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Friday, April 9, 2010

Learning about European teckels - part 1 of our trip to Germany and France (1999)

This report was written by John in October 1999, after our return from the two-week trip to Germany and France. We visited seven breeders, attended hunting tests and shows, and took along our two dachshunds, Sabina and Vamba. This most informative trip was all about European dachshunds. Even though John brought his first German dachshund in 1965, in 1999 we were in need of new hunting bloodlines.

On September 1, 1999 we landed at Düsseldorf in the heart of the industrial Ruhr Valley. We picked up our reserved rental car, loaded our two dogs and luggage and headed for Embken, west of Cologne in a pocket of agricultural land tucked up against the eastern Dutch border. There in a small wooded valley, several light years from Düsseldorf is the old mill of the von Dornenfeld Kennels presided over by Frau Lore Schlechtingen and her patient husband Helmut.

Lore Schlechtingen was the facilitator who made things happen during our trip, and she merits a substantial introduction. For over twenty years our friendship, which began with the purchase of a dachshund, had been carried on by letter and telephone. Although we had never met, she had taught me more about blood tracking and the motivation of tracking dogs than anyone else. Lore Schlechtingen has been a top breeder of working wires, both standards and minis, and her specialty, for both the big and the little dogs, has always been blood tracking. She is also a visionary, who is globally minded when it comes to dachshunds. This vision was behind her support of Deer Search and later her endeavors to introduce Americans to the broader FCI world of dachshund shows and working tests.

John Jeanneney and Lore Schlechtingen (Sept 1999)

The inside walls of the renovated water mill were covered with dog photos and trophies, which somehow fitted in very well with three carved late medieval madonnas of museum quality. Even though there were about 50 dachshunds there were no kennel dogs in the American sense. The adjoining house two acre piece of land was divided into seven fenced pens where during the day dachshunds lived and dug together in social groups of six or seven. We saw similar arrangements when we visited other breeders. Usually puppies live with their parents or other relatives; stud dogs patiently tolerate the puppy-foolishness of their offspring. GS Puck vom Dornenfeld demonstrated that an outstanding fox dog can be laid back and friendly to people and dogs.

at the Schlechtingens' place

We visited seven breeders and we never saw the typical American kennel arrangement where there is a single dog to a run. At the Schlechtingens’ place all the dogs are brought home for the night and they sleep in their own crates or beds.

We spent two days with the Schlechtingens – we went over their dogs, but also had a chance to go the woods to work Sabina on two training blood lines, laid by Lore Schlechtingen’s friend. We could see how tracking conditions were affected by the bulldozer work of wild boars. We also came across a badger den, something we have never encountered in Dutchess and Albany County.

Above - Sabina on a training line
Below -  a badger den 

The third day of our trip found us driving to eastern France to see Hubert Stoquert, the man who gave me my first lessons in training blood tracking dogs. He was also a breeder of two dogs that I imported from France, Oslo and Sherif du Bellerstein. The visit was informative, though we left with mixed feelings. As it turned out, Hubert Stoquert is not tracking any more, but his son Patrice is very active in the field. He took over 100 calls last year, but we were surprised to learn that his dog of choice is a Labrador Retriever.

From the left: Hubert and Patrice Stoquert, John Jeanneney

at the Stoquerts' place
From France we had to drive a short distance to Stuttgart. We had taken two of our dogs to Germany, so that we would be able to see from the inside how the FCI system of shows and tests worked. Our first exposure to this came when we went with Frau Schlechtingen to the international all-breed indoor show at Stuttgart; we realized then how profoundly the FCI system of dog shows differs from the AKC system.

