Goodwood Standard Smoothes
Originally published in the Greater Portland Dachshund Club TAILWAGGER Newsletter March, 2006
Cascade Dachshund Club Earthdog Seminar in Seattle
By Claire Mancha
Yours truly went to the earthdog seminar in Seattle on January 7th. It was a well-attended affair with at least 25 people participating, a lot of whom were judges from both Canada and the US. Sil Sanders the tracking man was also there.
The two presenters were AKC reps Karla Deithorn and Carol Delsman. Both of these women were articulate, entertaining and knew their stuff. If that wasn't enough, they were really interested in the success of the programs they oversee.
The Greater Portland Dachshund Club got kudos for being the driving force behind the first dachshund earth dog tests in the AKC, held right here in Oregon. There is a write up of this event on the GPDC website if you want to learn more.
The primary message to the attendees as dog people was this: "Do not let your breed separate into performance vs. conformation animals. " If our duty to our breed is to keep and maintain their ability to perform the original duties, then earthdog becomes an important part of the evaluation process. The watch phrase is "Enhance and preserve the working abilities of the breeds."
Obviously, most dogs now have the job of being companion animals; hunting badgers, stoats and other tunneling creatures is not really a necessity in Portland, Oregon, but you get the idea.
Some of the nuts and bolts of putting on an earthdog test were touched upon: *Sending 2 copies of the judge's affirmation form to the judge so they don't have to make a copy, *hire the best judges you can and hire them as early as possible. If you have free air miles that can be donated by your club membership, you can use them to fly the judges in cheaply.
*Tell your judges what you want up front when you ask them to judge. If they know your needs, they can better serve your club.
*Use the Gazette; it is free advertising… they can publish up to 6 months ahead of your event.
*Try to get as many members of your club involved as possible. If you don't have enough qualified members to rotate the duties, people burn out and that makes for certain attrition. Spread the knowledge and protect your club's investment.
*If you write a condition in your contract, it becomes enforceable by the AKC. Karla used as an example: "smoking only in automobiles on the test site." Brother would I love to see that one written in! It would have to be a club vote, of course. The main idea is that you can have whatever rules you feel are important enforced!
*Extra important is to write a contract with your judges. I have never done this with field trials, and that is the only area
Greater Portland Dachshund Club TAILWAGGER Newsletter March, 2006
I have been in a position to do so, but supposedly this can really save your club's treasury some dough in case the judge wants room service, airfare, limo etc. These examples are a bit far fetched, of course, but the idea is good.
*Bring extra paperwork to the trials. Have all the forms you need, and all the numbers you'll need in case of problems. We were given a bunch of email addresses too.
*Have extra bars, cages and rats. You never know!
*They also suggested making advance registration available and make it cheaper than on the same day registration. I see that we are doing that this time at our own earthdog tests in March at Turner.
*Finally, protect your dogs and your club! Know that you can refuse entries for prior documented bad behavior on the part of a human or a dog. Keeping our integrity is very important not only for our reputation, but for safety reasons. We are the keepers of our sport.
We discussed the basic goals of each level of test. It was agreed that the most helpful thing you can do to train your dog is to start early! Put tubes in your puppies' play pens. Make wooden liners and make it playtime for the dogs to go through them. You can use rat bedding at the end to make it appealing. Start slow and build trust!
In fact, trust is the most important issue in earthdog training. Karla was adamant on two points: NEVER put your dog in the entrance of the tunnel and stand in front of the tunnel not allowing the dog to leave, and NEVER drop your dog into the opening at the end of the tunnel directly in front of the rats. Don't you do it, and don't you allow a judge to do it. The name of the game is building trust and these two actions can ruin a dog's trust in you. Just don't do it.
Another way to make good use of the tunnels and to train dogs at the same time is to offer practice sessions at the end of the trials. For us, it would be on Sunday afternoon. Not only would people hopefully stay to play, but they'd also get to see how the tunnels look inside. We do the same thing the week before, but if we did it when all the contestants were there, we'd create a lot of goodwill and get some good training in. It all depends on how much time the club is willing to give.
Aside from the study questions and taking the test (where yours truly passed with a 94%) the best part about this whole seminar (aside from the fabulous pizza lunch!) was the idea of educating and attracting more participants to the whole earthdog world.
Karla and Carol were full of fresh, creative ideas on how to rustle up helpers and generate interest in the sport. They stressed that getting new participants is crucial to the life of your club and the sport. The data shows that people stay in an activity/hobby/sport for an average of 5 years. If you don't actively try to attract more players, then you will be facing a lonely road ahead.
Greater Portland Dachshund Club TAILWAGGER Newsletter March, 2006
In fact, they said that a club needs 20% new members each year to stay even throughout the lifetime of the club. Food for thought!
There was one idea in particular which got me super excited! It was suggested to set up an intro tunnel at a conformation show, and offer "instinct testing" for all the allowed breeds. We discussed at length how to set an above ground tunnel. It is really easy! We can use upside down sod for the base, place the wooden liners on top, stabilize the sides with bales of hay or logs and cover the whole with dirt and brush. All we have to make sure of is that the L shape of the tunnel is not visible and there is a mound of dirt in front of the entrance to make it seem a bit more natural. The goal of intro is to make it very inviting to the dogs, a little friendly trigger to wake up the old blood instincts.
We would need a 40' by 40' area in which to build the tunnel and all the items in the above paragraph and some of that orange netting used at the Belden's farm and some kind of poles to hold it up. I think we could make some home made wooden posts with bases. This would just be to keep the public away from the site.
We would also need some qualified Intro judges who would be willing to take shifts. I think this could be a great opportunity to a) make some money for our club, b) get people excited about earthdog, c) provide a great learning opportunity for the dogs and their
handlers and d) get some intro judge apprentice training done.
Some things we'd need to do are talk to each event-giving club and find some space to use or rent. We would need to advertise the event in the premium lists and we could also make sure the AKC Gazette included the notice in their magazines for up to 6 months ahead of the event.
I am so excited about this idea! I hope others are too and we actually try it out.
I want to give a huge thank you to the Cascade Dachshund Club and to Jen Milo in particular for organizing the event. Also thank you to the Dilleys for getting us a very nice space in the Red Cross Building. THANK YOU!
***Just as an update, the tunnel digging was held on Saturday March 4th at the Beldens' farm. What a good time we had!!! We had some terrific workers showing up! It was great to see so many new faces. You can see pictures of the event at http://www.goodwood-oregon.com/Earthdog.htm This will give you an idea of what installing an earthdog tunnel system involves.