Truffle trackers: how dogs and humans help ecology

Jason Swindle has already learned the best and hardest lesson that his dog can teach. “It’s about trust. River does the craziest things when we’re out here – she charges up cliffs or hillsides – and I have really just had to learn to trust her.”

This trust is perhaps even sweeter than the prize she helps him find beneath the forest floor: truffles.

River’s talent for truffle hunting – and the tail-wagging joy she finds in it – are more remarkable if you know that she only learned how to do it two years ago, when she was six. Swindle says that any dog can learn at any age. In fact, he says, “if we’d tried when she was younger she may not have done as well”.

Before her lessons, River was an ordinary family pet. Now she’s the heart of a growing business, Hound Found Oregon, in which together they search out truffles for sale, survey private land for them and lead curious gourmands out on forest forays.