Search This Blog

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Value of Efficient Training Lines - Part 2 "The Star"

by Andy Bensing

A "Star" is nothing more than an obstacle you put in a training line where the line just sort of becomes jumbled up and the dog must learn to figure it all out and find the exit out of the confused area. The pattern and size of the star is dependent upon your dog's experience level and what you are trying to teach the dog that day. I had somewhat randomly worked Eibe on a few stars in the past. This particular exercise was the beginning of what was to be a concerted effort to systematically teach the star at ever increasing degrees of difficulty. When you make a star on a training line it is important that you know the outside boundaries of where you walk so you can tell how the dog is working it. Memorizing boundaries if fine if you are good at that but I prefer to have an easily seen marker. I use pieces of cotton balls scrapped onto the bark of a tree or wedged into undergrowth. Your dog won't pass every marker for you to be able to pick them up so using something like cotton you can remain environmentally friendly without having the inconvenience of going back to pick up your flags. Cotton balls will fall to the ground and decay or most likely end up in a bird's nest.

On this training line I made a 30 meter diameter star as diagramed above. I put a wound bed in the middle with my thoughts being to encourage my dog to think about the "center" of the confused area and work out from there, much like I do when I am teaching efficient check work. The black line in the diagram shows the path my dog took to work the star out. As it turned out, this star configuration was not much of a challenge for my dog. As soon as she went out the other side (1) she treated it just like any check and went right back to the last point of contact with the line and treated it like a turn. Because of the way I configured the star Eibe was able to simply work the perimeter around the confused area until she encountered where she had originally entered the star (2). She retraced her steps through the wound bed and this time she turned left at the check (3). She worked the perimeter again in that direction until she found the single exiting line (4) and off she went. The whole thing took maybe 2 minutes, which was great on her part but in a way I was disappointed. I had expected it would be more difficult and she would really have to think about how to get out of the confused area and in the process perhaps learn something new. I don't think she learned too much on that exercise but I know I did on that star and the next star I ran the following week.
On this second star I did not put a continuous perimeter on the confused area hoping to cause the dog to struggle a bit more but again she aced it to my surprise. Both these exercises were of course good for the dog but I think I learned the most. I had always thought of confused areas for a dog to work out as a skill to be taught or learned separately just like a dog learning sharp turns or backtracks. But what I realized in watching my dog work these problems areas out is that it all falls back to fundamentals.

In a previous post Journey to the Win I talked about teaching my dog to be more efficient in her check work / search patterns and teaching circles a deer might make. I haven't written here about it but I also have spent time in the last 6 months getting her to master backtracks. Well the reason I believe she has had such success on the stars mentioned above is because the confused area is really just a combination of backtracks, checks, and circles. Look closely at the diagrams and you will see what I mean. On the first diagram (1) is just a normal check. As the dog travels from (1) to (2) to (3) it is just an overlaping circle. At (3) it is another check and simple tracking to (4) where she finds the exit, which is a skill previously taught when she learned about circles. In the second diagram you can see she simply worked it as a series of backtracks until the line exited. I certainly have to give my dog great credit for her ability to keep it so clear in her head but the basic skills used I think are obvious.

Just as I believe teaching a few basic obedience commands like down and come make for a solid foundation for you and your dog's relationship, a few basic skills well learned in tracking work make a solid foundation for the more advanced and difficult tracking scenarios. Here is a diagram of the next star I am going to try but at this point my guess is that she will ace it as well.
Next installment.......A water backtrack

Note: Before I finished writing this installment, I did get Eibe out on a training line with the type of star diagramed above. From the results of that line and much of the other work I have been doing with her it is becoming quite clear that she has been learning much more than I thought. As she entered and passed through this 40m meter star she seemed to immediately recognize that the best way to handle it was to get completely out of the mess and work it from afar. She very systematically went right out the other side and searched around it's perimeter, uncharacteristically far off the line for her, a good 30 meters away, until she found the exit. She actually reacquired the line almost 60 meters away from the star. She wasn't lost or just being inaccurate. It looked as though she just figured it made sense to get away from the mess. She spent almost no time in the middle of the star.
Brian asked: Andy excellent info. Do you use tracking shoes to train and are the diagrams you show from a Garmin Astro? Thanks.

