Competitive Tracking and Hunting
By now you surely know the dachshund's history as a hunting dog. With this past, and the tracking, digging instincts that come with it, it's no wonder that dachsies love hunting-style sports. There are several options to choose from, with varying levels of difficulty and competitiveness.
When it comes to hunting underground, dachshunds rule! The majority of dogs entered in AKC Earthdog tests are dachsies. These tests are meant to simulate the experience of hunting game underground while evaluating the dog's desire, hunting drives, and problem-solving abilities while below the earth.
A maze of tunnels is constructed underground for the dogs to navigate. Your dachsie must track the scent of the game (a caged rat that is safely out of harm's way) while negotiating turns, simulated tree roots, dead ends, false entrances, and other such obstacles; locate the game; work the game by barking, scratching, and growling loudly for a specified time period; and, in one level of the tests, must then exit the tunnel system on the owner's recall.
The AKC offers three titles: Junior Earthdog (JE), Senior Earthdog (SE), and Master Earthdog (ME). Each title is progressively more difficult to attain. The underground “earths” get longer and have more challenges for the dogs to negotiate. The highest level, ME, requires the dachshund to work in a brace, or with another dog.
Getting started in Earthdog tests is very easy. Most dachshund clubs have a group of fanciers who get together and train their dogs on weekends. Earthdog tests are pass/fail, so there are no placements in classes. As a result, the Earthdog dachsie people have a lot of fun, and there's a lot of camaraderie. It's truly a family event.
As for training, Earthdog work is pretty simple for the handler. Most of what the dachshund needs to know, it knows inherently. Most dogs just need a little time to build their confidence and become accustomed to problem-solving on their own while in the “earth."Your dog will love it, and so will you.
How can my adopted dachshund participate in sports?
Owners of purebred dachshunds of unknown heritage (and no AKC registration papers) may apply to the AKC for an indefinite listing privilege or ILP number. If, based on examination of photographs you send in, AKC officials determine that your dog is all dachshund, the AKC will issue your dog an ILP number. You will be able to enter AKC and UKC obedience trials, all agility trials, Rally obedience, freestyle obedience, Earthdog tests, and many other events.
Dachshunds have a long history with competitive field trials. In the early 1930s, the now-defunct U.S. Dachshund Field Trial Club held the first field trial for dachshunds in the states. In 1935, the Dachshund Club of America (DCA) began holding one field trial a year on live rabbits or hares. Today, nearly 30 dachshund clubs across the country hold more than 50 AKC field trials a year.
The dogs are hunted in braces (two at a time), and judges in the field evaluate them on finding a rabbit trail, tracking the rabbit, and going to ground after the rabbit. Each dachshund must show that it can work as part of a team. At the same time, they must also find, track, and go to ground after more rabbits than their bracemates to proceed to the next round of competition. The dachshunds are given a chance to hunt in the field until the judges determine a winner for that particular brace. After the judges have seen all the braces, they will call back only certain dachshunds that they want to see hunt again. From this group of dachshunds, the judges make their placements for the class.
There is no separation of varieties of dachshunds: miniatures hunt with standards, and longhaired, wirehaired, and smooth-coated are all in the same class. Dachshunds who have not yet been awarded a Field Championship (FCh) run in classes designated Open All-Age Dogs or Open All-Age Bitches. Those dachsies with previous championships run in a separate class. The winners of the open all-age classes are awarded points, according to how many dogs competed in each class on that day.
The best way to get started in the sport of competitive field trialing is to find a dachshund club near you with a group of owners who practice together and field-trial their dogs. Attend one of the club's practice sessions and a dachshund field trial (without your dog!) and see what the sport is really about. Keep in mind that field trials are competitive, and dachshunds and their handlers are there to win.
The North American Teckel Club (NATC) offers tests that evaluate a dachshund's ability and usefulness as a hunting dog. The tests are the same as those offered in Germany for dachshunds by the Deutschen Teckelklub. In the tests, the dachshunds are tested against a standard of performance and not against each other. Dachshunds who pass the tests are given a grade indicating how they performed in the test and what their usefulness in a real hunting situation would be.
The four hunting tests that are offered by the NATC are blood tracking, which evaluates the dog's ability to track wounded deer; a natural den test, exhibiting the dachshund's talents in locating, baying, and/or bolting underground quarry; trailing small game and tonguing on line, which means giving voice while tracking the rabbit so that the hunter knows what the dog is doing and where it is; and flushing rabbits from thick undergrowth, dens, and thickets. If a dachshund passes the blood tracking, trailing game/tonguing, and flushing components, it receives a versatility title.
Tracking is not for owners who don't enjoy the outdoors or are in poor physical condition. Handlers must be able to follow their tracking dogs through some fairly rough terrain, depending on where the test is being held. Tracking events also go on rain or shine.
If you are interested in participating in NATC hunt tests, or in European-style conformation tests, in which dogs are judged against a standard and receive a grade, contact the NATC for more information. The club is relatively young (formed in 2000), so membership is still small and scattered around the United States, You might still be able to find someone in your area if you are looking for a practice group.
Dachshunds were bred to track. If there was ever a sport (besides field trials and Earthdog tests, of course!) that would send your dachsie's tail wagging in circles, this just might be it. The AKC offers three levels of tracking tests: Tracking Dog (TD), Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX), and Variable Surface Tracking (VST). A dog that attains all three tracking titles is awarded a Champion Tracker (CT). The tests are pass/fail and are noncompetitive. Dogs only need to pass each level once to attain the respective title.
At the TD level, your dachshund must be able to follow a track roughly a quarter mile long that is up to two hours old. The judge is aware of the layout of the track. The track may have anywhere from three to five changes in direction. Handlers can encourage their dogs but cannot direct them. The dog must follow the track and find the scented item, or article, at the end of the trail.
Another hunting sport that is gaining popularity is falconry. In this sport, the dachshund hunts in partnership with a hawk or other bird of prey. For instance, the dog may flush the prey into the open for the hawk. Falconry requires an extremely dedicated training schedule, and bird handlers have their own requirements to follow. Contact the North American Falconers Association (NAFA) for information on licensing and training for this sport.
At the TDX level, your dachsie will have to follow a longer track (a half mile and then some), an older scent trail (three to five hours old), with more turns (five to seven changes in direction), and cross tracks (another trail that crosses the one the dog is trying to follow).
Finally, the VST test simulates tracking in an urban setting where there is no vegetation to hold the scent of the track layer. The trail is left on city sidewalks, streets, in buildings, up stairs — basically wherever a quarry could feasibly go.
Training a dog for tracking requires access to large areas of land, skilled track layers, and more than one person. For this reason, joining a tracking club would be very helpful if you think you might like to participate in this sport with your dachshund. You can locate tracking clubs by calling the AKC or checking their website.