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The Moor and the Loch
Dogs for the Moors


MY advice on the subject of dogs must begin with the caution, never to lay too much stress on their general appearance. For my own part, I must confess that I am not very partial to the exceedingly fine-coated, silken-eared, tobacco-pipe-tailed canine aristocracy; for, even if their noses and style of hunting be good, they are invariably much affected by cold and wet weather, and can seldom undergo the fatigue requisite for the moors.

The most necessary qualifications of a dog are travel, lastiness, and nose. The two first are easily ascertained; but the other may not be found out for some time. I have seen dogs shot over for a season without committing many mistakes, and on that account thought excellent by their masters : their steadiness of course has been shown, but they have given no proof of first-rate nose. Even a good judge may be unable to form an accurate estimate of a dog's olfactory powers until he has for several days hunted him against another of acknowledged superiority. The difference may then be shown, not by the former putting up game, but by the latter getting more points. Should there be no tip-top dog at hand to compete with, the only other criterion, though not at all an infallible one, is the manner of finding game. The sportsman must watch most narrowly the moment when the dog first winds: if he throws up his head, and moves boldly and confidently forward, before settling on his point, it is a very good sign ; if, on the contrary, he keeps pottering about, trying first one side, then another, with his nose sometimes close upon the ground, even though at last he comes to a handsome point, I should think it most probable that he is a badly-bred, inferior animal.

Of all dogs, the worst for the moors is what is called a near ranger. Such flinchers may do well enough in preserved partridge ground, but on the steep hill it is quite sickening to see their everlasting canter fifteen or twenty yards on each side. The dog-breaker may say that although the dog ranges near, he is working as hard as his more high-mettled competitor. For my own part, I never saw one travel in that way that either worked so hard, kept it up so well, or found half as much game as a free-hunting dog.

Let your pointers be first-rate, and a couple will then be quite enough to hunt at a time; more only encumber. [The only way to hunt two couple of dogs at the same time, without risk of slacking their mettle, or otherwise spoiling them, is for each couple] If well broke, they will not pass over the near to be commanded by a separate keeper, and at a sufficient distance apart to prevent interference. The sportsman can thus move from one to the other, as they find game. I, however, always prefer hunting my own dogs, and never suffer them to be spoken to by any one until I have fired, when I trust to my man to enforce the "down charge" without noise.] game, and when birds are scattered (the only time when the near-ranging potterers are in their element), will find them one by one, with equal certainty and greater despatch. Many gentlemen, however, take no trouble about procuring good dogs, until just before the season begins, and consequently must put up with inferior ones, in which case they are forced to hunt three or four together, or have little chance of finding game. And a most vexatious thing it is, after all, to see these cross-bred ill-broke curs uniting their efforts to annoy;-one putting up birds, another finding none, while a third contents himself with admiring the feats of his companions ! "What's Bob doing?" "Nothing." "What's Don doing?" " Helping Bob!!" Aware of what he has to expect should he be unprovided, the knowing man of the moors has always as many good dogs as he can work himself, and never suffers them to be hunted or shot over by another.

The purchaser, before taking the trouble to try a dog, should make sure that he has a hard round foot, is well set upon his legs, symmetrically though rather strongly made ; but the great thing is the head. It ought to be broad between the ears, which should hang closely down; a fall in below the eyes; the nose rather long, and not broad; nostrils very soft and damp. If these points are attended to, the dog will seldom have a very inferior nose. The above remarks relate principally to pointers, as I greatly prefer them to setters; but if the sportsman has a scanty kennel, I should rather recommend the latter, as they are often capable of undergoing more fatigue, and not so apt to be foot-sore. For my own part, however, I find the pointer so much more docile and pleasant to shoot with, that I never use setters; concerning the choice of which, as there are so many varieties, totally differing in appearance from each other, it would be useless to lay down any rules.

Many gentlemen, when the shooting season begins, are shamefully taken in by dog-breakers and others. Few are aware how difficult it is to know a good dog before he is shot over. The breaker shows his kennel, puffing it off most unmercifully. The sportsman chooses one or two dogs that suit his fancy; they drop at the sound of the pistol, and perhaps get a point or two, when birds are so tame that no dog but a cur could possibly put them up. The bargain is struck, the dog paid for; but, when fairly tried, shows his deficiency in finding game. I have seen the breaker look round with an air of the greatest triumph if a hare should start, and his dog not chase: this is what any man who under-stands the elements of breaking, by a little trouble, and taking the dog into a preserve of hares, can soon effect.

