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Field Trials

Field Trials

by David Kawami

For a Novice, it is important to know that Dachshund Field Trials are bloodless. No game is killed, and the dogs are not encouraged to engage the game. Should the dogs accidentally see the rabbit or hare while they are on the line, the Judges generally act quickly to pick up the dogs. The judges are not interested in the Dachshunds ability to sight chase. Trials are held in fenced places, dogs will not run out into roads. So what is a Dachshund Field Trial about? The Dachshund Field Trial is an adaption of the Brace Beagle Field Trial, in which the dogs track the game. Currently there are 3 Classes that can be entered. OPEN ALL AGE DOG, OPEN ALL AGE BITCH, and the non-regular FIELD CHAMPIONS. Points towards the AKC Field Champion Title are earned in the Open Classes. OPEN ALL AGE means precisely that. All ages are eligible to be entered, as well as Field Champions. However, it is not in the Dachshund’s best interest to be started (at Field Trials) too young. Give your dachshund a chance to mature mentally and emotionally before subjecting it to the pressures of Field Trialing. Nine months to a year are about the right age to begin. The OPEN Classes are divided by sex, but if there are less than 6 entries in one class the classes are combined. In the early days of Dachshund Field Trialing, a Field Champion may have been entered in the OPEN class to reach the 6 entries needed to avoid a combined class. This rarely happens now and Field Champions are not welcome in the OPEN classes. The Dachshunds are braced (paired) by random draw and assigned a BRACE number. (Brace #1, etc.) It is the responsibility of the handlers to be aware of what brace is DOWN (being judged) and to be available when their brace is ready to be judged. The Judges will have instructed the FIELD MARSHAL how many braces to bring out to the field. For example, the first 4 braces. This group plus any spectators, is referred to as the “GALLERY”. They should remain together and follow the instruction of the Field Marshal. The Field Marshal will inform the gallery what brace is to be judged. When the judges are ready, a line of “brush beaters” moves through a section of the field trying to move a rabbit from its cover. When a rabbit breaks from cover, the first person to see the rabbit shouts out “TALLY HO ! “. The judges move to the spot were the rabbit was seen (usually judges like to “SPOT” (see) their own rabbits in order to more accurately judge the Dachshunds), and if they have not seen the rabbit ask for an accurate description of where the rabbit went. The brace is then “CALLED UP”. The judges give instruction to the the handler and the dogs are shown the “LINE” (the rabbit scent trail). The handlers can talk to and encourage their dogs to find the line. When the dachshunds have indicated they know where the line is, the handlers release the Dachshunds. Novice handlers often make the mistake of releasing the dogs too soon. It will take time and experience to learn when to release your dog. when the dogs are released the handlers must STOP GIVING INSTRUCTIONS to their dogs and stop all conversation. They remain behind the Judges as the judges follow the dogs. When the judges have seen enough they will ask that the dogs be “PICKED UP”. It is now the responsibility of the handlers to find and leash their dogs as quickly as possible. The judges having discussed the work of the brace will call for the next brace, or may call for ANOTHER RABBIT FOR THE SAME BRACE. It is important to listen for the Judges instructions. Not appearing when the Judges call for the dogs, or bring the wrong dog to be judged will cause the dog to be DISQUALIFIED. The Judges allow 15 minutes from the time the braced is called to the time when a dog is disqualified for failing to appear. When the Judges have called for the next brace and the judged brace has been recovered and leashed, they can then rejoin the GALLERY, or be taken back to be kenneled. When the handlers have finished running dogs they are encouraged to join the beaters. There are never enough beaters and without beaters and rabbits there is no field trial. When all the braced Dachshunds have run, the “FIRST SERIES” is completed. The Judges will confer and decide which Dachshunds are to be brought back for the “SECOND SERIES”. This information will be given to the Field Marshal and he will announce the Second Series. At the conclusion of the Second Series the Judges will again confer and decide what dogs are required for Third series. This process will continue until all the placements (1st-4th,and NBQ-next best qualifier) have been determined. The judges will announce “FIELD TRIAL” when the class is completed. For more information consult the AKC booklet, “Registration and Field Trial Rules” and “Standard procedure for Dachshunds”.


