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.
The following observations on the breaking of these dogs are believed to embody the general practice of good breakers: As the method is the same for each kind, whenever the word pointer is used, it is to be understood as applying equally to the setter.
It is scarcely necessary for me to remark that no single life would suffice to bring the art of breaking dogs to all the perfection of which it is capable, when the various improvements of succeeding generations are handed down from one to the other; and therefore I neither pretend to be the inventor of any method here detailed, nor do I claim any peculiarity as my own. All the plans of teaching the young dog that will be found described by me are practised by most good breakers; so that there will be nothing to be met with in my remarks but what is well known to them. Nevertheless, they are not generally known; and there are many good shots who are now entirely dependent upon dog dealers for the supply of their kennels, and who yet would infinitely prefer to break their own dogs, if they only knew how to set about it Others, again, cannot afford the large sum which a highly accomplished brace of pointers or setters are worth in the market; and these gentlemen would far rather obtain two or three good puppies and break them with their own hands, with expenditure of little more than time, than put up with the wretchedly broken animals which are offered for sale by the dozen at the commencement of every shooting season.
To make the utmost of any dog requires great experience and tact, and therefore the ordinary sportsman, however ardent he may be, can scarcely expect his dogs to attain this amount of perfection; but by attending to the following instructions, which will be given in plain language, he may fairly hope to turn out a brace of dogs far above the average of those belonging to his neighbors. One advantage he will assuredly have when he begins the actual war against the birds in- September; namely, that his dogs will cheerfully work for him, and will be obedient to his orders; but at the same time he must not expect that they will behave as well then as they did when he considered their education complete in the previous April or May. No one who values "the bag" above the performance of his dogs will take a young pointer into the field at all, until he has been shot over for some time by a man who makes it his business to break dogs, and who is not himself over-excited by the sport. It is astonishing what a difference is seen in the behavior of the young dog when he begins to see game falling to the gun.
He may go out with all the steadiness which he had acquired by two months' drilling in the spring; but more frequently he will have forgotten all about it, unless he is well hunted in the week previous to the opening of the campaign. But no soonor has he found his birds or backed his fellow-pointer, and this good behavior has been followed by the report of the gun, heard now almost for the first time, and by the fall of a bird or two within a short distance, than he becomes wild with excitement, and, trying to rival the gun in destructiveness, he runs in to his birds, or plays some other trick almost equally worthy of punishment. For this there is no remedy but patience and plenty of hard work, as we shall presently find. I only mention it here, in order that my readers may not undertake the task without knowing all the disagreeable as well as agreeable things attending upon it.
Assuming, 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 has been previously directed. A few bones should be given daily, but little flesh, as the nose is certainly injuriously affected by this kind of food. 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. They should also 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, when the owner walks them out himself two or three times a week and makes 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, and 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 gotten 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, while he prevents his taking them by the voice only, he will greatly further 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 afterward 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 too 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.