Irish Wolfhound History

Ring Manners

by Phyllis E.A. Hudson

My husband and I have often been asked by both novice, prospective and even experienced exhibitors of our breed: "How do you get your dogs to show so fearlessly?"

I am hoping that these few hints from our own experience may be helpful to some who, perhaps, fail to realize how very very important ring manners are, especially in such a large and conspicuous breed.

There are some breeds of dogs which will show for anyone who has any experience and skill in handling, if a piece of liver, a ball or squeaking toy are produced to attract its attention and make it strike the right attitude, regardless of strange surroundings. The Irish Wolfhound being a very highly intelligent and dignified breed, one seldom finds, except in the case of young and playful puppies, that they can be beguiled in this way.

I think one of the essentials of success is sympathy between exhibitor and exhibit, and I am reminded of a few lines of a music hall song of many years ago, which describe rather aptly the state of mind your exhibit should be in to act in unison with its handler—

"You're here and I'm here
So what do we care?
Time and place do not count—
It's the one who is near ......" etc.

In other words, as far as your hound is concerned, no one else in the show exists except you and he (or she).

We suggest that the preparation for show should begin as soon as the hound comes into your possession, or as soon as you decide that you wish to show him.

The Irish Wolfhound does not necessarily become principally attached to the hand that feeds him. Our experience has been quite the contrary. Two of my most devoted companions in this breed seldom had a meal from my hands, except when ill or as tiny pups. It is the one who takes him for the kind of walks he most enjoys that wins his heart, whyo plays with him and talks to him and teaches him to be obedient, and sympathises with him when he is frightened or hurt, or upset in any way, that gains his devotion and, what is more important than all, his implicit trust and respect.

When I say walks, I do not mean that dull, but necessary, road work on the lead, but those country rambles over the fields and in quiet lanes, where he can run loose and chase a rabbit or a hare and learn to come back to you, and you only, when called. This is not always possible, of course; but I am assuming that few people keep these hounds where a country walk, or a gallop in a field or on a common, is not possible at times.

If, however, you have to share your hound's affection with a kennelman - and the balance is in favour of the latter - do not bring him to the show if you can manage without him, unless you intend him to do the handling. Nothing looks worse than to see an animal bolt for the gangway hoping to find the one he considers should be with him, to protect him in such uncomfortable surroundings. Or to see him fidgetting about in the ring, looking anxiously round, in a sea of strange faces, for the only one who will give him a feeling of security. If it is not possible to take entire charge of the exhibit yourself and leave its attendant at home, don't let him come anywhere near you when you are in the ring, or let him take the hound in, or betray his presence in any way while judging is in progress. That is if you wish to handle the hound yourself, and have sufficient control to do so. If you are not certain that you have absolute control, and can act in unison with your hound, do not spoil his chances by trying and failing. Nothing is more irritating to a judge, or likely to prejudice him against a hound, than two exhibitors to one exhibit!

Do not fuss over him unnecessarily in the ring, or you will make him bored and tired, and don't get between him and the judge. Having come to the necessary understanding with your hound before you attempt to show him, you will generally find that when you ask him to run up and down, you won't have to do more than call him, and he will follow the pace you set, and will only want to feel your hand on the lead to keep a straight course. I have seen so many good hounds come to grief when asked to run up and down. They should be practised at this a few, but only a few, times at home. A dog that is always being keyed up to show tricks at home may in the end become nervy and over-strained, and developing ring-shyness through being over-shown.

Never, unless in exceptional circumstances, hit or roughly handle your hound in the ring or, in other words, make a fool of him. As I have said before, don't start learning control of your hound on the day of the show.

