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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Journey to the Win - Part 1

Ten days ago Andy Bensing and his German import Eibe von Merreche won the Deer Search Blood Tracking Competition with the Prize 1, 100-point-score performance. Andy is a close friend of ours, and since he imported Eibe two and a half years ago we have heard occasional updates about Eibe's training and performance. Some of them did not sound too good. For this reason I asked Andy to write an article for this blog about his training approach with Eibe. I was curious myself and thought that we all could learn something new here.  Andy's article exceeded my expectations in the depth and detail. It is nine-page long so I am going to post it in three installments, few days apart. Thank you Andy for a super job!

For those who have not met Andy, a short intro is in order. Andy knows dogs as he is a professional dog trainer, and he operates a busy boarding kennel in Reading, PA. He is addicted to blood tracking and is President of the United Blood Trackers. He is a blood tracking judge for the UBT, Deer Search and a hunting judge for the DTK/NATC.

Journey to the Win - Part 1
Identification of problems and development of training strategy

by Andy Bensing

I had great expectations 2 ½ years ago when I got off the plane with my newest wirehaired dachshund puppy. I had waited a year for this repeat breeding. My new puppy, Eibe, was a full sister to a very precocious 6 month old bitch that I had first seen in Germany on an apprentice judging assignment the year before.

I began blood tracking training with Eibe right away and by 8 months old she was doing 800 meter overnight lines with no trouble and could not have been doing any better. She was all the dog I could have hoped for. Then, like a light switch, for the next 12 months there was almost nothing. I would lay training lines every few weeks to check, but she was terrible, with little or no interest in following the blood line. I tried everything to no avail during that time to build drive for the blood line. I tracked her hungry for food, went back to easy drags, put caged critters at the end for her to bark at, nothing worked during that time. To keep her nose well connected to her brain I spent that summer after she was a year old having her chase 4 or 5 rabbits per day since blood tracking training seemed to be a waste of time.

In the fall of 2008, Eibe was almost 1 ½ years old but I did not even consider putting her on a real blood trail that season unless I already had visually marked the natural line and was using the line only as a training exercise. After that hunting season, at about 20 months of age, things finally started to turn around and begin to improve with Eibe's training. Her focus and desire for the blood line began to come back and I could again see glimpses of the brilliance she showed up until 8 months of age. It was difficult waiting out what is often called "that adolescent period". As the months piled up during that period of time I have to admit I began to doubt if she would ever turn back around. I bought two other dogs during that time to hedge my bets just in case she didn't.

By the spring of 2009, Eibe was getting better every time we trained. She was not yet anywhere near as good as she was at 8 months but I could see what I hoped was the light at the end of the tunnel. Then the next complication, a 3 month layoff from serious training to whelp an unplanned litter of pups. I knew Eibe was due to come into heat anytime soon and I was watching her daily but to no avail. Unbeknownst to me, she was having a silent heat. Vinnie, a 7 month old wirehaired dachshund I had picked up in Germany as a backup if Eibe didn't work out, accidentally bred Eibe and she ended up having 6 pups by cesarean section (yet again another complication to her training). By good fortune the pups turned out terrific. Five of the six were super trackers and doing amazing things already by 9 weeks old. The pups were born on June 18, 2009. As a result of gestation, cesarean section, nursing, and spaying, we didn't get back to training until mid August. I snuck 4 training lines in during the heat of late August and by the start of my tracking season, September 15, Eibe, now a little over 2 years old, appeared ready enough to work real, unknown lines for the first time.

I was very satisfied with Eibe's first tracking season. It started with several relatively easy finds and a bunch of non-mortally wounded deer we chased around building drive in her and confidence in me of her abilities. Overall we found 9 deer together out of the 30 calls we took. Half of the calls we didn't find were either positively confirmed still alive by Eibe and I or the hunter called later to say the deer was seen again. We did have 2 calls where we just plain missed the dead deer as later confirmed by the hunter. At the time, those 2 calls were very disappointing but in retrospect, they contributed greatly to me developing a training plan for after the season. Those two misses helped me realize that when Eibe was close to the line and concentrating, she rarely got sucked into tempting cross trails. But when she was working the line loosely with poor line control as she sometimes did, she would sometimes fall for a cross trail, even convince herself (and me) it was the correct line. I was sure that's how we missed the two dead deer mentioned above. Some handlers might have passed these 2 missed deer off due to young age and lack of experience of the dog but my thoughts were to fix the problem before it became a habit.

Another problem I encountered during Eibe's first tracking season was her getting stuck in circles or loops that escaping game sometimes makes to elude a pursuing predator. Even when I picked her up and tried to cast her 50 or more meters out away from the loop to pick up the where the deer broke out, she would just want to go back to the known part of the line in the loop and keep going around. This told me I needed to teach her a formal directed "search" command so she would search in the direction I, as the handler, was determining until she found the line and then she could have her head and follow it.

A third goal of my spring training was to improve Eibe's efficiency at a check. This wasn't a problem I discovered during the tracking season, but a problem left over from her "adolescent slump". As a young pup, Eibe rarely was off the line by more than a few feet. Even at sharp turns, she rarely overshot by more than a yard or two and easily would re-acquire the line and make the turn. As Eibe got bigger and could cover ground more quickly she would over shoot turns farther, especially during her slump. It was during these 15 or 20 meter overshoots that I learned of her inefficient check work. Eibe would work the check with intensity but miss large areas in her searching leaving it up to luck for her to re-acquire the line. She also would start her search from the point she realized she was off instead of going back towards the last place she had it. So in summary I had 3 goals to work on going into spring training.

1. Improve Eibe's line control
2. Teach a formal directed "Search" command
3. Improve her check work

All these things would make her an even better blood tracking dog for next hunting season, but in addition to that, I had decided to enter Eibe into the 2010 Deer Search Blood Tracking Competition in April and I needed to improve all 3 goals if I wanted a chance to win. What follows is how I worked on those goals.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

NATC 2010 Spring Seminar and Show

Dates: Thursday, 17 June through Sunday, 20 June
Judge: Herr Jens Witter (from Germany)

Presenters:
  • John Jeanneney - Author of Tracking Dogs for Finding Wounded Deer, DTK/NATC hunting judge and founding member of the NATC.
  • Jens Witter - DTK conformation judge, hunter and breeder of DTK dachshunds
Seminar topics will include conformation, hunting, blood tracking, obedience, gun steadiness and water retrieval. Training and testing will be offered for blood tracking, obedience, gun steadiness and water retrieval.

A Zuchtschau (conformation show), where dachshunds can receive written critiques from an FCI judge, will be held on Sunday.
 
