Play Behavior and Dynamics

It's about time we discuss socialization,its importance, and play behavior. There are some people that may say this is all pointless talk. Those of us that have Drahthaars, that we have taught to be social, playful and well mannered dogs, would disagree I am sure.
Some see these as hunting dogs and that is all. Others see a hunting partner, home companion and travel buddy. Who wants to deal with a dog that doesn't get along well with other people or dogs? Either hunting or hanging around with others, it makes life a lot less stressful with a well mannered, socialized dog. All breeds need to be socialized. Some take to it with ease, some need coaxing, others need to be taught how to socialize and play appropriately. Drahthaars are one of those breeds that could use the extra help in the social department. They are high drive hunters with superb prey instincts. They work hard and are good at it too. They know it! Them knowing this tends to make most think in Alpha terms. They want to be the top dog, and choose not to engage in play and socializing. It is our job as handlers and owners to nip this in the bud. We are the alpha, we are in charge of everything! Appropriate play is important, when socializing your dog with other dogs, it is always best to have the other dog owners around and watching every move every second. Those that are experienced with dogs know exactly what the signs are, here is a little info and some tips.

Understanding social play behavior,dominant and nervous interaction will help in all aspects of handling your dog. There are basically play games that canines engage in.
The Hunt: A chasing game usually, one dog is acting "prey" and the other acting "hunter".
Most commonly the dogs will trade roles again and again. Often they will pause, check on each others emotional energy and verify that they are still "playing". You will most likely witness play bowing,body checks, faces are relaxed,"smiling", eyes are normal and not dilated. The acting "prey" may fall to the ground, allow themselves to be rolled to the ground,grabbed by the neck and play wrestle or fight. All this is acceptable play behaviour unless the roles never switch, you can see one dog getting to serious, barking or growling, baring teeth,playing to rough or not pausing. Once the other dog is frightened it will take on the persona of real prey with the tail tucked, eyes wide, shaking, running fast,etc. All signs it is time to intervene.
Play Wrestling or Fighting: Mostly fake posturing,wrestling,mouthing and noises, canines will chew on each other,mumble growls, one dog may be standing above another,flashing teeth, making noise. All is well as long as the dogs inhibit their bites, and no one appears frightened or like they are trying to escape.When this becomes to serious or a dog gets frightened, it is time to intervene. Most dogs enjoy interaction, dogs that are at play will show strong signals of such.
Play bowing, stretching,role switching in hunt or fight play, taking turns,pausing to check emotions and mumble growls . Usually dogs that are in proper play mode are easily interrupted. Play is basically just practice hunting and fighting, it can escalate quickly,every dog has their limits, so be aware.
Some inappropriate things to watch for include,chasing and stalking with teeth bared,placing or attempting to place a head on the other dogs shoulders,pushing or slamming into another dog, attempting to or humping and mounting, constant barking at another dog,moving in a direct path to other dog.
Most socialization issues can be easier dealt with in the puppy stage. Puppies learn how to communicate by engaging in play with other dogs.They may not understand at first and all dogs play at different levels and use different signals. From this pup's learn what is truly threatening and what is not. They learn politeness,confidence and social skills by being like the other dogs.
It is completely unreasonable and unfair to think all dogs will get along, but with a little help and some supervision, it is possible to make a dog understand the dynamics of play and socially acceptable behavior.


