Saturday, January 10, 2009

Training Mushroom Dogs

This is another old fashioned skill or lost art and other than my myself, and one other gentleman in Kentucky, I don't know of anyone in the Mid-West that still knows how to breed and train mushroom hunting dogs.

These dogs are by far the most valuable of any type of trained dogs including dogs that sniff dope as the mushroom season in only about two weeks out of a year and the dogs have very little time each year for their training. It can take 5-7 years training to get a mushroom dog to where he can hunt well. This pushes the value of a good mushroom dog to over about 10k each.

Let's meet my highly trained mushroom dogs.

On the left is Bertha, center is Herman, and on the right is Klutz.

Bertha is a nine year old female dog and is the mother of Klutz. I like to breed a good snipe hunting Redbone to a Miniture Bloodhound for my mushroom dogs. However, this can create some problems with their teeth after a few litters of pups.

The dog in the center, Herman, is my most valuable dog as I have trained him to be my point hunting mushroom dog. Kinda like a point guard in basketball. He controls the tempo of the hunt and has the ability to coach the other dogs in the hunt.

Klutz, the dog on the right, in my youngest mushroom dog. He is not very good yet and really has a problem distinguishing between a Spike and a Morel mushroom. I don't mind a dog locking on a patch of Spikes early in the season but when the Morels are working, I want my dogs to concertrate on only those mushrooms.

On a good day, in one of my good mushroom places, my three dogs will usually find a nice batch of the Morel mushrooms.

A good mushroom dog doesn't need to answer to very many commands but it does take some time to get the dog to work well with their trainer. The dog needs to hunt and find the mushrooms and then "lock on" the patch. This means that the head will be low and pointing at the mushrooms, the tail will be straight out, and the right hind leg will raised up off of the ground. I call that "pointing the patch". Another command is just "release" and this is for the dog to come off this patch and start hunting again. Another very important command is "peruse" and this is used early in the season for hunting mushrooms. I load the dogs into the truck an then head out to one of my favorite spots, let the dogs out, and then command the dogs to peruse the woods for mushrooms. This way I can stay in the truck and drink beer while the dogs check out the wooods for the mushrooms. My point dog Herman will come back to the truck and let me know if the woods is worth hunting on this day.

It is fun to work with a group of well trained mushroom dogs.


  1. I bet them dogs don't come cheap!

  2. I'm a housekeeper by trade. Every year I babysit a standard poodle and she goes chantrelling with me. The last few years when I needed to know where she was in the woods I'd find her right by a big ole golden patch! Would you be willing to pass on a few tips of pup training for morels? Each year I get all excited to go out but I can't seem to find em. The morel hunting friend that go out manage to go without me and won't share! Even though I bring buckets of chantrelles, matsusakes, lobsters, and boletes to them! Daggabbit!

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