Location: The seminar and show will be held at Winnebago Scout Reservation, 102 Timberbrook Rd., Rockaway, NJ.

For more information contact: Carrie Hamilton at hamiltce@juno.com

Monday, April 26, 2010

Susanne Hamilton - the MBA Supporter of the Year 2009

Maine Bowhunters Association held its Banquet at The Calument Club in Augusta on April 24, 2010. The Guest of Honor was our close friend Susanne Hamilton whose tracking services are very much in demand in Maine. Susanne was named Supporter of the Year 2009 in recognition of her accomplishments and dedication to bowhunting sport.

Susanne and her dachshund Buster are a highly effective, talented and dedicated tracking team. This is a great award for their services - congratulations to both of you!


Susanne Hamilton and Buster

Friday, April 23, 2010

Congratulations to Buster and Quilla!

Last Sunday a litter of five healthy teckels (2 girls and 3 boys) was born in Maine, and their parents are FC Clown vom Talsdeich "Buster" and FC Quilla von Velbert "Quilla". Congratulations to Willette Brown, their breeder!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Paika running rabbits - spurlaut in dachshunds

Yesterday John and I went to the beagle club, something we have not done for many months. My knee is getting better; MRI showed that it is a ligament injury and it does not require a surgery. Actually feeling better I am planning to go to a field trial in Maryland this coming weekend.

John and I wanted to know how Paika would run rabbits now, after such a long winter break. We have very few rabbits around our place, and it has been a while since she had a good workout. John was working with Joeri at another part of the grounds, and I handled Paika. Right now she is just one year old, but she showed a lot of interest in rabbits at an early age. She did well last fall so I was curious how she would do this spring.

Overall I was very impressed. She is a dog with a lot of hunt and excellent mouth. Her conformation right now is not what it used to be but let's hope that it will improve. She is going through a severe false pregnacy and her mammary glands are really enlarged. Yet, she ran rabbits very hard and in a good style.

The first video clip shows Paika working the brush pile. She detects rabbit scent and is trying to find the rabbit. She works around the brush pile, then goes in. It is a huge and dense brush and I try to shake it. She works the rabbit in the brush, flushes it (we did not see it on the video) but cannot follow it through the brush so she makes exit and follows the rabbit on the grassy path, tonguing nicely. She overshoots a check and corrects herself almost immediately. All in all a nice job, which shows Paika's drive and intelligence.



The second video shows Paika trailing a rabbit. This rabbit ran in front of me (I did not catch it on video) and I heard Paika following so I just waited to see whether she is going to come my way. She did and took the rabbit a long way. She works fast, but so far her line control is very good so the speed is not a problem. In my opinion she is showing a lot of promise.



To see these videos in other resolutions click here.

To read about the voice in dachshunds go to http://www.born-to-track.com/our-writing/jola/spurlaut1.htm

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Before and after

A big thank you to Alexandra Daley-Clark, a professional photographer, for the two beautiful pictures of her wirehaired dachshund Bogey - before and after grooming.

Bogey was bred by Maribeth McEwan http://www.dackelprincess.com/

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Results of the 2010 Deer Search Blood Tracking Competition

Yesterday the Deer Search Blood Tracking Competition took place at Casperkill Game Club at Rhinebeck, NY. The competition was chaired by Bill Siegrist, and the judges were John Jeanneney, Roger Humeston Jr. and Gary Neal. This is Deer Search's annual event and its location rotates from year to year. Only members of Deer Search are eligible to participate, and dogs have a limit of one hour to finish the 800-1000 meter long track, which has to include three 90-degree turns. The track has to be 20-24 hours old. Last year the competition was hosted by the Western New York Chapter, and it was won by Tabitha von Munterkeit handled, owned and bred by Dale Clifford.

This year the competition was organized by the Founding Chapter. I could not be there because of my knee injury so this report is based on the feedback and pictures I got from the people present there (thank you!). Judging by the dogs' work and how hard they had to work, the conditions were tough, even though they "should be" good - some overnight rain, cool, grey and intermittent drizzle on the day of competition.

There were six entries; five of them were wirehaired dachshunds and one was German Shorthair Pointer. The dogs who passed were:

1. Eibe von Merreche handled and owned by Andy Bensing, Reading, PA, who won the competition with a perfect score of 100 points and Prize I.
The above is Eibe's GPS track, which I got from Andy. Great job Andy - congratulations to you and Eibe!

2. Mae Von Munterkeit, a two-year-old WHD owned and handled by Beth Shero, Paoughkeepsie, NY, who got the score of 92 points and PrizeI. Mae reached the end of track in 27 minutes, and Beth proved to be a very skilled and talented handler. You don't know how happy I am to see a young woman doing so well.


3. Thrird place went to Rio, a German Shorthair Pointer, owned and handled by Ron Hausfelder, East Bethany, NY, who got a score of 57 points and Prize III.


4. Tabitha Von Munterkeit handled, owned and bred by Dale Clifford, Hamburg, NY got 50 points and Prize III. This time Tabitha's dam, Sabrina, a winner of three previous competitions was clocked out.


The atmosphere and camraderie were great, and a number of people from the Founding Chapter of DSI came to watch and help. Here there are more pictures taken yesterday.

 
Upper row from the left: Ron Hausfelder, Tim Ryder, Pete Martin, John Jeanneney, Mike Garrity, Marc Niad, Dale Clifford. Below: Gary Neal, Roger Humeston, Beth Shero, John Robinson and Andy Bensing.

The successful dogs and handlers were: Rio and Ron Hausfelder, Mae and Beth Shero, Eibe and Andy Bensing, and Tabitha and Dale Clifford.
Gary Neal (Judge), Andy Bensing with Eibe, and John Jeanneney (Judge) who holds Assy Vom Bauwald Plaque Challenge Trophy to be held for one year by Andy (the owner of the highest scoring dog).

Andy with Assy Vom Bauwald Plaque Challenge Trophy
Beth Shero is receiving a DSI pewter pin awarded to all competition dogs with passing scores.
Ron Hausfeleder and Bill Siegrist, chairman of the competition

John Jeanneney, Beth Shero with Mae, and Beth's father John Robinson with Mariel, Mae's sister. Mariel was not entered in the competition as her handler Gentian Shero had to work on this day.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Den work as a school for character - Gerte's Day

I heard from Teddy that she got some really good e-mail response to her piece on digging woodchucks with dachshunds. I think it would a good idea to follow her article with the one that John wrote in 1997. In his introduction to his article he said:

"Our standard wirehaired dachshunds specialize in tracking wounded deer and at 20 pounds plus most are too large to be practical on foxes and woodchucks unless they work with a mini-dachshunds or small terrier that can get right up to the quarry and bay it. Still I do some hunting underground with the standards, because I find that the bonding experience that comes out of this is important for close dog handler cooperation in other types of work.

