I have long said that training a dog would be the way to really clean up on morels. Dogs are already used for truffle hunting (we saw an amazing demonstration by an Italian truffle hunting dog in Oregon) and dogs are used for drugs and bombs and everything else, so why not morels? We have tried training our dogs by hiding dried and fresh morels around the yard. They can definitely do it in the back yard... the real problem is that in the woods there are so many more exciting smells (deer, raccoons, squirrels, etc) that the dogs really have trouble focusing on something as boring to them as a mushroom, and they tend to go bonkers when they hit a deer trail. But I'd say go for it if you can with your dog. I'd look into the research on truffle dogs especially Italian truffle dogs:
I recently went Morel hunting with my 82 year old uncle. We weren't very successful. I'm a beginner and his eyesight is suffering. I put the idea out while we were traipsing the underbrush that a dog might be a real help in sniffing these things out. Speaking just off the top of my head and thought it would go no further. But he immediately had his enthusiasm piqued and would not let the subject go for the rest of the afternoon. He's now adamant about following through with the attempt.
So after getting firm assurance that it would be his companion to have and to hold, in between mushrooming seasons, I agreed to help him look for a suitable rescue from the pound from some energetic but companionable terrier or hound or collie mix.
And I've been on the web for two days reading as many forum threads associated with and tutorials dedicated to the training of such a dog for morel hunting. The best version I've heard so far, bearing in mind that I've never trained so much as a flea circus, is to put morels in one or more whiffle balls, or similar object that allows egress of the scent, but keeps the dog from successfully eating the mushroom, and then rewarding him/her with a top-notch treat simply for locating it, sitting next to it. and barking for our arrival. I've heard estimates from one month to three, and even years to get a successful hunter. I believe that the right pick from the start would bring success in one season. Some mixes are just born to please this regard.
And I certainly hope for SOME success. My uncle latches onto these hobbyist detours like any reasonably healthy and physically active 82 year old man panicking over his empty "bucket-list". I'm 52 and just about his only remaining family so we've gravitated into some of these things mutually. Some of the immediacy of any life fulfilled rubs off on me. Never a bad thing.
Wish us luck and look for a report back here in a few months.
I'll head into the rescue pound on Tuesday and hope some pup just gives me the "eyes met from across the crowded bar" look and I can take him home to meet my Uncle. With so many mixed breeds it's a crap shoot I suppose to happen upon any dog suited to tracking and pointing, but I'll have to just trust my instincts.
Thanks for the great reply... My dog is 1/2 Beagle 1/2 Lab... A Beagador... He will literaly wear the hair off his nose keeping it to the ground in the woods. He's just over a year old and still has a lot of Pup left in him. So next season, I will try to get the shroom dog project up and running. As for now it looks like he and I will be spending some quality time next to the pond fishing for Bluegills and Crappie... EBJOY!
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