Interest in blood tracking dachshunds of the German type has spread far beyond the Northeast. To meet the needs of wirehaired dachshund owners, Jolanta Jeanneney and other members of the United Blood Trackers Board of Directors organized a three-day tracking dachshund workshop (June 9-11) near Quincy, Illinois, about 80 miles north of St. Louis. Illinois is a focus of tracking interest thanks to the successful legislative campaign of UBT member Henry Holt, who is a resident.

Trackfest 2006 almost did not happen as Dave Johnson who was to host it fell ill three weeks prior to the event. Fortunately, Neal and Debbie Meyer who run a deer hunters’ guide service in Adams and Pike Counties offered their property. The Meyers own Chloe, a young wirehaired dachshund, who will be used to track for their own hunting clients and for other hunters in the central Illinois area. Deer hunters, and especially deer guides and outfitters, have become aware that if a wounded deer leaves little or no blood trail, there is no need to give it up for lost.  At present the regulations have been changed in 15 states to permit the use of tracking dogs. Fortuitously, dachshunds, especially wirehaired dachshunds, are one of the first breeds that comes to mind in the Midwest when tracking wounded deer.           

The organizers of Trackfest 2006 were amazed that a total of 39 people attended; participants came from Illinois and from other states including Maine, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana and Arkansas. Almost all of the people attending had young wirehaired dachshunds bred out of German bloodlines, and there were a couple of dogs imported directly from Germany. Ken Parker from Williamson, Georgia came up with his Bavarian bloodhound bitch and showed us what she could do on an old line laid in an unsuccessful planting of corn that amounted to a field of sun-baked earth.

Presentations, assisted in the evenings by PowerPoint, occupied about half of the formally organized time. John Jeanneney spoke on the concept of the breed and dachshunds in America, Cheri Faust spoke on dachshund conformation and the FCI standard, illustrating her points with analyses of certain dachshunds that were present.  Sherry Ruggieri talked about the grooming of wires and did a day’s worth of grooming to follow up on her discussion of technique. 

Andy Bensing, UBT President, did an expanded version of his recent NATC Workshop talk about discipline and training. He followed this up with hands-on work with many individual dogs. 

Larry Gohlke, with a little help from his friends, talked about the problem of putting down live wounded deer, especially in the northern Midwest where it is not permitted to carry a firearm while tracking. One of Larry’s expedients is to rig up the tracking leash as a lasso to snub the deer to a tree. They do this quite a bit in Wisconsin, but it turned out that we had a former rodeo calf roper in the group. J.R. Chappell from Louisville, KY grabbed onto this idea and showed us how accurate and effective a good calf roper can be.  Now J.R. can hardly wait for deer season, so that Peemoe, his wirehaired dachshund, can find  a big ornery buck for roping. (Personally, I think that I’ll stick to my handgun and fast laser sight, which is legal for a licensed handler in New York State.)   

Jolanta Jeanneney’s presentation on genetics and breeding took an original and very instructive approach that no one had seen before. Having reviewed general principles of genetics as applied to breeding, she brought 13 dachshunds out on to the tree-shaded lawn. There was a line-up of dogs facing another of bitches. Jolanta first re-emphasized her point that breeding working dachshunds is not like breeding pet rabbits. The stud dog living closest is not necessarily as good as any other. 

Jolanta made the point that dogs with serious faults of conformation or working ability should not be bred at all. Almost no dog is perfect, but care should be taken to avoid doubling up on a weakness from both dog and bitch. As an example she explained that a bitch with a coat on the soft side should be bred only to a correctly coated male or possibly to one whose coat is on the tight side. Likewise, two dachshunds a bit too long or too low should not be bred together. 

Jolanta also addressed the issue of genetically influenced health problems in the breed such as intervertebral disk disease. We were very fortunate that Terry Dew, DVM, a board certified veterinary surgeon from Arkansas, was attending Trackfest, as he was able to share his extensive knowledge regarding back problems in dachshunds.

