Versatile dogs of German origin have a rich history in hunting big game
We start this episode with a discussion about versatile dogs or, as they are known in Germany, “useful” or “practical” dogs. In North America they are primarily used for bird hunting, their roots stretch back to a variety of purposes related to hunting and tracking. We discuss a couple of fun examples of the usefulness of hunting dogs, including a Boykin Spaniel who finds and retrieves box turtles in the name of science, as well as a hunting dog that is used to locate invasive Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades.
Our guest interview this week is with Nadja Niesner, a German hunter, dog breeder, and hunt test judge with a vast range of experiences in the German hunting dog world. Her primary breed of choice is the Weimaraner, but she also enjoys her Brandel Bracke, Fox Terrier, and Cocker Spaniels.
We discuss the mechanics of hunting in Germany, which is entirely unlike the North American experience. Hunters are required to undergo an extensive education and testing system in order to be licensed to hunt. Similarly, the dogs must be tested and evaluated for their abilities in the field. Hunting is taken very seriously not only as a recreational activity but also as a crucial management method for the wildlife of Germany.
We split this interview into two episodes, so this first installment focuses primarily on the hunting of big game such as roe deer, fallow deer, and boar. This is traditionally done in a large group setting with a driven hunt, where various dogs are released into the forest to move the game toward the waiting hunters. Contrary to what you might expect, the dogs do not chase all of the game out of the woods. Instead, they are expected to locate and carefully move the game without setting it off at a sprint. This allows for a safe encounter with the waiting hunters and a better overall experience for all participants.
Because the dog work is done almost entirely out of sight of the handler, it is important for the dogs to be spurlaut, or scent-loud, on the fresh track of the game animal. This alerts the hunters to the incoming game and, if you know your dog’s voice well enough, can even allow you to identify the species of game before it arrives.
The German philosophy and approach to hunting is unlike anything that most North Americans have ever experienced. This rich culture provides the context for some of our most popular bird dogs as well as the foundations of NAVHDA. Understanding this context can enrich your experience with your own versatile hunting dog.
As always, we thank you for listening and invite you to submit feedback or questions to us at HDC@northwoodscollective.com. We would love to feature your questions in an upcoming episode! Record a voice memo and email it to us to be featured on the show and to have your question answered.
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Jennifer Wapenski is the Director of Operations and Managing Partner at Project Upland Media Group. She has a lifelong passion for the outdoors, dogs, and wildlife; as an adult, she discovered that upland bird and waterfowl hunting were natural extensions of these interests. What started as initial curiosity soon escalated into a life-changing pursuit of conservation, advocacy, and education. Jennifer serves in a variety of roles such as the Breed Warden for the Deutsch Langhaar—Gruppe Nordamerika breed club, on the board of the Minority Outdoor Alliance, and on an advisory committee for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.