Puppy’s Life: Leashes 101 (with two videos!)

Houndbloggers, kennel staff, and hunt members helped with the puppies' first day of leash training. Sorting out leashes, volunteer walkers, and wiggling, puzzled puppies is harder than it looks!

HOUNDS aren’t born walking on leashes, after all. On the two-legged team were huntsman Lilla Mason, joint-Master Jerry Miller, kennel staff Michael Edwards and Alan Foy, and a phalanx of volunteers: Nancy Clinkinbeard, Christine and Gene Baker, Robin Cerridwen, and the houndbloggers.

The four-legged team were Dragonfly’s son Driver and “the BAs,” Baffle’s puppies who all have names beginning with BA, following the custom that puppies are named using the first letters of their mother’s name.

Before the leash-training exercise started, there was some introductory biscuit-throwing. There’s a style to it. If you’re preparing hounds for a show, you need to know how to make a nice long, low throw that gets the hound to gallop lightly over to the biscuit–while showing off their way of going to the judges. This is all new to the puppies, who have to learn this new game. It’s more than a game, Lilla explained, because this kind of training also exposes the young hounds to new people and teaches them to keep their focus on the huntsman without getting distracted by the other things around them at a show: spectators, spectators’ ham sandwiches, squalling children, other hounds in the ring, and other huntsmen’s biscuits. Not to mention the stands just outside the ring that sell custom stock ties and hunting-related doodads, which I personally find hugely distracting at hound shows!

Paper, who was entered in the hunting pack this year, was very happy to demonstrate how good he is at chasing biscuits. And bouncing around–isn’t he beautifully light on his feet?

Our “Playper” has learned a lot this season and has grown into a truly handsome young man, hasn’t he? To remind yourself of his adventures in his first season with the pack, read about (and see some video) his days on summer houndwalk hereherehere, and here. Check out his performance on the hunt field, also including some video, this year here and here.

But the real task of the day was to introduce the puppies to leashes. If you’ve ever taken a child for a first haircut or applied the first pair of “hard” shoes to a skeptical baby, you’ll understand that putting collars and leashes on young hounds that have never known them before isn’t always straightforward. Hounds might not object, but they might. They might not worry, but they might. A few did. One bolted right back into the kennel, leash trailing behind. “Can you outrun it?” Michael said as the puppy, one of the BAs, made her dash, seemingly pretty convinced she could. She soon returned to the group with the understanding that this snaky-looking leather thing was not, in fact, a snake, and was not going to hurt her.

Bagshot wrapped himself around a houndblogger and suggested that a biscuit might make him feel better about this whole leash thing ...

... and got a biscuit. Well, what would YOU have done?

The few puppies who worried about their new leashes were teaching us, too. The lesson was about patience and kindness, perhaps the most critical elements in handling young hounds. Confidence-inspiring pats helped (especially when reinforced by biscuits!).

Biscuit-chasing and leash training are important early steps in a puppy’s life for the upcoming spring and summer hound shows. And, like those shows, these early sessions galloping after biscuits and learning to walk politely on a leash also teach some critical skills that will be important on the hunt field. How to focus on a single person in the midst of distractions. How to be confident in the face of new situations. How to adjust. How to work one-on-one with a person.

For the record, Driver was a star at walking on his leash!

To see more of the puppy-walk, including Lilla’s explanation of the training philosophy and her comments on what she and the hounds learned from the session, check out the five-minute “documentary” below.

And just as a reminder (not that I even need an excuse to post cute puppy pictures!), here’s what those BAs and Driver looked like last spring:

Baffle's litter in April 2009.

Driver as a tiny (well, okay, not THAT tiny) pup.

Have a great weekend, everyone! The houndbloggers will be beagling and basseting–yes, basseting!–this weekend and hope to post some video from that over the weekend!

