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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Nature has no morality

On April 28 while the southern states suffered a horrific destruction, I went out with my camera to shoot one of the most beautiful and dramatic sunsets in the long time. Nature has no morality...

Friday, April 29, 2011

More pictures from Deer Search blood tracking competition and certification tests

Thanks to Holly Mitchell we received more pictures taken on the weekend of April 16-17 at Deer Search blood tracking competition and certification tests. Thank you Holly!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Montana Governor signs SB 135 allowing the use of tracking dogs

On April 22, 2011 Montana Senate Bill 135 allowing the use of dogs to track wounded game (and carrying firearms during such tracking),  was signed by the Governor. The text of the relevant secition reads:

(a) A person with a valid hunting license issued pursuant to Title 87, chapter 2, may use a dog to track a wounded game animal during an appropriate open season. Any person using a dog in this manner:

(i) shall maintain physical control of the dog at all times by means of a maximum 50-foot lead attached to the dog's collar or harness;

(ii) during the general season, whether handling or accompanying the dog, shall wear hunter orange material pursuant to 87-3-302;

(iii) may carry any weapon allowed by law;

(iv) may dispose of the wounded game animal using any weapon allowed by the valid hunting license; and

(v) shall immediately tag an animal that has been reduced to possession in accordance with 87-2-509.

(b) Dog handlers tracking a wounded game animal with a dog are exempt from licensing requirements under Title 87, chapter 2, as long as they are accompanied by the licensed hunter who wounded the game animal."
For more info about the bill click here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A video of Ray and Roscoe's track from last October

Ray Holohan from Illinois sent us a link to the video showing him and Roscoe tracking. Thanks Ray!

"This is a video of Rosco on a successful deer track last October 2010. The video was made by Mike Wise a Southern Woods and Water TV prostaff production. This was a night time track about 5 hours old. When I got there they did a little interview with me and Rosco. The track started where they had followed the blood to where it entered a large switch grass field of 700 acres. The quality of the track is poor due to insufficent lighting. As you look at the video you will see me making an adjustment to Rosco's harness, I missed a leg hole ,"whoops" . They had 3 guys following me looking for blood. Rosco tracked for 3 hours about 2 1/2 miles when we jumped the deer out of a woundbed in a dried creek bottom. The deer ran on to the adjacent property where we did not have permission to track. We did not recover the deer, but Rosco did a hell of a good job. After the track we went and looked at the video of the shot frame by frame and it looked like the arrow slid along the shoulder blade and into the neck area not hittng any vitals. A little bit of this video would have appeared on TV had we recovered the deer."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Deer Search Blood Tracking Competition

by John Jeanneney

The tracking conditions for the 2011 Deer Search Competition were the toughest I’ve ever seen. This year the competition was hosted by the Deer Search Finger Lakes Chapter Inc down in Steuben County at Campbell, NY. This area offers the best deer hunting in New York State, which meant that there were hot lines everywhere and lots of turkeys too. On top of this the tracking was done in a cold, driving rain, although the competition blood lines, laid the day before, had at least been able to dry before Saturday’s downpour began. As part of the judging team, along with Gary Neal and Kevin Fisher, I was in a good position to see the dog work, provided that I wiped my glasses regularly.

  • Winner: Moby. miniature longhaired dachshund, (4 3 4)  92 points, Prize I, Chester Swierk
  • 2nd: Tabitha, wirehaired dachshund, (3 3 4) 82 points, Prize II, Dale Clifford
  • 3rd: Eibe: wirehaired dachshund, (2 2 4) 64 points, Prize III, Andy Bensing
  • 4th: Cassandra: wirehaired dachshund, (2 2 2) 50 points, Prize III, Dale Clifford

Chester Swierk’s miniature longhair dachshund won decisively with the only Prize I rating of the day. This little dog was calm, steady and showed excellent line sense. Chester, the owner/handler, was in his first competition, but he appeared to be one of those gifted individuals born knowing what to do. Chester claimed that he read a good book about handling, but I don’t think that you learn things from a book on this level! 

Chester Swierk and Moby, winner of the Blood Tracking Competition
Chester and Moby plus 3 judges: Kevin Fisher, Gary Neal and John Jeanneney
Dale Clifford took a well-earned second with his wirehaired dachshund Tabitha, who tracked down steep, logged-over slopes clogged with downed tree tops. These obstacles were a tough challenge because once Tabitha was a few yards off the line, on the wrong side of a windrow of tree tops, there was no easy way to swing back onto the line again.
Dale Clifford and Tabitha, second place

For Andy Bensing’s wirehaired dachshund Eibe hot lines and a working speed too fast for the conditions were her undoing. She took third with a Prize III score of 64. A year earlier, at the Deer Search Competition in Dutchess County, Eibe had won decisively with Prize I score of 100.

