Upon meeting Jaeger, a Teckel (known in the US as a wire-haired dachshund) you wouldn’t suspect him to be a dog bred for blood tracking as you rarely see an ‘American’ dachshund in the field.
Jaeger is a registered Deutsch Teckelklub (DTK) dog. Many Teckel breeders have their dogs registered overseas, where there are strict hunting field trials required before they can be bred. The Teckel is commonly bred for blood tracking and Jaeger exhibits just that.
More commonly used in Europe, Tekels are used to hunt fox, varmints, wild boar, and are the preferred breed of many hunting guides and land managers in Europe where having a dog to aid in the big game recover is required by law. Unlike the typical bird dog breeds, they are not ‘obedient’ dogs that look to their handlers for commands, rather they are wired to go one-on-one with their prey, figure out where they went and boldly follow them into holes and dense cover—then they wait for their handler to show up.
Since Teckel’s are low to the ground, they work down in the scent cone left by an animal, and their stubborn nature helps them stay locked on and distinguish a particular animals scent, even when contaminated by other animals or humans. As such, many tracking specialists in the US specifically seek them out due to their natural instincts, portability, and ease of handling on leash while tracking, which is required in many US states where the use of a dog for recovering a wounded and lost deer is legal.
Jaeger and his handler, Damon, work as team on a variety of differing tracking efforts. “Some tracks are very easy and the game doesn’t go very far in the end and the dog goes right to it. Other tracks blow your mind what the dog can figure out,” said Damon.
In a recent track in Tennessee, the hunter shot a deer around 9AM. Despite finding a good blood trail, he couldn’t find the deer and relinquished out of the hunting area as to not leave behind added scent, making the search even more difficult. Jaeger and Damon were called into the site around 3PM and began tracking. They found the blood trail that dissipated after a couple hundred yards, then Jaeger really got to work.
“He followed a couple tracks of what I believe were other deer, before looping back on his own and finally finding a single small drop of blood leading off the mountain and down to a creek and a road. There we confirmed another small drop of blood on the road, and then fur on a barb wire fence, crossing into open and mowed farm fields. There Jaeger spent some time running loops and you could see in his body language he was figuring it all out of what scents mattered, and then slowly but surely settled on a line and direction,” Damon recounts the event.
Eventually Jaeger came to another barb wire fence line, where he pointed out a tall weed with blood on it, confirming he was still on the right line. After following the fence for about 50 yards, there was an obvious point where the deer had jumped it and entered a very thick, uncut field full of briars and weeds. Jaeger then found the buck expired in the dense brush about 30 yards from that last fence jump.
The hunter was very grateful and excited to recover his deer and have venison for the winter. Despite the strong initial blood trail, the deer travelled almost a mile from where it was shot making it a very impressive track for Jaeger.
While Jaeger is very obviously skilled in his ability to track, at only 1.5 years old he hasn’t done it for very long. His first season was spend tracking only his owners hunts but had proven his skill through many mock trainings with scents of whitetail deer, mule deer, antelope, wild hogs, a few bird species. This season marked his first official season working with the public and he was able to track six different requests.
When we asked Damon why he started using eye protection for Jaeger he responded, “I initially started researching Rex Specs after I took Jaeger kayak fly fishing with me and he kept wanting to catch and eat the fly, making me concerned he’d get hooked in the face or eye. Then after doing more tracking Jaeger ended up scratching his left eye twice while on different tracks. He is so low to the ground, and so fixated on tracking that he plows through underbrush, sticks, briars, etc with a bit of reckless abandon, and I was getting concerned about the risk of significant eye damage. With age and more training he should slow down and work scent more slowly and methodically, but he took to Rex Specs immediately. We did a little training per the instructions, but ultimately the best reward was using them on a track itself. Once on a scent, he completely ignored them or trying to get them off and wanted to just go track. Now they are kind of a trigger for him — once he sees them come out of my handlers bag, he knows it’s game time.”