part of the skill.
Step
6
Going on out
Take the rag outside and repeat the training sessions until you can hide the rag just about anywhere and your pup can find it. Finally, take him to an area where there are mushrooms and give him the command to "go find mushrooms" before letting him off the leash. He should have no problem helping you to fill your baskets to the brim.
Recommend training method?

The Charged Mushroom Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Fresh wild mushrooms
Start by going out to your favorite mushroom hunting area and picking some fresh mushrooms. You are going to "charge" these by making small piles of them with a treat underneath them.
Step
2
Early training
Have your pup sit and stay while you walk a couple of yards away from him and create a "charged mushroom" pile. Use your "go find mushrooms" command and let him go find your pre-made pile. Repeat as necessary until he finds the pile consistently. Then move the pile farther away from your pup. Always be ready with plenty of praise and treats to reinforce this behavior.
Step
3
Charging the wild
Now its time to go out and locate a couple of patches of mushrooms and charge them. This time not only will you be training him to find mushrooms in the wild, but to sit and wait for your arrival. Let him go find the mushrooms and for now, give him both the treat under the mushrooms and the one in your hand. Once he has mastered this it's on to the last steps.
Step
4
The final frontier
Using gloves to keep your scent from the wild mushrooms, go ahead and charge the first one. Let your go find them and have both treats. After this, stop charging the mushrooms. When he finds them, have him sit and give him a treat.
Step
5
Rinse and repeat for many months to come
Repeat this several times until he associates finding the mushrooms with sitting in front of them and getting a treat. In time, you should be able to let your pup find the mushrooms rewarding him with nothing more than a pat on the head and a "Good Boy!"
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

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