WORKING DACHSHUNDS…

by Jolanta Jeanneney

published in DCA newsletter, March 2004

 

When Patt Nance was visiting us in November to learn more about blood tracking, she dug out of our library of dog books a true gem. It is a forty-six pages long booklet, which Patt calls now “by far the best philosophical treatise on dog breeding” she has ever read. I read it around nine years ago when I moved to the States and found it in John’s den. It left a very strong impression on me and certainly influenced my breeding. It is a highly recommended reading for anybody who is interested in the world of working/hunting dogs, especially in all aspects of their breeding. The book New Guide To Breeding Old Fashioned Working Dogs was written by Guy Gregory Ormiston in 1989 and published by Great Plains Books. The book can be ordered for $15 US (includes worldwide postage paid) from the author Guy G. Ormiston, Rt.1, Box 181-G, Wynnewood, Oklahoma, USA 73098.

The nine chapters are titled: Working Dog Defined, The Future of Working Dogs, All God's Creatures, Genetics and the Working Dog, Pedigrees: Should You Trust Them?, Methodology, Selection, Ten Rules for Becoming a Popular Breeder, Summation. Addendums in the book include four articles written by Ormiston.

Who is Guy G. Ormiston? He is Board Chairman of The Bluetick Breeders and Coonhunters Association, and he has been immersed in the world of working dogs for almost 60 years. His main involvement has been in coonhounds, but he has always had strong interest in different types of hunting and livestock working breeds, for example farm shepherds and border collies. These days one can catch his occasional column in Full Cry, a monthly magazine for working dogs enthusiasts, where Teddy Moritz and John Jeanneney have their own columns. He is an excellent writer and his booklet is rich in quotable paragraphs that  just cannot be paraphrased.  He is a straight shooter and calls things the way he sees them; he ain’t a politician.

How is this book relevant to dachshunds and their breeding? Can the dachshund be considered a working dog these days? According to Ormiston “a working dog is a dog which frequently assists its master in accomplishing a specific task, or tasks. A working dog is usually in contrast to lap dogs, beauty dogs, show dogs, bench dogs, companion dogs, and such. It is possible for a working dog to be all of those too, though not probable. A working dog has beauty, it is derived from its intelligence and utility.” … “Working dogs fall under many names. They can be called gun dogs, tree hounds, racing dogs, sled dogs, cow dogs, squirrel dogs, seeing-eye dogs, police dogs, retrievers, etc. (…) Whatever they are called, they are in reality functional canines with a utilitarian purpose in this old world.”

Certainly, the dachshund was created as a working breed for various hunting tasks. The AKC standard recognizes this when it states that the dachshund’s “hunting spirit, good nose, loud tongue and distinctive build make him well-suited for below-ground work and for beating the bush. His keen nose gives him an advantage over most other breeds for trailing.” In spite of this, the dachshund’s use in the field has been very limited on this continent. Here the dachshund has become a popular pet, a prized show dog, cherished lap dog, beloved companion. These dachshunds are valued for their intelligence and cleverness, temperament, great personality, companionship qualities, but Ormiston would not describe them as “working dachshunds”. And if we apply his definition, even dachshunds whose work is limited only to participation in performance events like field trials would not qualify to be “working dachshunds”.  So are there any working dachshunds in this country at all?

The way I see it, there are some dachshunds, which truly fall into a category of working dogs as defined by Ormiston, and their number has been growing steadily. These are the dachshunds, which are bred and used for tracking wounded game, for hunting rabbits, woodchucks, foxes and squirrels. Falconers appreciate dachshunds whose task is to flush rabbits. Only a small fraction of hunters who breed, train and use dachshunds for real hunting belong to the DCA, and there is very little interaction and overlap between the two worlds. Teddy Moritz estimates that around 40 falconers in North America use dachshunds, and I think that in the States at least 90 hunters track wounded game with dachshunds. One of the purposes of this column is to give DCA members a glimpse into the world of working dachshunds and occasionally I will try to do it. This world is not inferior or superior to the world of dachshund pets, show dogs and performance champions; it is just different.

Very few owners and breeders of working dachshunds would argue with Guy Ormiston when he lists “abilities that mankind requires of a working dog. Intelligence is foremost and it runs head to head with natural working abilities. Desire to perform is also critical to the makeup of a working dog.”

Ormiston also says: “You must be a USER of your own brood stock. There are subtle differences in dogs that only a user will recognize. For example, the ability to go for long stretches of time without water and still be able to work is important for a cow-dog in hot-dry Texas. Any individual who was not a user of Kelpies or Black Mouth Curs, and bred these dogs for other than utility purposes, would no doubt lose the inborn ability of these dogs to perform in hot country. Because not all Kelpies and not all Black Mouth Curs possess the needed stamina to withstand the often brutal tirades of Mother Nature, it would be easy to lose those characteristics by inadvertently breeding to less endowed dogs. You could not cull out these lesser dogs unless you used them under fire, identifying their weaknesses.”