Andy Bensing and Eibe, third place
Dale Clifford’s Cassandra, a sister to Tabitha, rounded out the quartette of placing dogs in the Competition. She scraped though with a Prize III, score of 50, which was still an accomplishment considering the conditions.

On Sunday, dogs not in the Competition were judged for Deer Search certification. Although there was little actual rain while the dogs were working, it was very windy. The blood lines has been laid down in the rain of the previous day. Probably there was even less scent line remaining than there had been for the competition dogs the day before. Still five out of eight dogs passed for Deer Search Certification. The newly certified dogs were:
  • Gary Huber’s Beya (Bavarian mountain bloodhound) 74 points
  • Darren Doran’s Karl (wirehaired dachshund) 57 points
Darren Doran and Karl
  •  Dayrl Kempston's Penny (miniature longhaired dachshund) 50 points
Matt Griffin and Gunner

  • Matt Griffin’s Gunner (golden retriever) 57 points
  • Laura Harrington’s Braylee (wirehaired dachshund) 67 points 

Laura Harrington and Pauline with Braylee

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Our first field trials of the season (Maryland)

Last weekend I went to my first field trial of the season. Metropolitan Washington Dachshund Club held two field trials (Saturday and Sunday) at Maryland Beagle Club in White Hall, MD.

It was great to see my friends and their dogs after a long winter break. As I mentioned in my previous post, the weather on Saturday was unbelievably bad, and I could not take any pictures in the field. The only pics available from the Saturday trial were taken indoors, and they are posted click here. In total there were 20 open bitches, 13 open males and 40 field champions. I ran Quenotte in the open stake (this was her first field trial ever); she is just 11 months old. Considering how difficult conditions were (pouring rain and gusting winds, thunder and lightning), I was pleased with Quenotte but surprised that she managed to place 1st in her stake. Our young field champions Paika, Tommy and Joeri had some good runs but the competition was tough.

Quenotte with her 1st place rosette. This picture was taken at our place after I got home.

Pete Mercier handled his mini long Trooper to the first place in the field champion stake. Trooper was also Absolute Winner of the trial.

Janice Koslow's wire Jett placed 2nd in field champions. Jett is our Elli's niece.
On Sunday the weather was more comfortable though still it was very windy, and conditions were difficult. The number of entries went somewhat down, and we had 15 open bitches, 14 open dogs and 40 field champions. Since I was running Quenotte in the morning, and then Paika, Tommy and Joei in the field champion stake, I could take pictures only after the second series in the field champions was called back. Two braces came back and they were Guiness (standard long), Zuni (mini wire), Ollie (standard smooth) and Dixie (standard wire). This is also how they placed in the end. Open classes were won by Rhett (mini long) and Lilah (mini long). The Absolute win went to Guiness owned by Melanie Simmons.

The grounds have very good visibility. The supply of rabbits is excellent.

Melanie Simmons with Guiness and Linda Snyder with Zuni in the second series.

Linda Snyder with a very adorable Zuni

Dixie (FC Anja von Moosbach-Zuzelek) owned by Sherry Ruggieri placed 4th in the field champion stake.
Luke is Alice and Phil's new puppy. A dream subject for a photographer.

This is Luke again... He was irresistable.

Lilah owned by Phyllis Damron was first in the open bitch stake.

Rhett owned by Jill Blake won the open dog stake.

Melanie Simmons with Guiness, who was 1st in champions and the Absolute Winner.
More pictures can be viewed click here. Congratulations to all the winners!

After a long and snowy winter it is good to be outside with dogs again. They are rusty after such a long time of inactivity, but this is the price we pay in spring by living in the Helderbergs - it takes a while for the dogs to get into a good running shape.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A very busy weekend in the field

This was a very busy weekend for both of us. I went to Maryland to our first field trials of the season, and John was judging a Deer Search Blood Tracking competition in Campbell, NY. We will report on both events as soon as we can, probably in the next couple of days. For now I will just post two pics from Maryland.
The board showing field trial results on Saturday. It was Quenotte's first field trial and she placed 1st in a stake of 20 on Saturday and 3rd in a stake of 15 on Sunday.

