ALENA STEINBACH, A HUNTER AND DOG HANDLER FROM GERMANY, RECOUNTS HER EXPERIENCES OF HUNTING WITH DOGS .
I whisper this into the ears of my four dogs as I unleash them for a hunt. My quartet are a Labrador called Fibi, a Westphalian Dachsbracke called Emma-Otto, and two Wirehaired Dachshunds, Toffie and Twix. Three of them are very typical breeds used for this kind of hunting . The odd-one-out with the double-barreled name is the Dachsbracke, a kind of dog that in the past was normally used for hunting small game like rabbits and foxes.
This kind of hunting involves tracking and chasing a small animal like a hare from its burrow. The dogs track it down using their noses, barking loudly. The hares usually run in a wide arc then return to their burrow, where the hunter can shoot it. This kind of hunting has largely died out because of too many roads and too few hares.
Emma-Otto has become very good at tracking and chasing. When she is hunting, she prefers animals that she thinks will taste good. Wild boar are not among them. She still tracks them, but after a few hundred yards she turns back. But when she spots a herd of red deer or roe deer, she will run for miles close on their heels. As a medium-sized dog, she can follow the game over branches, through snow and across marshy ground, but she doesn’t get too close. As a result, the fleeing deer can come to a halt to survey its surroundings, allowing the hunter to take a shot.
However, one of the disadvantages of this breed is that it is a loner. And long-distance tracking can be exhausting, such as when I see my dog is a couple of miles ahead of me. I’m always worried that she will get injured on a road or at a railway crossing. Thanks to modern tracking devices, sometimes I spend more time looking at my tracker than concentrating on the hunt. This breed of dog can give its owner a heart attack from worry! Sometimes after a hunt, I have to collect Emma-Otto from a place far away. But when she’s not hunting, she’s a very quiet dog who is happy doing her own thing or chewing her claws. She’s not bothered about food and can be quite clumsy when playing or cuddling. We don’t mean it in a bad way, but sometimes we say she’s a little autistic. She is basically friendly with children and other dogs, but she’s quite territorial, particularly at home.
Well – how can I say it nicely? Toffie isn’t the brightest candle on the cake, nor the fastest runner, nor the best jumper, but she is incredibly keen, has a big heart, is always happy and has totally mastered that melting dachshund gaze with her chestnut-brown eyes. Twix, on the other hand, is clever, pretty, and incredibly obedient. The sisters at heart couldn’t be more different, but they can’t bear to be apart. Even now, at nearly four years of age, they love romping around together every day.
The ace up my sleeve is Fibi, the black lightning bolt. She was born a Labrador bitch but has turned into a wirehaired dog – at least that’s what we often joke about this truly unusual retriever. Of course, she retrieves anything that falls, it’s in her genes. But she is also a good, clever scent hound who can track prey over long distances. She bays when cornering and catching boar, dispatches wounded deer and brings them to us. She also leads us toward dead animals – a true all-rounder! If Fibi could alert us to healthy animals she would be unbeatable, but unfortunately she can only come on small hunting trips with friends. But when she’s with us, she always puts her best foot forward and shows us what she can do.
At the end of the day, all kinds of hunting with your dog is wonderful and creates some amazing experiences. Without dogs, we wouldn’t be able to hunt as we do today. Without tracking dogs , we couldn’t hunt over large areas, regardless of how many drivers we had. We couldn’t get through the dense brambles, crawl through thickets, or scent the game. Wild boars are becoming more sedentary and often only leave their hollows when forced to do so. That’s why dogs and their handlers deserve our thanks and appreciation. It is also important to exercise discipline on driven hunts and it needs to work much better than it has done in recent years. Unfortunately, there are increasing reports about dogs being shot – this simply can’t be allowed to happen! As the owner of four wonderful, keen, totally unique dogs, you can believe me when I say no one will be as loyal to you as your dog. No one will love you as unconditionally, trust you so completely, or would die for you without hesitation. If you have a dog or dogs, you know exactly what I mean. If you don’t, try getting one and think of me when you find out for yourself.