Underground work can also be a test of character. The great French blood tracker Hubert Stoquert once told me: "I want my tracking dogs to be willing to go head to head with a fox underground. A dog like that won't be afraid to push a wounded wild boar." I learned from my experiences with my old tracking dachshund Max that work on underground quarry can also be a school for character and even a form of shock therapy. Let me tell you the story of Gerte vom Dornenfeld, a wire dachshund bitch of about 17 pounds and you be the judge. "

Gerte vom Dornenfeld and Fausto del Grande Futaie (1993)

Gerte's Day
by John Jeanneney, 1997

Gerte vom Dornenfeld was what modern day teachers call an underachiever. Her gifts were everything her breeder Frau Lore Schlechtingen could have hoped for: intelligence, nose and desire. But, for reasons not clearly known, Gerte did not put all this together. A catalyst was missing.

The problem did not emerge right away. As a young dog she tracked and found two deer in situations of respectable difficulty. She also knew how to charm and for a long time her social gifts covered up her failures in the field. She could carry on little barked "conversations". Her personality was especially admired at my university office and at the veterinarians. But Gerte was bred to be a blood tracker not a party girl; we wanted her to live by the stern code of the bumper stickers on the battered pick-ups: "when the tailgate drops, the bull shit stops." In the stern, rough world of deer hunting it is not enough to "sparkle".

In her second and third years we tried to bring Gerte along carefully. When you are developing a young dog, you try to select calls with well defined scent lines and a high probability of success. If you can help it, you don't put a young dog down on the wild goose chases where the deer may or may not have been hit well, where the dry leaves and scent are blowing around in the wind and the dog has nothing very definite to work with. I used old Max for these uncertain situation calls. Princess Gerte got the "dead deer for sure" calls on which she looked composed, competent, even stylish. She showed us everything but the deer. In frustration on five different calls I hiked back to the car and got old Max. And old Max, fumbling and bumbling on in his "Detective Columbo" style found the five wounded deer that Princess Gerte had missed. It took me longer than it should have to figure out what was happening.

There seemed to be a pattern. Gerte would start out well, but within a half mile she would make a check and then start working another line. It would be a real line, an old deer line, but not the scent line of the wounded deer we wanted. We would methodically track another mile, working checks, following deer runs, going where a deer would go, but there would not be a drop of blood and the deer would never bed down.

When all this dawned on me, I knew that Gerte's "mistakes" were not mistakes, but quite deliberate. Back-up dog Max, with less nose and less brains, would pick through Gerte's checks with little difficulty and show us a line headed in a different direction. Eventually he would show us the deer. Gerte was too intelligent and too fine-nosed to unconsciously change to another line in such a situation.

I could only speculate about what had gone wrong. Maybe Gerte had become deer shy. I have known one blood tracking dog that tracked ghost lines to avoid confrontations after one scary encounter with an angry eight pointer. There had been no similar incident in Gerte's life, but she seemed to be "blinking", as the bird dog people, say when a pointer deliberately ignores bird scent to avoid failure and reprimand. Something had turned Gerte off, but I could not put my finger on it.

I had other dogs that could do the job, so after her five failures Gerte stayed home. She went to field trials where she seemed to model her behavior after the old nursery rhyme:

There was a little girl who had a little curl
right in the middle of her forehead;
when she was good she was very, very good
and when she was bad she was horrid.

She was usually "very, very good" on hot, dry days and "horrid" on damp, easy-scenting days when faster, more aggressive dogs dominated her.

From age three to age seven Gerte got few tidbits of recognition. She was not abused, but she clearly sensed that dogs and humans did not take her too seriously. Among our adult dogs she settled to the bottom of the pack hierarchy. She could still turn on her social sparkle, but she seemed a little brittle and desperate. In the house she languished with the sad air of a European aristocrat exiled in a raw, cold country where no one understood her. Here a good animal psychologist or a handler with more time and fewer good dogs to rely on would have given Gerte more support. Instead, things just took their natural course and circumstances led Gerte to cure herself. The cure might be called "shock therapy" but no one planned it that way. This is how it came to pass on Gerte's Day, November 22, 1995.

The adventure began with no dogs present; I was deer hunting with a friend on a large cattle farm. We hunted by making short drives to one another through small draws (valleys) of brush and briars. I flushed a red fox and my friend shot it with his .22 caliber revolver since he did not want bisect to it with a heavy deer slug. The fox seemed hard hit but it struggled to a nearby den and escaped. We returned home and brought back Fausto, a twenty-four pound male and Gerte. I expected that Fausto would have the simple work of retrieving a dead or weakened fox. Gerte, smaller and somewhat less aggressive, was held in reserve in case the den proved too tight for Fausto.

The den was indeed too tight for Fausto. He did make contact with a fox and was bitten, but he could not counterattack because a rock prevented his advance. We dug down ahead of Fausto, only half a yard down, and there was the fox which Jim shot with his handgun and I drew. It was a vixen and not the right fox; there was but a single bullet hole and she was a lighter color than the original wounded fox.

There had to be another fox inside somewhere, but the den, with its single modest entrance, was actually more complex than I had thought. There were at least two long horizontal galleries, and also a near vertical pipe plunging down five feet to another level. I suspected that the wounded fox was down deep on the second level which would be very difficult to access. Everything was too small for Fausto, so I entered Gerte to verify where the second fox had gone. Gerte was not interested in the steep dive down to a lower level, and quickly located and bayed the second fox out at the end of one of the horizontal galleries. We dug down to the entrance of a regular chamber or Kessel and opened things up to see Gerte baying furiously right in the fox's face. She had taken a good bite across the top of the muzzle, and didn't seem to notice. She was not up to throttling the fox, but she had certainly held him at bay and prevented him from escaping to a safer part of the den. The fox was actually in pretty good shape; when he bit my well-gloved hand he had excellent jaw power. When we finally exposed and shot him, we found that he was wounded in the rear in a way that would not have killed him for a long time.

I was surprised and pleased at Gerte's performance, but this was just the beginning of her heroic day. While we had been digging the foxes, two of the deer hunters on the farm, the Lynchs, father and son, drove by on one of the internal roads. They helped in the digging and the father reminded me that I had found a deer for him nineteen years ago with Clary. His son had just wounded another deer, had tracked it several kilometers and then had run out of blood trail and lost it. Would I find it for them? They felt that the buck could not go much farther since it had lost so much blood.

