This section is from the book "Hunting: A Manual of Fox, Hare, Stag & Otter Hunting", by J. Otho Paget. Also available from Amazon: Hunting: A Manual of Fox, Hare, Stag & Otter Hunting.
Until lately it was the custom to remove certain little buttons and flaps that are of no apparent use from the inside of the ear, in order to mark the different litters. Now a system of tattooing has been introduced, and a combination of letters with numbers is stamped on the inside of the ear, so that by using a different combination several litters can be marked with comparatively few letters and numerals. This, however, is a matter that can be left to each individual's own method, and the only thing necessary is that each litter should have its distinguishing mark. The litters should be carefully entered in the kennel-book with their marks under the dam's name and the hound they are by. This book should have all particulars rigorously entered up, with the name and address of the puppy-walker, in addition to litter-mark. Failure to fill in these details would soon land the kennel into a hopeless mess.
I have said nothing heretofore as to the walking of puppies, but I tell you now that the whole future success of your breeding hounds rests on being able to get good walks. A farmhouse is an ideal home for a puppy, and you must make friends with the farmers—or, better still, their wives—if you wish your pack to prosper. You cannot be too generous in the matter of prizes at your annual puppy-show, and the luncheon which you must give on that occasion should be as smart and as festive as you can make it. See that the day you fix on does not clash with any market or fair, and that it is not during either the harvest of hay or corn.
Any time after eight weeks old, and the sooner the better, you should send your pups out. Remember the pups should look healthy and well when they go out, or you cannot expect them to return in good condition. A dressing of sulphur, lard, and turpentine the week before they go will be found beneficial, if they have the least suspicion of insects on their skin. However early you have pups, it is better not to send them out before April.
The following March you will send a cart round to collect them, having previously given each walker notice by post the day you intend to fetch his puppy in, or you may have your journey for nothing. The first thing to be done when these young hounds come in is to give them all a dose of worm medicine—or, better still, two at an interval of three or four days. This is the time when you may expect distemper to ravage your kennel, and a beautiful lot of young hounds may come in that will be all dead in a week. By removing all worms you will have given their constitutions a better chance of fighting the disease, and with care you ought not to lose many. Every case should be isolated directly it appears, and disinfectants liberally sprinkled throughout the kennel. The invalid should be kept warm and dry with plenty of clean straw on the bed ; but the floor of the kennel should not be swilled with water, and instead creosoted sawdust may be put down. Eyes and nose should be sponged twice a day, using a disinfectant in the water. Remedies that I have found useful are Gillard's compound and Pacita. The first should be given according to directions in the early stages of the disease, until the fever has gone, and the second will be found invaluable as a tonic to restore appetite and strength. There are doubtless many other remedies equally good, but I can speak personally of the efficacy of these two.
The education of the young hounds should commence at once, and the first thing is to get them accustomed to couples. It is a good plan to begin by fastening them singly to posts or other fixtures for an hour ; then when they find they can't get away, two may be coupled together and turned loose in the yard ; but two dogs should never be coupled. When the first principles of discipline have been instilled, the feeder or huntsman may walk them out with couples on, and of course with an assistant to whip in. Take care the couples are fastened sufficiently tight to prevent them slipping their heads out, as if once they get away you may have difficulty in catching them again. Now is the time the breeder begins to see the fruits of his labours, and he will watch with interest each fresh batch as it comes from walk. It will depend on the number that come in how many you will be able to draft, but get rid of anything very crooked or misshapen at once. Hounds generally come in from walk either loaded with fat or miserably thin, and in either case it is impossible to know what they will look like eventually. It is therefore not advisable to draft very close until May, when you will have had time to get them in shape.
I have been led into details which I had no intention of touching on in this volume, but the wellbeing of the hound is such an important factor in hunting that I think you will forgive me if I have exceeded the space allotted to the subject. I shall not attempt here a list of hounds' diseases or their treatment, but shall refer you to the numerous books which have been written on the subject. I would have you bear in mind the old saying that prevention is better than cure, and if you will only keep your hounds healthy they will require very little doctoring. The three most important things to observe in keeping them healthy are fresh air, exercise, and cleanliness. You might reply that every one must know this to be as necessary to the welfare of the dog as it is to the human being; but though people may know, they seem to forget very often. Few fox-hound kennels are guilty of want of cleanliness, but in a great many the time allotted for exercise is much too short. By fresh air and exercise I do not mean ventilation in the kennels and getting the pack in condition, but having them out of doors and walking them about. It is the usual custom to walk hounds out early in the morning, and with the exception of a few minutes after being fed they never get another airing until the following morning. When horse exercise begins they are more in the open air, but they then get only three hours instead of eight. Of course it is rather difficult to arrange, as the men have other duties to perform; but I am speaking of what is best for the welfare of the hound, and I say that he should be out in the fresh air for eight hours. I do not mean that he should have hard horse exercise for that time, but should be walked about. This routine is for the summer months, before regular conditioning work begins, but it must be remembered that plenty of walking exercise will make a splendid foundation for the ordinary work which begins later. I have already said that what I advise is not always possible, but a pack would undoubtedly be the better for it. When you begin exercising you cannot give hounds too slow work on the roads, and you can gradually increase it. Two hours every morning of horse exercise is sufficient if they are walked out again afterwards, and then twice a week they should have at least six hours with the horses. This may sound rather a long time, but if you compare it with a day's hunting, it is nothing. An occasional gallop over turf the last fortnight before hunting commences will put their wind right, but fast exercise on the roads should not be allowed. Slow work on the road hardens the feet and is most necessary, but fast work wears down the pad. In an establishment where money is a consideration bicycles will be found useful for taking out the pack, and it is easy to regulate your pace with them. Remember your hounds cannot be too fit when they begin hunting, and the whole success of your future season will depend on their condition. I would rather have a moderate pack in good condition than better hounds that were not fit, if I had the choice of the two to hunt a fox. The reason hounds often check after running very fast for a short time, when there is no apparent cause, is because they are blown and in that state they cannot smell. A hound ought to be able to run at top speed for three miles without taking one irregular respiration, and unless he can do that he is not in the condition to hunt. Keep your pack healthy in the summer, begin exercising in good time, and when the first hunting day arrives you will find them more than a match for the stoutest fox.