Training For Trials

DACHSHUND FIELD TRIALS

by Carrie Hamilton

General Preparations for Field Trials:

1) Socialize your dog. At field trials the dogs compete in braces. The dog should also be accustomed to having people follow it. At the very least two judges, yourself and another handler will be following the dogs as they work.

2)Condition your dog. While the dogs do not have to run to follow the rabbit, in the heat of competition they will probably do so, to keep up with their bracemate. Also, while waiting in the gallery to compete you and your dachshund may end up walking several miles during the course of the day. The trial experience may be more enjoyable for both of you, if you are in shape.

3) Expose your dog to the situations it will experience at a trial. Go for walks in the woods, fields, parks, etc. Allow the dog to sniff out new scents and listen to new “outdoor” sounds. I have seen dogs nearly leap out of their skins the first time a twig snaps under foot.

4) Functional obedience. This doesn’t necessarily mean formal obedience, but it does mean that you can exercise some degree of control over your dog. Dogs should be able to wait calmly and quietly in the gallery. Quiet is especially important when “a brace has been laid on the line” (two dogs have been released where a rabbit was sighted). Dogs barking in the gallery can distract the dogs that are working. You may also find the experience more enjoyable or at least less strenuous if your dog will “come” on command or at the least will not continue running in the opposite direction. You are allowed to tackle your dog after the judges yell “pick them up” but you will probably decide to teach your dog to “come” after having to chase them down once too often.

When to Start:

While there is no set rule, the sooner you start working with your dachshund the more likely that it will realize its full potential. This doesn’t mean that a dog which starts its field career at a later date can’t compete successfully. What it means is, imagine what this older dog might have accomplished if its training started as a puppy.

Many of us do not have the time or initiative to work all of our dogs in all of the areas in which our dachshunds can compete. While I try to expose the dogs at home to as many of these activities as possible, I generally concentrate on one area at a time. My usual progression is from conformation to den trialing, “real” hunting, field trialing, and potentially competitive obedience. Others work concurrently in all of the above areas as well as tracking. Whether concentrating on one event at a time or working on several at once, it is usually recommended that you use different gear for each activity (e.g. resco lead for show training, choker or buckle collar for obedience, buckle collar for field work, harness for tracking). This will help the dog to differentiate between these activities. It will also make it easier for your dachshund to associate desired behaviors with each activity, such as walking with their head up and standing when you come to a halt at a show, sitting when you come to a halt in obedience, or keeping their head down and using their nose for tracking and field work. Our dogs even learn to recognize by our preparations and clothing (dresses/skirts for show or work pants and boots for field) what activities are on the day’s agenda.

How to Start:

This depends on both you and your dog’s level of hunting/ trialing experience. It will also depend on the land you have access to for hunting/field training. For the novice trialer who has never trained a dog for field work, here are some suggestions on how to start.

Using Lures and Scent:

The first thing you need to learn is to recognize your dog’s body language. In order to evaluate your dog’s reactions to the scent, you need to know where the rabbit has been. A lure which has had a few drops of rabbit scent (rabbit scent is sold at most hunting/sporting goods stores) applied to it can be used to lay a well-defined trail. Start out by first dragging the lure in a straight line or “L” shape. Later, more elaborate trails can be made and the lure can be skipped to simulate the rabbit hopping. When evaluating your dog’s reactions always keep the scenting conditions, especially wind direction, in mind. How does your dog respond to the rabbit’s scent and what is your dog’s style of working. If you can’t recognize when your dog is working it will be difficult for you to help with the training. Recognizing your dog’s body language is also important for properly releasing your dog during competition. At trials, this is often the most noticeable difference between the novice and the experienced handler. Anyone can let go of a release rope but some handlers are much better than others at getting their dog “started” on the line. Starting is more than just releasing the dog in the right direction. The dog should also be demonstrating that it recognizes that a rabbit has been there. Now that you know what your dog looks like when they’re working, you need to find them live rabbits. Artificial rabbit scent is only useful for starting novice dogs and/or handlers. The nuances of tracking live rabbits can not be duplicated with a scented lure or a “roadkill” rabbit.

