Page images
PDF
EPUB

66

breeding on a large scale perhaps. He will spare no expense in having the very best food and the best attendance he can procure, and yet those same dogs are lodged in a draughty, undrained, damp, stinking hole that is not fit to put a pig in, and so one fine morning out comes a brace of these priceless ones. “Dear me, Don has got a cough! I wonder how he got that!” Why, from sleeping most likely in a thorough draught or on damp straw. Or, after your “ crack” has put up a single bird or two upwind without an attempt at a find, or got so close to a covey that it has risen before you could get up,“ Why, Belle's nose seems to be gone to-day!”

• What wonder, when she has been in a reeking atmosphere of foul drains for a week ? Or again, Dido goes very "dicky” over that plough, moves her legs fast enough, but can't "get away” at the shoulders and hips. Why, what's up with the bitch ? I am sure she is not stale from over-work.” Not she; but how would you be moving, think you, if you had been paddling about for a day and a night or two on wet flags without shoes on ? '

We can confirm what H. H. here says of the carelessness or ignorance of many good sportsmen on this subject, from frequent and melancholy experience. It is, indeed, perfectly astounding' to see men not wanting either in common sense, common humanity, or familiarity with the canine race, nevertheless calmly acting on the principle that any place is good enough for a dog. It is the same with feeding. Men seem to forget that from dogs kept for sporting purposes we exact an amount of violent exercise, which tells upon them exactly as it does upon ourselves. A dog who comes home overtired, unless supplied with tempting food, and a warm, clean and comfortable bed, will break down as certainly as a man would. All hunting men know this about their horses; and all grooms and stable. men are obliged to act accordingly. But about their dogs, men

as if they were gifted by Nature with some special exemption from all the consequences of insalubrity. There are fools in the world who think they show their manliness and strength of mind by laughing at such as show any solicitude about the food or treatment of their dogs ; or are not satisfied to leave them entirely in the hands of servants. We once very nearly lost an almost perfect spaniel through this misplaced confidence. We saw himn put into a good bed after a long day's partridge-shooting, and consented to believe that he would be equally well cared for in all other respects. At the end of the third day's shooting, a very wet day, he could hardly crawl home, and we had to list him over the stone walls. Still we had no suspicion of the truth. He went to bed, and next morning was evidently very ill. We tried him with meat, milk -warm and cold ; but he could touch nothing, and lay curled round in a corner and shivering. We found on enquiry that, owing to some feud among the servants, the boy to whose care he had been specially entrusted had been unable to get him any dinner, and three nights running, after a hard day's work, he had had nothing but a few scraps of bread. This, of course, so weakened him that he was quite unable to stand out against the cold and wet; caught a violent chill, and would certainly have died, had we gone on leaving him to servants. We got him round again, with a good deal of care ; but that was a lesson to us, and we hope it may be a lesson to all who are in the habit of taking valuable dogs about with them to friends' houses. Another dangerous thing to do with delicate dogs, which H. H. does not mention, is to drive them home any distance when they are wringing wet. It is difficult sometimes to avoid it; but it would always be possible to give them a good rubbing down before putting them in the dog-cart.

round

seem to reason

In the chapter on Retrievers, we know not that there is anything which does not apply almost equally to pointers, setters, and spaniels. To take your dog in hand when he is quite a puppy, as soon as he is weaned-our author says—to let him know nobody but yourself; to have him always with you; and when he is not, to keep him by himself until his preliminary education is completed; are rules which would be equally useful in the training of all dogs, especially spaniels. The difference is, that in the case of spaniels and retrievers you can always be doing something to them ; whereas with pointers and setters, the time soon comes when you can do nothing without showing them game. We have long abandoned the last shred of scepticism with regard to what dogs can be taught to do, or what they will do without being taught, by their own natural sagacity. We will give an instance told by H. H., and then another relating to a canine acquaintance of our own :

• When an undergraduate at Oxford I bad a very clever smoothcoated retriever, and I had broken her to all this sort of thing. One day I was out walking with a friend and we had got to the top of Headington Hill, about two miles from Oxford. I put my hand in my pocket for my pipe, a short meerschaum in a case, and found I had left it behind, and I remembered putting it on the table of my lodgings just before I started. “I wonder whether Duchess will fetch it,” I said to my friend ; “lend me your pipe, and I will try." I showed her the pipe in the case, and said, "Go back, fetch mine, there's a good girl!” She looked at me for a moment, and then away she went at her best pace. We sat down on a stile and waited, and in about twenty minutes she appeared with the pipe all right. I heard afterwards from a man who occupied rooms over mine, that he was distur bed in his reading by the violent barking of a dog at

the

the door. He looked out of the window and saw Duchess tearing at it tooth and nail, and barking enough to raise the dead. He went down and opened the door; she rushed past him upstairs, and, before he got halfway up, repassed him with a growl, with my pipe in her mouth. I always thought she must have seen me lay it down, but anyhow it was a good feat.'

The following, remarkable at all events as a feat of memory, was told me by the owner of an Irish water-spaniel, the only dog I ever knew who would perform tricks and was good to shoot over at the same time. His master was out walking with him at the beginning of the long frost in the year 1855, which set in about the middle of January. He went on a frozen mill-dam, where the water was of course very deep, and accidentally dropped his snuff-box through a little round hole in the ice. The dog was dreadfully distressed at not being able to get it; but was obliged to go home with its owner, who thought no more about the matter. Two months afterwards, when the frost was gone, he and the dog passed by the same place. The dog paused opposite the spot where the box had disappeared, seemed to think intently for a minute; then plunged in, dived to the bottom, and returned with the snuff-box in his mouth.

