A FEW REMARKS ABOUT FIELD DOGS
A FEW REMARKS ABOUT FIELD DOGS
By R. R. Scorso
"Everything that barks is not a dog." This is a common expression of dog fanciers, intended to express the idea that only specimens of the show type are worthy of the name. Now, I am willing to agree that everything has been improved by careful breeding, from the Chinese choke pear to the horse, and in almost everything, with the exception of the show chicken, the show cat and the show dog, the improving has been along utility lines. It is to be regretted that in striving for show points, breeders have departed too far in most instances from the useful working type of dog.
If one wished to start in the poultry business a favorite breed is selected; next a particular strain to meet the requirements is carefully considered. If the breeding of show birds is desired, one would not think of considering buying the stock from a dealer who advertised utility stock; on the other hand, if a heavy egg-laying strain was wanted, the high-class bench bird would not be considered. Both have been carefully bred, but each for its particular purpose; the utility bird for eggs or flesh, the show bird for form and feathers.
Dogs are bred along similar lines. The champion of the bench is seldom a utility dog, so far 33 the field is concerned, and the dog that is bred for field work is seldom a winner on the bench.
If you want a good field dog, don't pin your Faith to a perfect pedigree and perfect marking; a bench show favorite will in most every case be a grand failure in the field.
The best field dog is most likely to be found among those with no claim to high descent and with defects of form and color. He should be well-bred, but let him be minus the points of fashion.
This reminds me of a conversation I heard last fall. I happened in the company of several old time Pennsylvania hunters and they were all chuck full of hound lore. One was quite famous for the high-class hounds he bred and sold. After having listened to stories of the marvelous hounds they either owned or had owned, I asked each in turn by what points he selected a hound. One said: "Give me the hound hat can eat a whole pot of mush without taking his head out of the pot and yet never get fat. I know that dog has worn his fat off hunting." Another said: "I like a hound with long, low-set ears and a big, wide open nose." So it went from one to another, each having vastly different opinions as to what points go to make a good working hound. Last I turned to the man whose hounds were famous and asked his opinion. He thought a moment and then said: "I only ask for one point in a hound, and that point is, he must hunt. The boys here can have the other points for their dogs. I am not a very particular cuss about style."
So it is to be seen that too much reliance cannot be placed on breeding and style. Out of any number of puppies born, no matter how they are bred, or what their style, only a very small percentage will ever make real good field dogs. This applies more particularly to the bird dog than to the hound.
My favorite of all the hunting dogs is the English setter. He is more docile and learns more easily than his cousins. He is very timid and needs no whipping. A harsh word will often break his heart.
The Irish setter will stand almost any amount of whipping and still insist on doing things his own way.
The Gordon setter has a mean disposition. He wants his own way and if he can't have it he cannot easily be induced to do anything at all. This makes him a very hard dog to break. He is, however, very hardy, and if once broken, he makes a good dog.
The Irish setter is just the opposite to the Gordon setter, he has a cheery, rollicking disposition, not intentionally disobedient, but nevertheless not easily controlled. Will need some re-breaking each season.
The Scotch setter will take punishment like a bulldog, always convinced that he knows more than his master and that he will be able to convince his master of the fact in the end. If you are able to convince him that you know best, you will have a good hunter.
The pointer is a grand dog, strong, hardy and of greater endurance than the setter. They are of all sorts of dispositions; some are very easily field broke, and more are not.
One of the worst failings a hunting dog can have is to be gun-shy. They can sometimes be cured; but you have some job on your hands and don't get an idea you haven't.
Next to being gun-shy, I think the meanest dog to handle is the one who never looks you in the eyes. He is always at your heels. He loves you and he is faithful, but there is a shyness that is ever with him. You may be able to teach him some parlor tricks; but I doubt if you can ever make a good hunter of him.
A bird dog should always work by body scent; any attempt on their part to heel scent should be discouraged. The hound should trail by heel scent altogether, and he is surely a wonder at the business.
I once owned a bloodhound and I made many experiments in an effort to discover how he was able to do some of the feats of scenting that he did. I noticed that he never back-trailed, and I wondered why. I knew that when on a fresh trail the scent might be a fraction stronger as the dog advanced; but when the trail was 24 hours old I could scarcely believe the difference would be noticeable. Then I decided that there must be a difference in the scent given off by the heel and the toe. I had noticed that the hound in taking a trail would always push his nose to the ground and draw a long deep breath, then he would turn and face the trail from the other direction and do the same. This seemed to satisfy him and he would start off This theory held good until I ran him on a drag one day. I tied a small piece of baked liver ft a string about 10 feet long and tied the string to a fish pole 16 feet long. A boy carried the drag so it would always be as far from his own trail as possible. About two hours after the trail had been finished the hound was taken to the field and started in about the center of the trail. He handled this trail with the same east he handled any other trail, and this trail had no heel or toe. I am still wondering why. Boys, can you tell me why?
It is not every hunter that makes a good dog trainer; but most good dog trainers make good hunters.
The care and training of a dog is a serious matter to most hunters. Many a good dog is ruined in the handling. "Patience is a virtue." Few men are gifted with it. Patience and kindness are the principal factors in training a dog. Whipping in most cases is worse than useless.
It is a beautiful sight to see a well-trained dog ranging in front of you in large crescents, beating all the ground, yet not going over the same ground twice, coming to a point at the scent of a bird, and remaining until you come up and relieve him.
No well-trained dog will ever intentionally flush a bird, although he may often do so by accident. In coming upon the bird with the wind he has no chance of catching the scent. Birds in short cover will often see the dog coming and flush before he is aware of their presence. This is no fault of the dog.
The care and training of field dogs may be taken up in some future article
Fur, News. Fur News, January 1916.
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