German Versatility Test for Dachshunds

 

by Jolanta Jeanneney (for DCA Newsletter September 2006)

 

The DTK* Versatility Test for Dachshunds (Vielseitigkeitsprüfung, abbreviated as Vp) was recently conducted for the first time in the United States. I realize that DCA members are not interested in intricate details of such test, but I also believe that it is useful and educational to see how the German club handles the testing of dachshund’s hunting abilities. Moreover, the recent lively discussion conducted on the DCA Performance Events Forum on eligibility requirements for AKC field trial judges makes me think that it might be interesting for some to learn how one becomes a DTK hunting judge. This issue is related to the Vp test since two NATC members who took the Vp test did so as a requirement to become DTK apprentice judges. And lastly – even though I was just an observer of the Vp tests, I was a very emotionally involved observer. The dogs tested were very much connected to me – Henry Holt’s “Bear” was bred by us, and Asko handled by Andy Bensing is owned by us. Andy has been very successful in blood tracking with Asko’s grandson Arno, but unfortunately Arno is not spurlaut* and therefore not eligible for Vp test. He borrowed Asko from us and spent three weeks training him very intensively. Anyway, both handlers and dogs performed superbly and it was a truly inspirational experience to see these two teams working so well. No matter what your sport might be, once in a while, you get to see performance that leaves a lasting impression and becomes a benchmark. This was one of these moments.

 

For those unfamiliar with the DTK (Deutscher Teckelklub) – this German dachshund club formed in 1888 has around 25,000 members and is organized into sections and groups. The club is a member of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale* (FCI), which maintains the international standard for dachshund. In 1999 the DTK established its presence in North America by forming the North American Teckel Club (NATC). The NATC members consider the dachshund to be a serious hunting dog and the club's mission is to maintain the physical and mental hunting aptitudes of the breed and to test these qualities in the field. In 2001 seven NATC members with extensive experience with working dachshunds were grandfathered as judges of hunting tests. Five years later the club needs more judges, and now Henry Holt and Andy Bensing have met very rigorous requirements to be accepted into the apprenticeship program.

 

I am not going to go into details as they are described in the seven-page document, but potential applicants into judging apprenticeship program are nominated by DTK sections and groups. The candidate’s age is an important factor and has to fall in the range of 22-50 years. Potential apprentices have to be DTK members for at least 4 years and hold a hunting license for at least 3 years. They must have experience in hunting, training and handling dachshunds i.e. they must have successfully trained and handled their dachshund in several hunting tests. They must be active hunters.

 

Apprentices accepted into the program are issued an apprentice judge’s certificate. In Germany the apprenticeship lasts at least two, but in most cases three years. During this time the apprentice has to serve as one of the judges in the following tests: 3 Spurlaut Tests, 1 Flushing Test, 2 Blood Tracking Tests, 2 Versatility Tests, 2 artificial fox den or natural fox/badger, 1 companion dog test. When a candidate fulfills the judging requirements, he/she is eligible to take an exam, which consists of two parts – oral and written. The written section contains not only questions about the Testing and Judges’ Regulations, but also involves other DTK regulations. The oral section covers testing cases, judge’s reports and unclear questions from the written part.

 

Going back to the Vp test conducted May 13-14, 2006, it was organized so Andy and Henry could fulfill their requirements as judging applicants.

 

In the Vp test the dachshund is tested as an above-ground hunting dog.  The dachshund is, of course, an underground hunter as well, but underground work is not included in the Vp performance repertoire; these underground aptitudes are evaluated in other DTK tests. The three components of the Vp are: blood tracking test, field obedience and the game flushing test. The Vp test can also include test for voice and accuracy on the scent line (Spurlautprüfung). Successful passing of the voicing tests is required before the dachshund can be entered in all above-ground hunting tests except for blood tracking.

 

Those who hunt with their dachshunds believe that it is highly desirable for a dog to give tongue as he pursues a live game - rabbit, fox or deer by scent. The voice announces that the game is coming and the voice allows the hunter to know the location of the dachshund. In the emotional realm, the dog’s voice allows the hunter to participate vicariously in the chase. Voice tells us if the scent is hot or cold, whether the quarry is running straight and all out or zig-zagging about and playing tricks to make the scent line more difficult to follow.

