The Italian Lagotto Club (Club Italiano Lagotto – C.I.L.) believes the introduction of working (truffle-finding) aptitude criteria for selection purposes to be essential to the safeguarding of the breed, as the Lagotto’s characteristics are truly unique.
Truffle-finding aptitude – progressively refined over the last century – has been one of the key elements that has allowed the breed to save itself from near-certain extinction following the destruction of its original habitat and the consequent disappearance of those tasks which it originally carried out.
It is now deemed important that selection should actively seek to unite both morphological characteristics and functional qualities and that it should seek to avoid that separation of qualities which has occurred with so many hunting breeds.
The scope of the aptitude trials (or work tests) should, then, extend well beyond the purposes of mere competition and should highlight those qualities that, as a whole, make a good truffle dog. Such trials should also seek to overcome the limits of an evaluation based on too short a time interval, as an actual truffle finding session can last some hours. In this sense, then, the dog should not be specifically trained to perform over a ten-minute time period: organization and judgment criteria should be organized in such a way as to allow the qualities of a well trained truffle dog to emerge without any need for specific preparation.
- These trials have the purpose of evaluating the dogs vis-à-vis their truffle finding aptitude and should highlight, for breed selection purposes, those dogs that stand out on account of their natural search capability, concentration, stamina and capacity to receive and retain training.
- Only pure-bred Lagottos listed in FCI-recognised Pedigree Registers (or dogs eligible for listing) may participate in trials.
- The trials are divided into age-based categories: YOUNG from 9 to 30 months, “LIBERA” over 18 months (it is the faculty of the owner to register the dog in the LIBERA category as of the 15th month) and VETERANS over seven years (optional). In Club rallies pups from 4 to 12 months old may be unofficially entered. Moreover, there is division of male and female from the YOUNG class upwards.
- Entries must be received by the established date and shall be valid only if payment of the relative amount has been made.
- Biting dogs, females in heat and castrated dogs are inadmissible: males must have two testicles of equal size that have descended properly into the scrotum.
- Handlers must be in the correct place at the correct time for role-call and must be at the jury’s immediate disposal afterwards. Failure to observe this rule shall result in elimination.
- Where the organising Committee deems necessary, the dogs may be divided into groups: composition of groups and assignment of the order in which the dogs are evaluated shall be decided by the drawing of lots.
- Trials shall be judged by a Judge or Jury nominated by the C.I.L. Commission.
- Competitors must treat the competition area with the utmost respect. Prior to one’s turn, it is forbidden to release the dogs outside the special pens made available by the organisers. Failure to observe this rule shall result in elimination.
- Handlers may withdraw their dogs both prior to the trial and during it. In this event the handler shall only be entitled to the return of his/her entry fee where female dogs in heat are involved: proof of such condition shall be provided in the form of veterinary medical certificate.
- Trials shall last at least 10 minutes; the Organising Committee may, depending on the number of entries or the nature of the competition area, may extend the time available.
- The Jury, where it deems necessary, may extend the time available to one or more subjects or recall them for a supplementary session after completion of a first trial.
- An optimal trial area will consist of natural truffle sources on terrain that varies in nature and is semi-covered. The Jury shall ensure that the dogs are seen working in the open so that their gait can be evaluated better. All dogs must work on both terrain that has been inspected by other dogs and on “virgin” terrain.
- Dogs shall be handled as they would during a normal truffle-finding day, and shall preferably be directed by gesture. Overly-frequent calling of the dog, by voice or whistle, shall be penalised; during the search the handler must remain within earshot of the Jury in order to follow their instructions. The handler shall also close any holes opened by his/her dog properly. Failure to observe this rule shall result in elimination.
- Evaluation shall take into consideration the following parameters:
The action of the dog must be avid, continuous and determined. The dog should operate on its own initiative and not require continuous incitement from the owner and should also demonstrate determination in overcoming any obstacles.
The optimum gait is a lively, relaxed trot that shows the animal enjoys his work. Short bursts of speed are admissible at the start of the session, when returning to areas already inspected and during transfer from one pasture to another; the search mode must suit the type of environment, and the searching action should be of a radius that allows coverage of a good part of the terrain yet behaviour should also be attentive and diligent so that the relevant area is analysed properly. The gait should slow progressively in those zones the dog thinks it is best to evaluate further or in zones indicated by the handler; the searching action of the dog should be carried out mainly in front of the handler.
SENSE OF SMELL
The jury shall evaluate the concentration and power of the dog’s sense of smell vis-à-vis finding sites omitted by other competitors and its capacity to “follow its nose” when mature truffle emanations are carried by the wind; the dog must not be distracted by the odour of game or that left by other dogs;
RAPPORT WITH HANDLER
While the dog should demonstrate autonomy and determination it should also have a good rapport with the handler. It should not show fear, should direct the search in the direction indicated and return promptly when called except when it is about to start digging. The capacity to stop digging on command and bring the truffle to the handler shall be evaluated positively.
HOLE DIGGING (FORATE)
The judges shall take into consideration both the number of holes and their quality. These parameters are used to evaluate the efficiency of the dog’s action. Each subject shall also be made to work on terrain already explored by other competitors so that efficiency can be compared; the dog must dig decisively and, where interrupted by the handler, must recommence at his/her command:
The Judge shall issue a written comment on each competitor’s trial and shall express one of the final, overall judgements: NOT QUALIFIED, QUITE GOOD, GOOD, VERY GOOD, EXCELLENT.
Judgement shall take into account the subject’s age: with “young” subjects evaluation is based largely on inherent natural qualities, while in the “libera” class excellent training will be required.
For a dog to be evaluated it must have worked correctly and found at least one truffle.
The following defects and errors may involve penalisation or elimination:
- Uncoordinated searching carried out mainly behind the handler;
- Serious disobedience or excessive distance from handler;
- Any sustained searching for game;
- Physical defects and poor stamina;
- Abandoning the dig;
- More than two digs made without success.
Errors committed in the first minute shall never result in elimination.
The organisation must ensure that the public has as good a view of the trials as far as is compatible with the lie of the land. Spectators, who may be “rotated” to prevent formation of excessively large groups, must remain in absolute silence at least 20 metres behind the Jury and must not disturb the competitors in any way.