GUN DOG MAGAZINE ARTICLE
NOVEMBER 2018 Vol. 37, No. 7
EASY TO UNDERESTIMATE
Straight out of Germany, the Jagd Terrier is a fierce bird hunter in a small package.
BY TONY J. PETERSON
My experience is pretty limited when it comes to terriers. Our next-door neighbors made the mistake of getting a brother and a sister out of the same litter when they had no idea how to work with one puppy, let alone two. Then they broke every rule of dog ownership.
No socialization, no real training to speak of, and the dogs get very little exercise. In other words, they are a horrible duo that will not be missed when they finally move onto the great barking grounds in the sky, which can't happen soon enough.
All that stated, I was pretty curious when editor Rick Van Etten asked me to tackle a piece on Jagd Terriers, and more specifically, how the breed can be used by pheasant and duck hunters alike. As you can probably surmise from the name, the Jagd Terrier (pronounced YOCK-terrier) comes from Germany, and if there is one person in this country who knows German breeds better than vom Kervinshof Kennels owner, Shelby Kervin, I've yet to meet him.
Like many of the breeds that originated in Germany, there is a lot going on when it comes to the Jagd Terrier. They look like diminutive Rottweilers, and many of them possess the mentality to fight anything that crosses their path regardless of size and ferocity. This is because, originally, they were utilized in the pursuit of predators including bobcats, foxes, badgers and even cougars.
It is believed that the Jagd Terrier came to be through selective breeding of the Old English Fox Terrier and the Black and Tan Hunting terrier, which makes sense considering that well-bred and well-trained members of the breed can now be relied on to hunt just about any game animal you wish to pursue with them.
They are known for possessing an extremely high prey drive, and this, according to Kervin, is one of the reasons why they have become popular in the U.S. "It's a shame here in the United States, but the Jagd Terrier is often used in illegal dog fights, or is bought solely because of its capacity for aggressiveness. The perception of them is that they are all aggressive and will chew through a metal cage if given the chance."
It doesn't take a whole lot of internet sleuthing to backup Kervin's claims and it seems that some derivations of the Jagd Terrier have become popular with a segment of the population that shouldn't be allowed to own a pet turtle or a hamster, let alone any kind of dog. This shouldn't persuade you from considering the right Jagd Terrier, however.
That's because the handsome little fellow that appears to be all teeth is actually a highly intelligent, mission driven hunting machine—provided he comes from proper breeding. And if he does come from proper breeding, you won't see a hint of that aggressiveness. The well-bred Jagds are family friendly, up for playing anytime, and a simple joy to be around.
At first glance, it's hard to take the Jagd Terrier seriously because of his size. But this dog, provided he comes from proper breeding, can swim like a Lab and hunt upland birds all day.
Kervin lives on a lake in Oklahoma where he has a couple of duck blinds at the ready just in case he gets a free morning during the season. It was during one of those duck hunts with his breeding male, Felix, that he had quite the encounter with another group of waterfowl hunters. "We were set up in a cove during the midweek when very few hunters were out, but there was a group across the water from us. The last bird I shot ended up crippled and it made it across the cove into a patch of cattails. Felix took off after that bird and picked up his scent on the water. After covering probably close to 300 yards, he caught the duck and swam back.
"I saw the guys across from me pack up all of their gear, and then they drove around to my side and parked. When they got out, one of the fellows asked me if I was running a miniature Lab, because what they had just witnessed was unbelievable. The guy turned out to be the Vice Chairman of one of our local Ducks Unlimited chapters, and the last thing he said to me was that he wasn't sure if he could tell the story to anyone because they wouldn't believe it.
"His reaction wasn’t unique, either. Most people look at how small a Jagd Terrier is and they can't get their minds around them being able to handle most bird-hunting tasks."
And they can handle most bird hunting tasks, but according to Kervin, not all of them. He recalls a time when his dog's size and drive were at odds with one another: "I made the mistake of taking Felix with me on a goose hunt one time. When the honkers flew over, we shot and Felix took off across a rain-soaked wheat field. The goose he caught up to was probably 150 yards away, and was way too big for that little dog. I’m confident that he would have died trying to get that honker back to me if I hadn't gone out and wrestled it away from him."
