This section is from the book "The Dogs Of Great Britain, America, And Other Countries. Their Breeding, Training, and Management in Health and Disease", by John Henry Walsh (Stonehenge). Also available from Amazon: The Dogs Of Great Britain, America And Other Countries.
When a dog has acquired the merely instinctive property already described, he is said to be "steady before," and may be used alone or single-handed without any further education; but when he is to be hunted with other dogs he requires to be made "steady behind," that is to say, he must be taught to "back" another dog as the latter stands. In very high-bred dogs, this property, like the former, is developed very early; but the more hardy and courageous the breed, the longer they generally are in acquiring it, and therefore the young breaker should not be discouraged if he finds that his puppies give him some trouble after they have learned to stand perfectly steady. Backing is usually taught in the same way as described for standing, that is to say, by hunting with an old steady dog, taking care that he is one whose find is to be depended on, and then stopping the young one with the voice and hand, or with the aid of a check-cord if necessary. The great art consists here in managing to get between the two dogs at the moment when the old one stands, and thus to be able to face the puppy as he rushes up to share the scent with his rival, which he at first considers his companion to be.
Jealousy is a natural feeling in all dogs from their desire to obtain approbation; but it must be eradicated in the pointer and setter, or they never become steady together, and which ever finds first, the other tries to run up and take the point from him. To avoid this failing, leave the dog which first finds, alone, and walk up to the one which you have stopped, pat and encourage him with the word "Toho!"in a low but pleased tone; let him not on any account creep forward a step, but keep him exactly where he is for some minutes, if the birds lie well. Then walk forward to the old dog, but take no notice of him, and, with your eye still on the puppy, put up the birds, having stopped him with voice and hand if he moves a limb. Supposing the old dog has pointed falsely, the young one is materially injured, inasmuch as he has lost confidence in him, and next time he is with more difficulty restrained from running in to judge for himself; hence the necessity for a good nose in the old dog, who ought to be very steady and perfect in all respects. It will thus be seen that very little art is required in carrying out this part of the education, which really demands only hard walking, patience, and perseverance to complete it in the most satisfactory manner.
It should be pursued day after day, until the young dog not only finds game for himself and stands quite steadily, but also backs his fellows at any distance, and without drawing towards them a single step after he sees them at point. When this desirable consummation is effected to such an extent that the puppy will back even a strange dog, and has already learned to beat his ground properly, as explained in my previous remarks, he is steady and well broken as he can be without the gun, and may be thrown by, until a fortnight before the shooting season, when he ought to be taken out again for two or three days, as in the interval he will generally have lost some of his steadiness. Still he will only require work to restore it, as he knows what he ought to do; and with patience, joined if necessary with a little punishment, he soon re-acquires all that he has forgotten. Many masters now fancy that all is done towards "making the pointer:" but, on the contrary, they find that after birds are killed the puppy which was previously steady becomes wild and ungovernable, and spoils the day's shooting by all sorts of bad behavior.
Hence it is that breakers so often are blamed without cause; but when it is found by experience that such conduct is the rule, and not the exception, young dogs are left by their owners to be shot over by a keeper for a few days, or even longer, before they are taken into the field. Another reason for this wildness may be assigned; namely, the dogs are often hunted in the commencement of the season by almost perfect strangers, two or three guns together; whereas, if their breaker had the management, they would be under much more control, and especially if he went out quietly by himself. Here again is another reason for gentlemen breaking their own dogs, or, at all events, finishing their education by giving their dogs and themselves a few lessons together.
Down charge, as already described, ought to be taught from a very early period, the dog being made to drop at the word or elevation of the hand of his master, without the slightest hesitation. It is not, therefore, necessary to dwell upon this part of his education, further than to remark that after each point, or, indeed, directly after birds rise under any circumstances, the dog should be made to drop by the voice, using the order "Down charge!" or by raising the hand, if the eye of the dog can be caught. "When this practice is made habitual, there is little trouble in carrying out the order until the gun is added; but then it will be found that great patience and forbearance are required to prevent the dog from running to his birds as they drop; for, if this is allowed, it is sure to make him unsteady in every case, as soon as his eye catches sight of game, whether after the point or not. It is now that the advan tage of having made the dog drop to the gun is manifested, for the first thing he thinks of, when the gun is fired, is the necessity for dropping, and if this is encouraged all goes on well.