Willette Brown's Tracker Barbie had an adventurous weekend as well. I believe it was her first field trial.
Tracker Barbie is present on Facebook, where she has quite a few friends.
It was a great weekend even though the weather was horrendous. A strong driving rain, gusting winds, low temperature with occasional thunder and lightning did not keep field trial fanatics away from chasing rabbits with their dachshunds, but at the end of the day I was soaked to my underwear. On my way back to motel, I drove by a turned over semi. When I checked the local news I realized how how serious the situation was.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Results of the DNA test for furnishings in dachshunds

If you have not read our previous post about the DNA test for furnishings in dachshunds, click here. We sent three DNA samples to Vetgen te verify genetic status of Bernie, Paika and Tommy for the mutation  controlling furnishings in dachshunds. To quote Vetgen:

"A mutation responsible for “furnishings” or “satin” coat in dogs has recently been identified in the RSPO2 gene. Furnishings refer to the variation of longer facial hair seen in all wire haired breeds as well as some others. This finding was the result of an extensive collaborative effort by researchers from a number of universities and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NIH). The work was published by Cadieu et al. in the journal, Science ( / 27 August 2009 / Page 2 / 10.1126/science.1177808), and the test offered here is based on that work. The mutation is a dominant one, so in breeds where the coat can vary, it is possible for a furnished dog to carry the “unfurnished” trait (called satin by some)."
In dachshunds dogs with furnishings are considered to be wirehairs, and they are either homozygous or heterozygous for the mutation RSPO2. When Vetgen reported results they used a letter F for the dominant mutation coding the presence of furnishings. Dogs with two copies of recessive allele f don't have furnishings and are considered smooth.

This is Bernie, who is a son of two wirehairs (Alfi and Elli) and he does not have furnishings. The DNA test confirmed that he is a homozygous recessive ff.

Paika also came from two wirehaired parents but because she has a full coat with profuse furnishings and all her siblings were wirehaired too, I suspected that she has two copies of the mutation. I was right as she tested to be homozygous dominant FF.

We imported Tommy from Germany, and in his first litter he produced only wirehaired puppies. We wanted to know his genetic status, and the DNA test confirmed that he is homozygous dominant FF.
As breeders we are happy that now the DNA test for furnishings is available, and we will be able to know which dogs are FF and which ones are Ff. Most of the time we are pretty sure as wirehaired dachshunds Ff usually have harsher and more wiry coat than FF. FF dachshunds quite often have a full coat with softer texture. There must be other minor genes controlling the degree of harshness/softness of the wirehaired coat as both Tommy and Paika tested to be FF, but certainly their coats are quite different. Paika's coat is softer than Tommy's and from the point of field work is less desirable.

A tracker who owns of a wirehaired dachshund with a soft coat observed:
"My dog Hank's coat is on the soft side. The first time I had him out, he did well-no find but advanced the track well...but after the track he was a MESS!! He was covered in stick tights, bur docks, cockle burs, beggar lice, sand burs, devil's pitchforks and every other kind of method of plant dispersal mechanism known to taxonomic botanists!! The whole family plucked him from end to end for a while. Of course, he was none too pleased. From that point forward, I try and keep him pretty stripped/cropped when it is time to get him out but he still picks some stuff up. The big cockle burs in the paws are the bad ones. IMHO, I think a smooth or very tight coat, in our area (MO) is much better than the softer coat."

Well, this is a reality of wirehairs bred for the field work! And this is why we are not going to breed Paika to Tommy as we would end up most likely with quite a few soft coats that would be a nightmare in the field. We are going to breed her to Moose whose coat is like Bernie's and this breeding should produce puppies Ff, all wirehairs with pretty good coats.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Training Excerpts: Wound Bed Indication, Road Distraction, and Track Layer Scent Misdirection

by Andy Bensing

The main goals for training line on March 30 were as follows:

1. Continue working on wound bed indication by making the beds very small (smaller or equal to 6") with only a very small amount of hair and small squirt of blood.

2. Emphasize left turns which may facilitate the need for reinforcing previously taught search patterns.

3. Work on "saw toothing" (line control)  which has lately been showing up occasionally in Eibe's work.

To accomplish those goals I laid out a 1600 meter (1 mile) training line using only 5 oz. of blood including the blood squirted onto 7 small wound beds. I used minimal blood and ran the line at 48 hours so that the blood line itself would not have a strong scent and the lightly scented wound beds would still stand out. I also wanted to further investigate the role of track layer scent on the artificial line so I thought the 48 hour age may help me learn if the blood scent or human scent lasts longer. I thought the light blood might also cause Eibe to be more likely to saw tooth. By laying the line out in a counter clock wise direction in the pattern seen below I could maximize the left turns and taking prevailing winds into account could be pretty sure that at least half of the line would have the wind coming from right to left as I desired to work on Eibe's right side saw toothing.

Click on the picture to enlarge

The 7 minute video below shows how I have been training the wound beds and working on saw toothing. As it turned out, Eibe had no trouble whatsoever with any of her turns. You can see on the GPS map that she spent very little time at any of them, left or right so you will see no reference to them in the video.

