« AnteriorContinuar »
Supposing, therefore, that a gentleman has determined to break a brace of pointers for his own use, without assistance from a keeper, let us now consider how he should set about it.
In the first place, let him procure his puppies of a breed in which he can have confidence. He will do well to secure a brace and a half, to guard against accidents or defects in growth. Let these be well reared up to the end of January, or, in fact, until the birds are paired and will lie well, whatever that time may be. They should be fed as directed in the last chapter. A few bones should be given daily, but little flesh, as the nose is certainly injuriously affected by this kind of food; and without attention to his health, so as to give the dog every chance of finding his game, it is useless to attempt to break him. The puppies should either be reared at full liberty at a good walk, or they should have an airy yard, and should then be walked out daily, taking care to make them know their names at a very early age, and teaching them instant obedience to every order, without breaking their spirit. Here great patience and tact are required; but, by the owner walking them out himself two or three times a week and making them fond of him, a little severity has no injurious effect. In crossing fields the puppies should never be allowed to “break fence," even if the gates are open, but should be called back the moment they attempt to do so. These points are of great importance, and by attending to them half the difficulty of breaking is got over ; for, if the puppy is early taught obedience, you have only to let him know what he is required to do, and he does it as a matter of course. So also the
master should accustom his puppies from the earliest age to place a restraint upon their appetites when ordered to do so; and if he will provide himself with pieces of biscuit and will place them within reach of the dog, whilst he prevents his taking them by the voice only, he will greatly aid the object he has in view. Many breakers carry this practice so far as to place a dainty morsel on the ground before the dog when hungry, and use the word “Toho" to restrain him; but this, though perhaps hereafter useful when inclined to run in upon game, is by no means an unmixed good, as the desire for game in a well-bred dog is much greater than the appetite for food, unless the stomach has long been deprived of it.
Besides these lessons prior to breaking, it will be well to teach the dog to come to heel, and to keep there, also to run forward at the word of command, to lie down when ordered, and to remain down. All these several orders should be accompanied by the appropriate words afterwards used in the field, viz.
WORDS OF COMMAND USED TO THE POINTER AND SETTER.
1. To avoid breaking fence—“Ware fence.”
2. To come back from chasing cats, poultry, hares, &c.—“Ware chase.”
3. To come to heel, and remain there—"To heel,” or “Heel.” 4. To gallop forward—“Hold up." 5. To lie down—"Down," or "Down charge.”
6. To abstain from taking food placed near, equally applied to running in to birds—"Toho."
When these orders are cheerfully and instantly complied with by the puppy, it will be time to take him into the field, but not till then. Many breakers during this period accustom their dogs to the report of the gun, by firing a pistol off occasionally while they are a short distance off, and in a way so as not to alarm them. This is all very well, and may prevent all danger of a dog becoming “shy of the gun;
» but with a well-bred puppy, properly reared, and not confined too much so as to make him shy in other respects, such a fault will seldom occur. Nevertheless, as it does sometimes show itself, from some cause or other, the above precaution, as it costs little trouble or expense, is not to be objected to. It is also advantageous to accustom the dog to drop when the pistol is discharged, ånd, if he is of high courage, he may be drilled to this so effectually that he never forgets it. By the aid of a “check cord,” wherever the dog is when the pistol is discharged, he is suddenly brought up and made to drop with the command “ Down charge ;” and in process of time he associates one with the other, so that whenever he hears a gun he drops in an instant. Timid dogs may however be made shy in this way, and unless the puppy is evidently of high courage, it is a dangerous expedient to resort to; as, instead of making the dog, it
may mar him for ever.
Next comes the teaching to "range,” which is about the most difficult part of breaking. Many sportsmen who have shot all their lives are not aware of the extent to which this may be, and indeed ought to be, carried; and are quite content if their dogs “potter” about where they like, and find game anyhow.
But the real lover of the dog, who understands his capabilities, knows that for perfect ranging the whole field ought to be beaten systematically, and in such a way as to reach all parts in succession, the dog being always as near to the gun as is consistent with the nature of the ground, the walking powers of the man, and the degree of wildness of the game. All these varying points of detail in the management of the dog while beating his ground will, however, be better considered at a future stage of the inquiry ; so that at present, taking it for granted that what I have assumed is the real desideratum, we will proceed to inquire how this mode of ranging is best taught. It must be understood that what we want is,-first, that the puppy should hunt freely, which soon comes if he is well bred ; secondly, that he should range only where he is ordered, and that he should always be on the look-out for his master's hand or whistle to direct him. This also is greatly dependent on breed, some dogs being naturally wilful, while others from their birth are dependent upon their master, and readily do what they are desired. Thirdly, great pains must be taken to keep the puppy from depending upon any other dog and following him in his line, and also from“ pottering,” or dwelling on “the foot-scent,” which, again, is a great deal owing to defective blood. Now, then, how are these points to be attained ? By a reference to the annexed diagram, the principle upon which two dogs should beat their ground is laid down; the dotted line a a a a representing the beat of one, and the plain line b b b b that of the other dog. But, with a raw puppy, it is useless to expect him to go off to the right while
his fellow proceeds to the left, as they afterwards must do if they perform their duty properly; but, taking an old dog into a field with the puppy, the former is started off with the ordinary words “Hold up” in either line laid down, which, being properly
broken, he proceeds to follow out, accompanied by the puppy, who does not at all understand what he is about. Presently the
"finds,” and very probably the young one goes on and