Andy's response:
I almost always use tracking shoes to train. I use my GPS for all my tracking activities both real life and training but these diagrams are hand drawn, not from a GPS. The accuracy on any GPS would not be good enough to show the detail needed when you are dealing with short distances like 40 or 50 meters.

I don't know if Jolanta can do it or not but I will try and have her post here what the GPS map of the first diagram actually looks like. Where I actually walked is very much like the diagram but you will see that the GPS made it look quite differently and not as well organized as it truly was.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Just Beagles! The New Scotland Beagle Club SPO Trial

John and I are members of the New Scotland Beagle Club in Feura Bush, NY, and we have spent the last three days at the Small Pack Option Beagle Trial organized by our club. Below are some snapshots taken during the trial. I love beagles! True, we have only one beagle, Rip, who is now over eleven years old, but I have the utmost respect for the breed.

It was a pleasure to meet and talk to Sarah Harrington who together with her husband Ralph has been running Better Beagling magazine for over a year now. This superb publication is a great resource for the beagle field trialing and hunting community.


Related posts:

Blood tracking testing for NJ handlers

I received the info from Andy Bensing, who administered the testing over two weekends. We wrote about the first weekend at click here. Below is Andy's report about the second weekend of testing.

On Friday August 27, 2010 five NJ hunters traveled to Reading PA to take the United Blood Trackers UBT-I evaluation in hopes of qualifying for the Special Wildlife Management Permit researching the feasibility of the use of leashed blood tracking dogs in NJ. Four of the five passed the evaluation. Sam Palumbo and his drahthaar, Axel, John Drahos and his Labrador retriever, Kelsey, Harry Katon and his wirehaired dachshund, Duncan, and Darren Doran and his wirehaired dachshund, Karl all will be on this year's permit. Unfortunately, Stan Kite's dog Rilla was not able to qualify. Rilla is a very promising 3 month old puppy and Stan was taking a shot to try and get on the permit yet this year. Rilla is too young to do much real life blood tracking right now but by later in the season she will be 6 or 7 months old and if she could have qualified now, she would have been an asset to the permit then. I am sure she will make it for next year.
Dog Handlers left to right: John Drahos, Stan Kite, Harry Katon, Sam Palumbo. Andy Bensing, UBT Judge, standing in the middle in the back.

Darren Doran with his dog Karl passed the evaluation later in the day separate from the rest of the group. Darren is the coordinator for this year's NJ permit and without all his volunteer efforts, there likely would not even be a permit this year. Darren showed up later in the day in Reading PA because he first traveled from his Central Jersey home to NY state in the morning to take the NY State Leashed Blood Tracking License exam then had to drive home to Jersey, pick up his dog, and then drive 2 ½ hours to Reading for the UBT-I evaluation. Darren is quite a busy and dedicated guy.

In addition to the NJ trackers coming to PA to take the UBT evaluations, two non-new Jersey trackers recently took evaluations in PA as well. Andy Pedersen and his wire haired dachshund, Ruby, from southern Maryland passed the UBT-I and Troy Wallace and his wirehaired dachshund, Maggie, passed the more advanced UBT-II. Troy tracks in DE and MD but lives in PA which is a non-tracking state. He has been actively involved in helping to legalize tracking in PA and is hoping to be able to track in his home state by next year (2011).

