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spacerDachshund Tales - Hunting with Dachshunds (part 2)

A dachshund is inherently a good hunter. It's been argued before that all dogs carry a little wolf in their genes. In some dogs, those genes are fairly diluted. It's hard to imagine a well fed dachshund bounding through the snow covered forests in pursuit of its quarry. But to be fair, it's hard to imagine a well fed wolf doing that either.

Dachshunds differ in themselves as to how they approach hunting and we try to match the personalities as best we can.

All our dogs are accustomed to a rifle, and are not afraid of the sound of a shot. Indeed, it's quite the reverse. As an aside, we have several dogs who will follow the scent of the powder/bullet to the target. We find this enthusiasm to duty a little daunting and we often discourage it.

The terrain varies considerably. During the day, we use rugged, steep, bramble covered gullies and during the night, the easier terrain of the several acres of our pastures and gardens.

We usually hunt with three dogs - one dog and two females, or one female and two dogs - depending on their age and experience. Having said that, often many of the dogs get involved in some "el fresco" hunting of their own in the immediate gardens area. We don't encourage this as it gets too confusing.

On a day hunt, the three dogs course individually until one picks up a scent. The other two join the first, and the male dog usually elects himself the project manager. The trail usually leads to a burrow - usually in the side of a steep gully - and always in a very difficult place for a human being to get to. The residents of the burrow look like the one in this picture. Sometimes there are more than one waiting at the end of the burrow.

Remember the shape of the dachie? Here's one good reason for that powerful front end. The dachie has to deal with those sharp claws and teeth, and coax the quarry to the surface.

A word about possums in New Zealand. They are Australian by origin, and have no natural predators in this country. serious pest. They number in 10's of millions and possumwipe out huge areas of both trees/vegetation (as well as small animals and birds). So far, many millions of dollars have been spent on control/erradication, but with little effect. They are very difficult to handle when angry or frightened. They have the speed and agility of a large cat, with teeth and claws to match. They tend to run when challenged - usually up some impossibly high tree - but can be dangerous when cornered. Dogs soon learn caution - long legged dogs especially. The possums tend to wrap themselves about the dog's face and neck, holding on with claws and teeth. This tends to make the dog lose its balance.  Dachies seem to be able to avoid this counter measure as their low centre of gravity and weight helps them maintain their balance and footing.

Back to the topic. The dogs generally take turns at digging out the tunnel, the dog digs until he needs a spell, and one of the females takes over. However, the dog usually insists on staying in the tunnel if he is close to the end. He has responsibilities, you know!

Which ever dachie reaches the end of the tunnel, grabs (somehow) the possum and hauls it out - emerging in a tangle of limbs and claws. The waiting dachshunds immediately assist - one (always a female) holds the sharp end, the other female the other end with the dog in the middle. How they work this out is a mystery - the dog presumably has the jaw strength for the centre and the females the sheer determination to hold on - but the pattern is consistant.

Some of our female dachies are very determined hunters they outshine the dogs with their determination and tenacity.

Sometimes the quarry escapes through another tunnel - if its a possum, it's up a tree - if it's a rabbit, it's into the next county (non-stop). The dachshunds' hound instinct then seem to take over and they co-operatively track the fugitive - sharing any clues found. If it's a tree escape, they bark at the base, while doing their best to climb the trunk. Alas - they haven't quite mastered vertical climbs or flying. If it's by land, the sensible rabbits keep running - dopey (and short lived) ones stop and hide.

Hunting for a dachie is an all-weather thing. It doesn't matter to them how wet or cold it is, or how dark it is. They also seem to have a presumption that people can see in the dark and must wonder at the bad language as we stumble about on a stormy night with only a rudimentary light.

Back to the lounge lizards - no self respecting dachshund would been seen dead outside in the wet and cold - UNLESS it's to hunt. Without the prospect of hunting you'll find the brave hunter curled up on a carpet in front of a fire.

It makes me wonder (still) as to how they can change personalities in such a short time. I blame Great-Uncle Lupus (or Mr Canis lupus to those not of kin). If a dachshund thought about his place in the hunting world this is probably what he'd consider his image.

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473 S H 5, RD 2, Napier 4182, New Zealand
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