Page images


less than the springers, and showing far more liveliness in their actions. All the field spaniels carry their tails low and work them in the same position, but this property is very remarkable in the cockers, which also work them more quickly than the springer. The Devonshire and Welsh breeds are always of a rich liver colour, as represented in the accompanying group, where the dogs in the background are two of the many nondescript varieties of this subdivision.

The King Charles's and Blenheims originally belonged to the

group known as cockers, but they are now only used as toy-dogs.

HUNTING OF SPANIELS BY FOOT-SCENT. Unlike the pointer and setter, the spaniel always works with his nose on the ground, and does not carry his head in the air feeling for a body-scent as it is wafted towards him on the gale. It is quite true that occasionally he loo and finds a pheasant in covert, which has been for a long time lying, and here he undoubtedly recognises the scent given off by the body, but this is done at no great distance off; and though he tries all heights to which he can reach, his carriage is not limited to the one, steady and bold, which is found to suit the pointer. Hence there is, in my opinion, no objection to a whole team being taught to retrieve, if it can be done, excepting that where the task is divided among a number, it is not so well performed for want of sufficient practice. Nor does it often happen that an average dog will retrieve thoroughly, the task being a very difficult one, and

, requiring the selection of one dog out of a goodly number in order to obtain a really accomplished retriever. I need scarcely remark that if, as I have known, spaniels are used in the open, they work somewhat differently to their covert style, with a higher carriage, but still not at all like the pointer. There are here, as in all rules, exceptions; but, nevertheless, the rule holds good with which I commenced this paragraph.

ALL SHOULD BE TAUGHT TO RETRIEVE. Although, as I before remarked, all spaniels are not capable of being converted into good special retrievers, yet all should be taught to bring game to their masters, when they have it in their possession. Without this quality they are apt to remain with a wounded or dead hare or pheasant which they may come upon in covert, and their services are thus lost for hours. Still it is by no means necessary that the power should be employed, and a special dog, whose talents can be relied on, may be put on the scent of wounded game whenever there is a necessity for the services of such a dog. Every spaniel must be made perfectly steady at "down charge;" and until the gun is reloaded, not even the regular retriever must be allowed to move towards the wounded game. Then the rest of the team being called to heel, or kept “ down,” the retriever is set to work under his master's or the keeper's superintendence, and while he is carrying out his office the beat may proceed, if the services of the one or the other can be dispensed with.


Whether for covert hunting or retrieving there must be a preliminary education of the young dog, which should embrace all the acts directed for that of the pointer, excepting the “ Toho!" (see p. 127.) This last is unnecessary,

because the spaniel is not wanted to stand, and thus the six first which are there enumerated are all that can be required. These must be diligently instilled, for steadiness is wanted to a greaterextent in covert than out. Dogs, when concealed from view, are more tempted to do wrong, inasmuch as they also lose sight of the controlling power, and hence the power of habit must be more complete; so that it is seldom till these dogs have been used for a couple of seasons at least that they are sufficiently under command. But by constantly taking them out when young and keeping them very steadily under command much may be done. But, nevertheless, in almost all cases, from their naturally high courage, when they are shown game, it will be found that it has all to be gone over again; and though the task is rendered far more easy from having been early commenced, it is still a long and a tedious one.



I have already said that the spaniel's preliminary education must be commenced very early, and the same may be said of his entry to game and breaking to the gun. A dog which is left till he is a year and a half old will give a world of trouble, while a young puppy of seven or eight months may be broken in half the time. Spaniels are naturally of a most impetuous temper, and moreover they have not the instinctive tendency to stop or stand, which so much assists the breaker in his education of the pointer. When quite young-say at six or seven months of age—they should be taken out and worked in hedgerows and little spinneys and coverts, where they cannot get away far. Here they soon learn to know the scent of game, which is in itself more delightful to game-dogs than that of other animals. In some breeds, indeed, the fondness for particular kinds of game is well marked, and the “cock," for instance, will be recognised with a whimper indicating much greater pleasure and enjoyment than that which is displayed on ordinary occasions when a pheasant or a hare is owned. Great caution is necessary, lest the young dog takes to “self-hunting." He should rigidly be made to work with and for his master, and should never be allowed to feel that he is at liberty to search for game on his own account. If he does this, he will be quite useless, and not only will he start off whenever he is loose, in season or out, but he will get away to the other side of the covert, and play such pranks as will spoil the day's shooting. When spaniels are intended to be kept to any special game, such as cocks or pheasants, they should never be allowed to hunt anything else, but generally they are taught to work out all that comes before them, and if they will only indicate the nature of that which they are after, they are to be the more highly prized. In order to keep them to one kind, it is only necessary to "rate" them for hunting any other when it is discovered. “Fur” is often discouraged, and for those who do not want to kill rabbits or hares in covert, it is desirable to stop a spaniel from speaking to it the moment his error is discovered. But the grand essential in breaking covert spaniels is to make them keep