Andy Bensing and Troy Wallace with Maggie

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blood tracking services in Alabama

Alabama Outdoor News has published a list of handlers who own trained blood tracking dogs and offer their services to hunters. For the full list click here. One of the handlers listed is Will Sims who owns a two-year-old wirehaired dachshund Roscoe (Frodo von Moosbach-Zuzelek). Will tracks in Tallapoosa County and surrounding area, and his phone number is (256) 749-2894.  This is a sample of Will and Roscoe's finds:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Deer Recovery of Pennsylvania

Deer Recovery of PA has been very active over the last few months soliciting support across the state for legalization of the use of leashed tracking dogs.  Legalization won't occur anymore this year but the stage seems to be set for big progress early next year when a new legislative session begins.  Their recently updated website includes a good video explaining blood tracking to the general public.  Go to 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Blood tracking in New Jersey in 2010

I asked Andy Bensing for a short update on the current situation with blood tracking in New Jersey. This is what he wrote:

NJ is again this year going to issue a special Wildlife Management Permit for the investigation of the feasibility of the use of leashed blood tracking dogs for finding unrecovered deer for hunters. The permit will allow trackers listed on the permit to use their dogs to help hunters recover their deer that they have been unable to recover themselves. There will be about 10 trackers across the state on the permit this year. A tracker can get on the permit one of two ways. Either he will have to have been on one of the previous permits issued the last 2 years or if new to the program, the tracker must pass a basic test of ability with his dog. All applicants must also be free of any wildlife code violation for the last 10 years.

On August 19th, two NJ handlers took a test offered by the United Blood Trackers organization near Hamburg PA. The United Blood trackers evaluation, the UBT-I, meets the NJ permit criteria to allow a handler on the permit. One of the two dogs taking the evaluation passed. Rich Stollery and his 1 1/2 year old bitch, November, passed with flying colors. I had the pleasure of judging this well coordinated team and treated them and anyone else within earshot to an instrumental announcement of their success in the finest European tradition.

Next week several more NJ trackers will be taking the UBT-I evaluation in hopes of getting on the permit. It is hoped that perhaps in the next year or two with the data collected on this permit, leashed blood tracking dogs will be legalized for any NJ hunter who would like to use one.

Andy Bensing and Rich Stollery with "Ember"
Fot more info on the UBT-I and UBT-II tests go to and click on Tracking Tests.

Recent articles on blood tracking dogs in the deer hunting press - part 1

Carney Easter and Dinky at UBT
Trackfest  in Alabama, 2009
The September issue of Bowhunter magazine has a nice article  Lost and Found: Trailing Dogs at Work by Clay Newcomb. The article starts with a story about a wounded buck recovery by a blood tracking team of Carney Easter and his dachshund Dinky from Arkansas. When Clay Newcomb made a poor shot he called Carney for help. A two-year-old Dinky found the buck in 20 minutes, 14 hours after the shot.

We know Carney, who is a member of the United Blood Trackers, but we did not know that John's book Tracking Dogs for Finding Wounded Deer played a role in Carney's choice of breed. In Carney's words: "The book talked about all aspects of blood trailing game with dogs. The author stated that the miniature dachshund had retained much of his hunting instincts, so I went out and bought one. At first it was just a tool, but now it has just become another very rewarding aspect of hunting for me".

The second part of article is dedicated to the United Blood Trackers. Carney is quoted "Ihe United Blood Trackers is dedicated to promoting resource conservation through the use of trained tracking dogs in the ethical recovery of big game. We support recovery efforts afield, the education of hunters, the training and testing of dog handlers and their dogs and legislative efforts to promote blood trailing". If you need help with recovery of your wounded deer, go to the UBT website and check handlers in your area by following the link "Find a tracker". The United Blood Trackers is a national organization, which accepts members from all states. You can join online by filling out an application and submitting payment ($25). It takes just few seconds.

Congratulations Carney on such a nice recovery and many thanks to you and Clay for promoting blood tracking!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More wirehaired dachshund puppies out of European bloodlines are on their way

Two and a half weeks ago, on August 2, FC Hexelein Pantel von Lowenherz "Hexel" bred and owned by Laurel Whistance-Smith was bred to our Tommy (FC Tom von Linteler-Forst). Hexel's sire is Henri Anons and her dam is Gabby Pantel von Lowenherz, CDX, TD, JE. This will be first litter for both Hexel and Tommy.