 

The DTK Spurlaut test conducted on European hare evaluates dog’s nose, voice, accuracy and desire. This test with its elaborate scoring protocol is not easily adaptable to the North American cottontail rabbit, which runs very differently from the European hare. In the case of the Vp test discussed in this article, Bear and Asko’s voicing ability on rabbit was tested by using a simpler JGHV* Loud Hunter Certification. The test was conducted at the Niagara River Beagle Club grounds in Batavia, NY, which offered a very good visibility. Bear and Asko were released on rabbits (one dog at a time) and three judges were able to see the rabbits’ runs well. Both dogs opened, carried the line for quite a distance and passed successfully this component of the Vp test.

 

The second part of the Vp tests was field obedience, in which the dog is evaluated for heeling off or on leash, down/stay during gun fire and behavior during a drive. For the second component a handler who carries a shotgun puts a dog on down/stay and leaves the sight. Judges observe the dog from a hidden point and after about two minutes, at their signal, a gun is fired twice. The handler has to be out of sight for at least five minutes, and the dog is not supposed leave his position.  The handler can leave his backpack or a piece of clothing by the dog.

 

This is a demanding test, especially when it is done on the grounds full of rabbits – just as it was the case in Batavia. And to make things worse, just as the test started, we got some heavy rain. I was so impressed with both dogs as they stayed on down for the required amount of time, and only occasional soft whimper could be heard from Asko (I know that he is not fond of rain!), which caused a small point deduction.

 

The third component of the field obedience evaluates dog’s behavior while people around beat the brush, make noise and fire gun. The dog is supposed to be on the sit/stay command next to the handler. I thought that this would be especially challenging for Asko as he is familiar with field trials, and usually hard to control when other dogs follow a rabbit or beaters beat brush. I was amazed how well Andy trained him in 3 weeks as Asko passed this test without any problems.

 

The next test conducted in Batavia was a flushing test, in which Bear and Asko (always one dog at a time) were released into a block of woods with good cover and visibility, where they were supposed to find and follow game opening loudly. Around 10 people surrounded the block and observed the dogs. After 30 minutes or so people gathered together and reported what they have seen. Both dogs worked the cover well and flushed several rabbits.

 

The blood tracking part of the Vp test took place in Clymer, NY. The blood lines were around 600 meters long, aged overnight. Bear was enticed by the fresh deer tracks crossing the blood line he worked, but after Henry corrected him, he finished with a score of 92 points. Asko had a very challenging line but thanks to the handling skills of Andy finished with the perfect score of 100 points.

 

Before I close this already long article I would like to include Henry and Andy’s comments. I asked them to write their impressions, what was most challenging, most rewarding. This is what they said:

 

Henry: “I enjoy training and working with hunting dogs as much as I enjoy big game hunting, so from the start I looked at training a working dachshund for blood tracking as a natural way to bring together two of my favorite pursuits. That is how I came to know John and Jolanta Jeanneney, and it how Attila von Moosbach-Zuzelek , a.k.a. Bear, became my hunting companion.  Bear is a tough wirehaired standard dachshund with a strong prey drive, and I knew he had the makings of a good tracker, but I also knew that I had to point him in the right direction with adequate training if he was going to become a productive worker and a well adjusted member of a growing family.

 

I regard working with a hunting dog of any type, whether it’s a pointer, retriever, or a blood tracker, as a joint venture that is most rewarding when the handler and the dog reach a level of cooperation that allows them to accomplish hunting tasks that neither could accomplish alone. With a young dog this process begins with a fundamental training-based relationship, but as the hunting relationship matures this changes, and the hunter and the hunting dog reach a point where they come to understand their roles. Success is then measured by success in the hunt, and the end reward for both handler and dog lies in the cooperative effort.

 

For me, the requirements of the various Deutscher Teckelklub hunting tests provide the handler with useful training benchmarks for what constitutes a biddable and versatile hunting dachshund. Whether it is field obedience, steadiness to gunfire, retrieving a duck from water, or tracking day old deer blood and hoof scent in a 1000 meter Fährtenschuh course, the hunting tests give the trainer a working standard to use as a guide. The Versatility Hunting Test (Vp) combines many of these elements in a single format, and serves to showcase the overall working capability and versatility of the breed. The test showcases a dogs training and natural ability, and is a test that any well-bred and trained hunting dachshund should be able to pass without difficulty.