Wound Bed Indication 3-30-2011 from Andy Bensing on Vimeo.

As I was laying the line I ran into 2 opportunities to create additional goals for the exercise.

1. Track Layer Scent Misdirection - At the northwest corner of the line I decided to set the bottle of blood down and continue on for 20m over and down the crest of a ridge without blood and then backtrack to the blood bottle and make a turn. I did this to observe how Eibe would react when the blood ended, the track layer scent continued on down the hill as a misdirection exercise and then abruptly stopped.  

Sorry, I did not catch this part of the track on video but it did reveal some interesting information. When Eibe came to the corner she continued on and tracked along the bloodless tracklayer line without skipping a beat with no visible cue to me that she did not have the blood. When she hit the end of the bloodless line she made a brief but efficient check that started literally inches from the farthest place I stood 2 days before. This check was much more brief than she normally does at a normal blood line dead end. After the brief check she bee lined it right back to the blood line 20 meters back and made the turn instantly. Of course it is only an intuitive, educational guess on my part but there is little doubt in my mind that she knew she was using the tracklayer scent to "cheat" her way to the next blood but when the track layer scent ran out abruptly, I think she recognized the back track of the track layer's bloodless line and ran right back to the last place she actually smelled blood.

2. Road Distraction - I was about to make a left turn and I ran into a forest road so I decided to use the road to my advantage and give Eibe practice in not being sucked down roads. I made the left turn right on the road knowing Eibe would assume the line when straight across and then really kick in after working the check and finding the correct direction. I went down the road 125 meters and then made an abrupt 135 degree turn off the road. The 4 minute video below shows how that worked out. I was very pleased with her performance.

John Jeanneney's commented on Andy's blog post:

This blog is committed to presenting different perspectives on tracking dogs and their training. Andy Bensing’s contributions, in the form of articles and videos, are an important part of the blog. It must be remembered that Andy is a professional dog trainer with many years of experience. However, people following this blog should not assume that his methods of working with his dachshund Eibe are necessarily the best approach for training their own dogs. Eibe is a mature and quite extraordinary tracking dog, who stands up well to close direction and rather stern discipline. It would be a mistake to assume that these methods are appropriate for training a young dog at a time when motivation, by making the exercise fun, is the first priority.

For example Andy’s emphatic “Downs!” at woundbeds may work well with Eibe, but they would discourage and weaken the confidence of some other good dogs, particularly younger ones, which I have worked with. Even Eibe shows by her tail and body action that she does not enjoy the “downs” part of the exercise. Andy’s methods are more appropriate for a psychologically tough Drahthaar than for many Bavarians or dachshunds. If a dog promptly drops down upon encountering a woundbed or other wound sign placed on the test track, this may impress test judges. However, training for such behavior doesn’t have much to do with making the dog useful for natural tracking.

A dog can learn that his handler/teammate wants to see the blood, bone or tissue clues along the natural track, but certainly he can show this by stopping and pointing with his nose, not by lying down. In dog language lying down tends to be a sign of submission rather than an indication of active cooperation.

There is no one cookbook method that can be applied to all dogs and all situations. I know Andy well, and I’m sure that he is not encouraging everyone to use his “Eibe Method” on every dog. He knows that the goal of training for most of us is to develop a dog’s initiative and heighten his motivation to work out tough tracking problems in natural situations. In this particular video Andy is training Eibe for competitions in the US and possibly in Germany. It is a special situation. Andy’s Eibe is an excellent test dog as well as a natural tracker.

Andy's reply to John's comments:

In this video I am telling the dog "stay" not " down" at the wound beds and only after she has already stopped. In previous video, earlier in her training I commanded "down" but not here.

I do take a little exception in the comment " training for such behavior doesn’t have much to do with making the dog useful for natural tracking." This past tracking season I had several very strong indications of hidden sign under leaves by Eibe that I would attribute to this wound bed work. Dogs can figure out that you want them to point out sign over time but this method will surely accelerate the learning process for the dog. My original reason for teaching the formal wound bed/sign indication was to benefit my natural tracking. The flashy look on a test line was a secondary consideration.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

From winter to two weeks

Never mind that we still have a pile of snow behind the barn. Our dachshunds decided that with temperature in mid 50s outside it is time to dive in!

Getting wet - Quenotte was cautious when approached the water but decided to get in after all. Click on the picture to enlarge.

Bernie is back to his old tricks - splashing water and catching droplets. My new lens for sure has made a big difference in catching the right moment. Click on the picture to enlarge.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Randy Vick's outstanding tracking season - part 2

Today we present more pictures of Randy Vick's recoveries. The four pictures show deer found by Little Brown, a Bavarian Mountain Hound.
Thank you Randy for sharing them with us!