Most appealing was the procedure of having the judge dictate an evaluation of each dog. Each dog gets undivided attention from a judge as there is only one dog judged at a time. The dog is put on the judging table and judge goes over a dog in a great detail and dictates his critique to a secretary. The secretary's typewriter is right on the long judging table, and our dogs, unused to such noisy antiques, were all set to pounce upon the squatty, rattling creature. The exhibitor of each dog receives at the end of show a copy of the judge's evaluation, which is meticulously detailed. Much more attention is paid to dentition. In addition to correct bites all molars must be present. If a molar is missing the dog is rated "unacceptable for breeding."

at the Stuttgart show

FCI judges also pay more attention to dachshund tails than their American counterparts. The judges feel each tail vertebrae and any hidden kink or deformity can be a basis for the "unfit for breeding" designation. This is believed to be an indicator that there may be spinal weaknesses as well; these dogs are rated less than sehr gut (very good). In the German view a dachshund that is rated gut (good) is really not very good at all. Two wirehaired dachshunds were disqualified because of the poor behavior on the table during examination. They were not used to handling, did not let the judge look at their teeth and therefore were excused from the ring.

After the evaluation on the table the dog is gaited according to judge’s instructions. Dogs should be gaited on a loose lead, and the whole procedure is informal and relaxed. At the end the exhibitor waits in the ring with a dog standing in a natural position. This may take several minutes as a judge watches the dog and dictates the finishing touches of his evaluation. There is no stacking since the judges are interested in how the dog stands naturally. After each dog from a class is evaluated individually, the whole class is brought to the ring together and all dogs are gaited again. This is when the placements within a class are awarded.

The emphasis in this show was on soundness, balance and adherence to the standard. A lot of attention was paid to ground clearance in dachshunds. The FCI standard states that it must be one third the shoulder height of the dog. The judge found that both of our bitches, including Sabina who is 100% FCI breeding, were too low. Sabina was rated “gut” because of her low station, excessive size (22 pounds) and a slightly high rear. Vamba, who had similar size and ground station, but a correct topline and more elegance slipped by with a sehr gut. Judging was to a different standard, but it was rigorous. Sabina and Vamba are certainly not low-stationed dogs by AKC standards.

The quality of European dachshunds should not be judged on the basis of the average dog, which the Germans export as pets. Perhaps we were biased, but the standard wires in Germany seemed better than the longs and smooths. Keep in mind that wires represent about two thirds of the DTK registry with longs second and smooths making up only 1/9 of the DTK dogs registered. At the show in Stuttgart there were 28 wires, 13 smooths and 12 longs. Heads in the smooths that we saw did not seem very good but we did not see any narrow, Borzoi type heads. For some reason the dachshunds that we encountered on out trip made a better impression than those pictured in the Der Dachshund magazine and the DTK studbook. We would like to have a better explanation, but it seemed to us that Germans concentrate more upon breeding good dachshunds than upon photographing them.

We did not see many minis at the Stuttgart show, and in general they are proportionately less numerous than minis in North America. FCI minis are divided into two classifications. The zwerg or dwarf teckels are defined on the basis of their chest measurement, between 30 and 35 centimeters. The kaninchen or rabbit teckel is literally bred slender enough (under 30 cm. chest measurement) so that it can go down a rabbit den and flush out the residents.
Dress, even at this big show, was more casual than what you would find at an AKC show. It was amusing to talk to some exhibitors who despite their hunting clothing were not really hunters. Hunting is associated with dachshunds and the hunter's look is part of the tradition. How different it is at dachshund shows in America.

From Stuttgart we rushed to the Hartz mountains for a blood tracking test for Sabina who is an experienced natural tracker of wounded big game. We had prepared carefully with training lines at home and again in Germany on the Schlechtingen hunting preserve. The bulldozer-like rooting of wild boars across the blood trail was something that we were prepared for, but Sabina's general loss of intensity and focus was a surprise to me. Jet lag, too many kilometers on the autobahn, new surroundings; any excuse will do I suppose, but it took all of my skill to get her through to a passing score. I learned that it was not easy to drop a dog down onto a new continent without a short-term loss of performance. There were other dogs in the test that did better, and they were good looking dogs as well. What continued to amaze us was the number of beautiful, hard coated wires of all ages. You saw them at shows, of course, but you also them at hunting tests.

Opening ceremony of the blood tracking test

Jolanta with a German dachshund puppy

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