Gerte was tired, but she was right at hand, and it should not take long. Gerte and I were trapped into the situation; there was not much point in trying to explain to the Lynchs that fox work is psychologically very different and that Gerte had not blood tracked for two years. I had a long tracking leash with me and we drove almost all the way to their point of loss on the wounded buck. The line was only four hours old, but scent in the area had been thoroughly muddled by the hunters searching back and forth. Gerte made several big circles around the last drop of visible blood, took a scent line and at a hundred yards showed us a smudge of blood on a weed stem. Then we went more than a thousand yards with no visible blood. I hoped that we were on the right track. Then suddenly the scent warmed up and I knew that we had a deer moving ahead of us through the abandoned, overgrown fields. There were expanses of dense, low wild rose briars and when I began to see drops of bright fresh blood the first thing I did was check Gerte's nose and ears. She was clean. She had him!

The buck went another two miles. The first time that we sighted him I could see that one hind leg was dragging. We were now in a combination of open hardwoods and briars. I tried to get the hunter, Jim Lynch, out in front to intercept him, but the deer would always change direction at the critical moment. Once the buck doubled back on his track for fifty yards and then went off in a new direction. Gerte came to the dead end which was marked with a few drops of blood; she made two small quick circles and tracked back on the line to where the buck had exited in the new direction. She had recognized the double almost immediately.

We saw the deer again and then he went into a big marsh. Gerte was visibly tired, but she kept working methodically as the buck zigzagged back and forth through the shallow water and high weeds. Then I saw the buck lying down within five yards of Jim Lynch who was peering off into the distance and did not see him. When Jim finally made eye contact with the deer it leapt up one last time; all ended in a volley shots and great splashes of water. I was the most pleased, Gerte was a very tired second and the Jim Lynch was very impressed too.


Two days later Gerte had completely recovered from the bites and exhaustion. She made it clear to us all that she was enormously pleased with herself and what she had achieved. Gerte pushed herself up the social ladder of adult dachshunds in the house and began to growl at any dog who became too familiar. She began to guard my special deer searching coat from the others. Surprisingly they seemed to understand and tolerate this assertiveness which would have been unacceptable before "Gerte's day".

Since that day two years ago Gerte has been our tracking dog number #1. The psychological lift that came from her successful fox den and tracking experiences has seemed to stay with her. She has not always been the wonder dog, but she has done some remarkable tracking, particularly when the scent was old and the conditions were difficult. Gerte, the underachiever, has found herself.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Digging woodchucks with dachshunds

Today we are in for a treat -  a very informative article written by Teddy Moritz. There are a lot of misconceptions in this country about what kind of dachshunds are suitable for den work. After all the dachshund was created as a versatile earthdog, and it is used fox hunting extensively throughout Europe. Here, in the United States hunters use dachshunds in a more specialized fashion - standards are used mainly for blood tracking and minis for woodchuck and rabbit hunting. We can better understand the reasons for this when we take a closer look at what is involved in  digging woodchucks with dachshunds.

There is no better qualified person to write about this than Teddy Moritz, a huntress extraordinaire. She has been digging ground game since the mid-1970's. She digs groundhogs on farms during the summer and hawks for rabbits during the winter, all with miniature dachshunds. She also use these fine little hounds for treeing game for the gun. She is an AKC Field Trial judge, an AKC Earthdog judge, an AWTA judge and an earthworking judge for the NATC. Hawking and earthwork are her passions, and the dachshunds are ideal dogs to aid her and her hawk in the field.

Digging woodchucks with dachshunds

by Teddy Moritz

The woodchuck, or groundhog is a seven to ten pound rodent which lives in dens it digs in soil. A large groundhog can be up to 15 pounds, usually in September when it has eaten all summer and is getting ready to hibernate. This solid little species of marmot eats mainly vegetation and thrives on farm crops of all kinds, including orchard fruit. It will eat the bark of young trees and is not above some meat in its diet occasionally. It breeds early in the year and there are four to six pups, cared for solely by the mother animal.

Because it is considered an agricultural pest almost everywhere it is found, the groundhog has few supporters and is controlled by many methods. Most game departments consider the groundhog a varmint, therefore permitting them to be dispatched at any time, while other state game agencies set generous seasons. It is wise to check game laws if you are considering digging groundhogs with your dachshunds. Also, be aware that some states, particularly those which list the groundhog as a game animal, have laws forbidding digging animals out of their dens. These laws were originally aimed at people who dug fox out of dens, but those who wanted to dig groundhogs also ran afoul of these laws. Try to find a farmer who will let you do 'pest control' on his farm and you'll be set. Or talk to horse breeders, they always want the groundhogs out of their pastures.

If you live in a central to northern state east of the Mississippi River you should be able to get your dachshund into groundhogs. Western groundhogs are called marmots and they live in rocky areas in the mountains and are not easily taken with an earth dog. However, where groundhogs are found in the east, they are generally abundant. Ask any type of farmer for permission to dig groundhogs and he'll welcome you.

The groundhog is a squirrel which evolved to live in holes. Picture an overweight squirrel averaging seven to ten pounds, with teeth to match. A groundhog's head, like a squirrel's, is blunt and is very hard boned. There is essentially no 'throat' to grab so a dachshund who wants to be a 'throttler' as the Germans call them, will soon find his face rearranged by a groundhog. When threatened by a dog the groundhog in a den will either bolt or, much more likely, will turn around and backfill a wall of dirt between itself and the dog, even if the dog chews on the groundhog's rear end. They have tough hides and are expert diggers. If they are facing a dog in a den, they will fight by biting down hard, easily jabbing their big rodent teeth into the dog's lips, tongue, ears, nose, foot, whatever is closest. They generally don't hang on but bite and release. There are some 'hogs who do bite and hang on and they can do some damage. Dogs can have their teeth knocked out, their noses totally ripped open, etc. If you don't want your dog hurt, don't try to dig groundhogs.

Standard dachshunds can grab and draw, or pull, a groundhog out of a tunnel if it isn't too tightly buried. If the soil is dense and the groundhog decides to bury itself, even a grown man has trouble pulling it free. A big dachshund can yank on a buried groundhog for a good while before it can be dislodged. Above ground, a good standard dachshund ought to be able to subdue a groundhog if they get the right bite. Groundhogs in dens will also harbor behind roots and rocks, leaving only their big teeth visible. They will take bites and give bites to any dog who wants to confront them.

