Page images

was steady as the Rock of Gibraltar, and nothing would induce him to go till told, and when the youngone forgot himself and sprang forward, I could instantly get hold of him, check him, correct him, and give him his head again. I broke dogs fairly well in this way, but it is not the right way: besides, if you haven't the reliable old dog, you are ruined-horse, foot, and artillery; for to couple a young one to one on which you cannot rely is to spoil both: moreover, one man one dog may possibly be in the programme "when we come in again.' The reason I took to coupling, as far as I recollect, was to endeavour to prevent a pupil constantly straining on a cord. I had never in those days met a thoroughly capable breaker. I had seen dogs taken out season after season, constantly pulling at their keepers and their keepers pulling at them,- for a dog is like a horse, the more you pull at him the more he pulls at you; and by using the couples I hoped to restrain a dog without making a puller of him.


I was, as I have said, fairly successful; but, I repeat, it is not the correct way. A thing I detested and eschewed altogether was a whip now I am never without one, because I have learned how to use it. If you see a dog afraid of a keeper when he cracks his whip, or skulking behind, or inclined to bolt, you can have no surer proof of the man's imbecility and cruelty. When you call to a dog and crack a whip to emphasise your order, he should come bounding up to you, not run away

from you.

"Here I am," he says;

"I've done nothing wrong, and I'm not afraid." He should look on the whip-and dogs which have been broken by a capable, eventempered, and humane keeper do look on it simply as a deterrent. They know when they deserve punishment, and they know when they don't; and it is beautiful to see a bold and dashing, yet perfectly steady, dog with as much confidence in his master as his master has in him- —a dog which, after his education is finished, is never touched with the whip from one year's end to the other.1 I have seen men flog dogs as you beat carpetscruel and lazy ruffians, who have let the time go by during which with no correction they might have moulded the puppy into anything. Not even in the case of an old dog is this incessant and brutal flogging justifiable. If the animal has got to a certain age, you may kill him, but you won't cure him; and a man of experience ought to be able to decide when there is a chance of success if you persevere, or when education is degenerating into cruelty.

[ocr errors][merged small]

The education properly so called of a retriever may be shortly summed up, and may be said to consist of only two lessons. Not much to teach him, you will say; true, but you must keep him at both till he has thoroughly mastered them. These lessons may aptly be subdivided under two heads: Steadiness and Retrieving before you take him out shooting, and Steadiness and Retrieving when you have him in the field. It is impossible to exaggerate the

1 I once bought a setter from a man in rather a large way, who had a shooting adjoining mine. A worse-broken dog I never possessed. After the purchase I saw on two occasions dogs of his on the public road in full retreat for home!— dogs, I mean, which he had out shooting with him. A well-broken dog is never cowed.

importance of lesson No. 1. On it depends the dog's whole future career-whether you are to keep him, present him to a friend who will give him a home, or endeavour to sell him. In the latter case, if

you are an honest man, you will have to describe him as "partly broken," "only wants work," "will make a first-class dog under a good keeper," &c., &c., all of which means that the animal has beaten you and you want to get quit of him. If, on the contrary, you

are successful with him in his first lesson, you will be astonished how easily you will teach him his second. The very first day you have him out- be it on "the twelfth" or "the first "-he will be all but steady and retrieve his birds well, and before another month is over his head you will have a fairly good retriever.

Now, how are we to make a dog reliable and steady? The first thing towards that desirable result is to teach him his proper place; and that, whether on the Queen's highway or on the moor, is at your heel, or, properly speaking, at your left side, with his head in line with your thigh, and this position he should never leave without permission.1 He should run when you run, stop when you stop, and wheel with you to the right or left as the case may be. In 'Training

Dogs, and how to make them good Companions,' a recipe for making a puppy come to heel is given. It is this:

"Begin by calling the pup to you by saying 'heel,' keep him close behim and say, 'hie on,' giving a forward hind you for a little while, then pat swing of your right arm. Practise this persistently, preventing him with your stick from going in front of you, and calling him up sharply if he lags behind. Severe cases may be met by leading with a strap, but if possible a lead should be dispensed with. Accustom your dog to come to heel on your waving your right arm backwards."

This is dreadfully "happy go lucky." "Keep him close behind you for a little while." "Call him up sharply if he lags behind." If you can do all this it is simple enough, the battle's won: but a headstrong dog would be all over the place; a timid one would probably lie down if you called him "sharply"—more especially if you are flourishing a stick about.

