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.
HANDLING YOUR DACHSHUND AT A FIELD TRIAL
Anything can happen at a field trial. On a given day, the best of hounds can have a bad bracemate or an upset stomach. Some rabbits, even without the benefits of Right Guard, are so odor-free that they are next to impossible to trail. Poor handling is another problem that is a factor, but this is one factor that can be controlled.
Good handling at field trials requires some basic equipment. Bypassing the important question of proper clothes for the handler, the collar and leash for the dog are literally the great hang-up. Certainly that familiar show lead looks elegant, but it is awkward and inelegant to try slipping it over his head at the critical moment when, nose full of rabbit scent, he lunges to take off. The handler who insists on using a show lead is handicapping his dog from the start, and the start or release in field trialing is as critical as the final putt in golf.
Purchase a 5/8 or 3/4 inch leather collar with a “D” ring and a sturdy four foot leash equipped with a standard bolt snap. An identification plate on the collar, stamped with your name and telephone number can save a lot of worry. While most field trial grounds are fenced, your own training area may not be, and the identification collar is excellent insurance. Except in situations where your dachshund will be working underground, there is virtually no chance that he will snag his collar and be unable to free himself. Your dog is certainly safer with a collar than without one.
Bill Boatman and Co,
Once your dachshund is properly outfitted – and trained – for field work, the next step is the trial itself. Plan to report to the judges with your hound in a physical and mental state to do his best. Do not feed within 12 hours of the trial, and at the very least exercise your dog so that he will thoroughly empty his bowels.
When it comes to final preparations, each dachshund must be treated as an individual. The dog with an overabundance of energy may disenchant the judges with an explosion of wild running before he settles down. Find a way to bring this type of dog into the running enclosure just tired enough so that he will attend to business.
The aged or out-of-condition dog requires another approach. His reserve of stamina is small, and such a dog, if exercised hard before the trial, may wilt in second series.
While waiting for your dachshund to be called up with his bracemate, avoid letting him see rabbits so that he works himself into a frenzy. Stay far enough from the action to keep him calm, yet close enough so that you can hear the judges when they call up your dog for the next brace. If it is a hot day, keep him in the shade as much as possible.
When you hear the tally ho for your rabbit, see to it that you and your bracemate get to the point with minimum delay. Under most conditions rabbit scent fades considerably after five minutes.
The judges will show you the “line” along which the rabbit was observed to pass. Particularly if it is windy, ask to release your dog where there is some vegetation. Scent “holds” better in long grass and brush than on bare ground or the close-cropped grass of a feed strip. Because of their odor and their smoothness, pine needles are usually a very difficult surface.
Before you turn your dog loose, he should have a good smell of the rabbit and a sense of direction of the line. This is assured if you lead your dog onto the line, let him get a nose full, and get him started in the right direction before you unsnap the leash. Avoid a distracting wrestling match with your dog as you release him.
For the ultimate in smooth releases here is a trick from an old beagler. Shortly before putting your hound down on the line, thread a length of fairly stiff clothesline under his collar or through the collar ring; also unhook the leash. The rope should about ten feet long so that when it is doubled back from the collar, you are five feet from the dog out ahead of you.
In this way it is easy to guide the hound onto the line, and then when he “has it”, one end of the rope can be released. Your hound will ease of the rope and be away without a hitch.
Avoid letting anything or anyone pressure you into releasing your dog before he is oriented, has the scent and is ready to work those first difficult yards with precision. A field trial is not a race, and if your fellow-handler, in a big hurry, fails to realize this, it is to your advantage. The dog that charges off in the wrong direction seldom recovers later.
Once the dogs are released, they are on their own; no further handling is permitted unless specifically requested by the judges. You should follow the judges, but be careful not to interfere with them or cut off a dog. Rabbit scent is a faint and evanescent trace most definitely affected if a human being crosses the line.
Once the judges have made their judgment on that run, they will say, “Pick them up”. Canine exploits, no matter how brilliant, do not count after this moment. Get your dog up as quickly as possible because he must be leashed before the next brace can have a chance. Undue delay, caused by a disobedient dog, can lead to him being dropped from the trial.
If you are emotionally involved with your dogs, accepting the judges’ final verdict can be difficult, but accepting it with at least outward grace is part of the discipline of being a handler. And remember too that the judges saw all of the competition and were in a better position than you to evaluate most of the braces. Even in your own brace the two judges together probably saw more of the work of both dogs.
A field trial judge selects the best performer on a given occasion; the order might be reversed tomorrow. But most of the time, most of the winners will have good handlers.