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Old 02-20-19, 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
Great dog story. How do the judges see the dogs in the field? Does the organizer seed the field with rabbits or are there always rabbits there?
No they don't seed the field with rabbits, you just go to a place with a strong rabbit population. The place the field trials are held is an abandoned olive orchard in Chino. Its pretty ideal because most of the orchard is open grassy terrain with rows of trees. The olive trees are short bushy things, their lower branches arch to the ground. The trees make perfect rabbit cover and when the dogs flush them, its usually pretty easy to see the dogs and the rabbits out in the grassy area.

The dogs figure out pretty quickly that if they are not picking up a scent line out in open ground, they should check in the trees. This is part of what they are judged on- do they look for rabbits in places rabbits are likely to be? So sometimes they find a rabbit by picking up a scent trail on open ground, sometimes they search the right places and flush one that way. You can tell if they're on a rabbit scent vs just sniffing around- their tails go up and vibrate/wag in proportion to how sure they're on something good.

When they actually see a rabbit and are giving chase, the dogs voice. Beagles and bassets make the familiar baying sound that you've probably heard. The doxies make a weird high pitched bark, very different from their normal voice, its a critter specific sound.

For the hunt performance test, you can put bells on the dogs, which really helps keep track of them. They are also identified by coat color and collar color, so the judges can keep track of who's who. There's three judges out in the field and one handler per dog.

Besides the lovely open olive tree area at the test site, there's an area of dense forest that we call "the Black Forest". The forest is so dense here that its hard for humans to move through it. Great for rabbits though. Our pack flushed a bunny and then trailed it to the black forest. We really didn't want them going in there- these are small dogs and there's coyote in there and wild hogs (and hog **** for the dogs to roll in) and it can be hard to keep track of the dogs. Once they got into the Black Forest, they were popping bunnies left and right. It was really a great relief that we were able to get all the dogs out of the forest just with voice recall. But even though the forest was risky, it worked well for judging purposes, the pack really got a good thing going in there and flushed rabbits back towards we "hunters". Its exactly why you have little dogs like dachshunds- to get in those tight places rabbits go and to force them out into the open.

Again it was cool to see a newby dog do something like that right. Its really amazing how much instinct is bred into these dogs, pretty complex behaviors that are genetically pre-patterned. Its the reason purebred dogs exist, people bred them for specific purposes for so many generations. Useful little creatures, we forget sometimes that's the whole reason dogs even evolved to be dogs- because of their usefulness to humans. Its the core of what it means to be a dog, even if we don't really need most of the uses we previously had for dogs throughout history.
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