Whether you enjoy hunting rabbits or just watching a dog work, rabbit hunting with dachshunds is a lot of fun. I use my dogs to track wounded deer but I also enjoy watching them work rabbits. Here in Iowa after the deer season winds down it is a good time to get out and chase some bunnies. Since the deer tracking season seems to go by so fast, chasing rabbits is another way to build the dogs prey drive. If you are not into hunting rabbits there are also dachshund field trials held annually that judge the dogs skills and can be a fun social event. I plan on visiting some of these in the near future. One trait that is very useful if hunting rabbits is to have dachshunds that will voice on scent. This is also known as spurlaut. This way the hunter can have an idea where the dog is and which way the rabbit might be coming from. Not all dachshunds have this trait. When I breed my dogs this is something I desire in the pups. If you are in the market for a dachshund and are interested in field trials or rabbit hunting make sure and get the history of the dam and sire. If they both possess spurlaut, odds are your pup will have it too.
If you do decide to hunt rabbits with your dachshund you also need to make sure the dog is not going to be gun shy. I like to condition pups by popping bubble wrap and watching their reactions. If a dog is going to be gun shy they will tend to display this at an early age. If I notice a pup that is continually bothered by the noise I will pass this on to new owners. These dogs may not be the best candidates for a rabbit hunting home.
The e-collar is a useful and powerful tool that can greatly extend your reach as a handler. When used correctly, an e-collar can be a great aid in the training and control of your hunting dachshund. Incorrect use, though, can do more harm to your dog than you can imagine. For this reason, it is important to train yourself on proper e-collar usage before you introduce one to your dog. Most manufacturers recommend a pup being at least 6 months of age prior to the introduction of an e-collar. When tracking with a dachshund on a leash I do not use an e-collar. I already have full control of the dog and do not want to distract him from tracking. I prefer using the collar when rabbit hunting or allowing the dog to exercise off lead.
If you’re going to use an e-collar on your dog, you should plan on using it all of the time. Have your dog wear the e-collar during all training sessions and whenever you’re hunting. This helps avoid getting your dog “collar-wise”. A collar-wise dog will recognize that certain types of correction only occur when the collar is on and will learn to behave differently when he’s wearing the collar than when he isn’t.
You should follow two very important rules with regard to e-collar usage. Rule number one is, don’t “wing it”. You should have a plan for collar use and you should follow that plan carefully to maximize training effectiveness. Start with the lowest stimulation level that is needed to get the dog to notice it. This will vary per dog. When teaching a command, I prefer to give a command and then repeatedly tap the stimulation button until the dog obeys. When he obeys I stop tapping, praise him and reward him with a treat or toy. Rule number two is that you should never, ever push the transmitter button in anger. The e-collar is intended as a control rather than a punishment.
On dogs with advanced collar conditioning, you can use the e-collar to reinforce virtually any known command. For the typical hunter, though, I recommend limiting use of the e-collar to fewer specific situations. Probably the most important situation is to control the dachshund’s range while hunting. With the population of coyotes thriving in most areas, I don’t want my dogs getting out too far away from me. When your dog ranges out too far, you should train him to return on your call or whistle. The e-collar should be used to reinforce this command only if the dog refuses to return. Even then, you should start with the lowest level stimulation to which the dog responds and increase the level as necessary until the dog obeys. After he obeys, you should also give him some praise to mix in some positive reinforcement.
Choosing a Collar
I recommend an e-collar that is simple and reliable. A collar with more bells and whistles than you need can just increase the risk of confusing your dog. The nick setting can be useful for collar-conditioned dogs but may have limited value to the typical hunter. One feature I consider absolutely necessary for all users, though, is variable intensity. When your dachshund misbehaves in one of your pre-determined ways, you should start stimulating him at the lowest level he recognizes and increase only if he continues the misbehavior. For this reason, you need a collar that allows you to change stimulation levels quickly and easily from the transmitter. I also prefer the convenience of a collar that is rechargeable for both the collar and transmitter. I don’t like having to have extra batteries on hand. As for the brand, there are several good ones available. I use Dogtra collars and have been very satisfied. I also know many people who swear by the Tritronics brand. There are other brands available that will do the job.
I’ll also say one last time, because it is so important, that you should not use an e-collar in anger. If you can’t control your temper you probably should not use an e-collar on your dog.
To my knowledge the number of tracking and hunting dachshunds in Iowa is relatively low. Iowa is definitely one of the top states in producing big whitetails. As I have become interested in tracking I have spoken with many Iowans that have used different dogs to track deer. Since Iowa was one of the top states in pheasant hunting for many years there are plenty of bird dogs in the state. Some of the more popular breeds have been German Shorthairs, Brittany’s, Labs, and Drathaars. These dogs are all versatile hunters and can be trained to track deer. As the bird populations have dwindled, some Iowans are becoming interested in finding new jobs for their dogs. Tracking deer seems to be one of the jobs to do. As far as Dachshunds, many Iowans are aware that they have good noses but the practice of using them to track or hunt is something that has not been common place in Iowa. I believe as more good proven Dachshunds become available in the Midwest it will not be uncommon to hear of the Dachshund as a tracker and hunter in Iowa. The state of Iowa is moving forward in writing guidelines pertaining to using dogs to track. The rules currently address that dogs cannot be used to hunt deer. The rules do not state anything against allowing dogs to be used to track a deer that has already been hunted. The Iowa DNR has done a good job with deer management and is onboard to write rules pertaining to tracking deer with the use of dogs. Unfortunately politics have delayed this endeavor. As of this date if you have any concerns using a dog to track a wounded deer in Iowa you should contact the DNR officer in the county you will be tracking and communicate your intentions.