While on the subject of retrievers we may be allowed to broach a theory of our own, which is, that for partridge-shooting alone, spaniels make better retrievers than the larger species to whom the name is usually appropriated. The reason is, that they are much quicker in a hedgerow, being able to get through it, or turn round in the ditch, in half the time taken by one of the big black breed. More than that, they make much less noise in galloping through the turnips, and do not disturb so many birds as the others. With all dogs alike H. K. lays it down as a golden ruie not to do too much at once.

As soon as you have got your puppy to do one thing really well, take him home for that day, and let him think it over.

Do not try to teach him anything fresh till the morrow, by which time the performance of the day before will have sunk into his mind, and he will be ready to repeat it without difficulty ; whereas two or three different lessons given him one after the other will have a tendency to confuse him. This is particularly true, we should say, of pointers and setters, with whom we now enter into the heart of our subject.

“As regards the infancy and first youth of pointers and setters,' H. H. refers his readers to what he has said about retrievers. The system, as we have already noted, is the same in each case: The same principle of selection, the same kennel management, the same process of making a friend and

pet

pet of your pups, never striking them, and never allowing any one else to have anything to do with them, and taking especial care that nobody and nothing ever frightens them. Above all, when you are exercising puppies never allow them to steal away from you and begin to hunt upon their own account. This habit, once acquired, is productive of ten thousand troubles, and should be nipped in the bud, not by thrashing, but by putting the puppy in the corner, in other words, carrying him home and shutting him up in his kennel while the others are allowed to run loose. But we need not linger over the lessons of the preparatory school, which can hardly be made very interesting to any but dog-breakers themselves. We prefer to pass on to the time when the precepts thus instilled into the dog have to be reduced to practice, and to take the field with H. H. and a brace of promising young ones. A piece of advice which has contributed more than

any

other to clinch our confidence in H. H. as a sporting tutor is this, never to shoot over a novice at any birds except those at which he stands, and then only at easy shots which you can make sure of killing. The reason is, that by seeing only those birds shot which he finds and points, the dog will very soon come to connect the two together, and to understand that it depends on himself whether he shall have the pleasure of seeing birds killed, and ‘nuzzling them afterwards. With dogs passionately fond of the sport—and dogs differ in this respect--nothing will tend so much as this to make them steady and careful, and anxious by every means in their power to avoid putting up birds out of distance. Most men who pay attention to such things at all must have noticed the look of disappointment in a dog's face when he sees a covey go away, unshot at or untouched. If this has been an unavoidable accident, a dog who has a good master is not frightened. If he had not got the wind, or if for any other reason it was not his fault, he knows very well that his master will not be angry; the two will sympathize with each other over the mishap, and go on better friends than

The present writer, speaking from his own experience, feels sure that really good dogs very soon acquire this sense of responsibility, and are quite aware that, if they are to see any sport, they must contribute to it themselves, and never make a false step. In a word, let the shooter make a comrade of his dog; let him teach him to feel that he and his master are partners in the day's amusement, and that it is as much for one as the other. We are sure that dogs can be made to feel this; and no man should be cruel enough to abuse the loyalty and fidelity which it inspires. We have seen dogs, both setters and

spaniels,

ever,

spaniels, weary and footsore at the end of a long day, pull themselves together if they saw their master wanted another turn, and go to work again cheerfully, though they must have been ready to drop. We had a spaniel once who, at the end of the day, was sent after a wounded hare. The poor dog had scarcely a run left in him, but he did, after a desperate effort, succeed in overtaking the hare, and then, being too completely beaten to use his mouth, he sat down upon her till his master came up. As we approached, she made a convulsive effort and got away again, but we were near enough by that time to roll her over stone dead ; and after this, it is needless to add, went straight home and attended to our companion's wants before our own.

H, H. also strongly recommends us never to shoot straight over a dog ; that is, when he is exactly between the gun and the birds. He thinks a shot fired in this position affects the nerves of the ear more than in any other, and tends to make dogs gunshy. Dogs who jump up when birds rise may soinetimes get shot if they are in a line with them. But we never saw any other ill-effect arise from it. Gun-shyness is one of the worst difficulties with which sportsmen have to contend. Sometimes it is totally incurable, and makes the dog utterly useless. Sometimes it can be easily and completely cured ; and one most efficacious method mentioned by H. H. is to allow a gun-shy dog to chase rabbits trapped for the purpose, and then to shoot them just in front of him, and let him pick them up. Sometimes this infirmity is seen to contend very curiously with the dog's innate love of sport and anxiety to follow his master. Such dogs will run away and then come back again, getting behind hedges, skulking in ditches and all sorts of things, but never going home. If left to themselves to do as they please, and watch the other dogs at work, they will often come round so as to be useful animals. We once had a setter, whom we named the inspired idiot,' after Goldsmith, from the inexplicable folly which she displayed in some situations, and the equal sagacity and cleverness which she exhibited on others. An acquaintance picked her up for three pounds at Aldridge's, and we neither of us knew anything of her pedigree, performances, previous owner, age, or education. To us she always seemed like a cross between an Irish setter and a retriever. She was a big, powerful animal, very dark red, picked out with black, and one of the most affectionate dogs we ever had. The first time she went out, after following us a little way through a stubble-field, she turned back, and went and sat calmly on the hedge-bank till we were out of

« PreviousContinue »