Training in Snow:

I envy those trialers who live in areas which receive frequent light snow falls. What can be better than seeing exactly where the rabbit has been. Just put your dog on a long lead or retractable lead and you’re ready to go. I generally prefer using a long lead rather than a retractable lead. Either lead works well in an open area. However, a leather (or other sturdy snag-resistant material) long lead has an advantage in areas with heavier cover. If your dog enters a patch of dense brush where you can not easily follow, the long lead can be released. You can then circle around the brush and retrieve the lead when the dog exits the cover. Since most retractable leads have plastic cases, they are more likely to get snagged or to break if used in this manner. By using a long lead your dog has some freedom but can’t run wildly. So long as your dog is on the line you can quietly follow along. When your dog is having difficulty you can verbally encourage them or use the lead to influence them in the right direction.

Training at Night:

In the warmer months particularly, using a flashlight at night is one of the easiest ways to find rabbits. Any area where you have seen a rabbit during the day will probably have several rabbits out feeding at night. In addition, conditions at night are usually better for holding scent. For added security, when working your dog off lead at night, try using a reflective collar with a bell attached. This will make it much easier for you to keep track of your dog in the dark. For greater piece of mind, a long lead can again be used to maintain control of your dog. Lamping or spotlighting rabbits is rather simple. When you shine the light on the rabbit, its eyes will reflect the light. Often the rabbit will just hunker down in place. As you walk up on the rabbit, keep the rabbit’s starting point fixed in your mind. If the rabbit moves before you get too close, you can keep your flashlight fixed on the rabbit’s starting point and watch which way the rabbit runs in the periphery of the beam of light. If the rabbit remains in place as you get closer, you will have to move the beam of light off of the rabbit so your dog doesn’t see it. You want your dachshund to track the rabbit by scent not by sight. Training at night, if done correctly, can be used to help direct a visually inclined dog towards using its nose. Those dogs which are too busy chasing leaves, birds, butterflies, etc. to concentrate on following something by scent will have most of their distractions removed at night.


Requirements for a Field Championship

Points toward a field championship are earned in the Open All-Age (OAA) stake. Dachshunds placing first through fourth in an OAA stake at a licensed or member field trial earn points. The 1st place dog earns one point for every dog that starts in the stake. To be counted as a starter a dog must be eligible to run in the stake and must not be disqualified. The 2nd place dog earns 1/2 point for every starter in the stake. The 3rd place dog earns 1/3 point and the 4th place dog earns 1/4 point for every starter. Next Best Qualifying (NBQ) is not a place and does not earn points.
A dachshund must accumulate at least 35 points, with a minimum of three placements including one 1st place, to earn a field championship

Guide To Gear

A GUIDE TO GEAR

Dachshund Field Trials can take place in almost any type of weather, often all on the same day. I attended a trial one spring that began in 4 inches of show, by noon the snow had stopped, After lunch most of the snow had melted and the afternoon was spent in light jackets under a bright sun. There are also the trials that are spent in the rain, six to twelve hours walking around in precipitation varying from mist to driving rain. Trials can also be spent in t-shirts under a blazing sun. Regardless of the weather, the Trial will go on. I can only think of one trial that was stopped, and that was during a heavy driving rain on a flat field under Air Force communication towers with a thunder storm rushing at us. The rain drops felt like they were an inch in diameter. The Dachshunds, among them some Minis, had a look on their faces that seemed to ask, “What have I done wrong to deserve this?” The human handlers, beaters, and Judges had a similar look. Of course, these are the extremes being described, most trials are spent in weather that makes you glad you had the opportunity to be outside. Good, well fitting boots are absolutely necessary; you are going to spend at least three hours walking. Jogging shoes can also be worn on dry days, but keep in mind the trial grounds can be on bottom-land with some swampy areas. Brush pants or chaps are recommended in some areas of the country. The grounds can have areas of green barb-wire and multi flora roses. In the North-west you can look forward to thorn bushes with inch long spikes. Brush pants will protect your legs fairly well. A sturdy field jacket to protect your upper body from all those thorns and the cold, and a hat to keep the sun and rain off your head are also needed. It is best to layer your clothes so you can adjust to the changes of the day. Rain gear, preferably a hooded rain jacket and pants, offers the best protection from wet weather. A rain coat or poncho will keep your upper body dry, but your lower body will get wet. Wet pants and high rubber boots can lead to some real discomfort. It is possible to get a rash from the friction of wet pants on your legs. It is also possible to develop blisters from the friction of wet pants and boot tops. Well fitting rain boots will save you feet from blisters and keep them dry. Sunscreen is also necessary; even on overcast days you can get a good burn. Insect repellent is not usually necessary, and is not considered effective against the deer tick that carries lyme disease. A pyrethrum spray is considered the most effective repellent for the deer tick. You may want to use your dogs flea and tick spray on your boot tops and pant cuffs. It is prudent to bring a change of clothes and shoes. You never know what you may need. Extras: lip protection, like Chapstick, a lotion like Tecnu Poison Oak’n Ivy Cleanser for possible poison ivy/oak exposure.

