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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Announces Leashed Tracking Dog Handler Exam

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that a written examination for individuals interested in obtaining a license to use leashed tracking dogs to find wounded or injured big game animals is scheduled for Friday, August 28, 2009, from 10 a.m. until noon at designated DEC regional offices. All applicants for this exam must register before August 21.

Before this exam was first offered in 1990, DEC conducted experimental testing with a small group of leashed tracking dog handlers. Now there are approximately 160 licensed handlers in the State. The leashed tracking dog license is valid for five years.

For further information or to apply to take the exam, please contact:

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Special Licenses Unit
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-4752

Eligible applicants will be sent a letter of confirmation and a list of exam sites. The application fee is $25, which is non-refundable. In addition, the license fee is $50, payable at the same time as the application fee. If an applicant fails the exam, the $50 license fee is refunded.

Deer Search conducts seminars preparing for the DEC tests.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Deer Search Blood Tracking Workshop

This is a long overdue short report from the Deer Search Workshop written by John.

On June 14 six new handlers from the Founding Chapter met for a workshop on training and using dogs to find wounded deer and bear. The event took place at the club house and grounds of the 110 Rod and Gub Club in Dutchess County. Deer Search Blood Tracking Chairman Bill Siegrist and John Jeanneney offered indoor presentations on training and natural tracking tactics.

About half of the workshop took place outdoors in the rough terrain and woods around the club house. Training lines were laid for three Jagdterriers and three wirehaired dachshunds. There was a good opportunity to compare the working styles of the two breeds. Of the Jagdterriers (who all worked quite fast) Lou DiBiase’s Hunter did the best job of staying on the blood line leading to the deer hide.

Mariel, a wild boar wirehaired dachshund owned by Beth and Gentian Shero, followed her blood line with precision (Beth and Gentian are daughter and son-in-law of John Robinson, who is an experienced handler). Both of the dachshunds handled by Gentian and Beth showed great promise. Obviously the two young handlers had profitted from good coaching by the Old Master.

Barbara Schmidt and her boyfriend Bill made the arrangements at 110, and provided the good food that kept everyone going.

Jagdterrier (above) and Wirehaired Dachshund (below) - pics taken at the workshop

Friday, July 17, 2009

Question about training a dachshund puppy for blood tracking

We got this e-mail from David from Louisiana:

I recently got a female puppy. She is ten weeks of age. I placed a line for her with a deer liver about 60 yards long. She did good at the start with her nose to the ground. The further she goes her nose tends to come off the ground and she will drift off the trail. I put a turn at the end of the trail and she had trouble with this. How long of lines should I put her on? How many a week?Should I start using deer blood alone? Should I put a deer hide at the end of the line? What should I do if she loses interest on the line? I would appreciate any info.

John's answer:

Hi Dave,

Keep in mind that ten weeks is a young age for puppies to start showing a strong interest in tracking. Some will display strong tracking motivation even before ten weeks, but we have had some good ones who didn't show us much before 13 or 14 weeks. You have to be patient and keep in mind that even when a puppy is not performing well, that little brain is being stimulated as it grows. You will see the benefits later.

Before working a liver drag it is important to make sure that the pup knows just how good that liver tastes. Before you drag the liver to the end and wait a half hour, tease the pup with the liver chunk by swinging it on the cord. Let the pup have a short chew to motivate her when she tracks a little later and gets a chance to eat a little bit.

At ten weeks I would begin working her on a 20' leash of light plastic clothes line. You can guide her slightly and keep her focused by stopping her when she veers off the line. Let her find her own way back to the scent line if possible.

When she gets to the 90 degree turn, stop her gently if she just keeps on going straight ahead. If she does not come back on her own and search for the line, pick her up and set her down on the line again before the turn. Then you can give her some hints with some gentle pulls on the leash.

As for length of the line, start her on 40 or 50 yards and then give her longer lines when she seems capable of handling them. We have 12 week old puppies working 200 yard lines, but every pup has its own time table.

