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Friday, July 17, 2009

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:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That was so interesting. I've read about water tests for dachshunds, but I've never actually seen one swim.

Do you think that wire-haired dachshunds have a touch of poodle or barbet in them?