Too often the shooter himself produces unsteadiness, by disregarding his dog at the moment when he ought to attend to him most particularly, and by running in himself to take care of his "bag," considering that more important than the steadiness of his dog. It is true that a runner is sometimes lost by the delay of a few seconds while the discharged barrel is reloaded; but in the long run, the shooter who keeps his dog down until he has loaded, will bag the most game.
The faults which chiefly require correction at this stage are: blinking, shying the gun, pottering at the hedges, hunting too wide, and chasing fur. The vice of blinking has been caused by over-severity in punishment for chasing poultry, etc., and takes a great deal of time to remove. Indeed, until the dog sees game killed, he seldom loses the fear which has produced it It is there-foro frequently useless to continue the breaking, in the spring, although such a dog sometimes becomes very useful by careful management in the shooting season. Generally speaking, it is occasioned by undue severity, either applied for chasing cats or poultry, or for chasing game when first hunted. The former kind of castigation, should bo cautiously applied, as the puppy is very apt to associate the punishment given for the chasing of game with that due to the destruction of poultry or cats; and as he has been compelled to leave the latter by the use of the whip, and has been afterwards kept "at heel," so he thinks he must do so now, and in fear he comes there, and consequently "blinks his birds." This defect is only to be remedied by instilling confidence, and by avoiding punishment; but it is often one which gives great trouble before it is got over.
It is not so bad as the obstinately refusing to work at all, but is only next to it. Both occur in dogs which are deficient in courage, and both require the most delicate and en-couraging treatment to remove them. Let such dogs run "riot," and commit any fault they like, without fear for a time; then afterwards, that is, when they begin to be quite bold, and are full of zest for game, begin very cautiously to steady them, and some* thing may yet be done. In very bad cases, all attempts at breaking must be given up at "pairing time," and the gun must be relied on as a last resource, the killing of game having sometimes a wonderful effect in giving courage to a dog which has been depressed by undue correction. Punishment is not to be condemned altogether, for in some breeds and individuals without the whip.
nothing could be done; but it should be very cautiously applied, and the temper of each dog should be well studied in every case before it is adopted. Kindness will effect wonders, especially where united with firmness, and with a persevering determination to compel obedience somehow; but, if that "how" can be effected without the whip, so much the better; still, if it cannot, the rod must not be spared, and, if used at all, it should be used eff-caciously.
Shyness of the gun will generally also pass off in time; but, as it seldom occurs, except in very timid and nervous dogs, they do not often become very useful even when they have lost it. The best plan is to lead a shy dog quietly behind the shooters, and not to give him an opportunity of running off, which he generally does on the first discharge. When game falls, lead him up and let him mouth it; and thus, in course of time, he connects cause with effect, and loses that fear of the report, which he finds is followed by a result that gives him the pleasure of scenting fresh blood.
Pottering at the hedges in partridge-shooting, is the result of using dogs to find rabbits, or of allowing them to look for them, which they always are ready to do, especially if permitted to chase or even to retrieve hares. There is no remedy for it, and a potterer of this kind is utterly worthless and irreclaimable.
Hunting too wide for close partridge-shooting may be easily remedied by constantly keeping in the dog by the whistle and hand; and, if he has been properly taught to range at command, little trouble is required in making him change from the wide beat, necessary in countries where game is scarce, to the confined and limited range of sixty yards, which is best where it is thick on the ground Chasing fur, and also running in to dead birds, are often most unmanageable vices; but either can be generally cured by pa-tience and severe treatment, aided, if necessary, by the check cord, or in very bad cases by the spike-collar in addition. When these are used, it is only necessary to work the dog with them on, the cord either trailing loosely on the ground or held in an assistant's hand. Then, the moment the dog runs in, check him severely, 11 and, if he is not very bold, the plain collar will suffice, as it may be made by a sharp jerk to throw him back, to his great annoyance. Pointer Daisy, page 237, took first prize in her class, New York Bench Show of 1877.