It is one thing to talk about such matters in spoken generalities; it is much clearer and meaningful to visually present examples of what you are talking about. Jolanta’s analysis did not end with conformation and working ability. She had also mastered the pedigrees of all the dachshunds present so that she could point out if a breeding would be too close, an acceptable line breeding or an outcross. Many of the people present were not accustomed to thinking in these terms.

A major point coming forth from Jolanta’s discussion is the restrictiveness of the wirehaired dachshund gene pool in America.  She drove home the point that more outstanding outcrosses are needed if the current gene pool is not to degenerate, as was the case for an earlier gene pool of German wires imported into the United State in the 1970s and 80s.  

Favorable, somewhat moist weather made it ideal to work the young dachshunds and their handlers in the field on training blood lines. Here the emphasis was on reading the dog, and communicating with the dog more effectively while working the line. The most persistent problem was with dachshunds working too fast to be careful in their work. Calming the young dachshund, while at the same time lending him emotional support, is an essential part of handling. Many of the handlers, who had previously worked alone with their dogs, were not aware of how much can be done in this respect.

We all had a chance to get our puppy fix as Larry Gohlke brought with him four pups out of his recent litter sired by Susanne Hamilton’s Buster. Not only  were the puppies easy on the eyes but they already could follow 200 yard long blood trails with an amazing concentration. Andy Bensing’s somewhat younger puppies went to their new homes with three Trackfest participants – Kim Roberts, Greg Accardo and Bob Scidmore.

It was very gratifying to see how well participant interest was maintained over three long days and evenings. There was always something going on, and yet people had time to relax and socialize.  

Trackfest t-shirts with logo designed by Jolanta, and color and design picked out by Cheri Faust were a great hit. Cheri brought 50 t-shirts and they sold out. Another hit of Trackfest was Pete Martin’s mustard, the best mustard in the world. Pete brought a supply of this mustard to Trackfest, and it spiced up everything. Pete acquires limited quantities of this old formula mustard from a home manufactory and distillery hidden deep in the Catskill Mountains. Extra jars were available for Trackfest attendees, and there have been many requests for it since.  

We Northerners thought we knew all about ticks, especially deer ticks, but we had never encountered Lone Star ticks, which seem to be the pit bulls of the tick world. If Lone Stars carried Lyme disease like deer ticks, southern Illinois would be a very unhealthy place. These Lone Stars, assisted by chiggers, gave the Yankees a wake-up call which lasted all night for several weeks. One good thing is that dogs don’t seem to be affected as much as their handlers. 

After the workshop was over our host Neal Meyer had his young wirehaired dachshund Chloe run a special test line, as required by the State of Illinois, to legally  track wounded deer on public lands in that state. No test is required for dogs working exclusively on private property in Illinois. 

Chloe is a very good little bitch, about a year old, and she had no trouble at all with the test line which was a quarter of a mile long with two right angle turns  The blood line, laid in a field, was only four hours old, but very little blood was visible. Next fall Chloe will track some real wounded deer lines that are much more difficult. Still the UBT judge, Larry Gohlke, could see that she was already a useful dog that knew what she was supposed to do. That is the idea behind the Illinois requirement for tracking on public lands. This is unique to Illinois. 

The long weekend could not have been such a great success without the Meyer family’s hard work. Arranging for excellent food and drink to be brought out to the remote site took time and administrative skill, but it kept everyone in good humor. One evening Greg Accardo cooked up a great pot of Louisiana Jambalaya, which was a highlight. 

We all left Trackfest 2006 with a sense that a cohesive tracking dachshund community had been created in a part of the country where previously there had been only isolated individuals. There were numerous requests for more Trackfests in the future.

John Jeanneney

Pictures from Trackfest are posted at
http://jola.smugmug.com/Trackfest

 

Our hosts - Debbie and Neal Meyer

John Jeanneney's presentation on recovering wounded deer

Andy Bensing's presentation on training with e-collar was a hit

Cheri Faust evaluated dogs according to the FCI standard

Ken Parker and his Bavarian mountain bloodhound "Baby"

Sherry Ruggieri's grooming skills were in a high demand

Larry Gohlke gave a number of show'n'tell talks

Susanne Hamilton could not stay away from Buster's puppies

Neal Meyer and Chloe after the successful completion of the UBT certification test