Great stuff from the vault

House hounds on the stairs

The house hounds in their observation post

WE at Beagle House will be glad to greet a New Year. We can’t deny that some great things have happened to us this year: we’ve enjoyed writing the hound blog, and we’ve had a lot of fun meeting its readers. It was a great luxury to spend two weeks leafing through hunting and hound history at the National Sporting Library. Best of all, we adopted Bingo, who was on death row in Nashville, Tennessee, before we heard about him and went to pick him up. Watching his delight at having a home and a pack of his own has meant a so much to us. And we all end the year in good health and good spirits, generally speaking.

But we do miss Felix, and far too many of our other wonderful hound friends like Iroquois stalwarts Bonfire and Salt and our good friend Badge passed away this year, making life emptier for all who knew them.

Bingo: Happy, happy, happy!

The great New Year’s traditions, of course, are looking back with year-end roundups and looking forward with resolutions. We’re doing something slightly different: going through our old scrapbooks, file folders, e-mails, and boxes to rediscover some worthy or just plain entertaining things that needed rediscovering. This also proves my contention that sometimes it’s good to be a pack rat!

Here are a few of our favorite rediscoveries.

Weaver’s New Job

Carrboro, North Carolina, animal control officer Amanda Stipe picked up Weaver, a stray foxhound, near the town’s farmers’ market in the spring of 2001. She decided to adopt him herself, but she couldn’t take him home until she was off duty, so she took him to a local animal shelter, explaining that she and her husband would be back to get him in a few hours.

The local News & Observer picks up the story of Weaver’s near miss, which reminds us a lot of Bingo’s:

Unbeknownst to Stipe, Weaver was a repeat offender. They’d let him go once before. Now, he was back. He wa sput on death row.

When her husband, Fred, arrived, the shelter was busy. He told the woman he had come for Weaver, but insisted she help the others in line first.

The woman looked at him. Then she took off, sprinting to the back. ‘Don’t do Weaver! Don’t do Weaver!’ she screamed over and over again.

Now, THAT is a close call. Stipe and her husband adopted him just in the nick of time, and Stipe ended up putting him into training as an agility dog. Again, from the News & Observer story by Leah Friedman:

She noticed right away how he took to agility challenges, like jumping through tires and walking across a see-saw.

‘I picked up that he needed a job,’ she said. ‘He liked the structure and form.’

He got so good that Stipe entered Weaver in competitions.

And he won.

All of them.

In 2007, at age seven., Weaver became the United States’ top-ranked male agility dog, and he’s been the cover boy on issues of the magazines Dog Fancy and Dog Sport Magazine. When he’s not busy competing, Weaver sleeps on the Stipes’ bed and plays with the family’s other hound, a beagle named Barkley.

Good save, Stipes!

Snow Dog and other glorious videos

This priceless and hilarious video was sent in late this year by one of our Alert Readers. We had to share it with you. See it here.

Also in the favorite images category this year, a beautiful slideshow from the Irish Times, with commentary from hunt member James Phelan, of a day’s hunting with Ireland’s Waterford Hunt. In addition to the gorgeous photographs of horses, hounds, and the Irish coastal landscape, there is some good audio of the pack, the horn, and the huntsman.

The hounds, Phelan explains, are Old English hounds, and they are black and tan with only a few white markings here and there.

To access the photo slideshow, click http://www.irishtimes.com/indepth/slideshows/waterford-hunt-two/

And be sure your sound is on!

Noteworthies in Baily’s

Seen all the good movies? Another dinner out sound too boring? Nothing but reruns on TV? Here’s a better form of entertainment: pull out an old edition of Baily’s, the British hunting directory (actually, the world’s hunting directory). They have a new website which is plenty cool, but, for me, nothing beats the old red hardbacks for curious notes, drama, and sentimental tear-jerkers.

Really.

Perhaps the most interesting bits in Baily’s, oddly enough, are the sections on special presentations and obituaries. Both are located to the rear of the older editions (and, much like wandering through your favorite antiques store, you’ll find lots of intriguing things on your way back to special presentations and obituaries).