These are pictures of Hexel:

For more information about the upcoming puppies contact directly Laurel Whistance-Smith at

Then on August 15 another mating took place. This time "Pepper" (Pepper Berger von Arno Yergz) owned by Gail and Art Berger was bred to our Billy (FC Billy von Moosbach-Zuzelek, SchwhK, Wa.-T, BHP-1, BHP-2, BHP-3). This is a repeat breeding, which produced very good blood tracking dogs two years ago. Pepper was bred for blood tracking, and she a methodical tracking style of her grandmother Sabina von Moosbach-Zuzelek.

To get more information about this litter contact Gail at

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How we evaluate dachshund puppies for blood tracking.

Recently a breeder who is raising his first litter asked me "Are there certain things you see in the pups that help lean the odds in your favor when picking a top quality pup?" Eight years ago I wrote an article on how we evaluate dachshund puppies for their potential in blood tracking - see  I thought it might be useful to include a slightly modified section of this article here. The article is somewhat dated; now we start working with our puppies earlier. One thing has been constant though - we test our puppies at ten weeks and this way we can compare not only pups within a litter but also we can compare various litters.

A dachshund used for blood tracking has to have a good functional conformation, i.e. conformation that will allow it function well in the field and woods. The dog has to be able to track for several hours in a thick brush and briars and withstand the punishing cover well. The dog may have to go through streams and swamps, may be asked to track during rain or snow. Stamina and endurance go a long way. A good working coat is a big plus. The dog’s temperament is important because in many cases it has to track with a group of strangers (hunters) following. Other characteristics of great importance are desire to track, line sense, intelligence, concentration and focus, good nose, patience, courage, initiative and desire to please a handler. Tracking wounded deer is a team effort and a handler and his dog interact during tracking a lot. A handler may see some other signs that a wounded deer left behind (smears of blood left high on the shrubs) and when a dog is in doubt a handler will help the dog to figure out the track. Hence, a dog’s willingness to cooperate with a handler and its desire to please are not to be ignored.

It is our breeding goal to produce dachshunds that can function well in hands of hunters and trackers, but bear in mind that in a majority of tracking homes these dogs are also family pets. This is one of the great appeals of the dachshund to a hunter and handler – the dog can be so useful in the field and at the same time, it can be a cherished and beloved family companion.

Most dachshunds are very good with kids but there are some individuals with dominant and aggressive tendencies that should not be placed with families with young children. A responsible breeder will know his puppies and which ones are suitable to live with kids and which ones are not.
We start observing our puppies from their birth. All puppies have ribbons of different colors around their necks and this way we are never in doubt about “who is who”. At seven weeks, we perform the standard puppy aptitude test, which can predict temperamental tendencies quite well, but is not error-proof. We have had our share of surprises. We make sure that puppies are exposed to a wide variety of noises like a lawn mower, vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, blender, a whistle, TV etc. Once puppies are up and mobile, we take them for walks in the field and woods so they are exposed to a variety of natural scents. It is important that they are accustomed to heavy cover, wet grass, drizzle, and that they go outside when it is dark. A mild stress is beneficial at this stage.

We start to work our pups on deer blood early. Usually when we track for hunters, we end up with a freezer full of deer blood and deer organs (liver and heart). They are excellent for testing and training purposes.

