Teaching bird dogs to find morel mushrooms
With prices coming in at $33 per pound, your pup could earn an extra bag of kibble by pointing morels during the bird-finding “off season.” Add the value of these tasty fungi to the fact that no one has successfully produced a morel finding dog yet and you could dominate the morel mushroom canine category similar to Tom Dokken’s virtual monopoly of the training of bird dogs to find antler sheds.
In fact, Tom Dokken recently told me that he has indeed had people contact him about training their pup to hunt morels. “I just don’t have the expertise with morel mushrooms to get it done, but I’m fairly sure the dogs would eat all the morels they find because they taste so good,” Dokken explained.
That’s why I believe pointing breeds, like my German shorthairs, have an advantage over Dokken’s shed hunting retrievers when it comes to mushroom potential. Dokken got a good laugh out of that retort.
At the end of our conversation, Dokken suggested I Google search for morels and dogs. He was confident I’d find dozens of examples of dogs hunting morels. Surprisingly, there are a few YouTube videos of dogs finding mushrooms, but not an overwhelming number and nothing I’d consider clear illustrations of training success.
After Dokken and Google, I reached out to the third member of my bird dog expert triumvirate, Purina’s Bob West, a professional dog trainer with more than 50 years of experience.
“Teaching a bird dog to find morels? It’s not the first time the concept has been floated,” reported West. “I love morels and have thought about training one of my dogs to do it, but have never gotten around to it. In fact, to my knowledge no one has successfully produced a morel mushroom hunting dog.”
So the question becomes, can it be done? “I do believe a bird dog could be trained to hunt morels,” West explained with a chuckle. “Morels have a definite scent that I can smell and dogs have much better noses than we do. It for sure could be accomplished.”
From my perspective, the obvious obstacle is the short window of time available to train a dog on “wild” morels, since the mushrooms pop for only a three-week period in each U.S. geographic region. However a hard-core morel hunter and his/her pup could travel the morel “migration” north each spring extending the profitability window (and good eating) an extra three months from start to finish.
If you have successfully trained your pup to hunt morel mushrooms, I want to know about it.