I think that two lines a week is about right, but you have to play the weather. Don't ask her to track any distance when it is 90 degrees outside.

I have found that a liver drag is easier for a pup than a deer blood line with the drops spaced every 12-18 inches. If you have enough deer liver, stick with that until she is doing a good job over 100 yards.

The limiting factor in puppy work is the immature brain, not the nose. Your pup has more than enough nose to smell a liver drag that is two hours old. Start with lines that are at least a half hour old and cover the liver at the end with an inverted feed bowl to keep the flies off. On older lines you should go and replace the liver at the end of the line just before you track.

I would start putting a square foot piece of thawed-out deerskin at the end of the line. Encourage her to grab and shake it.

When she seems to lose interest in tracking, it is fine to give her a vacation of a week or ten days. However, don't let her quit in the middle of a training line. Get her through it to the end and praise her "find", even if you have to give her a lot of help. In general it is better to work puppies before you feed them. Then hunger will be a stronger motivation as they track to the goodies.

There is no single cookbook recipe good for training all puppies. Sometimes you have to play things by ear.

Water Dachshunds! Yes, they can swim and retrieve.

by Jolanta Jeanneney, DCA Newsletter, 2008

Dachshunds are small versatile hunting dogs recognized for their many talents in the field. In North America they are used for tracking wounded game, woodchuck hunting and falconry. Yet, we hardly ever think of dachshunds as the breed able to retrieve waterfowl from water. Wrong!!! Some dachshunds absolutely love water, and the ones who don’t usually can be persuaded to enjoy it, especially when they are introduced to water at an early age.

Many dachshund owners are probably not aware that a “water test” plays an important part of dachshund field testing system in many European countries. In Germany a test for the companion dog title includes evaluating the dog’s attitude to water. The handler throws a floating object at least 20 feet into deep water, and the dog is supposed to bring object back to shore. There is also a separate test in which two shots are fired from a shotgun while a duck is thrown 20 to 26 feet out into deep water. The dog is expected to swim out, retrieve the duck and bring it back to the owner. The VJT, a German club for hunting dachshunds, offers an even more challenging test as a dachshund tested does not see when and where a duck is thrown into water. The dog must find the duck by himself in the body of water, and a shot is fired when the dog is swimming towards the duck. The shot actually goes into the water in front of the swimming dog.

Even if you are not interested in using or developing your dog for bird retrieval from water, it is great fun to enjoy water together with your dachshund. Swimming is an enjoyable and effective exercise in summer when the weather is just too hot for a vigorous activity such as running or even walking.

Familiarize your dog with water gradually. Never force or throw the dog into water as nothing can be more counterproductive. Some dogs do not need an elaborate introduction to water at all. When they see other dogs swimming, they go in and start swimming too.

However, some dogs, and especially puppies, need to become familiar with water in a step-by-step fashion. First, you could take them for walks to shallow streams and brooks and cross the water without making a big fuss about it. On subsequent walks, go into somewhat deeper water. You will see whether the dog is comfortable when he loses his footing. You can entice him to go away from you a bit if you throw an object that the dog has been trained to retrieve on land.

We have a small pond on our property, and our dogs swim in summer at every opportunity we get. I know that watching the pleasure our dogs get from swimming is good for my soul. Some of them are obsessive retrievers, and the whole thing is about swimming after the object and bringing it back. And doing it again…and again…and again. Some just love swimming. But the highest prize for “joie de vivre” in water goes to Bernie. He absolutely loves the water. He jumps in, paddles in such a way that the water splashes all around him. Then he barks while he tries to catch the droplets. When you watch him, you cannot help but smile. To be useful for waterfowl retrieving, Bernie would have to go through a structured training to learn “fetch and give”, but we enjoy his antics in water so much that we let him be just a pure pleasure hound.

Puppies should be introduced to water early, when they are bursting with curiosity and enthusiasm, before they enter a fear-phase in their development. It certainly helps when their puppyhood falls into the summer months. The pups in the picture are just nine-weeks-old; they did not show any inhibition about getting into the water, especially when they saw that we were wetting our feet as well.

