A DOG’S LIFE
How hens in the pheasant pen will teach a youngster the art of self-control.
We are coming to a point where we need to introduce our spaniel to the concept of live game and the proper behaviour as regards chasing some things and yet and at the same time not chasing other things at all – ever, ever, ever.
This is always a bit of a hurdle because, after all, we want our dogs to chase runners but not to chase birds which are just running. Even looking at that on the page seems odd; how it must seem to a dog is anyone’s guess.
Having said that, the spaniel seems to have already developed a knack for spotting things worth chasing and those which are not. Recently the pup was watching a squirrel in the garden and I was watching the pup. The squirrel came down one tree and set off across the lawn for another which had a bird feeder in it. It went up the second tree and helped itself to a hefty meal of seeds. Then it set off for home. The spaniel timed its run to perfection. As the rodent was exactly half way between the two, it went. Not only that, it guessed – rightly – that the tree rat, heavy with elevenses, would make for home rather than go back to the café. The squirrel got away but I had to admire the pup’s thinking. Not so batty spaniel.
Speaking of battyness, the Batty Spaniel Woman has a keeper friend – and spaniel wizard to boot – who keeps back a pen of his ex-layer pheasant hens for a week or two after the laying season for dog training and we are bidden thence for the purpose. Settle your dog in the middle of a flock of pheasants and let them mill about it at will. What could possibly go wrong?
These are pheasants, kid. The very thing we are after. These are what we shall be spending the winter chasing, fetching and carrying. But not today! Today what we have to do is to lie in the middle of this pen and do absolutely nothing! I don’t know why. I know why we collect them in the winter. So that he can show them to his friends. But why we have to ignore them the rest of the time – and especially now – remains something of a mystery. I have a feeling it’s a sort of test. Yes, like when you had that tennis ball under your paw all the time.
Don’t tell me you’ve got a yellow tennis ball already? Here? In a pen surrounded by pheasants? So what have you got? What? What? You drive me mad, sometimes. Do you know that? Of course you do.
Hello Mrs Pheasant! Hello! Hello! Hello! I’m a spaniel. Have any of you got a yellow tennis ball? Have any of you seen a yellow tennis ball in the vicinity? To be honest, it’s not really for me but for my friend here who hasn’t had one in weeks and is having a bit of a withdrawal problem.
Me? No. I can take them or leave them. Always a pleasure but not a necessity. The thing is that they just can’t resist throwing a yellow tennis ball. You drop it at their feet and they throw it. You drop it, they throw it. Drop, throw. Drop, throw. It amuses them for hours. You’ve never seen them do it? Find me a yellow tennis ball and I’ll show you. You don’t know what a yellow tennis ball looks like, do you? You’re just a bird. What do birds do, I wonder? What are birds for? They stand about, they feed, they fly, they land, they stand about? But what do you do? Really? I mean what exactly is the point of you? Does anyone know? What time is it? Can we go for a walk? What time is supper? Has anyone seen a yellow tennis ball?