This is an article that John wrote many years ago before he got into blood tracking. Now we take our blood tracking dogs to field trials and they do well. Usually a good blood tracker is a good field trial dog. We find that preparing for the trials by running rabbits is a good way to keep dogs in shape in the off season. Young dogs also learn how to use their noses well, work checks and recognize backtracks.
(from The American Dachshund, 1967)
The dachshund is a hunter. Once
you have seen a dachshund slipping along beneath the underbrush in full cry
after a fleeing cottontail, there will be no doubt that
the trailing potentialities bred into this hound are still to be found there.
Contrary to popular belief, even in
The opportunities for would-be field trialers are now greater than ever before, and it is hoped that the new experience will be, first of all, fun for dachshunds, and secondly, illuminating for their owners.
The dachshund, like any other hunting breed, does need some practical experience under suitable conditions if he is to develop his innate capacities. All too often the dachshund’s first introduction to rabbits occurs when he is taken out to a field trial “to see how he will do.” Placed in strange territory, distracted by a strange bracemate and a gallery of spectators, he becomes confused and in a moment forgets about the curious scent that reached his nostrils where he was set down on the rabbit’s “line”.
The resulting fiasco is no reflection on the potential qualities of the original dog, but it does demonstrate that preparation for the trial should have begun several moths earlier just as in the case of obedience trials.
As a puppy, your first field trial candidate should have frequent outings even before he is old enough to hunt. After learning to come when called, he must familiarize himself with the natural smells of the outdoors and know how to move about in heavy cover even when he is in a hurry. In other words, he must become “brushwise” and controllable in the field.
After about the sixth month more serious work may begin. Start out in the fresh coolness of morning or evening when the cottontails are out feeding and the scent holds well because of the moist conditions. The first step is to show your dachshund some rabbits and convince him that they are there to be chased. In certain types of cover it may be more convenient to keep the dog leashed until a rabbit is sighted. Let your dog see the rabbit and then encourage him to follow, showing great enthusiasm on your part. If you know exactly where the rabbit passed, point out the invisible scent line to your dachshund so that he can associate the visual and olfactory stimuli. After a few rabbits the hound’s instincts should take over, and he should give chase, following with yapping glee. Considerable patience is sometimes required in this preliminary stage. Mrs. George Goodspeed’s Field Trial Champion Cyrano’s Plume showed no interest whatever in rabbits at first, yet he developed into an outstanding performer.
Once the joys of rabbit chasing are firmly impressed upon your hound, it is important to change your training tactics. Continued sight chases will lead him to rely upon his eyes rather than upon his best instrument, his moist, black nose. When rabbit and rabbit scent have been firmly associated, he must learn to get his head down so that his nose can lead him along the scent line. Now there should be no more joyful, aimless racing around in hopes of another glimpse of the rabbit. Try keeping your dog on a leash, releasing him directly on the line after the rabbit is out of sight.
When your dachshund begins to follow the line smoothly with his nose, the worst of your training problems are over. Your hound will teach himself the finer points, but he may have some difficulty learning to work checks effectively. When the hot line suddenly seems to vanish in a dead end, he may fairly burn with frustration. This check may occur because the rabbit changed direction suddenly, took a long leap or crossed a patch of bare ground, which held the scent poorly.
Ideally, a hound that temporarily loses the line should work the check patiently, beginning at the point of loss and gradually working out to sniff over more and more of the surrounding area until he picks up the line again. Few inexperienced dogs will work out a check in this patient, systematic fashion. Instead, eagerness leads them to swing in big circles, hoping to blunder into the line farther ahead, or as often happens, to scare up a new rabbit. This last is particularly undesirable because the dog that has discovered it easier to find a new rabbit than to work out a difficult check is not likely to develop into a steady, tenacious field trial winner.
Helping your dachshund develop into a good check worker is easier said than done. Much lies in the innate scenting abilities and the basic character of the dog. If cover permits, it is worthwhile to follow him and encourage him to work closely at the point of loss. If you are certain that you know exactly where the rabbit went, it is useful to show him the line once it is clear that he will not find it unassisted. When you or your canine partner are both stumped, it is better to leash him before he wanders off to find a new rabbit. Lead the dog to some new cover a good distance from where the loss occurred before you turn him loose again.
Gradually your dachshund will learn to stick with a rabbit over longer and longer distances. You will discover that the chase will continue in a circle around you because
cottontails rarely run out of the few acres of cover with which they are thoroughly familiar. The dachshund’s ultimate level of accomplishment will depend as much upon practice as upon scenting ability and basic hunting instinct, which vary with his genetic make-up. A great deal of his success as a field trial competitor will depend upon you, your own patience and good sense.
Field trials, and the necessary preparation for them, can be a great family sport.
Dachshunds are slow enough to that the children can keep up too, and even the rabbit seem to enjoy it since they are in no danger of being overtaken. If you live in the suburbs, a bit of research will usually reveal a few undeveloped areas, sufficiently removed from traffic to be safe for rabbit chasing.
The spring trials will soon be here. Watch for the announcements of exact dates. In the meantime, take your dachshund afield! Give him a fair chance to show what he can do.