I am not aware that there is anything mysterious in the art of training a Sporting-Dog ; although it might be inferred from the scarcity of thoroughly broken animals, either that it were a secret, revealed only to a few professional Breakers, or that few ever made the attempt, either from lack of time, talent or self confidence. This may be sufficient to form a plausible reason for neglecting the education of the Sporting-Dog ; though, after all, to come when he is called, and to do as he is bid, is about all that the most scrupulous could exact from him ; the balance must be left to develop itself in his own native instinct and sagacity. It necessarily follows that an early education is of the highest importance. It is then that his habits are formed, his powers developed and his submission secured. Should he not b introduced to his fielding or training, till he has nearly reached his growth, he can be broken. it is true, but with far greater difficulty, and at the risk of annihilating the noblest qualities of his nature. He will be always more or less difficult of restraint and will require pretty constant exercise to remind him of his duty ; whereas, with an early and judicious course of moderate instruction and implicit obedience, he is well brought up, and when more fully developed, requires but a slight introduction into any new field of labor, to arouse his already well organized intellect.
Breaking is certainly a very appropriate term for pounding bad habits out of canine pelts ; habits, which never could have been contracted, had ordinary attention been paid to early tuition. When animals commence their training after months of entire freedom from restraint, severity is often necessary, as they become so naturally self-willed, as absolutely to require Breaking. It is the easiest thing in the world to prevent a bad habit, but often next to an impossibility to restrain it.
It is a common old Proverb "It's hard to teach an old dog, new tricks." but. hard indeed as it is, it has continually to be done, yet is often done so imperfectly, and I may add so improperly, that a well-trained dog is an exception, to the army of half-broken ones ; so that sportsmen are continually in trouble, for want of a first-rate dog. One is too wild ; another isn't staunch; a third won't fetch his game; the fourth isn't under good command ; the fifth pounds his bird ; the sixth won't take the water ; the seventh bolts at the first scolding ; the eighth is apt to take after rabbits and squirrels ; the ninth won't point the dead bird ; the tenth is often inclined to disobedience or may follow another Sportsman, who may offer him a bait. I could enlarge on the defects of many nominally broken dogs, but fear I may be accused of doing so already. I enumerate these vices, simply to repeat, that were they early taught and brought up to habits of implicit obedience, these failings would seldom or never occur.
In the first place, if you wish to raise a Sporting Dog, get two ; so that if one should die, you may still have one left. If one be better than the other, keep the best ; if they be both good, one will pay the other's debts, if you feel inclined to dispose of him ; though I decidedly recommend you to keep them both. See that they are the offspring of good and. healthful stock. If you have the choice of a pup, select the strongest, the boldest, the handsomest of the litter. Nothing like a little fre to work upon. "The wildest colt generally makes the best horse." As to color, it is mere fancy, and in my opinion amounts to nothing, except in as far as climate is concerned, or the color of the ground you may be called to shoot over. I do not imagine for a moment that the dog himself is the better for being cither white, black, orange or liver, but alight color is certainly preferable in a hot climate, as the sun has less effect on it. I refer you to several of the preceding ;' Dog Tricks," which will assist you in training a Sporting Dog, as well as any other breed, such as : " Down, seek and find, fetch and carry, going in the water, going on, keeping in, etc.."
This is all very well, but a Sporting Dog, requires somewhat more than this ; he must be trained to hunt, must be practiced in finding his game, quartering his ground, etc., he will require continual restraint and must be kept within reasonable distance of his master. If he only be well bred, he will need but little excitement to attend to his work. His natural instincts will only require directing or restrain ing to suit his master's will. His habits of implicit obedience may be formed either in or out of the field, but he should be brought to practice as early as possible in the theatre of his glory.
There are only two points to be attended to in Dog-training, these are : first, what the animal shall be compelled not to do, and secondly, what he shall be taught and induced to do. The first point is far more easily overcome than the second, and simply consists in decided checks on all his attempts, either to enforce his own will or to act in defiance of that of his master. The second requires somewhat more of knowledge, judgment, insight, patience and discretion than the first. It consists in moderating and directing his natural powers, engaging them to be subservient to your will, and in moulding them to act well the part they are destined to perform.
Let us suppose him then, perfectly up to the mark of Down charge ! Come in ! Keep in! Hie on ! Seek and find, fetch, carry, go in the water ! (according to previous lessons), or at any rate perfectly obedient, as far as he has been taught. We will now teach him, or rather let him show us how to find the game, etc. By way of trial, suppose we get a live quail or partridge, clip its wing, attach a string to its leg and let it run a hundred yards or so in different directions, to test his nose, (a dead bird may be dragged along, if a live one cannot be obtained). Select a good sized field, drag it, or let it run in four different directions, set the dog on the scent, so that if he go wrong, you may direct and encourage him to hunt in the right direction. When you finish dragging, put the bird in a box and test the actions of your dog, making him. Steady, etc., as he approaches it. Where game is abundant, of course this sham hunt need not often be resorted to, although a few minutes may occasionally be found for practice at home, when there is no spare time even for a short shooting-trip. " Down charge" may be taught to be obeyed by the discharge of the gun, if the report be often made to accompany the command, but many have a great objection to it, as the dog may be often checked in his duty, by the discharge of another fowling piece. This may be left however, to the option of the owner. Quartering the ground is not difficult to teach, but requires considerable good humor and encouragement, accompanied by "Hie on" and the wave of the hand in the required direction. Should he take the wrong beat, he should at first be recalled and redirected, and thus continually exercised in following the voice, accompanied by the wave of the hand, so that he may be eventually commanded and directed by the hand alone. Various methods are adopted by Breakers to teach dogs to obey their commands. I have seen many a poor animal with his neck in wounds by the use of the force collar, (a strap lined inside with spikes, or a string of spiked balls) to punish the poor beast, upon every light deviation from his master's command. A long string is attached to the collar, and the check is given when any order is not immediately executed This method, I certainly do not admire, although there are cases (where animals have been entirely neglected in early life), which may absolutely warrant it, when all milder at tempts have proved fruitless.