Markham

"Our Original ('Perfect') Water Dog: the Poodle": lightly-edited excerpts from: Gervase Markham (1568-1637), Hungers Prevention: or The Whole Arte of Fowling by Water and Land... (London, 1621), pp. 29; 32; 67-88.

"The water dog [Poodle] is a creature of such general use, and so frequent in use amongst us here in England, that it is needless to make any large description of him: the rather since not any among us is so simple that he cannot say when he sees him: 'This is a water dog,' or 'a dog bred for the Water'.... I will here describe...the best proportion of a perfect water dog.

First, for the colour of the best water dog, albeit some...will ascribe more excellency to one colour than to another, as the black to be the best and hardest, and the Liver-hued swiftest in swimming, and the pied or spotted dog, quickest of scent; yet in truth it is nothing so, for all colours are alike, and so a dog of any of the former colours may be excellent good dogs...according to their first ordering and training; for instruction is the liquor wherewith they are seasoned, and if they be well-handled at the first, they will ever smell of that discretion, and if they be ill-handled they will ever stink of that folly: For nature is a true mistress and bestowes her gifts freely, and it is only nurture which abuseth them. To proceed then, your dog may be of any colour and yet excellent, and his hair in general would be long and curled, not loose and shaggy; for the first shows hardness and ability to endure the water, the other much tenderness and weakness, making his sport grievous. His head would be round and curled, his ears broad and hanging, his eye full, lively and quick, his nose very short, his lip hound-like, side [ample] and rough-bearded, his chops with a full set of strong teeth, and the general features of his whole countenance being united together would be as lion-like as might be, for that shows fierceness and goodness. His neck would be thick and short, his breast like the breast of a ship, sharp and compact; his shoulders broad, his fore legs straight, his chine [spine] square, his buttocks round, his rigs compassed [curved], his belly gaunt, his thighs brawny, his cambrels [hocks] crooked, his pasterns strong and dew clawed, and all his four feet spacious [webbed] to the claw, like a water duck, for they being his oars to row him in the water, having that shape, will carry his body away the faster. And thus you have the true description of a perfect water dog, as you may see following.

Now for the cutting or shaving him from the navel downward--or backward--it is two ways well to be allowed of: that is, for summer hunting, or for water. Because these water dogs naturally are ever most laden with hair on the hinder parts; nature as it were labouring to defend that part most, which is continually to be employed in the most extremity, and because the hinder parts are ever deeper in the water than the foreparts, therefore nature hath given them the greater armour of hair to defend the wet and coldness; yet this defence in the summer time by the violence of the head of the sun, and the greatness of the dog's labour is very noisome and troublesome, and not only maketh him sooner to faint [lose heart] and give over [abandon] his sport but also makes him by his overheating, more subject to take the mange. And so likewise in matter of water, it is a very heavy burden to the dog, and makes him swim less nimbly and slower, besides the former offences before recited.

But for the cutting or shaving of a dog all quite over, even from the foot to the nostril, that I utterly dislike, for it not only takes from him the general benefits which nature hath lent him, but also brings such a tenderness and chillness over all his body, that the water in the end will grow irksome unto him; for...[although] men may argue that keeping any creature cold will make it the better endure cold, yet we find by true experience both in these and divers other such things, that when nature is thus continually kept at her uttermost ability of endurance, when any little drop more is added to that extremity, presently she faints and grows distempered, whereas, keep nature in her full strength and she will very hardly be conquered, and hence it doth come that you shall see an ordinary land Spaniel, being hastily and well kept, will tire twenty of these over-shaven curs in the cold water: whereas, let them have the rights nature hath bestowed upon them, and the water is as familiar unto them as the land any way can be.

Therefore, to conclude this point, I would have the skillful fowler, if he keep his water dog only for his use of fowling as to attend his nets, limerods, fowling-piece or such like, which is only for the most part appropriate to the winter season, then not to shave his dog at all, for he shall find in the sharp frost and snow, when the air shall freeze the drops of water faster on the hair than the dog can cast them off; that the uttermost benefit that nature hath granted, is no more but sufficient, and the carefull master should rather seek to increase them than diminish them.

