published in DCA newsletter, March 2004
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
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
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
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 encoura
of them is Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW). More than
80 weekend-long BOW workshops are held all across
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.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.
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.