The high prey drive of the Jagd Terrier may sound like both a blessing and a curse, but it's mostly blessing. Just like with any good bird dog, Labs included, if you've got one that has plenty of get-up-and-go, you've got to learn how to manage it and rein in the dog. According to Kervin, when it comes to Jagd Terriers, the way to do this is through patience.
"If you're not confident handling a high-drive dog, you should consider utilizing a professional trainer. If you want to tackle the training on your own, understand that you'll need the right skills and plenty of patience. Jagd Terriers are at their best when they are confident and under your control. You can't be soft with these dogs because they respect authority. You have to let them know you are in charge, and what you expect out of them. They respond well to a leader, especially a leader who asks a lot out of them because they are so mission-driven.
"You've also got to understand that these dogs have generations upon generations of predator hunting in their genes. Their natural instinct when they get a bumper or a bird in their mouth is to not let it go. This comes from the fact that in their history if they got the critter they were after in their teeth, it was safer to hold on tight and never let up.
"When it comes to ducks or pheasants, that's obviously not the best tendency. When you're working with a Jagd Terrier and building a basic obedience foundation, you'll also be teaching him the proper way to fetch, hold and release. The good thing is they are smart and take to lessons well, so this is something that is easy to overcome."
The Jagd Terrier is a diminutive hunting machine that can swim with the best of them and hunt upland birds well.
PICKING A PUP
You could probably go on the internet and Google Jagd Terrier puppies and find a few litters within a day's drive of you. They may even carry a healthy price tag, which can signify they are well-bred dogs and worth the coin. The problem with that, at least if you live in the United States, is that the odds aren't in favor of you finding dogs that sport impressive bird-hunting related pedigrees.
This is why Kervin imports his dogs directly from Germany. In many places in Europe, they view pedigree as a valuable resource and they want to keep it that way. Their general attentiveness to maintaining quality bloodlines is impressive, and it's a way of life with breeds like the Jagd Terrier.
"Here in the U.S. the breed standard is not generally kept intact. You can find dogs that are imported from Serbia, but they are often very aggressive. This keeps me going back to Germany, and while it's not cheap it is worth it," Kervin explained before relaying the story of his breeding male Jagd Terrier.
"I paid $7,000 for Felix, which sounds crazy, but he has been worth every penny. Since importing him, we've brought over two females. They've both turned out incredible in both hunting and hunt tests. One of my females is a certified 20-hour blood tracker and I even take her in a deer blind with me. When she's in there, she won't sleep. She'll just scan the windows hour after hour looking for any movement."
One place in the United States you can get a good pup (provided you pass the sniff test as a qualified owner) is at Kervin's kennel. But don't expect to call him up and get a puppy within a couple of months.
"We produce three litters a year and we have a wait list that usually takes about a year to burn through and before we put anyone on it, we conduct an interview to find out exactly why someone wants a dog and what they'll use it for. If they are strictly pig or predator hunters, they don't get one of our dogs. We want to place them in families where waterfowl hunting, upland hunting, or both, is a number one priority."
You can probably guess that you're not going to get a Jagd Terrier from Kervin for $500, because they have a lot more into their bloodlines than that. In fact, if you find a Jagd Terrier anywhere for that price, or anywhere near it, you should probably pass—at least if you want a dog that isn't aggressive, but is smart, athletic, and capable of becoming a bird-hunting machine.
And don't expect to book a red-eye to Munich and come back with one, either. There are somewhere between 600 and 1000 Jagd Terriers in total born in Germany each year, which isn't a whole lot of supply. Not all of this is bad news for anyone interested, however. The restrictions on being able to get a quality Jagd Terrier are part of the reason why there are still quality dogs available. Anyone who has worked with a well-bred, intelligent dog knows what that means and why it's worth the extra effort and expense.
If you're interested in an uncommon but wholly capable birddog, you might want to start digging into the availability of a Jagd Terrier. They may not look the part of the diehard duck dog or the unstoppable upland hunter, but provided they are well-trained in basic obedience and the ways of all things feathery, you can expect to have one hell of a good dog in the spitfire-like Jagd Terrier.