Five-week-old puppies enjoying a deer liver
First, we thaw out the deer liver and we drag it across the lawn. The liver is placed at the end of line, which at the beginning is just about 20 yards long. We age the line for 15 minutes and then we test puppies individually. If you let all the pups come to the line in a group, there is just too much commotion, play and competitive racing. It takes time, but pups have to be tested individually. We score their performance on the scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the best. We pay attention to such questions as:  
  • Is it nose oriented?
  • Does it concentrate or is it easily distracted?
  • What kind of line control does it show?
  • What working style does it demonstrate?
  • Can it finish the line without help?
  • How does it react to the liver or other deer parts at the end?
We do this kind of conditioning/testing around two-four times a week. Notes and records are kept on each puppy’s progress. The scent line gets longer and is aged more with every week. One can say a lot about the puppy by the time it is 12 weeks old, not just its natural tracking ability, but also its intelligence, focus, courage, sensitivity to noise, self control. At the end of the testing session we let all the puppies play with the deer hide and observe them as a group and how individual puppies interact within the group. We watch if the pup is possessive of the hide. Does it growl at other pups? Is it determined to claim the hide as its own or does it walk away from it under pressure from other puppies?

What kind of performance would we score as a ”10”? We would like to see an intense interest in the scent of deer blood. A puppy should be able to figure out pretty quickly that there is a line of scent i.e. scent leads from point A to point B, and be able to follow it. If a puppy gets off line, it should be able to correct itself and get back on it. We like a relatively calm and slow pup, not a speed demon that overruns its nose all the time. Focus and intensity are very important. A pup that gets very easily distracted by other things around and cannot focus on the track is a rather poor prospect. We like to see a pup showing interest and some aggressiveness towards the parts of deer left at the end of line. The pup that acts fearful or is turned off by them does not score very well. Not all good tracking dogs are intensely interested in the “find”. There are some that just love tracking and do not care much about what they find at the end of line, but they should not be afraid of a piece of deer hide.

Some pups are very precocious and at 9-12 weeks show an amazing aptitude. There are also some that, even though not precocious, show a steady progress. And then, occasionally, there are puppies that do not show any promise at all and in this case, we sell them as pets.

In a 2002 litter, one of the six pups was apprehensive when approaching the deer organs and hide, and even though he tried to follow the line, he was all over the place and was getting distracted very easily. At 14 weeks, we sold him as a pet and received a letter from the buyer few weeks later: "The last week with Gipper has been just great. He is eating well, playing boldly, and only showing occasional stubbornness on the leash. He takes to the water very well, and has seen and smelled his first deer. I think the only thing limiting his tracking ability is his concentration--he gets distracted very easily." Most likely, this lack of focus will stay with Gipper for a long time to come.

We keep in touch with the buyers and we get a lot of feedback on the dogs we have sold. This really helps to evaluate our breeding decisions. Since we, ourselves, can only work with few dogs at a time, we rely on what we hear back from the hunters. In many cases, we make a hard decision not to keep the best dog for ourselves because we know we would not be able to realize the full potential of the dog. Such a dog would be better off with a hunter, where it would be the only dog and would get a lot of work. In cases like this, we usually arrange to keep breeding rights on the dog and ask not to neuter/speay the pup.

The testing system described is not carved in stone; it evolves constantly. We have not invented it all by ourselves – it is derived from what we have learned from others plus our own experience. It has been serving us rather well. The records are also very helpful when it comes to planning future litters.

Related posts:

Related videos:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A new generation of blood trackers is born

During the night of August 7 a new generation of blood tracking puppies was born. Mariel von Munterkeit owned by Gentian and Beth Shero whelped a litter of six healthy, vigorous puppies - 2 girls and 4 boys. Our Billy is a proud papa. You can read more about the breeding and whelping at

Both parents are of dark wild boar color, and puppies seem to be very dark too. This is a very attractive color and in Germany it is called dunkel-saufarben. Pups' weights were  from 9 to 11 ounces (not too big and not too small), and they have gained some weight already. We are excited about this breeding and are looking forward to many reports on them. Congratulations to Mariel, and of course to Gentian and Beth.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

New litter of wirehaired dachshunds in Iowa

Yesterday Brian Hibbs' wirehaired dachshund  Scout whelped three puppies - two boys and one girl. Congratulations!