Now the crux of the matter. An average groundhog has the chest circumference of 14 inches or less. As in most animals, their head circumference is the largest part of their body. If an animal can get its head through an opening, it can get its body through. Not so with dogs. The biggest part of a dog is its chest circumference. (We're talking earth dogs here, dachshunds mainly). Thus a groundhog, fox, raccoon, skunk, or possum, all of which can and do live underground either most of the time or some of the time, have small chests. These animals are also very flexible and can move through their tunnels with speed. Since we are talking about groundhogs, their rib cages are very short and flexible, allowing them to flow between roots, over and around rocks and to jam themselves easily around ninety degree turns in their tunnels. Thus a standard dachshund is usually too big to consistently get to ground and make its way up to a groundhog. Sure, sometimes a standard will find a groundhog who has run into a short feeding hole and can yank it out. Standards certainly have the jaw power and the will to take on a groundhog but for the most part groundhogs go tightly into their dens, backfilling dirt as they go, hiding in dirt-filled side tunnels or going through their nests, which are solid barriers of grass.

So, your standard dachshund wants to have a groundhog. It smells one in a den and tries to jam itself into the tunnel. It may bark and dig and bite the sides of the tunnel and it may get into the den even up to its shoulders or tail. All this fierce activity simply alerts the groundhog that trouble is at the door. The rodent just goes to a tight place in its den and buries itself, waiting until the threat departs. You can participate in this hunt with your big dog in several ways. You can run a long stick or a flexible bit of hose into the den, first holding back your big dachshund because it will likely grab the stick in its frenzy to get into the den. Next you feel the direction in which the den is going, then you take your shovel and dig to the end of that stick. Your dog will gladly jam itself into the opening you've made, if you manage to hit the tunnel. Here's where you'll find the second drawback to a big dachshund. The first disadvantage was not being able to get very far into the tunnel, the second is not being able to fit into a dug hole. If your dog is to get back into the hole you've dug, you now have to dig a much longer hole for your standard to fit into. Once this is done, the dog may indicate which way the groundhog went. I say 'may' because while you are digging the groundhog is still burying itself in the tunnel, blocking off its scent. Your dog will eventually come to a solid wall of dirt with little groundhog scent.

This lack of hot scent will often stymie a dachshund until it learns to keep digging at the blockage. Or the groundhog may have woven itself through thick roots. Your standard is not as lean and flexible as the groundhog and can't maneuver like the rodent can. Or the groundhog may have simply slithered behind a big rock, dropping dirt or more rocks into the tunnel, thus again blocking off your dog. Now it's up to you to keep digging to find the tunnel again. Sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it? Well, it is. You wanted to do earthwork on groundhogs so get tuned in to your shovel.

Digging at the NATC natural den work test

Think about this: you are trying to hunt a ten pound animal with a twenty pound dog. That sort of imbalance is ok above ground. Most coon hounds are much larger than a coon. Fox hounds outweigh a fox by four or more times. A twenty pound dachshund trying to get through a tunnel made by a ten pound groundhog just isn't going to happen consistently. Ask anyone who has tried to dig groundhogs successfully and consistently with a standard dachshund and they'll tell you how much digging it requires. Measure your standard's chest circumference. Any number above 14 inches is too big, and even a dog with that chest size is often too big. In my experience, a dog with a chest of 12 inches or less is ideal.

So, your standard dachshund can handle hard quarry, quarry that bites back, if it can get its mouth on the game. How can you then work groundhogs and consistently give your standard a job? The answer is a miniature dachshund. If they are bred from hunting lines they should be shallow chested, narrowly built and up on the leg, meaning tall in comparison to show dachshunds. And I'm not knocking show dachshunds. Some of them have made excellent woodchuck dogs, despite their short legs and big chests. But for consistently good work underground, find one that has the least chest circumference, some leg under it, and as narrow shoulders as possible. Then when you check out woodchuck dens, if your standard indicates an occupant, you tie off your standard so it doesn't hog the hole, and let the miniature work through the tunnel.

Longhaired miniature dachshund 'Bane' entering dug open woodchuck tunnel.

Your earthdog should be wearing a transmitter collar, available in the US but made by the English company Deben. Once your miniature has located and bayed the quarry, you dig to the little barking dog. Then you block the dog off from the quarry, take it out of the den and either hand it to someone or tie it off. Quickly open the den the length of your standard, then drop the big dog into the tunnel. If all is done in an efficient manner, your standard can face the quarry and draw it, meaning pull it out. This is where flexibility and body strength are important. A groundhog is a fierce fighter and will use its rodent teeth to defend itself. Or it may have begun to bury itself and your standard will have to pull it out by the seat of its pants, then have to fight it out when the groundhog turns to defend itself.

Bane and a big groundhog he located and bayed.

I have seen standards in these situations and I am of the opinion that they are not good draw dogs. The reason is because they generally are too big to drop into the den to get the chuck, and even if they do, they are in an awkward position of hanging halfway into the den, trying to lift an unwilling and biting quarry. Most of their weight is then forward and they have a tough time pulling up and out. Their short legs don't allow them to stand up and pull up at the same time. Also, if you have to dig the den opening big enough to get the whole standard body in, by the time you've done that much more digging, the groundhog has either bolted or buried itself. Efficiency is lost because the standard has to chew on the groundhog awhile before it can draw it. In my experience a long legged dog of any breed is a much better draw dog than a standard dachshund, but if you only have a standard to use as a draw dog, then give it every chance to properly face its quarry. Don't ask it to drop straight down into a den where the groundhog can punish your dog. Quickly, and I do mean quickly, dig the den open away from the groundhog and drop your standard in. This gives the big dog some space to fence with the groundhog. If your dog is brave it will get a hold on the quarry. If your dog will allow you, lift the dog and the quarry its attached to out of the hole so your dog can properly dispatch the animal. The idea of earthwork is to locate and bay the quarry, then dispatch it as soon as possible. The varmint has given you the sport you came looking for, the least you can do is give it a timely death.

This woodchuck is being dispatched by Celtic, a lurcher.
Lurchers are mixed breed sighthounds, usually with a working breed as the minor contributor and greyhound as the majority of blood. The crosses were first made in the UK between Border and Bearded Collies and coursing greyhounds. The half-cross was bred back to a greyhound. The idea was to make a fast collie or a smart greyhound. The collie added coat and brains and biddability, the greyhound gave prey drive and speed. These dogs were designed and used to hunt up, catch, kill and retrieve game.

I use them because they are good-tempered and quiet around the kennel, tolerant of the dachshunds, and very useful in catching bolted quarry, and in dispatching game the dachshunds have bayed. They are big enough to handle hard quarry such as fox, raccoon, and groundhogs and can easily draw their quarry from dens.

