« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
same pistol-shots going off, what would the puppies do then? cock their ears all of them and trot a little nearer, led by the most courageous, to hear what the commotion was. Dogs and human beings are in no wise different from one another in some important particulars. Some are constitutionally bold, others timid, and the more timid a dog is, the greater the distance should be between him and the gun when he hears it for the first time, and when you propose to accustom him to the sound of it. If keepers appreciated this axiom, and would take a little trouble, a gun-shy dog would be a rara avis indeed; and I am bold enough to say that any dog can be put beyond the possibility of becoming gun-shy in half-a-dozen lessons of ten minutes each. Some keepers take a considerable amount of trouble in teaching their dogs to fetch and carry; but it never enters into their calculations that a puppy may fail in the most important particular, or that it is in their power to avert what possibly may happen on the twelfth of August, or the first of September. A young and rather timid dog is taken out, generally on a cord; a right and left, perhaps from more than one gun, is suddenly fired nearly over his back. The noise frightens him, the restraint of the cord makes matters worse, and he is thoroughly cowed. "Damn the brute, he's gun-shy," says some intelligent sportsman; "shoot him." "So he is," says Donald. "That is a peety; the very puppy the maister picket oot for hissel' -the best-looking o' the lot."
Neither he nor his master, when he draws him aside that evening and tells him with bated breath the result of the puppy's first day, has the slightest idea that any one
has been wanting in his duty. It is a dispensation of Providencethe puppy has "turned out" gunshy, and the beautiful young dog's first day is also his last.
Let us look now at the method adopted by those conversant with the "disease," to secure immunity from it. A writer in the 'Field' who signs his name, and is evidently a sportsman, gravely advocates the following course of instruction :—
"Having taught him this lessonto answer to whistle-take him one
day on to the lawn, and crack off a half-charged cartridge. If he bolts off to his kennel, try the whistle. Probably no effect: then simply follow him and chain him up whilst comforting his shattered nerves. If your pup is shy the first shot, try him again shortly, making much of him : he will soon come to."
I have read many recipes, but this fairly beats all. A surer way of ruining your dog could not be devised. You are simply recommended in cold blood to create the disease and then give yourself the task of curing it. If the puppy's nerves are "shattered," the harm is done, and he will fear the second discharge more than the first. You have now got a gun-shy dog, and though you may cure him, it will only be by the expenditure of an enormous amount of patience and perseverance.
Some keepers are in the habit of firing a pistol before feedingtime, the meaning of this manœuvre being that the dogs may associate the sound with something pleas ant, and in longing for their food, long for the noise that invariably announces it. The idea is not a particularly original one, and the success or otherwise of the system depends on the size of the pistol and the disposition of the dog. A large pistol would undoubtedly
frighten a timid dog; a pistol toy might not. Perhaps keepers with many dogs under their charge lay in a stock of the weapons in question, from the old-fashioned horse" to the modern "Deringer," to suit their patients. But why, I would ask, run the risk at all? Why fire a pistol, large or small, near a young dog till you know he will not be afraid of it? I have said, and I repeat, that any puppy can be put beyond the possibility of being gun-shy in half-a-dozen short lessons. Gunshyness in a dog is no more hereditary than train-shyness in a horse. The gun-shy dog and the train-shy horse have been made so by mismanagement. Both can be cured, and can be made in time to look on their pet aversions, the gun and the train, with equanimity nay, more, in the case of the dog with affection; but, take my advice, educate the animals in question properly you will find it very much easier than curing them when spoilt. If you have a pair of young horses that have never seen a train, to put them in the family barouche, containing the wife of your bosom, drive them to a level-crossing, and after fastening them to the gates, wait contentedly for the approach of the " Flying Scotsman," would be putting it mildly-injudicious. Instead of adopting this plan, you halt your horses on the approach of a train at some considerable distance from the line, and if they are not frightened, take them a little nearer on the next opportunity; or-what is far better you turn them out when still young into a field by the side of the railway, and leave them absolutely free and unfettered to gallop away as far as they like when they hear the engine coming. The very fact of their being free robs the situation of half its terrors,
the gallop gets shorter day by day, and before very long they take little or no notice of its approach. Pursue the same tactics with your dog when accustoming him to the gun. The modus operandi-simple enough in all conscience-should be as follows. Take him into a courtyard with a gate to it, or into a field behind a wire fence, or into any enclosed space where he can see what is going on outside. Do not restrain him by a cord or chain. Leave him free to run about or retreat should he feel so inclined. Send your keeper a long way off-say 150 yards (the more timid the dog, remember the greater should be the distance)make him fire a shot, watch the dog, and you will at once see how much nearer-if at all—the shot should be fired next time. After a few shots he will probably be eager to get up to the gun, more especially if you make the day a pleasant one and give him something to look for. All this seems
much ado about nothing, and keepers are above taking trouble of this sort, but if you have a valuable dog he is worth making sure of. I have two bitches just now, beautiful workers, very keen, and very fond of the gun. Both, I am confident, would have been made gun-shy had I not been careful with them. You must judge by the disposition of the dog how much care is necessary never risk a shot close by at first, however bold the puppy seems; for remember once the harm is done it can't be undone save at a vast expenditure of time and patience.
When I began breaking retrievers many years ago, I had a wonderfully reliable old dog, and the method I adopted when commencing a puppy's education was to couple the recruit and the veteran together. The old one
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 "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.
The education - properly 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. 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. On 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.