Other obvious defects, such as not quartering the ground, hunting down wind, not obeying the call or signal, the veriest novice in field-sports will immediately detect. It is not, however, with faults so apparent that dogs for sale are generally to be charged. They are, for the most part, drubbed into such show subjection, [Dogs of this kind remind me of an anecdote I remember to have heard from a brother sportsman, but for the truth of which I cannot vouch :Walking out with a high-broke pointer, he suddenly missed him, when he presently espied him soberly and submissively following the heels of an old Guinea-fowl, whose reiterated cry of "Come back! Come back!" he had thought it his duty to obey !!] that the tyro fancies them perfect, and only finds out their bad breeding and nose after a week's shooting. To assist the judgment of the uninitiated, I have given accurate likenesses of the three best pointers I ever had. I know some faults might be found in them, but they have all the main requisites.

If your dogs are well bred, the great secret of making them first-rate on the moor is, never to pass over a fault, never chastise with great severity nor in a passion, and to kill plenty of game over them. There are two faults, however, to which dogs, otherwise valuable, are sometimes addicted; these give the sportsman great annoyance, but may often be more easily corrected than he is aware. One is the inveterate habit, contracted through bad breaking, of running in when the bird drops. This trick is acquired from the breaker's carelessness, in not always making the dog fall down when birds rise, a rule which should never be neglected, on any pretence. The steadiness of a dog, whether old or young, depends entirely upon its being rigidly observed. After the fault of running in is once learned, the quickest remedy is the trash-cord and spiked collar; but many gentlemen buy dogs before shooting over them, and commence their day's sport without these appendages. They are thus obliged either to couple up the dog or run the risk of having any birds that remain, after the pack has risen, driven up, and those that have fallen mangled by him. I have seen dogs most unmercifully flogged, and yet bolt with the same eagerness every shot. It was easy to see the reason: the dog was followed by the keeper, endeavouring to make him "down;" there was thus a race between them which should reach the fallen bird.

The plan to adopt with a dog of this description is, when the grouse drops and the dog rushes forward, never to stir--coolly allow him to tear away at the game until you have loaded ; by which time he will most probably have become ashamed of himself. You will now walk up most deliberately, and without noticing the bird take the dog by the ear, and pull him back to where you fired, all the time giving several hearty shakes, and calling "down." When you get to the spot where you shot from, take out your whip, and between the stripes call "down" in a loud voice ; continue this at intervals for some time, and, even when you have finished your discipline, don't allow the dog to rise for ten minutes at least; then, after speaking a few words expressive of caution, take him slowly up to the bird and lift it before his nose. If this plan is rigidly followed for several points, I never saw the dog that would continue to run in at the shot.

The other defect is chiefly applicable to young dogs; it is when they trust to their more experienced comrade to find the game, and keep continually on the outlook expecting him to do so. Nothing can be done for this but to pay the greatest attention to their point; selecting it in preference to that of the other dog, and always to fire, however small the chance of hitting the bird. Also change the dogs they hunt with as often as possible. Young dogs, with this treatment, will very soon acquire confidence, and never keep staring at their companion, unless he is settling upon a point.

When the sportsman rears his own puppies, he should be most particular, not only about the acknowledged excellence of the sire and dam, but also that their breeding is unexceptionable and well known-especially that there is no cross of the rough, however remote, when breeding pointers, and no smooth blood when setters are the object. It sometimes happens that a dog, though not well bred, may turn out first-rate; but the progeny of such dog or bitch hardly ever do. This double caution is therefore most necessary, as otherwise much time and trouble might be spent upon a dog that never would be worth it, from a mistaken idea, that as his parents were excellent, he must in the end turn out well too.

To cross pointers and fox-hounds, or setters and spaniels, for the sake of improving the noses of the former or the travel of the latter, seldom answers. The one qualification may be gained, but the dog generally loses in every other.

The essentials of dog-breaking may be found in a pamphlet, published in London a few years ago, by the gamekeeper of Sir John Sebright. Although not agreeing with it in every particular, I certainly think it the best that has been written on the subject.


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