Digging fox with dachshunds is another matter. Fox are valuable fur bearers and most states do not allow fox to be dug out of their earths. If you can get permission to dig fox in a pest control situation, you will quickly find out how tough your dachshund needs to be. A fox can get tight into a den and your dachshund will have to jam itself along the tunnel to get up to the fox. Again, a dachshund with a shallow chest, narrow shoulders and a bit of leg, as well as a very flexible body, is the ticket for consistent success. If your dachshund does get up to the fox, it will find out how hard a fox can bite. Many fox will bolt if pushed by a dog but the ones who chose to fight will use their long, sharp canine teeth to punish the dog's face. It takes a strong-willed dachshund to fight a fox successfully. Sometimes the dogs will get mouth to mouth and the fox will hang on and not let go. Or the fox will charge up the tunnel and bite the dog, then quickly retreat. This is where the big strong head on a dachshund is necessary, not only to give good bites but to take the punishment without having its jaw broken or teeth knocked out. American red foxes tend to be smaller than their European counterparts. Our red fox has become smaller so it may use groundhog dens for its home. Fox have even smaller chests than a large groundhog, averaging thirteen inches. They may weigh ten or more pounds, but their bodies are remarkably small and narrow and very flexible. They are a challenging quarry below ground.

Raccoons are often found in dens in the ground. Depending on their size, they can give your dachshund a real fight. Coons can turn in their skins, which means if your dog grabs the coon by the back, the coon just shifts itself around and grabs your dog. A coon will bite and chew on a dog, it will use its claws, front and back to scratch your dog and to hold onto your dog. If your dachshund wants to take the fight to a big coon, the coon is more than capable of defending itself. A coon will even take hold of your dogs collar so it can anchor itself better to bite more of your dog. A coon's hide is thick and in a healthy coon there is a layer of fat under the skin. Thus your dachshund can't punish the coon except by getting a throat or chest hold. In the meantime the coon will defend itself mightily. It's not easy to step in and help your dog when it's tangling with a coon. The coon is just as willing to take you on as the dog, so try to pin it down and help the dog finish it off. Raccoons are a worthy adversary for a hole dog.

Nanus and Tar with coon they located and bayed in a den.

Most possums are easy quarry for a standard dachshund if the dog can get up to the possum in the den. A strong headed dog will bite the possum hard, making it 'sull' or act dead. The dog will pull the possum out of the den, shake it a bit, then let it go. Later on the possum will wake up and walk off. Unless you are doing pest control on a horse farm there's no reason to kill possum. Horse people don't want them around because they carry a disease horses can contract. Possums are scavengers and not a challenge to a standard dachshund.


Picture above was taken by Stacey Samela and shows Teddy with a mini wire of her breeding, Tess. (FC Tess von Moritz mw WC). The lurcher is Keeper, from David Hancock in England. Teddy writes: "Stacey and I were looking for a fox in a den one cold winter's day. I knew of a den in a big swampy area, on the only high ground around. Tess entered the den and began tugging on something, which was odd. She pulled and pulled and eventually came out with the big groundhog, which was alive but very much asleep in his hibernating state. We have no idea why he was so close to the entrance of the den, only about five feet in. I speculated the fox had begun to dig the den open for use as a whelping chamber and had dislodged the groundhog. The fox was not in the den. Tess searched diligently but came up empty. This den has about a dozen entrances/exits and there are big trees growing over it so Tess had to check many tunnels and get through the tree roots. The soil is very sandy and easily dug by the fox.

The coon was in another den and gave Tess a bad time. She located and bayed it while we dug. The merle lurcher in the photo, Keeper, and Stacey's lurcher, Tory, drew and dispatched the coon, a big boar.

Later as we worked along a drainage ditch the female mallard slipped out ahead of us but wouldn't fly. We saw she was injured and sent the lurchers after her. Tory swam the ditch up and down and eventually caught her and brought her to Stacey, who took the duck home and tried to rehab her but she died.

Teddy's note about chest circumference:

I measured my dogs this morning. All are two years old or more. I believe a dachshund is not 'finished' as far as size and chest circumference until it is at least two years old.

Bane: 2 year old male: 12 1/2" (32 cm)
Tar: 2 year old female: 11 1/2" (29 1/2 cm)
Nanus: 3 year old female: 13" (32 1/2 cm)
Navarre: 6 year old male: 13 3/4" (33 cm)
Gavia: 14 year old female: 13" (32 1/2 cm)
Fitz: 6 year old female: 10" (27 cm)
Note that Fitz is very small and therefore a good little rabbit hole dog. She weighs about 5 1/2 lbs hunting weight and is invaluable during rabbit season. She likes to work hard quarry as well but I use her only sparingly lest she get hurt. Last summer a groundhog bit her over both eyes, deeply. If it had bitten any lower she would have been blinded.

Jolanta's note: Our smallest standard-sized dachshunds imported from Germany have chest cicumferences of 18.5 inches (47 cm) - 2 year old Joeri and 11 year-old Asko. Tommy at two years has a chest measured at 20 inches (50.8 cm). Everybody else is above 21 inches.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bonding and relationships within a tracking team

by John Jeanneney, Feb 2010

Advanced training of a dachshund on artificial tracks usually coincides with the tracking of real wounded deer. The natural experience is tremendously important because of its psychological impact on the dog….and on the handler. Tracking a real wounded deer, confronting it and perhaps having to kill it is the consummation of prey drive. It draws handler and dog together into a working team, and this carries over into other aspects of their life together. A dog with whom you have found a deer begins to act in a different way. In the house he follows you from room to room. He watches you intently. He is more responsive and begins to anticipate what you expect of him. And you as a handler change too. You admire and trust your dog, and your dog senses this.

I want to avoid any temptation to illustrate this development with easy and false parallels to certain relationships that humans have with one another. Dogs and people are profoundly different, but they are both social animals and the two  species can come together in a pack relationship. Dogs have inherited their hard-wired social instincts from wolves. Wolf researchers like David Mech have come to realize that wolf pack relationships are much more complex than a simple hierarchy or ladder of boss and underling relationships.

As a wolf pack works to identify a weak and vulnerable deer, then chases it, then pulls it down, different pack members take leadership roles as fits their expertise. The male leader does not necessarily lead in all phases of the hunt. In a similar fashion, the dominant male does not lead in feeding the cubs and disciplining them when necessary. These matters are left to the wisdom of their mother, who is high on the dominance ladder, but yields to others in non-domestic matters.

