SOME SUGGESTIONS ON TRAINING RACOON AND RABBIT DOGS
SOME SUGGESTIONS ON TRAINING 'COON AND RABBIT DOGS
By George R. Smith.
Since this article treats of training and breaking dogs, much cannot be said of selecting the dog, as the dog in question would be too young and undeveloped to tell much by the points that one looks for in hunting dogs, such as well developed chest, legs, etc. In selecting a pup it is well to get one that comes from good hunting stock. Look for one with plenty of lung ropm, tapering to small at the hind legs, and long, well muscled hind legs. Naturally one will not select the smallest dog in the litter, nor a dog with a large, baggy, stomach, which is a fine sign of worms. While speaking of worms, I will add that almost all pups are born with worms, so it is best to treat them for worms before the symptoms are showing. I always give the mother a dose of worm medicine a few weeks before the pups are born; then give the pups a small dose when about a month old, following up with a dose about twenty days apart until they are grown. The medicine for the pups is given in light doses unless they show symptoms of worms, as it is more of a preventive.
Selecting a 'coon dog is more important than a rabbit dog, as a dog to be a good 'cooner must have brains as well as nose and legs. I prefer a pure bred hound and think one runs less risk of a failure in selecting a hound and in most cases there is not as much trouble to train one, as a cross breed, though some mongrels make fine hunters. In speaking of hounds, one cannot say just hounds, as there is almost as much difference in the different strains of hounds as in different breeds. Some hunters prefer the modern type fox hound, while others will have nothing but the old style, long eared hound. The modern type hound will usually get the game in the least time, but personally, nothing in the hound class looks good to me unless there is lots of earage decorating the head, and on a cold trail the old, long eared type are to be depended on as well as any other. In this I am speaking of the hounds as a class; often one will find a modern type hound so slow that it is worthless and all old style hounds are not slow, not by any means.
To be successful in training dogs one must understand dogs, and have a fair knowledge of how a dog should hunt. There are no set rules for training dogs, as there is as much difference in dogs, from the same litter, as in people, so what would suffice for one would not do for another. The easiest method of training is to take the pup out with old dogs that are well trained, preferably a slow dog, but this will not teach a young dog all that is necessary for a well trained dog to know.
The first, and one of the most important things to teach, is for the dog to mind, not occasionally, but whenever you speak. Often one will come upon game other than they are hunting at the time; then if the dog will not mind it may spoil a good day's hunting and a dog cannot be called trained unless it will mind.
If there is no old dog available to start the young dog with, start him on trailing a skin. For 'coon dogs, take a 'coon skin, if old and dry wet it in water first, show it to the dog and encourage him to bite it; tease him with it, so he will want to catch it, then drag the skin along the ground a short distance to a small tree or bush, rub it against the tree, then put it on a limb where the dog can see it. Do not let the dog see you do this. Then turn him out and if he has good hunting blood in him he should have no trouble in following the trail and finding the skin. When he does, encourage him to bark and try to catch it; when he does, shake it down and let him chew it awhile, then repeat it. As he understands more, increase the distance, and later let the trail get a little cold before letting him out; by this time he should understand what he is hunting for and what to do.
When the dog is about eight months old begin to take him out with you hunting. Some dogs will hunt earlier, while others will not begin to hunt until a year or older, and still others will never hunt. When the dog trees his first 'coon, do not let him try to kill it, as he will very likely get badly scratched and may be afraid to tackle the next one. Remember it takes a good dog to kill a 'coon. At first you must not expect the dog to be a first class 'cooner, as this takes experience.
To train a dog for rabbits is not nearly as hard as for 'coons. The rabbit cannot be compared with the 'coon for intelligence, and it will not take to water like the 'coon, nor can it climb trees but must stick to terra firma and trust to luck and briar patches. As this article deals with training dogs without the use of old dogs, I will refrain from saying how much easier it would be. It is good to start them with an old skin, same as 'coon dogs, only do not put the skin in trees, but in hollow logs and stumps. When he finds the skin, encourage him to bark. Most dogs will start barking naturally; but often one will find a dog that will not and sometimes it is impossible to make them do so.
Some hunters prefer a still hunter, one that does not bark, in this case of course one would act accordingly. The above methods are for 'coon and rabbit dogs, but practically the same methods will do for other game, so it is useless to go any further into this part. Some trainers do not recommend teaching a dog with a skin, as they hold that the dog learns to follow your trail instead of the trail of the skin, which is true, but to keep them from doing this tie the
skin on a pole so as to hold it away from your trail, then after leaving the i-kin keep walking past, and do not put the skin in the same piece always; unless the dog is a blood hound he will take the trail of the skin in preference.
It does not make much difference how you call your dog, whether with a whistle, or a horn, or just yell. I prefer a horn made of a large cow horn and whatever you use, if the dog is a wide ranger it must be capable of making plenty of noise. I teach the young dogs to the use of a horn when they are quite young, by calling them to their meals with it, and to be sure they understand I do not feed them in the same place always when teaching them. From the beginning you must impress upon them that it is imperative for them to come when you blow.
To break a dog to a gun, start when they are very young by shooting a toy paper cap pistol nearby while they eat. When they get older and become accustomed, use a .22. It is not necessary to do this every day. By doing this the dogs are not apt to be gun shy. Some dogs that are gun shy when young will overcome this defect when older, when they can understand the reason you shoot. However, I would not advise anyone to buy a gun shy dog in hopes of breaking him. If you have a gun shy dog, by trying the method outlined above and instilling in him the love for the woods, as well as the game in the woods, he may overcome it; but it will take time and patience. If your dog is gun shy it is of no avail to scold and beat him; it is a pathetic sight to see a dog that is badly gun shy after he has been shot over several times in succession.
One of the hardest things I have found to teach a young dog is not to eat everything he finds. Most times they want to eat everything possible to swallow. This is a very bad habit; not only is it possible that the dog may find and eat something poisonous, but will bother baited traps. Another reason is that a dog that has eaten tainted meat is not able to follow a cold trail well. The best treatment for this I have found is to fill a piece of meat with cayenne pepper and throw it where he will find it. A few applications of this will teach him to be more particular of what he eats.
Another good thing to teach a dog is to follow your trail when lost. This is another thing that most dogs will do of their own accord. Teach them by going in the woods, then having someone turn the dog out while you hide and let him find you. This will often give trouble when hunting in a strange section where the dog is likely to get lost and by teaching this as soon as they strike your trail they will follow, thus saving a long trip of back-tracking.
Before I close I must add, you cannot expect to get a dog trained to the different things I have outlined for about five or ten dollars, nor can you expect a dog properly broken to rabbits or 'coons for less than twice that amount. About the average price charged by kennels for dogs broken to rabbits and gun is fifteen dollars and that price is not for their best dogs, while for 'coon dogs I do not think there is an average, unless I say the average is much higher than for rabbit dogs.
Harrison Co., Miss.
Fur, News. Fur News, January 1916.
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