The highest place among shooting-dogs is by many sportsmen awarded to the setter. Says Craven: "In style and dash of ranging, in courage and capacity of covering ground, in beauty and grace of attitude, in variety of color and elegance of clothing, no animal of his species will at all bear comparison with him." This is high praise, and a little hard, in our opinion, on the pointer. The pointer is an excellent dog, but he is more delicate than the setter; still, as a set-off, he never lets his enthusiasm in sport get the better of his discretion, an indiscretion into which setters will sometimes be betrayed. The setter has one marked advantage over the pointer, the hairy protection of its feet enabling it to go through an amount of work, without injury, that would dead beat the pointer. It is equaled by none in points of docility and personal attachment. The setter is a capital dog for all sorts of ordinary sporting. "I have tried all sorts," says a large breeder of sporting dogs, "and at last fixed upon a well-bred setter as the most useful. For cover or snipe-shooting, the setter is far superior - facing the thorns in the cover and the water in the swamps without coming to heel, shivering like a pig in the ague. I have also found that setters, when well broken, are finer tempered, and not so easily cowed as pointers. I also find that after a good rough day the setter will out-tire the pointer, though, perhaps, not start quite so fresh in the morning."
The pointer, said by some to be of Spanish origin, is more nearly allied to the race of hounds than any other shooting dog. They will, almost without education, or, in technical phraseology, with very little breaking, exhibit a strong tendency to the peculiarity of their race, and stand at game of every kind, and that even when they are puppies. The pointer follows game by scent, and his peculiarity is that he will stand as if turned to stone, the moment he comes in contact with the slightest scent of game. But pointers are never considered complete unless they are perfectly staunch to bird, dog and gun; which implies, first, standing singly to a bird or covey; secondly, to backing (or pointing instantaneously, likewise), the moment they perceive another dog stand; and lastly, not to stir from their point upon the firing of any gun in company, provided the game is neither sprung nor started at which the original point was made.
The water-spaniel and the Newfoundland dog are of great use to the sportsman when bent on shooting water birds. As to the water-spaniel, docility and affection are stamped on his continence, and he rivals every other breed in attachment to his master. His work is double; first, to find when ordered to do so, and to back behind the sportsman when the game will be more advantageously trodden up. In both he must be taught to be perfectly obedient to the voice, that he may be kept within range, and not necessarily disturb the birds. A more important part of his duty is to find and bring the game that has dropped. To teach him to find is easy enough, for a young water-spaniel will as readily take to the water as a pointer puppy will stop; but to bring home game without tearing is a more difficult lesson; and the most difficult of all is to make him suspend the pursuit of the wounded game while the sportsman reloads. The Newfoundland dog is, in point of fact, only a spaniel of large growth. That which most recommends him is his fearlessness of water. "It is our opinion," says Craven, "that in most cases he might be made the most valuable of sporting dogs, his intelligence - or instinct, if such indeed it merely be - appearing to be called into action in a greater variety of instances than in any other dog, except the original mountain or shepherd dog. As a retriever, he possesses a quality of unquestionable value - that of mouthing his game without breaking it; and he may be brought into the field with pointers without interfering with their province."
This useful dog is a cross between the spaniel and Newfoundland or Spaniel or Poodle. Their chief value consists in their fearlessness and perseverance in penetrating the thickest bush, or cover.
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