It is in these more complex relationships of the wolf pack that we find the best model for explaining the handler/tracking dog relationship. It is not just the straight command/obey relationship of some types of retriever training. In tracking real deer the dog learns first that he and his handler have the same prey drive, the same goal of finding the animal. Then the dog learns why teamwork is necessary.

If a tracking dog could talk he might say, “My handler has a terrible nose, and he’s of little use when following a scent line unless there is a lot of blood. My handler gets all excited if he sees drops of blood, but of course I know that this blood is not all that important. Surprisingly my handler is pretty good about determining the direction of the track (he pays a lot of attention to marks that the deer made in the mud, but otherwise he is pretty much “out of it”.

On the other hand my handler is amazingly good at knowing where to go to find a good scent line to track and begin the hunt. Sometimes he drives a long time with me and then, with a man we’ve never met, he goes directly to a good spot to start tracking a wounded deer. My handler is marvelously patient; he doesn’t want to give up when the going gets tough, and he is really encouraging when I need encouragement.

When the game animal is found my handler is very useful. He can kill the deer if it needs killing. And best of all he shares my pleasure in finding the deer. But he doesn’t want to chew on it like I do."

When a dog has figured this out for himself, when he understands his own skills and those of his handler, he has progressed beyond structured training. He will sense that he and his handler can take prey together that neither could have taken by himself. He will know that he is part of a team, and that this team is the most important thing in his life.

Joeri with his second deer. After this long, tough track he understood that he was part of a team.

These team relationships in tracking bring to mind the summer days, 20 years ago, when I hunted woodchucks underground with a pack of dachshunds. The woodchuck pack was held together by a younger, stronger shovel man and a mini wire from Teddy Moritz. The experience really taught the dachshunds to work together. Two old tracking dogs were respected by all for their skill in identifying occupied dens. A couple of sniffs at the opening and they knew that a chuck was down there. They communicated this to the rest of the pack, not by barks but by body language.

Then Polly, the mini, would take over. She was small enough for almost any den, and she would quickly locate the prey. With barks, and a little electronic help, Polly would announce the location of the chuck in the den. Then it was up to the young guy, with his shovel, bar and a good strong back, to dig down to the chuck and open things up so the 20 pound draw dogs could pull out the chuck. The shovel man had a hunting knife, and this was sometimes useful.

The woodchuck team was bigger and more complex than the handler/tracker team, but the team psychology was similar. Each specialist knew his own job and respected his mates for what they could do. A working bond was formed. I believe that this helped prepare the psychological base for tracking wounded deer later in the year.


The woodchuck team in 1988

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

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

John's dog of a lifetime - FC Clary von Moosbach

F.Ch. Clary von Moosbach was a dog for all seasons. Dachshund people who had heard of Clary during the fourteen years of her life (1971-1985) thought of her as a field trial dog, and her field trial record was more than respectable. Others, without knowing her name, may have seen her as the hunting Dachshund on the opening slide of the old DCA slide sequence on conformation. From 1973 to 1980 Clary dominated field trials in the East, before the field trial fever had spread very far into the West and Midwest. With her dam, F. Ch. Carla vom Rode and her half sister, Dual Ch. Uta von Moosbach, Clary was on the leading edge of a wave of European Wires that began to win trials in the late ‘60s. She won at least eleven field champion stakes, but had passed her field trialing prime too soon to follow the field trial boom west. In 1984 she was honored in Philadelphia at the AKC Centennial Celebration as the hunting and field trial representative of the Dachshund breed.


 Clary was the product of an outcross of two German-bred dogs, Bobo von der Schofielden and F. Ch. Carla vom Rode, whom I imported as a puppy in 1965. The genetic component behind Clary's aptitudes was the product of pure luck, rather than any breeding skill on my part. She was a good producer when bred to compatible studs, but she never replicated herself. As is often the case with outcrosses, her best offspring resembled the sire as much as they did Clary. Her puppies were all of the same general psychological type, however. In field trialing, the fun of these European Wires was in their abundant voice, their desire to trail and their enthusiastic, slambang style, which we had to condemn as judges, but could enjoy in private company. The development of the Dachshund in Europe never involved selection for the slow, close-trailing style, off lead, which is the standard for American Dachshund field trials. Our trials here are modeled upon American Beagle brace trials, rather than the German tests. Still, Clary and her best daughters, Field Champions Eda, Gerte and Giesele (Goose) von Moosbach, did very well in their own decade, even beating, on occasion, Glary's own distinguished cousin, F. Ch. Adelheid von Spurlaut.

To put it all in perspective, not everyone was delighted by these working class European Dachshunds, who usually lacked the aristocratic good looks of American show stock. Field trial competition from these Wires, many of whom were Clary's relatives and descendants, irked some breeders and inspired others. For certain, the stir and controversy raised the level of competition and helped to end a certain complacent approach to performance.

However, Clary was more than a field trial dog, and those who knew her well realized that rabbit brace trials were not even her best event. The selection process behind her German breeding probably prepared Clary better for natural hunting than for the precision tracking work of field trials. What really distinguished Clary was an uncanny intuition of knowing what I wanted and what was needed in any season or situation. Even for Dachshund lovers who have no interest in hunting whatever, her history can broaden our awareness of Dachshund psychology.

Dachshunds, particularly the Wires, were developed by German foresters as solo companion/hunters. Never used as pack hounds, they were bred to relate and respond to the needs of their masters rather than to pack members. They were used as flushing dogs, trackers of wounded big game and for underground work, usually on foxes rather than on badgers. At twenty pounds, Clary was too big to work the underground game of the Northeast, but she exemplified the other character traits bred for in Germany. It was something that came naturally to her with a minimum of discipline. Quickly she learned that hunting was more fun and more productive if she worked with me as a team. She hunted pheasants in the fashion of a slow spaniel, quartering back and forth ahead of me to flush within shotgun range. Yet she had a hound's nose for a track. If she crossed the feeding trail of a pheasant she would give voice and I would follow. We might go 200 yards, through cover, but it was almost a sure thing that the bird would burst into flight at the end. Pheasants and rabbits usually like a similar habitat. If rabbits were the game, after the pheasant season, Clary would quickly sense what we were up to and extend her searching range accordingly.

Clary loved to hunt grouse, and she was invaluable in locating downed birds which had burrowed under the loose, dry leaves of autumn. She was a little small to retrieve in heavy cover and she had never been trained to do so. One morning I shot at a grouse as it cleared the treetops, and apparently missed. The grouse showed no reaction to the shot that I could recognize, and I watched it fly high and strongly out of sight. Clary disappeared in the same direction and was gone for a long time. I was mildly irritated; this was hardly teamwork. Finally, the brush parted and Clary struggled out, stumbling on the wing of the dead grouse, which she held in her jaws. She had known, somehow, that the bird was hit and that it would certainly be lost if she did not make a difficult retrieve, for which she had never been trained.