 

So how did Bear and I train for the challenge of the Hunting Versatility Test? Well, if the truth were told, we didn’t train for it. The fact is that by the time I took the Vp test with Bear as a prerequisite to my becoming a JGHV Judge, Bear and I had worked together for three years, and had already passed numerous hunting and obedience tests together.  FC Attila von Moosbach-Zuzelek, SchwhK*, SchwhK/F, Vp, Schussf, Wa-T, BHP-1, BHP-G, was as ready, and as far as I was concerned his training was finished. The VP was simply a matter of putting the various pieces of the puzzle together in front of the judges, which at this stage amounted to just another opportunity for me to work with my dog. We had moved beyond the fundamental training-based relationship, and finishing with a Prize I showed that we had in fact learned to work together.”

 

Andy Bensing: “To gain entry into the NATC Apprentice Working Judge Program, one of the requirements I needed was to enter and pass a Vp test.  The problem I had was that neither of the two dogs I currently own were capable of passing all phases of the test.  Arno, my ace number one blood tracking dog, is very obedient but actually not much of a hunter and doesn’t open on rabbits.  Dixie my female is a great hunter, obedient and opens on rabbits but was a long way away from being able to pass a blood tracking test and not to mention that she would just be coming off a litter of pups.  When I received notice that I needed to pass this test there was not time available to get Dixie ready so I went looking to borrow a dog to train and get ready for the test. 

 

Several dogs were offered to me by friends.  Some with pretty good credentials already, but I decided to work with a dog named Asko who was 7 years old and never titled before. Asko had blood tracked before but not for quite a few years, and he was a field champion but had not trialed in quite some time either.  His biggest deficit was in obedience.  Part of the Vp test requires a long down stay under demanding hunting condition distractions and Asko had never been taught down before and his heeling was rusty to say the least.  For a dog with a lot of hunt, that would be the biggest challenge.  Asko’s greatest asset for me was that he was a very ball driven, animated dog who really liked attention.  I also liked the idea of working with Asko because not only would he help me fulfill my judging requirement, but I felt like I would be doing him a service of putting a very respected title on him that he certainly deserved. 

 

I picked Asko up 3 weeks before the test and got right to work.  He and I bonded easily and he handled very easily right away off leash when running rabbits.  I took him out blood tracking a couple of times to learn to read him while tracking.  I found he lacked a little self drive at times in the blood tracking but that was easily compensated for by encouragement from me.  If he stalled a little, all I had to do was encourage him verbally and that would get him going again.  I used the ball as a motivation to spruce up his heeling and that worked quite nicely.  The challenge was the down stay under gunfire and hunting distractions.  He had to be solid enough on the stay so that even if a rabbit ran by he would not budge.  I worked within the rules of the test and used a small knapsack as a focal point for the stay.  I worked the down stay almost every day for the 3 weeks leading up to the test to make sure he wouldn’t budge.

 

Finally on the day of the test Asko’s natural assets, his foundation training that was done years earlier, and my last 3 weeks of bringing it all together paid off.  He passed the test with flying colors scoring a perfect 100 on blood tracking and losing only 1 point in obedience for a little whining on the down stay (but he did not budge!) and 1 point in the forest search.  He ended up being the overall high scoring dog of the day.

 

The most rewarding part of the whole experience was at the end of the day after all the testing was done seeing everyone pay so much attention to Asko.  Asko had been used in breeding quite extensively before and can be found in the pedigrees of the majority of American bred German style dogs used for blood tracking and field trials but he never really received the credit he was due up until that day.  On the same day I trialed my Arno, a grandson of Asko, in a 20 hour blood tracking test and Arno went high score also for his test.  Walking around the grounds at the end of the day with High Score Grandsire and Grandson was a feeling I won’t soon forget. “

 

* Terms and websites:

  • DTK – Deutscher Teckelklub - www.dtk1888.de
  • FCI - Fédération Cynologique Internationale - www.fci.be
  • German titles -  www.teckelclub.org/titles.htm
  • JGHV - Jagdgebrauchshund Verband  is the umbrella organization of hunting-dog clubs in Germany including breed clubs such as DTK
  • NATC - North American Teckel Club - www.teckelclub.org
  • Spurlaut -  innate ability of the dachshund to voice on the scent track of live game