A well trained dog is indispensable to success in gunning. We give full directions for the breaking him to his work. Taking the pointer to operate on as being more perfectly under the control of the sportsman than most other kind of dogs.
The first lesson inculcated is that of passive obedience, and this enforced by the infliction of severity as lenient as the case will admit. The dog is taken into a garden or field, and a strong cord about eighteen or twenty yards long is tied to his collar. The sportsman calls the dog to him, looks earnestly at him, gently presses him to the ground, and several times will make him down immediately, and take him to the place where the birds rose. Chide him with "Steady!" "How dare you?" Use no whip, but scold him well, and be assured that he will be more cautious. If possible, kill on the next chance. The moment the bird is down, the dog will probably rush in and seize it. He must be met with the same rebuff, "Down charge!" If he does not obey, he must receive a stroke of the whip. The gun being again charged, the bird is sought for, and the dog is allowed to see it and play with it for a minute before it is put in the bag. He will become thoroughly fond of the sport, and his fondness will increase with each bird that is killed. At every time, however, whether he kills or misses, the sportsman should make the dog "Down charge!" and never allow him to rise until he has loaded.
If a Rabbit should be wounded, there will, occasionally, be considerable difficult in preventing him from chasing her. He must be checked with "'Ware chase," and if he does not attend, the sportsman must wait patiently. He will by-and-by come slinking along with his tail between his legs, conscious of his fault. It is one, however, that admits of no pardon. He must be secured, and while the field echoes with the cry of "'Ware chase," he must be punished to a certain but not too great an extent. The castigation must be repeated as often as he offends; or, if there be much difficulty in breaking him of the habit, he must be got rid of. By attention to the rules here laid down, the person whose circumstances only permit him occasionally to shoot, may very readily educate his dog, without having recourse to keepers or professional breakers. Generally speaking no dog is half so well broken as the one whose owner has taken the trouble of training him. The scholar being thus prepared should be taken into the field, either alone or with a well-trained steady dog. When the old dog makes a point, the master calls out "Down!" or "Soho!" and holds up his hand and approaches steadily towards the birds; and if the young one runs in, or prepares to do so, as probably he will at first, he again raises his hand and calls out "Soho!" If the youngster pays no attention to this, the whip must be used, and in a short time he will be steady enough at the first intimation of the game. If he springs any birds without taking any notice of them, he should be dragged to the spot from which they rose, and, "Soho!" being cried, one or two sharp strokes with the whip should be inflicted. If he is too eager, he should be warned to "Take heed." If he runs with his nose near the ground, he should be admonished to hold up, and if he still persists the muzzle-peg may be resorted to.
The best plan to accustom dogs to the gun, is occasionally to fire off one while they are being fed. When the dog has grown tolerably steady, and is taught to come at the call, he should also learn to range and quarter his ground. Let some clear morning, and some place where the sportsman is likely to meet with game, be selected. Station him where the wind will blow in his face; wave your hand and cry "Heigh on, good dog!" Then let him go off to the right about seventy or eighty yards. After this, call him by another wave of the hand, and let him go the same distance to the left. Walk straight forward with your eye always upon him; then let him continue to cross from right to left, calling him in at the limit of each range. In doing this, the same ground should never be twice passed over. The sportsman watches every motion, and the dog is never trusted out of sight or allowed to break fence. When this lesson is tolerably learned, he may, on some good scenting morning early in the season, take the field, and perhaps find. Probably he will be too eager, and spring upon his game. A loud but not an angry voice says, "Down!" or "Down charge!" The dog does not know the meaning of this, and struggles to get up; but as often as he struggles, the cry of "Down charge!" is repeated, and the pressure is continued or increased. This is continued a longer or shorter time, until the dog, finding that no harm is meant, quietly submits. He is then permitted to rise; he is patted and caressed, and some food is given him. The command to rise is also given in the terms "Heigh up!" A little while afterwards the same process is repeated, and the dog struggles less, or perhaps ceases to struggle altogether.
The attachment of the dog should be gained by frequently feeding and caressing him, and giving occasional hours of liberty; but every now and then inculcating a lesson of obedience, teaching him that every gambol must be under the control of the master; frequently checking him in the midst of his gambols with the order of "Down charge!" patting him when he is promptly obedient; but scolding or moderately chastising him, when there is any reluctance to obey. The dog is then suffered to run over the field, seemingly at his pleasure, when suddenly comes the warning "Down!" He perhaps will pay no attention to it, until he is seized by his master, forced on the ground, and is menaced with the order of "Down!" somewhat sternly uttered. After a while he is suffered again to get up. He soon forgets what has occurred, and gallops away with as much glee as ever. Again the "Down!" is heard, and again little or no attention, is paid to it. His mater once more lays hold of him and forces him on the ground, and perhaps inflicts a slight blow or two, and this process continues until the dog finds that he must obey the command of "Down charge!" The owner should now walk from the dog a little way backward with his hand lifted up. If the dog make the slightest motion, he must be sharply spoken to, and the order peremptorily enforced. He must then be taught to "Back," that is, to come behind his master when called. When he appears to understand all this, he is called by his master in a kindly tone, and patted and caressed.
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