If you are interested in a puppy, contact Brian directly at

The sire of this litter is a very accomplished male dachshund out of our breeding FC Attila von Moosbach-Zuzelek ("Bear")  owned by Henry Holt from Illinois:

Henry with Bear and the buck they recovered

Monday, August 2, 2010

DEC Leashed Tracking Dog Handler Exam - August 27

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has announced that the exam for obtaining a leashed tracking dog license will be held on August 27. The deadline for registration is August 20. More details are given at

John's book for deer hunters Dead On! gets its first review

Because we are so busy with puppies we have not been able to promote John's book Dead On! as much as we'd like. The book is available right now through Amazon and you can get it at click here for $12.55. It can also be purchased directly from us at with free shipment.  The volume discounts are available and if interested, e-mail me at

Yesterday the book was reviewed by Will Elliott in the Buffalo News in the article titles Enlightment from Two Expert Authors. If you would like to read the whole review click here. "The book counters many more long-held misconceptions about deer shot-placement and tracking procedures."

If you read the book, let us know what you think. How could it be improved? Leave you comments at THANK YOU!

Using deer liver drags for puppy training

Our puppies are now ten weeks old and soon will be going to their new homes. When the weather allows and it is not too hot, they get some preliminary training and testing on fresh deer liver drags. At the age of ten weeks pups are not ready yet for aged blood lines. It is difficult however to work them on the fresh blood as they stop and lick blood droplets or smears off the grass and ground. The advantage of deer liver is that it leaves a strong scent but no blood to lick.

Below is a video of Quentin taken yesterday. The scent line created by dragging deer liver was around 70 yards and had three turns. Quentin was very impressive - motivated and driven, close to the line, and very much interested in the liver. This is what we like to see.

To watch this video in a different resolution click here.

Advanced blood tracking training

The Value of Efficient Training Lines - Part 1

By Andy Bensing

It takes a lot of time and effort to set up a good blood tracking training line for an experienced dog so I am a big believer in getting as much as possible out of that time for both dog and handler. I had a great day training this morning with my dog Eibe, which was in big part the result of setting the line up with specific goals in mind for my dog. I never just" lay a line out" for my dogs. I always have a plan.

This particular line was 650m long in a hardwood forest and had two major obstacles for my dog to work out. The first was a 30m diameter "star" and the second was a 30m backtrack in a shallow stream. Additionally on this line I had several small wound beds with pieces of deerskin laying on them for the dog to indicate. The track was laid with tracking shoes. I am working on using less and less blood with my dog and on this line I squirted blood on one hoof every 200 steps. In addition to a couple of turns, I had a 50m wide "hook" in the line near the end. Deer often circle around to watch their back trail before bedding down; often found dead in that bed. If I were working with a less experienced dog, I would never pack so much into one training line. But my dog has been doing great lately, and all these scenarios I set up were just expansions on things she had successfully done before. In a series of short articles I plan to explain each part of what I did on this training line and how each plan worked out.