Dogs develop at their own rate; some are precocious, some are not. In 2008 we imported two pups from Germany, Joeri and Tommy, whose difference in age is 6 weeks. The picture shows a 5-month-old Joeri who loves to swim and retrieve. For a month he watched older dogs swimming, and then he took his first plunge when he was 4.5 months old. A 3.5-month-old Tommy is really tempted to join his playmate but he is not ready yet.

If you do not have access to waterfowl, you can use retrieving training dummies and bumpers. They can be purchased from outfits like Here Billy is shown with his favorite duck dummy. As a pup Billy was not a natural water dog. John applied training techniques used for retrievers, and now Billy is reliable retriever on land and water.

Bernie at full cry, trying to catch droplets of water, which he splashes on purpose. More in this video:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Joeri's woodchuck

This is Joeri with the woodchuck he killed. The dachshund is a very versatile hunting breed.

Training a blood tracking puppy with scent (tracking) shoes

Some puppies and adults are not that interested in fake blood trails, and tracking shoes that leave tracks of actual deer hooves are an useful training tool in such situations. To lay a scent line you use a little deer blood, but the dog tracks the interdigital scent of the deer for the most part. For some dogs it maintains the their interest much better than artificial blood trails.

The scent shoes look like heavy rubber sandals that you strap to your rubber boots. There is a well-made aluminum casting attached to the heel, and on this casting are mounted two hose clamps, one above the other. The two sets of hose clamps, one on each sandal, firmly hold deer hoofs. You can walk along through the woods and fields and easily lay a deer track.

Yesterday we tried the scent shoes with Poppy, a 15-week-old pup who seems quite indifferent when it comes to the blood scent. Yet, we can see that in other situations she uses her nose very well. She is game aggressive as she was very possessive of the woodchuck that the pups cornered in their pen.

The line we prepared was easy, around 45 minutes old, 150 yards long, mainly done with scent shoes and some deer blood.To see what happened, watch the video clip.

The tracking shows can be purchased from the United Blood Trackers online store.

Below I have included John's article that was published in Full Cry in 2006 dealing with training to track an individual deer and the use of scent shoes.

What a Tracking Dog Can Do by John Jeanneney

I guess we’re stuck with the term ” blood tracker” but it’s certainly misleading as a description of the whole job that a tracking dog can do. Yes, a trained blood tracker can follow a heavy or a light blood trail, but his real value becomes apparent when there is no blood at all to be seen.

The lack of visible blood may be due to rain or snow cover, which are not much of a problem for a good dog. But my dogs have taught me that they can be a big help when there was never any blood on the ground to begin with.

On December 18, 2004, I shot a buck with my muzzle loader. It was a long, standing shot, but I was almost positive, on the basis of his reaction, that I had hit him hard. I went down to the hit site to check things out. There was no hair; the brisk wind could have explained that. But there was absolutely no blood either. I worked out along his escape direction for a hundred yards; there was not a drop of blood and no drag marks or other sign in the frozen leaves. Finally, I went back to the house and got my tracking dog Sabina. Equipped with her tracking leash, my handgun and a light we went back down to the hit site. Now I let Sabina check it out.

“Yes”, she said. “You hit him hard!” Let me explain that I "read” Sabina a lot in the woods by her body language. I had full confidence now, but we tracked more than a half a mile before I saw a spot of blood. Shortly after that we jumped the deer. What followed was a long and exciting chase that I’ll tell another time. The point I want to make now is that a smart dog’s nose can tell us all kinds of thing about a deer. There’s a lot more to it than just letting the dog tow you along in the direction that the deer went.

You don’t want to spend a whole day trying to track a deer that is only slightly wounded. A skilled dog will show you the widely separated blood drops and smears that tell you where the deer is hit… perhaps too high (high blood smears) or perhaps too far back so that you know you have a gut shot deer, destined to die for certain. A dog can certainly pick up the scent particles that drift off a wounded deer; they know the deer is wounded for sure. But I’ve discovered that they also use other kinds of scent to recognize and follow an individual deer.