Now for the matter of training or bringing up of this Water Dog, it is to be understood that you cannot begin too early with him, that is not to say even when you first wean him, and teach him to lap, for even then you shall begin to teach him obedience, which is the main thing that includeth all the lessons which he shall learn, for being made to obey your will, he is serviceable for any purpose you shall employ him in, as on the contrary part, wanting due obedience he is good for nothing at all but to spoil the work you shall labour to effect.

Therefore (as I said) so soon as it is able to lap, you shall teach it to couch ["Down"] and lie close [in a strictly confined manner], not daring to stir or move from that posture in which you put it, without your special license, cherishing it ever when it doth your will and correcting it when it doth the contrary, and always observing this maxim in the first teaching of him, that you never let your dog eat or taste any meat but when he doth something to deserve it, that custom may make it know, food is a thing which cometh not by chance, or the bounty of your hand, but for reward or merit when he doth your commandment, and this will not only make him willing to learn, but apt to remember and retain what he learns, and diligently to perform your pleasure without stick [compulsion] or amazement [confusion], the characters of your commands being so deeply imprinted in his knowledge.

To this end you must have no more teachers, no more feeders, cherishers [fondlers], or correcters but one, for multiplicity breeds confusion, and to teach divers [many different] ways is to teach no way well: also you must be very constant to the words of directions by which you teach, choosing such as are the most significant for your purpose, and fittest for the action you would have the dog do, and by no means alter that word which you first use, though you use a word of the same signification [meaning]: for you must understand the dog takes notice of the sound and not of the English, and therefore the least variation puts him into amazement, and is a language he understands not.

For example: If when you teach your whelp first to couch, you use the word (couch) and after you use the word (down) and not couch, it will put the dog into amazement and he will not know what to do: And however some hold of opinion it is good to use all sorts of words, yet it is not so, for the overloading of the dog's memory with many words for one and the same lesson, is the first thing which breeds forgetfulness, and fills the dog full of by-thoughts and doubtfulness.

When you have the dog thus acquainted with the word which is due to the instruction of his lesson, you must then teach him to know the word of reprehension or correction, for no lesson can be taught without a fault, and no fault ought to escape at the best without chiding; and in this word, also, you must be as constant as in the former without variation of sound, or multiplicity of language, that the dog may know assuredly when you chide, or are angry, and not stand amazed [confused] between hope and fear, as not knowing whether you chide or give encouragement; and of these words there are divers: as Wilt thou villain, Ha Rascal: and such like, which at first should not be used without a jerk or small stripe [stroke of a whip], to make him know that it is a word of wrath and anger, neither must such words proceed from you lovingly and gently, but with passion and roughness of voice, that the whelp may even tremble when he hears you.

Now to these words of reprehension you must also join words of cherishings [endearment], that as the one correcteth him for faults committed; so the other may encourage him as oft as he doth your pleasure: and in teaching these dumb things, correction may better be spared than cherishing, because the reward and comfort he finds by doing your will is the only certain and sure ground which expounds your meaning unto him, and makes him capable of those things you would have him learn; and in these words also, you must be as constant and certain as in any of the other without variation of change of sound, alacrity and cheerfulness of spirit, being accompanied either with food, the spitting in the mouth, cherishing of the hand, or other clawings [gentle scratching] in which the dog taketh delight, that he may know by such comforts he hath truly done your will, and be thereby encouraged to do it as oft over as you shall be pleased to command him: And these words of cherishing are also divers; as 'That's a good boy, Well done, So boy,' and such like as shall best agree with your nature and invention.

And to these three you shall add a fourth word, which is no less necessary than any of the former, being neither altogether instructive, although correcting, nor altogether cherishing: but taking as it were a part from them all, and doing something of them all in one instant and one breath, and this may be called the word of advice or heed taking, being only to be used when a dog is about to do his lesson, and either goeth the wrong way to work, or too rashly, too slowly, or to negligently; or else leaveth out some observation which he should perform in the lesson, any of which as soon as you perceive him incline unto, you shall immediately use your word of advice unto him, which both as a bit [as in a horse's bridle] shall serve to restrain and stay him, till he have better thought of what he goeth about, or else as a spur or rod, put him forward with more alacrity of spirit, till he have done his lesson in such form as may content you, and these words of advice are as the others, divers also: 'Hem, Be wise, Take heed'; or such like, and to these you must be as constant as to the former, and make election of that you intend to use and no other, and by all means be exceeding careful not to misapply them. [For example:]...advise when you should correct, cherish when you should advise, instruct when you should punish, or punish when you should instruct, any of which is gross as a teacher and brings the dog into confusion.

