ABOUT GUN SHY BEAGLES
(From February 1916) By E.B. McIntyre
Occasionally we hear of a hound that is gun shy, but I dare say that we do not hear from many that are gun shy because the owner is not anxious to disclose the fact, for various reasons. Therefore, and undoubtedly, there are many readers of Fox and Hound who will be interested in the subject.
To begin with, what made that particular hound gun shy? If it was through a brain shy handler (Brain shy owner, as Zim says), accidentally shooting him, and there is very little excuse for such accidents about all we can say for the future benefit of that particular hound is that “it is a shame,” although with the proper handling, and making a study, a close study, of the disposition of that particular hound, it might be overcome. There are very few hunters (they are scarce as hens’ teeth) who care, or will take the time to handle the hound as he should be handled.
But what makes the hounds gun shy that have never felt the sting of a pellet? I dare say that the majority are caused by the owner having a blood thirsty greed for game-game first last and always. He never thinks of the hound when he has a chance to work that “trigger finger”-never.
In my experience with hounds, those that I have shot over, and they number up in the hundreds, I can truthfully say that I have never had a hound that was gun shy. The majority of these hounds have been youngsters, or those that never heard the crack of a gun. The nearest I ever came to it was in the very first beagle pup I owned. Right there I learned a lesson and before it was too late. It was simply a case of my running into a flock of birds, forgetting the pup, in my greed for the game, shooting in every direction and forgetting the pup entirely- the pup being right ahead of me, not more than a rod, when I fired the first shot. I will admit frankly that it was purely “brain shyness” on my part. I discovered the pup wending his way slowly on our back trail distrusting me. I immediately got him into place again, but he didn’t like it, and being inexperienced, I was a little worried, as he was a promising youngster otherwise. For the next few days all the pup got to eat was what meat I gave him, he tied on the end of a twenty foot cord, twenty feet behind me, after I had discharged the gun. This cured him, but I immediately came to the conclusion that there were easier and better ways to break a hound to the gun.
A very thorough and sure way in my experience, to guard against gun shy dogs, is to gradually bring them up from youngsters, training their position in a way that they will not be inclined to be gun shy. We must admit that many are born with a gun shy disposition, nervous and timid, and they are bound to be gun shy if they are not trained to know the ways of the world, take it as it comes along, and taught to meet every occasion in the proper way.
If a hound is born the gun shy sort, or if they are not, they can easily attain that disposition from improper training. None of us will stand for a disobedient hound around the kennel. He must mind and he must know his place. They must all be scolded-and right there is where they are either brought up right or wrong. An always cranky kennel man or handler is invariably a teacher of gun shyness. A dog never understands him. He never knows when he is doing right, and in order not to be whipped or scolded he is surely going to keep on the safe side, and that is most always the wrong side if the particular dog is to be of real value and not gun shy.
Scold your hound, or even whip him, to make him know his place, but never forget “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” It is all right to make them keep their feet off your Sunday clothes, but don’t forget to go in the kennel sometimes, the oftener the better, dressed for a good all around romp and frolic with them. Go to the woods and run rabbits with them, cheer them on in their sport, give them all of your attention a regular hilarious holiday. Teach them to know in what manner they can go the limit, to raise the devil in general and on the other hand, in what manner they cannot. Bring them up to look to you to know whether a thing is wrong or right, and not to rely upon their own judgement for it. Be sure your manner is such that they can ways understand it.
Did you ever ride behind a horse, one that was fairly well awake, and note his actions when the driver, or his other occupants in the buggy, were singing or whistling. Did you ever see an army horse stepping gaily to the music of the band? Yes, they will even keep step with the music. Why? Because everyone is happy and gay and so they are. I have seen horses take such a liking to music that they would immediately break from a walk into a prance when the driver whistled a lively tune.
How do you start out with your hounds- with a dull sober look, a cranky-cross-patch-draw-the-latch- action, or in a manner to show your hounds that you are in the height of spirits and that they, the hounds, and you, are off for a gay time? Perhaps that’s a round-about way, but take it from me, brother sportsmen, it goes to the heart of a hound- either way you act. Does it look reasonable to you that a hound would take the first sound of a gun as seriously when he knows that you are out for a good time as he would if you were acting in a manner that he does not understand? I mean this method to be applied along with the other training of the youngsters at the start and all the way through. Very seldom will they be gun shy.
I have heard of many men who have bought a new hound, one all trained and ready to hunt. He arrives in a box, been in the box a couple of days or more, jostled around by the express men, set on a truck close to the track and the lord only knows how many panting locomotives have passed within three feet of him, the whistle blow- ing, or exhausting steam. He comes down with a bang at his destination and everyone is peeking through the cracks at him, making all sorts of remarks, either good or bad. He is taken out of the box by the nap of his neck, throttled, and carefully looked over. “Well,” is the general remark, “If this hound isn’t gun shy he may be O.K.” and they proceed to find out. He is put on a lead, some one of the bunch grabs a gun, or it may be a club for all he knows, and they start for the middle of a field. All eyes are turned on the hound, suspiciously, while the gun cracks. Now just supposing you were accidentally cast in a foreign land, among strange people. They would naturally put a lead on you because your desire would be to run in the opposite direction from them. Would you really know their intentions, whether they were just merely to see if you were gun shy, or to hang you?
In my opinion if people did not weigh the matter of gunshyness so heavily there would be less gun shy hounds. When you start with the express purpose of finding out whether or not a dog is gun shy you are making a big mistake. I never give the matter of gunshyness the first consideration with my hounds, that is, to make it a course of particular training, but I always try to make them gun proof myself and do not leave it for someone else to do- and I never have any gun shy hounds. Do not try to give them the whole course all in one lesson, but in a roundabout way as the best opportunities make their appearance. If you carry the gun with you a number of times without discharging it, it most certainly will not be a suspicious object to them as when it was first carried.
But the most foolish way in which a man can train a hound to the gun, some hounds, is to go about it with that object in view and no other. Forget the gunshy part of the training until the first time comes that you wish to shoot, and then if all signs point right, shoot, but if your hound is too close to you, if he is a timid sort to start with, or inclined to be a little shy, be careful. Wait for a better opportunity.
With a great many hunters have no sympathy, and a gun shy hound is good enough for them. Do you know that the majority of hounds that are made gun shy are made so by sportsmen who shoot the game at the first or any opportunity? They want a hound to run the game for them if they are not successful in bagging it when it first jumps up. They are too hoggish to trust to the uncertainty of the hounds driving the game back to them again. That class of sportsmen are numerous and they are the very ones that make the gun shy hounds.