I‘ve been learning a lot by using a fancy German invention called the Faehrtenschu. (You have to be very careful how you pronounce this word) I had some doubts about the Faehrtenschu at first, but now I am convinced that it is the best advanced training tool we have short of actually tracking real wounded deer.

Very briefly the Faehrtenschue are like heavy rubber sandals that you strap to your rubber boots. There is a well-made aluminum casting attached to the heel, and on this casting are mounted two hose clamps, one above the other. The two sets of hose clamps, one on each sandal, firmly hold deer hoofs.

You can walk along through the woods and fields and easily lay a deer track. Of course a smart dog knows that this is not the real thing, but he likes to track it anyway. At first I dribbled a little blood along sections of the “F” shoe track, but then I stopped using blood altogether and found that it worked just as well. I could lay out a track in the early evening, and then my dog would follow it twelve hours later. He did this through alfalfa fields and wooded areas that I knew had been frequented by deer during the night. He was also able to do this on a 24 hour line if the conditions were decent.

The dog was probably following the interdigital scent from the deer feet in the “F” shoes, but I wondered if he was also using my own human scent to help him stay on the line. My wife pointed out that in the summer I often have so much human scent that a duck could track me.

Well, I tried an experiment. First I used lots of deer hunting soap in all the right places. Then one evening I laid out a half mile line in open fields, marking it with widely spaced, red surveyors’ flags. Then I changed the deer feet in the “F” shoes to those from a different deer. Early the next morning I laid cross trails with the new feet cutting back and forth across the original track. I marked the new cross lines with pink flags that were not set right on the intersection where they would be a clue for the dog.

My human scent was on both the original track and the cross tracks laid with feet from the second deer. When I worked the dog at mid morning, he hesitated a moment at the intersections, but then he always took the proper, original line. It was pretty clear that for him each set of deer feet had a distinctive, individual deer’s scent. Probably the individuality was in the scent given off by the waxy substance in the interdigital glands which are positioned on top of the foot where the two cloven halves come together. This scent, which is not placed in direct contact with the ground, holds up amazingly well. All this made me wonder if dogs rely on interdigital scent much more than we realize when they are tracking a wounded deer.

The ability to track individual animals certainly applies to following a wounded bear with a tracking dog. This is obvious to bear hound men, but may not be so obvious to others. I find that bear foot print scent lasts over 40 hours, and this is what a dog has to go on when all blood is absorbed by the fat and hair. You are lucky to have the dog show you a blood smear on a tree trunk every few hundred yards. This confirms the line, but it is not what the dog is tracking.

I have actually had hunters tell me, “ I didn’t call you because there wasn’t any blood except right at the beginning. I thought you had to have blood for a blood tracking dog.” There are times when I wish that the term “ blood tracker” had never been invented!

From Full Cry, October 2006, p 66.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tired dog - Emma after running rabbits for two hours

Today Emma ran rabbits for two hours. This is how she looked like when she was done.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A video of a blood tracking wirehaired dachshund puppy working a deer liver drag

Today we have been working with our wirehaired dachshund puppies, and decided to post a video clip of the best track of the day. Grock is 13 weeks old today, and he worked a deer liver drag, which was 2 hours old, around 200 yards long. There were many turns and you can see them marked with red flags (Grock did not see the flags the way they were placed). There was a breeze, and temp was 70F.

Grock is still very much a puppy; you can see it when he comes across a piece of the black plastic and starts to carry it. But his nose made him follow the scent line regardless distractions. He had a lot of trouble in one spot when he had to take a right turn into the wide open path, where there was a strong breeze. Otherwise he nailed it, and you can see really well how he corrected himself at the checks. He tracks at a high speed but so far he has been quite precise. For that performance we gave him a 9 on the scale of 0 to 10.