[ocr errors]

within forty or fifty yards of their masters, so as to provide against their pushing up game out of shot. If this is well carried out, and they are made steady to "down charge,” while at the same time they possess good noses, there is little more necessary; but this, little as it looks on paper, will be found much more difficult to teach than the more complicated task of the pointer. The temptations to the spaniel are constant; he crosses foot-scents at every few yards, to follow out which may perhaps lead him a long way off, and yet his appetite is against leaving them unworked out. Nevertheless, he ought to abandon them, unless he finds, on giving tongue, that his master is not following him; and it is in producing this waiting for orders that the special difficulty resides. The pointer must also wait till he finds, but when he is under the stimulus of scent, he is no longer required to hesitate what he shall do: he knows his duty, and must stop dead, unless under circumstances when he may be called upon to “ draw.” The difference between the two tasks is here clearly shown, and it need not occasion surprise that the one is so much more difficult to teach than the other, because it supposes reasoning power to be displayed under circumstances of great temptation. But the first thing to be done is to instil the desire to hunt, without which the puppy must remain useless. If no inclination is shown when first taken out, let him be put on the scent of pheasants just as they come off their feed, and as they are returning up the hedgerows. At this time the young dog will only drive them into their secure retreats, and will do little harm, if the practice is not continued day after day in the same place. Until the young pheasants are able to fly, this must not be attempted, as they may then be easily caught and killed, but as soon as they can rise into the trees, they are safe. It is well to avoid entering dogs intended for feather to fur; and if this is done, pheasants are the only winged game that can be selected. Spaniels should always be taught to drop to the gun and hand, as I have already explained, this being a part of their preliminary education, when it may be taught by means of the pistol ; but it must be enforced on all occasions when game is before them. A retriever is very useful, as it is very difficult to prevent the whole train of spaniels from bringing game, if any one is

allowed to do so; but they soon learn to “down charge” strictly, and then the retriever goes to the dead bird, and retrieves it for his master. In first entering young spaniels to hunting the hedgerows, if the breaker is out alone, they should not be allowed to go through to the other side, but should be kept carefully on the same side as the shooter; afterwards, however, when they are accustomed to the range, and keep watchfully eyeing the sportsman, to see that he is within reach, they may be sent to the other side, and put to hunt everything out on the same side as the gun, which is always the most effectual mode with a single shooter. When the young spaniel is first put into a large wood, and is beyond the supervision of his master, he often ranges the entire covert, and does immense mischief to the sport, driving everything out of shot. He should be well loaded with lead in a leathern collar, or one of his legs should be taken up into his collar, or a strap should be buckled tightly just above the hock, which will prevent his using that leg. He must be put to hunt with two couple of steady old dogs, even if he is so confined as to do nothing. He will soon learn to imitate his fellows, when he sees them pay all attention to the gun, and when he finds that game falls to their hunting, whereas he has never yet succeeded in obtaining such a result. After a time, his leg may be set at liberty, and he may perhaps take to his work kindly enough, and refuse to leave the other dogs far. He will not probably do much good, as this work requires great experience, but he will do little harm. It cannot be expected that the spaniel will learn his business in one season, and he is seldom perfect in two; but he will help to do the looking-on part, and will animate the old, stale, but steady and clever dogs, to increased exertions. Many sportsmen are constantly encouraging their spaniels by cries of " Have at 'em !” “Cock ! cock ! cock !" &c. &c. ; but this is perfectly useless, the slightest whistle being sufficient to indicate the whereabouts of the gun, and more than this, interfering with the sport, becau it sho the game what they have to avoid, and when to avoid it. If the spaniel is fond of his master, and accustomed to work for him, he is as much occupied in watching his motions as in seeking for game. These dogs have a very strong love of approbation, and very fortunately

« PreviousContinue »