Racker came by for a short stay recently. He is a male Drahthaar from vom Elderbach.
He is about 7 months old, 60 pounds and a very energetic pup. He was fun to have and I think he left here having learned a few new things and hopefully a little happier. His owners are new to Drahthaar's and didn't quite know what they had on their hands until recently. Racker has been challenging their authority and not listening so well. Alot of it was the puppy in him, most of it was the lack of structure, that he required. This is common with first time DD owners. There is not a whole lot of info out there and not many people share the fact that...These dogs are not pets....
Yes, they make great companions by our side in the hunt and in the home, but they are trained and developed as young pups to be that way. If they are not shown the meaning of what is right and wrong to you, they will never understand their role.
This breed needs a ton of exercise,discipline and training that come hand in hand.They are born to hunt. That is what the breed is made for, the in home companion is a bonus deal. The discipline and activities must be in place for these dogs to adapt to what ever way we choose to "humanize" them. This is the same breed that was made to bay down pigs,track big game,fight off predators, retrieve all game furred or feathered, hunt field,forest and water till their paws bleed.
How can they be expected to be normal, calm, relaxed without proper discipline,structure and exercise? We love our dogs, you bet, but most were bred for a purpose....without that purpose in their lives, they can not be truly happy. By loving them, we should be giving them what they need. Right?
I was able to spend a few days with Racker. We got out into the field and water, went for searches and tossed bumpers. Put him on a few birds just for the exposure, awaken his senses so to speak. He listened to me well after a short bit and seemed to learn quickly all the things I exposed him to. Hessian and Racker had fun at home playing and Hess helped show Racker what "house manners" are. All in all I was impressed with Racker and his abilities. Given the proper structure, exercise,discipline and hunting activity he will be quite the partner to have around.
Best of luck to his owners, It is going to be alot of work and time,but it will pay off handsomely.

VGP Camping and Training

This month has been a fantastic training month! I have seen lots of different reactions to different levels of training on several different dogs. How lucky I am!
Met up with some local Addicts and 1 not so local Addict from Colorado. We took to the hills for some training and camping fun. Had a sweet little camp spot with a little open field and dense cover behind it, not to mention the pond that was there. (The one we all tried to keep our dogs out of and some of us were not so successful.) Good fun!!
We all have dogs preparing for the VGP, so forest work was definitely in order. Got a chance to work on all aspects of the test, especially my favorite...the Fox in the Box or Fox over Obstacle,
with some drags and of course Bloodtracking!
Training seems to be coming along well for everyone. It is interesting to see the other dogs and the progress they make. How different the issues we all have are. It's nice to see the other handlers and how they "tackle" each issue. Get and give opinions and advice, experiences we have had and things we have seen. Can't say 10 years ago, I would have thought for a second, about sitting in the woods around a campfire, having great food,great beverages,great conversation with great people, and it all being related to dogs. Our common interest and Addiction to Drahthaars has brought us here! For that I am happy and grateful.
Test day is not too far out now, with the Armbruster just ahead, it is about to get crazy busy around here. Soon we will be done with the testing and all work can focus to hunting now! I expect this is going to be a productive season! Happy Training!

Forest Frolicking!

Forest; (also called woods,woodland,wold,weald) An area with a high density of trees.
Frolicking; (of animal or person) Play and move about cheerfully,excitedly or energetically.
In preparing for the "Big Show" or the VGP. The third and final test in the series of three breed tests. Hessian and I have been spending some time in the forest. Some of it has been training, and some has been reacquainting ourselves with the woods. I see a change in Hessian when we work the woods. It is different than the bird fields,duck ponds,bunny hunts and deserts. There is an abundance of game,large and small. Unique scents, only specific to the forest, and surely overwhelming to a animal whose sense of smell is 1 to 10 million times stronger. This change is instant, as if not already a high drive dog, he kicks into overdrive. He stands taller,breathes deeper,eyes wide and attention to detail in everything around him. He wants to go.go,go!!! Hunt em up,blast off and search in every direction,unfocused and relentless on finding the source of so many smells.
The difficulty as a hunter and trainer is, harnessing all that energy, calming the dog, as enough so it will obey and focus on the task at hand.Yet still work with that high intensity we enjoy from this breed. So I have been working on this,spending more time in the forest, conditioning him to understand the rules. Take it easy,relax and enjoy. There is no reward for being hasty,feral, and disobedient. Yet reap the rewards when focused,calm and upon reaching the agenda,getting to work and succeed. Hessian's greatest reward is being able to work,search,track,and produce. Now he is realizing he is unable to do any of that in an uncontrolled,unfocused manner.
Training is coming along well. Spending alot of time on obedience,blood tracking,and manner of retrieve. Still need to get in some water work and steadiness reminders. Of course its always hard not to worry and stress over a certain subject or two. I am anxious to get this test done and hopefully prize, so I can move on with plans to continue my Drahthaar Addiction!!