It is, however, a mistaken idea that a hound brought up in the depths of the country is more likely to be ring-shy than one used to traffic, etc. For example, the yearling hound I handled at Crufts this year, and which was well placed for his age, had never been in a car or on a main road in his life, or seen more than a dozen people together. Yet, after having the novel experience of a 65-mile drive by car, in very bad weather to begin with, he took to the show ring like a duck to water. And this hound is no exception, as no hounds we show have any previous experience of traffic or crowds. It does, however, give a young hound more confidence if an older and experienced kennel-mate accompanies him. On the occasion I mention the chaperone was the youngster's sire, Ch. Fion-mac-Cumall, which I think owes some of his success to his dignified bearing in the ring, his general aire of confidence in his surroundings, and his gentlemanly behaviour. Yet all the personal attention Fion gets at my hands at home is a small piece of cake at tea-time, and, most important of all, an occasional walk with me and the children, on the roads, off the lead, where traffic permits; and just before turning in, to sleep in the house, at sundown, a good scamper in his home fields with an occasional rabbit to chase. So we are on very good terms with each other before we undertake the ordeal of a big show. And I feel, if he could speak, he says as he goes in the ring: "Come along, friend, we'll see this through together."

March 22nd, 1932 (printed in the Irish Wolfhound Club Year Book 1929-30-31)


The Irish Wolfhound as a Sporting Hound

by Phyllis E.A. Hudson

During the last two years, breeders and owners of Irish Wolfhounds have been given the opportunity to test their hounds' stamina, speed and sporting capabilities by the formation of a Coursing Club for the breed. This venture has been a marked success, and thanks are due to those who put such a lot of time and hard work into making the necessary arrangements. Accounts of these two meetings in 1933-34 have already appeared in detail in the canine press.

One of the chief things we all learned was that, contrary to some prophecies, it was not a triumph for the smaller, deerhound type of hound, as in some cases was anticipated. But it definitely was a triumph for the Club Standard of Excellence. Apart from colour of eyes, or coat, and minor details of this description, the two finalists, in any case in dogs, conformed very accurately with the Club Standard in outline and conformation. The winning bitch was possibly rather more masculine in appearance than some of her opponents, but she was certainly one of the biggest, if not the biggest, there. A bit, well-balanced, properly-shaped hound must of necessity be faster, as he will have the bigger stride, and it is the stride in the run-up that is half the battle.

Training these hounds is a comparatively simple matter, if the hound is properly bred. To breed a successful coursing hound, any shyness or timidity must be avoided at all costs in the pedigree. It is these shy dogs in the slips that cause the most trouble. Gun-shyness does not matter. I know several gun-shy dogs that go well out of slips. The owner of one hound should, if possible, try and get his or her hound into slips, or even led coupled with another hound, before entering for coursing, as a hound which has always been by himself sometimes dislikes a strange hound so close to him. Those who own several hounds are not so often faced with this difficulty. Another important point about training, and possibly the first step in training, is to teach your hound obedience; to come back to the whistle or some special call. Personally, I have never found any difficulty in achieving this. Though it is best to start from puppyhood, I have seen older hounds trained to do this in quite a short time. There are some whom no one nor nothing seems to make obedient, but this can often be accounted for by the pedigree. Dispositions are just as hereditary as other faults or failings, and in-breeding is to blame for a great many.

To get the hounds really fit and muscular, road work and not long tiring gallops, is the most important form of training. A quarter of an hour or twenty minutes' galloping a day, or even every other day, is sufficient. Overtraining is as disastrous as the opposite. These hounds are natural hunters, or should be, and any hound that can chase a rabbit and has a little experience of getting away from the slips, even if only slipped in couples from an ordinary handkerchief, will, if he or she be the right make and shape, give every satisfaction in the coursing field. I have had the honour to take part in the training of the winner of the first coursing meeting ever held of the breed, in 1925, and the runner-up in 1933 and 1934, when the coursing was revived, so possibly can be excused for laying down the law. Also in a friendly trial privately arranged, I also, with my husband, was responsible for the finalists. Of these four hounds, not one had ever coursed a hare or beein in official slips. They had only been hunted in couples and, just occasionally, had a slip with a handkerchief through both collars—that was all. The temperament, conformation and stamina did the rest. I might also add that all these hounds have been brought up as domestic pets, and coursing has made no difference to their behaviour towards other domestic animals; in fact, if anything, they are gentler and more tractable than those without their experience.

Printed in the Irish Wolfhound Club Year Book 1932-33-34

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