How true these statements are and how applicable to working dachshunds! Even though field trials, earthdog and tracking tests challenge and test some mental attributes required of a hunting dachshund, many characteristics can be tested only in the real life hunting situations and only a user of a working dachshund can appreciate their importance. Steadiness to the gun, olfactory intelligence, emotional and physical endurance, and proper use voice are just some of them. It might be tempting for an owner of a field champion to marvel over qualities of her dog, but there is a difference in the traits required in a useful rabbit hunter and those required in a field trial dog. A dog used for rabbit hunting cannot be gun-shy, has to jump his own rabbits, voice on a rabbit trail, has to come back when called, and has to be able to run rabbits for at least a couple of hours in the field, often in adverse weather conditions. How many current field champions can do that?

According to Ormiston “Dogs with working ability should only be the means to an end. They should be bred by sheepmen to assist in gathering of sheep, by sportsmen to help bag the game, by humanitarians to lead the blind, by trackers to locate criminals, and the like. As long as they are bred for a utilitarian purpose and brood stock is selected for characteristics to accomplish the purpose, competent dogs will result. Visualize the type of working dog you need and always select brood stock to achieve your ideal.” It is hard to argue with this statement. Only a falconer knows exactly what she is looking for in the dachshund she uses in the field and only a tracker of wounded game knows what traits he should emphasize in his breeding. If they started to emphasize traits that have no utilitarian value, they would end up with dogs whose utility in the field would be diminished.

We will be coming back to Ormiston’s book in future columns, but now let’s turn to another issue relevant to working dachshunds

…Why are there so few of them?

One of the obstacles to promoting the concept of working dachshund here in the States is the fact that many dachshund owners are not hunters themselves. Unfortunately, some dachshund owners and breeders are anti-hunting and this creates a true problem when the hunting breed ends up in hands of people who are against the breed’s original purpose. I believe, however, that in many cases breeders and owners have never had opportunity to get involved in hunting, but with some encouragement would like to. I know that for people, especially women, who have no contacts with hunting community and have never done any hunting it may seem like a difficult activity to take on. This is not so. Hunting is not a domain for men only and women’s participation in hunting has been growing steadily. Women currently make up about 13 percent of the hunters in North America, and more than a quarter of the anglers. While these numbers may seem small, women accounted for less than 2 percent of the total number of hunters only 20 years ago. One possible reason is that several women’s-only outdoor programs have sprung up in the past decade, creating opportunities for many women who may not otherwise gain exposure to hunting and the outdoors.  These programs are not intimidating at all even to a complete novice.

One of them is Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW). More than 80 weekend-long BOW workshops are held all across North America annually. The workshops introduce women to a variety of activities equally balanced between hunting and shooting, fishing, and non-harvest sports like canoeing and camping. Participants choose from a list of over 20 activities. BOW programs are expanding to offer “Beyond BOW” events that include actual pheasant, turkey or deer hunts, guided fly fishing, caving excursions, sea kayaking, horse packing trips and more. BOW might teach a woman how to shoot a shotgun. After that she can learn more specifically about pheasant hunting at A Beyond BOW pheasant hunt.

According to BOW website http://www.uwsp.edu/cnr/bow/index.htm, “BOW welcomes women from all backgrounds to enjoy camaraderie with other women in a supportive, non-competitive learning environment. Participants span the ages of 18 to 80+. In addition to learning new activities, BOW participants are also treated to a variety of evening entertainment including outdoor clothing fashion shows, bird shows featuring live hawks and owls, outdoor storytelling, raffle prizes, and more.  BOW workshops are generally held at camps or resorts. Participants stay in heated cabins or lodges that may be rustic, but have basic modern amenities including hot showers. Meals are provided and cooked by the camp staff. The focus for the weekend is learning in a comfortable atmosphere.”

I can attest to these claims as several years ago I took one of the BOW courses. I had a great time and learned many things. I know I will be back to take some other classes.

Women in the Outdoors http://www.nwtf.org/wito/?SUBSITE=wito

  is dedicated to providing new opportunities to women interested in a variety of outdoor activities. You can make new friends or have a great time with old ones as you learn to fish, hunt, camp, hike, mountain bike, shoot and take part in many other exciting activities. Women In The Outdoors is the official magazine of the NWTF's female membership and is dedicated to informing women about the outdoors. The 80-page magazine is filled with articles on a variety of activities including camping, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hunting, shooting, bird watching, gardening.

Women's Shooting Sports Foundation (WSSF) 4620 Edison Ave,. #C., Colorado Springs, CO 80915, Phone:(719)538-1271 promotes the shooting sports for women.

Women’s Hunting Club  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/womenhunters/ has 925 members online and a lively discussion. Many posts are from novices who would like to get involved in hunting.

Discover The Outdoors http://www.dto.com/  has a section on Women Outdoors and provides information on training opportunities.

There are many opportunities out there. Attending field trials or earthdog tests may be just the first step in a right direction. It may lead you to rabbit, woodchuck or squirrel hunting. You and your dog would be able to enjoy the wonderful outdoors together It will be good for both of you.