You will never teach a young dog anything, except disobedience, by such a course of instruction. The dog will not understand, and will not know what is expected of him. You must at first keep him always on the cord, but on no account allowing him to pull at it. If he lags behind or gets in front, give him a reminder by jerking the

1"Are the poor dogs, then, never to have a run?" I hear some one ask. Most certainly they are. It is of the greatest importance, more especially for young dogs, to have a grand gallop every day; and if you are fortunate enough to have a field, they should be turned out for half an hour, or longer if you can manage it, to enjoy themselves to their heart's content. During this time they should be entirely on the "free list." To try to enforce discipline is a mistake; and this you should impress on your kennelman, should you be unable to be present yourself. A dog chasing or being chased by his companions, and tumbling over and over in the grass, pays no heed to whistle or word of command, and you should not expect him to do so. When the hour for exercise is over, assert your authority again, watch your opportunity, and call each dog up, put the couples on if young ones are unruly, and march them back to their kennels, as the gentlemen in variegated suits are marched after work to their cells across the shingle at Portland or the dreary waste at Dartmoor.

cord, instantly easing your hand again and accompanying the action by the words "Come back "-that is, to your proper place." Have the whip ready in your hand to show him you are in earnest: a slight crack if your words are not attended to, or drawing the lash across his forelegs if he threatens to be wild, will be quite sufficient. When he understands this on a cord, keeps his place and does not pull at it, free him and try him without it; but on no account let him leave your heel, immediately you do so. Keep on cautioning him by word and deed, put him on the cord again, occasionally freeing him, and he will soon learn that you mean him to remain by you under either condition. Many young dogs are spoilt by keepers in their anxiety to get game. Rather than let one bird or even a wretched rabbit escape, they will slip a dog as if he was a candidate for the Waterloo Cup, often, by the way, instigated thereto by their masters, who, caring for nothing but the bag, shout at them if there is a moment's delay. Under such circumstances neither keeper nor dog has a chance.


the other hand, by keeping your pupil well in his place, watching a bird struggling in the heather, or a partridge running, as partridges only can run, for a fence, you may, it is true, occasionally lose your quarry altogether, but you will break your dog properly, and you will be rewarded in the long-run. And now, having taught your pupil his proper place, how are we to teach him to retrieve? By pursuing the same tactics-beginning him on a cord, freeing him afterwards. Nearly every one begins

this part of a puppy's education by throwing something for him to fetch, and they are quite pleased if he bounds after it in the most perfunctory fashion, won't come near you with it, and finally, after you have entreated and retreated, throws it down under the impression that, notwithstanding all the trouble he has taken, you are rather displeased with him. The verdict of most keepers under such circumstances would be, "It's no' that bad for the first time." Now, it is as bad as bad can be. The dog has committed two faults, which, unless promptly eradicated, will cause you an endless amount of trouble. He has gone from your heel without waiting for leave, and he has failed in bringing the object "to hand"-that is, right up to you in his mouth, and keeping it there till you take it from him. A puppy, of course, is far more eager to go after a ball1 when he sees it rolling away, or anything else when flung away, than when he is checked for a couple of minutes. Then he is discouraged, and in most instances seems to forget all about it. By adopting the following method, however, you will soon get him to take an interest in his work, and he will learn nothing he has to unlearn. Put the pupil on the cord, and the object you decide on using in his mouth. He will in most cases be only too eager to take it from you. If he should hesitate, a little persuasion is all that is required. Keep him in his place exactly as you have been in the habit of doing before you asked him to carry anything. Take the object from him and give it him back. Should he drop it, replace it in his mouth,

1 A ball is a bad thing to use; they are apt to drop it, it runs away from them, and they take to playing with it. Something 10 or 12 inches long, and covered with cloth or leather, is much better.

always putting your hand under the jaw and keeping it there, telling him to "hold it." Make him wheel and turn with you as before, your great aim being to see that he carries the thing properly, comes right up to you when you tell him to "come on with it" or "fetch it," and holds it till you tell him to "give it up.' "1 The lesson should on no account be prolonged beyond a few minutes, and the puppy should not be rewarded till he carries the object back to the house, or to his kennel, as the case may be; for he should be made to do this, teaching him that what he retrieves is of value (Bevan) and is never thrown away. The lesson may be varied later on by throwing the object into thick grass or any sort of cover, which will make the puppy put down his head and use his nose, or over a fence to see that he holds to it under more difficult surroundings; but your main object at this stage, as I have just said, is to see that he retrieves quickly and cleanly, and always "to hand."