On another occasion, we were invited to go pheasant hunting in a neighboring county. The designated canine star of the hunt was a huge Weimaraner, but Clary ended up finding more pheasants. She could work the cover, which was too high and dense to see the big, gray dog on point. Clary's barks let us know that she was trailing one pheasant up the long length of a swale. When the pheasant ran to the limits of cover, he took to the air; my companion shot - not well - and wounded the big cock The pheasant flew heavily across a wide field, staying about ten feet high, and landed in a dense brush lot 200 yards away. Almost certainly, it seemed, this was a lost bird. Clary followed out of the swale; she had been too far back to see the bird take wing, but she had heard the shot. Apparently, the low-flying pheasant had thrown off scent, which settled to the ground as he flew. In "S" curves, following the diffused band of scent, Clary tracked her way across the field to where the bird had landed to run once more. This pheasant was too big to retrieve, but Clary had him anchored when we arrived. Few Dachshund owners have the joy of seeing their dog carry off a stunt like this.

Clary's abilities extended to raccoon hunting. She understood that this was what nights were for, and she paid no attention whatever to rabbits, which she loved to chase in daylight. Deer were also of no interest. Once, on a moonlit night, I saw her come to the tree where the coon had gone up. She made one short bark and then cast a broad circle around the tree. Then, sure that the coon had not "marked the tree" and continued on, she settled down to steady tree-barking. When I hunted with friends who had specialized coon hounds, Clary treed her share.

Clary and Carla

Clary did have her failings; she would leave almost any game for certain small, black and white creatures of the night. She seemed to relish being drenched with skunk spray. After munching on the skunk, she would get back to work and, somehow, her nose would still function. For her, at least, this was no inconvenience.

Clary was four years old before we discovered together the challenges and intricacies of tracking wounded deer. Deer Search, the New York State-based organization, began as an experimental program to see if the European method of using leashed tracking dogs to find wounded deer was feasible there. Since Dachshunds are one of the major breeds used in Europe for this work, it was natural for me to begin the research with Clary, and it was my sheer good fortune that she turned out to be one of the most talented dogs to ever work in the program. Clary was a natural, but I did not fully appreciate how exceptional she was until years later, when the Deer Search had grown to involve many dogs and handlers. Training and experience are important but, in addition, the best dogs must have an exceptional nose and the intelligence to use it well. Since we humans are "challenged" with very poor noses and little awareness of scent, it helps if we imagine scent as microscopic particles which are cast off by the animal being tracked. Each deer, like each human, has a distinctive scent signature. On an old track, dried by sun and swept by wind, the only scent remaining may be the particles, which have filtered down among the dead leaves of the forest floor. Clary would work her nose down under the leaves and painstakingly inch along the difficult sections of the trail.
I remember tracking with her one bitter cold night in a howling wind. There was no visible sign that the wounded deer had passed, and Clary had to work a broad zone for scent, zigzagging back and forth from hollows at the bases of trees to piles of leaves swept up against rocks and stumps. It involved something more than having a good nose; Clary had learned from experience where scent might linger under such conditions, and where traces of it could be discovered through active and aggressive search. It was her desire that kept her focused and permitted her to use her experience so effectively.


The desire showed in other ways. Many of the deer, which we tracked, were not seriously wounded and, after a mile or so on the trail, a decision would be made to back off and let the deer recover on its own. When I picked up Clary on such a scent line, after she had tried so hard, she would struggle and cry like a puppy. On the other hand, if she were allowed to overtake or find a deer, Clary clearly expressed her feelings. After an hour's drive home from a deer call, Clary would still be "up" and would perform her "happy dance" on the kitchen floor. She would end, four feet in the air, wriggling contentedly and thumping her tail in self satisfaction. This came from an ordinarily laid-back house dog with a plain vanilla personality.

In a tracking dog, the desire to find the quarry must be balanced with discriminating intelligence. The outstanding dog also has the powers of concentration to keep focused on a day-old track, even when a healthy deer crosses the scent line just ahead. For Clary, the quarry was the designated deer that she had been asked to track by her handler. Other deer were of no more interest than a cow. One early November morning we tracked a deer shot the day before. Looking ahead, I could see a field, white with frost, upon which more than a dozen deer were grazing. White tails flaring, they bounded out of the field as we approached. Even I could smell their musky scent, but Clary remained strictly focused on the old, cold scent of the day before. There were very occasional blood droplets, just visible through the frost, to show that we were on the right track. If I had not seen and smelled the herd myself, I never would have known from "reading" Clary that fresh deer scent was everywhere present. For Clary, on the track, it must have been like following the thin thread of a flute solo through the whomp-whomping roar of a live rock concert.

Clary was a blood-tracking dog from when she began at age four until a series of mini-strokes incapacitated her at fourteen. She probably reached her peak at ten years of age. By this time she was slowing down physically to some degree, but she more than made up for this through her experience gained in taking over 200 calls and finding more than 70 deer. It is impossible to state the exact figure, because she was used often in her last years as a back-up in the field for young dogs who were learning the game. If an inexperienced dog faltered on a difficult check or dead-ended when the deer backtracked, as sometimes happened, it was Clary who would be brought forward. Almost always, she solved the riddle in her patient, conservative style. Then, without complaint, she would give up the lead to the younger dog once more. Clary was a professional.

Clary was so professional, so focused on her work of finding wounded deer, that she would tolerate almost anyone at the other end of the 30-foot tracking lead. She simply required that the stand-in handler respect her greater wisdom and not interfere with what she wanted to do. Lightheartedly, I lent her out to other Deer Search members, never thinking of all the things that might have gone wrong. If skunks were not involved, she had an uncanny sense of doing the right thing and staying out of trouble. There were no mishaps.

Dachshund people tend to communicate primarily with one another; our Dachshund world is rather inaccessible to those not already in the loop. Generally, outsiders who do not know the breed well, have no sense that Dachshunds today are useful hunting dogs. Perhaps the name "Dachshund" leads them to suspect that , back in the mists of distant time, ancestors of our breed did somehow hunt badgers, but certainly there is no link in their minds between past and present. Clary made hunters and scent hound people aware that the right Dachshund can be a serious and versatile hunting dog today. Actually, no other breed carries so many possibilities in a twenty-pound package. It is fortunate that the first Deer Search dog was one of the very best. For her owner, she was a partner for all seasons and the dog of a lifetime. For the Dear Search members who knew her, she was the right dog at the right time.