When therefore you have made your whelp understand these several sounds or words, as that of 'Instruction,' 'Correction,' 'Cherishing,' and 'Advice,' and that he will couch and lie down at your feet how your please, when you please, and as long as you please, and that with a single word or a look only, you shall then proceed and teach him to lead in a line and collar, following you at your heels in a decent and comely order, neither treading upon your heels, or going before or beside you which shows too much haste, nor hanging back or straining your line by the means of too much sloth, but following in decent and orderly manner without offence either to the dog or his leader, and this kind of leading is to make the whelp familiar with you, that he may love and acknowledge you and no man else.

When you have made him perfect by his daily attendance of you, and by going into no place without the dog, you shall then make him attend you loose, in the same manner as he did in the line, without straying or going his length from your heels unless you command him, which is the most necessary lesson can be taught a water-dog, for he must by no means be a ranger, but [only] upon special occasioin as either to beat out fowl from their covert, or to find struck fowl when they are lost.

When the general obedience is taught (which is done by observation of his going, and moving him by sights or sports which may tempt him to stay beyond his bounds and then to correct his offences, and to cherish and reward his obedience), you shall then teach him to fetch and carry anything you shall throw forth of your hand; and this you shall first begin to teach by the way of sport or pastime with the dog, as by taking your glove and shaking it about his head and lips, and making him catch and snap at it, and to play with it as a thing in which he delights, for sometime to hold it in his mouth and strive to pull it from you, and then casting it a little way from you, suffer him to mussel [muss: a game in which small objects are thrown town to be scrambled for] and worry it on the ground, and then take hold on it again and take it from him with cherishing, and thus do until he will take it from the ground, and hold it in his mouth as it were to tempt you to take it, then cast if further from you and say 'Fetch,' or 'Bring Sirra,' and if he do bring it you make exceeding much of him and reward him either with bread or meat and let him have no food but what he deserveth by doing your will in his lesson and thus daily and hourly augment and increase your lesson, until you have made your dog so perfect that he will fetch your glove unto you wheresoever you throw it. If at any time he offers to run away with your glove, or to toss it up and down, and play with it without reward to bring it unto you; then first use your word of advice, which if it does not prevail, then use your word of corection, but if both fail, then give him blows, and for that time let him lose his food and find no reward until he does your pleasure.

When by this means you have perfected him, that he will fetch your glove quickly and readily unto you, wheresoever you throw it, and so truly understands that it is his duty to bring it only unto you, and if twenty men in the company call him severally, yet he will shun all to bring it unto you, and leap up to your bosom to deliver it, you shall then reward him exceedingly and after train [draw by persuasion] him to fetch whatsoever you shall throw from you, as staves or cudgels, bags, nets, instruments of all kinds and indeed, anything whatsoever that is portable: then you shall use him to fetch round cogell stones [round, water-worn stones] and flints, which are troublesome in a dog's mouth, and lastly, iron, stell, money and all kind of metal which being cold in his teeth, slippery and ill to take up, a dog will be loth to fetch, but you must not desist nor let him taste food until he will as familiarly bring and carry them as anything else whatsoever.

As for using him to carry dead or live fowl or pullen [poultry], it is not amiss because by that means he will not break or tear in pieces any fowl at all, which fault is intolerable in any dog whatsoever and proceeds from too much greediness, but in the use thereof let him ever bring the least fowl you can get without hurt, that if you send him for a lark, he may bring it without bruising a feather.

This lesson thus perfected, you shall then, as you walk, drop something behind you which the dog may not see, and being gone a little way from it, send the dog back to seek it by saying, 'Back I have lost,' or some such word, and if at the first he stand amazed, urge him still and cease not, by pointing with your finger the way you would have him go, till he do turn back and find that which you have dropped, which make him take up and bring after you; then drop it again and go twice as far as you did at the first, and then send the dog back to seek it, not leaving until you make him hunt and bring it to you, then cherish and reward him, and where he fails there chide and punish him, sometimes with blows, sometimes with want of food, and thus continue to do until the dog will hunt the way back in which you went, be it a mile or more [a great distance] according to your occasion: and herein is to be noted that if you send your dog back to fetch anything, if he return and bring back anything in his mouth, though it be not the thing you lost, yet you shall receive it and cherish him, but not suffer him to stay, but immediately send him back again, saying, 'Away again,' or 'I have lost more,' and never be satisfied until he brings the thing you want, for the much toil will be punishment enough for his mistake, and make him more careful to the scent of anything about you; but if at any time he return without anything in his mouth, then be sure both to chide and beat him, for his emptiness of mouth shows both sloth and negligence.