Check List:

Walking shoes or Boots
Pyrethrum spray
Rain Gear (jacket, pants, boots)
Brush pants
Field Jacket
Layered clothing
Hat Sunscreen
Lip protection
Skin lotion for poison ivy

DACHSHUND GEAR

Now that you are dressed for any possibility, what will you Dachshund need at a Field Trial? Remarkably little. A well fitting collar. (you may see Dachshunds at trials wearing an O-ring or safety collar) with one or two tags. A leash to take your dog into and out of the field. A release line, – a length of rope about 8-12 feet long. The release line is passed through the O-ring, or D-ring of the collar. The two ends of the line are held in your hand, and when the dog is released to track the rabbit, you drop the rope from one hand and the dog is smoothly released from the rope. Your Dachshund may need water in the field. Some of the things you may see are leather water bags, (botas), hiking water belts, bicycle bottles, and reusable plastic juice bottles. Your dog does not need a rain coat, boots, or sweater in the field, but in the rain a mini might be more comfortable wrapped in a towel and carried inside your rain coat. Also in your dog gear you will want towels for wet days. You will want a flea and tick spray with a pyrethrum base in area where there are deer ticks and a flea comb.

Check List:

Collar
Towels
Leash
Pyrethrum Flea/Tick Spray
Release Line
Flea Comb
Water Container

History Of Trials

DACHSHUND FIELD TRIAL HISTORY

by Carrie Hamilton

Dachshund field trialing was initiated in the United States in 1933 by the United States Dachshund Field Trial Club Inc. The club, which was based in the Connecticut-New York-New Jersey area, was only in existence for a few years.

Following the demise of the USDFTC, the Dachshund Club of America Inc. stepped in and began holding field trials in 1935. From 1935 to 1984, with the exception of 1948-50 when no trials were held, DCA has held at least one trial every year. Many of these early trials were held in New Jersey, primarily in the Fall. Starting in 1985, the Dachshund Club of America has been holding two national trials. One, which is designated as the National, has been rotating throughout the United States and is held whenever possible in conjunction with the National Specialty events. The other, which has become known as the Annual, is held in the Fall usually in New Jersey.

It is perhaps only logical then that the second oldest field trial giving club is the Dachshund Club of New Jersey. The following is an excerpt; from the DCNJ club news printed in the March 1967 American Dachshund, announcing DCNJ’s first field trial:

Because two men had a dream and worked hard to make it come true, Dachshunds aspiring to gain the coveted title of Field Trial Champion will have a second opportunity each year to earn their championship points. The AKC has licensed the DC of New Jersey to hold its first championship point field trial this spring. This trial will supplement the DCA’s annual offering.

Several years ago Charlie Campbell and George Wanner became deeply interested in the working, or field, Dachshund. Charlie had actually worked his dogs under the gun in the field. Both men recognized that there just wasn’t ample opportunity for the dogs to earn their points with only one field trial a year. Unlike many of us who give birth to a good idea and then sit on it, they set out to do something.