The entries are brief but vivid. From the obituaries for 1913-1914:

Abbott, “Bob,” of Thimbleby, an octogenarian. The members of the Hurworth Hunt presented him with a scarlet coat and a silk hat, in which he used to appear with that pack and with the Bilsdale, of which he was the oldest follower.

Baldock, Col. E., notable in the Shires and a pioneer of polo.

Blacklock, Lieut. J. N. S. (8th Hussars); died from a hunting accident in India.

Carr, Henry F., hon. sec. Silverton Foxhounds and Harriers for eleven years with the greatest tact.

Cay, Mrs., one of the victims of the disaster to the Empress of Ireland, eldest daughter of the late Colonel G. C. Cheape, an ex-M.F.H., and Mrs. Cheape, Bentley Manor, Worcestershire. She was a beautiful horsewoman and absolutely fearless.

Cotes, Lt.-Col. C. J., well known in Salopian hunting circles.

D’Esterre, H. A., regular follower of the hounds in Leicestershire and Lincolnshire; alleged to have been shot by Germans as a spy.

Minto, Lord, probably the only man who ever took his bachelor’s degree in racing kit; degree day happened to fall on the date fixed for the steeplechase known as ‘The Whip,’ chief event of the University racing calendar. Putting his spurs in his pocket and hiding his boots and breeches under his gown, young Melgund managed to escape from the Senate House after his share in the ceremony, jumped on a hack, galloped seven miles to the course at Cottenham, and arrived in time to ride and beat the winner of two previous years.

Morris, Martin; thrown from his horse and broke his neck on his way home from East Kilkenny point-to-point races. He took part in the race in which Captain D. M’Calmont fell, and, jumping off, ran back to the assistance of the captain, who was pinned under his horse. That Mr. Morris himself should have lost his life within a few hours was inexpressibly tragic.

Oates, Captain, succumbed in the Scott Antarctic Expedition, was once a master of hounds in India.

Paget, Lord Berkeley C. S., a great supporter of the South Staffordshire Hunt. He led the Meynell for fifty minutes when he was only 14 years old. On another occasion he pounded the whole field by jumping the Blithfield Park palings, and was alone with hounds in consequence for twenty minutes.

That’s just for 1913-1914. In those brief lines, a glimpse of important historic events like the Scott Antarctic Expedition and the Empress of Ireland catastrophe, the stark horror of World War I. You also have the colorful flashes regular hunting men and women, now forgotten, made during their hunting lives, and quick snapshots of notable hunting runs and incidents.

Occasionally their very simplicity makes them especially poignant, as in the 1915 obituary of H. Cholmondeley Pennell; “once a good man to hounds; born 1836.”

The presentations pages have a sentimentality all their own:

Barnard, Will, huntsman to the Fitzwilliam, on retiring, a purse containing 500 pounds, and an album containing the names of the subscribers.

Daniels, W., huntsman of the Taunton Vale Hounds, a solid silver Georgian tea service, accompanied by an album containing the names of over 250 subscribers.

Hayes, Frank, the new huntsman to the Mendip, a cheque for 83 pounds from the members of the Cotswold; a clock from the puppy walkers, and a purse of gold.

Witherden, Carey, a silver teapot from the Bexhill Harriers.

Which brings me, I think, to my resolutions. Inspired by this saunter through Baily’s, I believe I will resolve to serve as hon. sec. of the Iroquois with the greatest tact, and to, if I prove worthy, become well known in Salopian hunting circles.

Happy New Year, everyone! And let’s hope for fewer freezing conditions in 2010 so that we may all see more of the hounds and the hunt field–safely!

Please remember the retired hounds when planning your tax-deductible donations this year! Donations to the all-volunteer Hound Welfare Fund are tax-deductible, and 100 percent of your donation goes directly to aid the retired and injured hounds maintained by the fund.  Donate online or by mail!