Weaning off Blood
If you want to work with less and less blood, one option is to put less blood on the line and see what happens with the dog. That's fine if the dog can do it, but what if he can't and begins to struggle a lot? Or worse yet, just quits due to the difficulty? I guess you learn something about your dog in that situation, but I would prefer to salvage the day in that case and give the dog an incentive to try even harder next time he has difficulty.
There are several ways you can safely wean your dog from blood on the line, but the one I have been using lately is to put less and less blood. When the blood gets really thin, as I am pushing the dog's known limits from previous training lines, I have the line come to a wound bed or marking point (piece of skin, bone, or hair). Using tracking shoes works great for this by putting the blood on just one hoof and refreshing the blood at greater and greater distances. As you walk the blood coming off the hoof naturally gets thinner and thinner as it wears off the hoof until there is no actual wet blood coming off. Only hoof scent is being transferred to the ground. (Dabbing in the same manner or putting more and more distance between squirts will accomplish the same thing.) By having this spot of heavy scent available, if the dogs is really struggling with the thin blood, I will have a good chance of carefully manipulating him towards the bed without him realizing it. When the dog finds the bed, this relieves the stress that has developed while he was trying so hard. Perhaps this gives the dog incentive to keep trying longer next time before giving up. I always have my dog lie down on the special the sign I left at the bed, and I give him a piece of meat as a reward for finding it. This gives the dog also a chance to rest mentally and physically before continuing.
Coming out of the bed I will have the dog continue on a thin blood line that I have laid. My reasoning is that the refreshed dog will have an easier time with the difficult conditions after the rest period at the bed. I continue on a thin blood trail for 30 to 50m coming out of the bed. At this point I will have refreshed the blood on the hoof and let it dwindle away again. With the heavier blood only 30 to 50m away, there is a good chance that the dog will bump into it, even if he is unable to track directly out of the bed on the thin blood. He will have a successful continuation of the line. Of course like with any training line, everything must be well marked in the field so you can see it coming as you work your dog. I put double ribbons to mark a wound bed or sign location and hang the ribbons pointing up to indicate where I change from light to normal or heavy blood. I like to use clothes pins with colored tape for marking. They go on and off easily and allow me a lot of flexibility in positioning them on a branch to indicate different things that I do when I lay the line.
Eibe’s Performance on this Line:
As it turned out, Eibe had no trouble with the thin blood and the minor trouble I went to in laying the line in the above way was not necessary. The thinner blood made her work a bit harder at places, but she did not need me to "save" her anywhere. I did notice, however, that at the points where I refreshed the hoof, she would speed up indicating the tracking was easier. This is common sense and might not seem noteworthy to the reader, but it led me to a thought I had not considered before. What are "Hard" conditions for my individual dog? In the future I will experiment with increasingly difficult conditions even to the point of ridiculousness, but I will always have a planned safety to save the day before she actually quits.
With this idea of saving the day in mind, I had a similar experience just a few days ago on a 1100m training line that had been washed away by a thunder storm less than an hour after I had laid it out. When I went back the next day to try and run that line it was nearly impossible for my Eibe to follow it. I had refreshed the hoof every 100 steps on that line but Eibe took ten minutes to go the first 30 meters, and that was about it. After about 20 more minutes of very systematic searching on her part she got frustrated and picked up another incorrect natural line and just started to track it. I corrected her verbally with "NO", and she went back to searching. As luck would have it, she then searched down a logging trail that crossed the line in an area near where I had refreshed the hoof. She picked up a small piece of the line which led her in a direction where she wind scented a wound bed with a small piece of skin in it. When she found the wound bed and lay down on it, I do not know who was happier, Eibe or me. I praised the heck out of her and gave her all the meat in my pocket as a reward and called it a day. I mention this experience not to point out how wonderful my dog is (although she really is quite wonderful and amazing ), but rather to show how having a plan, and having things well-marked can pay off big time in training.
As soon as I saw that the line I had laid was almost imperceptible to Eibe because of the rain, I formulated a new plan. I decided to see how long and efficiently my dog would search when there was almost nothing there to find. I hoped to learn something about my dog. I could do this safely because I knew there were several locations not too far away where I could give the dog an opportunity to successfully find something if things got too difficult.
So I did learn that my dog will search for 30 minutes without wavering; she learned that if she stops searching and tries to follow "junk" I will catch her, but that if she just keeps trying, even when she wants to give up, she will eventually be successful on the original line. That's all good stuff!
Next installment.....
The "Star"

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Blood tracker's lettuce

posted by John

It won’t be long before we are tracking deer again. The old legs and the old eyes are good for at least one more year. I want to share with you a secret I’ve learned for keeping my aged vision sharp. It helps me see those occasional drops of blood that verify my tracking dog’s work. I call it “blood tracker’s lettuce” and we use it in our salads during the summer. As you eat this salad, with its dull red spots, your eyes naturally become attuned to spotting the same thing on the leaves of the forest floor. Sometimes the lettuce seems to develop a funny taste, but the benefit to your eyes makes it all worthwhile.

If you want to try it, “blood tracker lettuce” can be purchased under the name of Forellenschluss lettuce at