First they determined what steps were necessary to become licensed by the AKC. Two fun matches were held to prove to the AKC that the willing sponsors knew what they were doing. Then there was the question of a suitable tract. This was answered through the New Jersey Fish and Game Commission, on the hunting grounds in Bevans, Sussex County. Finally the first AKC-sanctioned fun match was held in April 1963. April 1964 saw the second fun match, 1965 the first AKC-sanctioned trial, and 1966 the second one. Having successfully led the club and their committees through all the preliminaries, Charlie and George, in the name of the DCNJ, petitioned the AKC for permission to hold a licensed point field trial, and this permission has been granted.

George and Charlie’s dream will come true Sunday, April 23. Classes will be: Open All Ages, Dogs; Open All Ages, Bitches; and Open, Champions Only. Judges will be Lloyd Bowers and Dr. Helmut E. Adler. The fee is $5 per entry, and entries close at the home of the field trial secretary, Mrs. Charles Campbell, at 7p.m., Saturday, April 15.

DCNJ’s trial in 1967 was the first to offer a Best in Trial. This first ever Best in Trial was won by Field Champion Cyrano Plume of Greenfield, a standard longhair. Previously, only Best in Open All-Age Stakes was offered and this continued to be the highest award offered at the DCA field trial for many years to come. It was only a few months earlier at the 1966 DCA field trial that the first Field Champions only stake was offered. The total entry at these trials was usually between twenty and thirty dogs. However, until the mid-eighties it was not unusual to have few if any field champions entered.

In 1985, dachshunds began running under their own field trial rules and procedures. Prior to this dachshund field trials were run under the AKC Field Trial Rules and Standard Procedures for Pointing Breeds, Dachshunds, Retrievers and Spaniels. In 1987, DCA set up a field trial advisory council or committee (TAC) to promote dachshund field events and to make field trial policy recommendations to DCA’s Board of Directors.

The two oldest field trialing clubs held back-to-back trials twice in 1993. 1993 was the first year that the Dachshund Club of New Jersey held more than one field trial. A Spring trial was held in conjunction with the DCA National in Pennsylvania and a Fall trial was held in New Jersey with the DCA Annual trial. Much has changed since 1967. Entries have really taken off. Over 80 dogs were entered each day at the DCA National and DCNJ spring trials, for a total of one hundred dogs competing over the two days of trials. The Dachshund Club of America celebrated its Centennial in 1995. The 1995 DCA National, which was held in Kentucky, at the time set a record for total entries (104) and for the number of dogs entered in the Field Champions Only Stake (47). At the 1999 DCA National a new record was set for total entries (125)! At the DCA Regional trial the preceding day, a record was set for the Field Champions Only Stake with an entry of 54. Now it is not uncommon for the DCA National to draw over 100 entries.

The Connecticut Yankee Dachshund Club joined DCA and DCNJ by holding their first licensed trial in 1971. Since then, twenty-eight other dachshund clubs have held licensed field trials. These are Northern California DC (1978-), Santa Margarita DC (1979-1988), Albany Capital District DC (1979-), Western Pennsylvania DC (1980-1984, 1997-), Central Ohio DC (1982-), DA of Long Island (1984-), Midwest DC (1987-1999), Badger DC (1987-), Greater Portland DC (1988-), Hudson Valley DA (1989-), Golden Gate DC (1990-), DC of St. Louis (1991-), Hoosier DC (1993-1998), Bay Colony DC (1994-), Dallas-Ft.Worth DC (1997-), Bayou DC of New Orleans (1998-), Madison Area DC (1998-), Louisville DC (1998-), Wolverine DC (2000-), Dachshund Fanciers Assoc. of Berks County (2000-), DC of Santa Anna Valley (2000-), DC of Metropolitan Atlanta (2001-), Houston DC (2001-), Metropolitan Washington DC (2002-), DC of Greater Buffalo (2002-), Minnesota DC (2003-), Cascade DC (2004-), and Sierra DB of LA County (2005-).

In addition, three clubs (Antelope Valley DC, Buckeye DC, and Metropolitan Baltimore DC) have held sanctioned trials but no licensed trials. Other clubs are also working towards holding field trials.

Most clubs hold at least one field trial each year, often in conjunction with a DCA regional trial. If you are interested in attending field trials in your area or in getting your club started in field trials contact the DCA Trial Advisory Committee. They are available to assist clubs in starting field trial programs.