Sprocker puppies
Ellie at 12 weeks with Marion and Paul

Amber is one of my two Sprocker Spaniels.  Ellie is a puppy from Amber’s first litter and now a professional truffle dog.

Marion Dean founded the Truffle Hunters Dog School after having to change direction due to a health problem which left her physically unable to continue her chosen profession as a qualified teacher (of children) and qualified riding instructor and listed dressage judge.  Marion takes up the story:

truffles, truffle dogs, UK truffle hunting, Marion Dean, working dogs
Ellie, a professional truffle hunter with her prize.

“I became interested in growing impregnated truffle trees when I was recovering from a severe attack of rheumatism.  My lifelong love of horses had to be abandoned because of a lack of physical ability, but I did have two empty fields.  I had begun growing fruit and veg. on the patio of our house, but I hated looking out at the fields, which were a painful reminder of the horses and career that I had lost.”

When Marion read an article in a glossy magazine about truffle growing and that it might be possible in England, it seems a crazy godsend and she realised that to plant an orchard of imported, impregnated trees, would find a new and positive use for her fields.

Whilst enquiring about buying truffle trees, she happened to mention that she’d just bought a truffle hound puppy (Ellie’s older “sister”, Mufti) and the chap asked if she could train truffle hounds for other people.  “As this all occurred in the space of a couple of day, it seemed like good fortune taking a hand in my life.  It gave me a new reason for living!”  Marion had a diagnosis of leukaemia which, in her own words: “nearly finished me off,” but a new combination of miracle (sic.) drugs have arrested the progress of the disease for the moment.  She tells me that she, “completed ‘mourning’ my own imminent loss of life” and now wants to do something.  Now, if she has the money and the strength she does what she wants, in between doing her exercises and trying to regain her fitness.

Most of Marion’s dreams feature truffles!  Growing her own, is still top of her wish list.  This is not so easy.

Here are some truffle facts:

  1. A man can go to the moon, but no-one has ever seen a truffle grow from start to finish, because it happens underground.
  2. The white truffle, tuber magnate, has never been cultivated.
  3. Despite costing huge amounts of money, the truffle is 70% water.
  4. Truffles have 5 sexes!

I met Marion when my husband, Bruce and I, were looking for ways to entertain Amber, our new Sprocker pup.  One of our friends joked that if he had a spaniel, he’d train her to find truffles and use that extraordinary nose for a win win gain.  So we asked around, and found that Marion is the only woman,  in the UK who runs a professional training programme.  We went for a day’s training, had great fun (we highly recommend it as a unique day out for you and your dog) and became friends.  When Amber had a litter of puppies, Marion was quickly on the phone to bag one for herself.

Marion trains her own truffle hounds, and other people’s, using very structured techniques, increasing the tasks in difficulty, in very small steps, so that the dog is always able to cope and has lots of praise for successfully completing each stage.  Ellie and Mufti demonstrate the techniques first, so that the trainees can immediately see what is required.

Ultimately she’s just asking the dog to be a dog and use it’s nose.

Truffles, British Truffles
Marion Dean, pretending to be a truffle tree with Mufti, one of her truffle hounds
IMG_4374
Two of Marion’s British Truffles
Truffle Dogs
Ellie and Mufti playtime
British Truffles in Somerset
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