When he will thus fetch, carry and find things being lost, then you may train him to hunting, beginning first with tame fowl, which by your own help at diving [plunging into--even with only the hand, thus (1700) pickpockets] and other losses [failures to catch] you may make him with little labour take, which encouragement will hearten and make him delight in the sport, then after you may make him use all his own cunning, and without assisting him, let him either get or loose his prey, observing to give him relief according to his dessert [deserving] in hunting well, and to punish him with want of reward according to his sloth or negligence; and thus wont [accustom] him until he be full master of his game, and can find the advantages and losses in every water, and observing ever to make him (when he taketh his prey) to bring it on shore unto you without hunting, and that he shall not dare to nip or bite it, after once you shall say 'Forebear' or 'Tis dead,' or any such like thing whatsoever.

After this you shall train him unto your piece [gun], in form as was showed in a former chapter, making him stalk either step by step behind you and under the cover of your shadow until you have shot, or else to couch down and lie close where you shall appoint him until you have shot, and then by a shout or gibbet [cudgel; presumably in this instance, a signal] to make him come running unto you to do whatsoever you shall appoint [command] him, and in this you must observe that the dog by no means rush forth or discover himself until you appoint him, for it is the nature of every free mettle [spirited, "game"] dog, and many of those which come from the best reputed teachers, that as soon as they hear the piece go off, they will presently rush forth and fly in amongst the fowl, before you can have leisure to open your lips; but it is a fault to be reprehended, for the piece must not be used as a warning to give the dog liberty, but as a preparation to make him ready to attend your commandment: for if you give him this liberty at your piece, then when you come amongst your nets or lime rods, as soon as he sees the tangled fowl but to flutter their wings, he will presently fly in amongst them, and not only adventure the spoiling and tearing of your nets, and disordering of your lime rods, but also break them in pieces, and breed you a world of trouble and vexation, and therefore by all means have him in that true obedience that he may not dare to take any freedom more than you give him.

There are a world of other lessons which may be taught a water dog, but because they do appertain more to pleasure, or the commendation of the teacher's art and the dog's capacity than any needful use or commodity, I will here (for tediousness sake) omit them, assuring every industrious labourer in this art, that the rules here already described are sufficient to make a dog do anything meet for any man's purpose.

The last use of the water dog is in the moulting time, when these wild fowl do cast their feathers and are so disabled that they cannot fly, but do lurk and hide themselves in the strength of their best coverts, not daring to peep or look abroad, which commonly is between summer and autumn, in these warmer countries. At this time you shall bring your water dogs and thrusting them into the coverts, make them hunt the fowl forth, and bring them into the open waters or great streams, then having in some narrow creek or straitened place (if it be in the broad blank waters) pitched up your nets, get with your boats between the covert and the fowl, and so taking up your dogs, with all leisure and gentleness drive the fowl before you (who of their own natures, will shun your presence) until you bring them within the compass of the nets, and then surrounding them about you may overthrow multitudes of them together, for sheep will not drive more easily than these fowl at this time." Pp. 67-88.

In addition to the above, Markham advises (pp. 29; 32), about runners: "...when any fowl offereth to flutter away, as ordinarily they will do though your eye be never so good, the dog may forthwith find them out and bring them unto you, for in this confusion and taking of many there will be work enough for both..." and "...your water dog...is a main instrument and a servant of such use that without him...you shall lose half your gettings, therefore in any wise be ever sure to have him at your heels;...if...[fowl] be fluttered...into any river or deep sewer where you cannot come at them, there you shall send forth your dog to fetch them; also when you come and...[are] assured that some are...crept away and hidden either in holes about the banks, or in other cover adjoining: whereupon you shall call your dog and make him hunt and search every corner, beating the coverts round about, and if there be any goodness at all in him you cannot lose a fowl."

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