A Victoria man has trained his dog to have a keen nose for a highly sought-after delicacy. Fleka the black lab is trained to sniff out truffles.

Her owner, Thomas Maler, enjoys mushroom hunting and when he found out he could train his dog to hunt for the elusive and expensive fungi he jumped at the chance.

“I can’t do it on my own,” says Maler. “Because you can’t see [truffles], but it’s very exciting.”

Fleka and Maler first started hunting for truffles a year ago, after attending the Oregon Truffle Festival and meeting a dog trainer. Last year the pair successfully found two wild truffles in Washington and another six at a local truffle farm.

Maler says they haven’t been as successful in their ventures this year, but he's excited that Fleka discovered a truffle in a Victoria park. He suspects it could be an Oregon white truffle, and if he’s correct, it might mean that Fleka uncovered something with scientific significance.

The unseasonably cold winter put a damper on their hunting so Maler and Fleka were forced to stay in the backyard and train.

The duo practise twice a week and Maler hides scent markers around his yard for Fleka to find. He says it’s an activity they both enjoy.

“It’s like a hunt, it’s really exciting and she absolutely loves it. I think she likes the activity as well as the treats.”

Although she enjoys the activity, sometimes Fleka doesn’t want to participate.

“She has a mind of her own,” Maler says. “Sometimes she can’t hear you, and then suddenly she can.”

Maler says training Fleka has only made the bond between them stronger and he’s looking forward to next season.

“I’ll eat them and then I would invite friends over and have a truffle feast.”