I generally finish this part of a puppy's education by making him retrieve a rabbit or two. It enlarges his ideas, and gives him a foretaste of what is to come. Accustom him to carry it first, then drag it across a field for a considerable distance, and let him find it by means of his nose. A rabbit is the best thing to use, for several reasons: you cannot get a partridge or pheasant at any time of the year; but the bunny, like the poor, is always with us, and he is particularly odoriferous, which is encouraging to a young

dog. Moreover, even if you can get it, a bird looks rather mean and dishevelled after rough treatment; but rabbits may be retrieved by two or three dogs, and dragged through hedges and across ditches with impunity. As Tate Sullivan said of the "ould families," they "keep their looks to the last."

Whenever the dog gets to where you know the rabbit is, call to him or whistle instantly. Do not let him linger if you can help it. "Why, you don't give him time to pick the beast up," said a friend to me when we were watching a trial together. "No dog of mine, if he gets up to his prey, will come back without it," was my reply, and back came the dog at a gallop. Many sportsmen and good sportsmen too-will not let their retrievers carry ground-game till they are in their second or third season, believing that it makes them wild and inclined to chase. This I never could understand. If you have confidence in yourself, the more temptation you put in the way of a young dog the better, and hares and rabbits are the very things you require to steady him. I am convinced that Henry Michie," if you put him on his mettle, and he had to work against time, would take a dog, without a cord, among any number of the quadrupeds in question in three weeks after the animal had been intrusted to him. I mean, of course, if it had not been handledand spoilt by some one previously.

Your pupil is now, let us suppose, perfect in this part of his education. He stays at heel with

1 It is useful to increase the length of the cord and give him more freedom, and eventually, of course, to dispense with it altogether.

2 For fourteen years in the employ of Mr Lloyd Price, and incomparably the best breaker and the most humane I ever saw-master of his work in every detail, careful to a fault, and ready with a reason for everything he does.

out a slip, retrieves without a fault, and does not fear the gun. "The Twelfth " has arrived, and you take him out on active service. A careless or over-confident man has now an excellent opportunity of undoing in one short half-hour, or very much less, the work of many weeks. The dog up to date may be nearly perfect, but he has never had the temptation he will be exposed to to-day. He has never seen a covey of grouse get up at his feet or a hare bound off in front of him. He has never heard shot after shot fired in rapid succession, or possibly been accustomed to any one's company but your own; still I repeat that, under a competent man, he ought to do well the first day. Ignorant breakers are always in a hurry to make their pupils retrieve, and even should the bird fall within 20 yards, and lie exposed to view, they send them for it. Do not fall into this error. The use of a retriever, roughly speaking, is to find birds that you cannot find yourself, and an intelligent dog will soon understand this. Many a time I have walked forward to pick up a bird in the heather, only to find that it wasn't where I thought it was. Either I had marked the place badly or the bird had run. "Where is it, my man? I can't find it," I would say to the dog. "Let me try," he would reply with eyes and tail,

and off he would bound the minute he got leave, understanding the whole situation.1 No. Steadiness is of more importance, to begin with, than retrieving. Of course you must put the pupil on a cord for the first few lessons. When a bird falls walk him up to it, cautioning him the whole way; pick it up yourself and put it in his mouth, make him follow you with it, keeping him in his place as of old, and giving him great praise when he does well. The bird, of course, will be strange to him, and he may not take hold at first readily, especially if it be alive; and feeling he has now got hold of something worth carrying, he may show reluctance to give it up when told: but if you have brought him up properly, I will undertake to say he will, before he has seen a dozen birds shot, receive them as readily, carry them as well, and give them up as freely as he did the article he was accustomed to in his more boyish days. How soon you may dispense with the cord and free him depends entirely on circumstances. Some dogs are much more headstrong and excitable than others, and must be treated accordingly; but one thing is certain, you can never be too careful with a young one. If you have more guns out than usual, and anticipate more firing, or if in cover-shooting you are sent

1 I have a young bitch just now, a very dashing and persevering worker, and steady beyond almost anything I have seen in so young a dog. When a bird falls she is so far from running in that she turns round at once and stands looking up in my face asking for permission to go. In that position she will remain as long as you like till she gets the word; then, reversing herself on her own axis, she is off like the wind. She has also a beautiful mouth, and used, when "at walk," to retrieve the ducks incautiously straying from the burn-side, very much at first to the indignation, but eventually to the amusement, of the proprietor,and I am almost inclined to think of the ducks. One bird, to my certain knowledge, was retrieved three times, and when released from a somewhat embarrassing position would give herself a good shake and walk off, "no' a preen the waur," with that graceful gait which is the distinguishing characteristic of this domestic fowl.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »