The Countryman's Weekly


February 21
08:06 2018

WEB3-21-02-18Developing the ideal ferreter’s dog

By Dave Sleight.

I TAKE my hat off to anyone who goes ferreting without a marking dog. I do not possess the patience or enthusiasm to set or position purse or longnets around a warren that simply looks likely to hold a rabbit. The ferreting season comes around when days are short and daylight has a habit of running out earlier each outing. Time is precious to the ferreter and despite all the modern technology attached to ferreting these days, nothing will save more time than a reliable marking dog.

Breed or type is relatively unimportant, for all the dog really needs to do is to indicate whether the rabbits are at home or not. Each dog has its own way of marking. Some dig frantically at the hole where the scent is strongest while others stand and stare into the depths as if transfixed by the mere smell of live coney. I have seen some dogs which will look first at the warren then at their owner as if trying to say “hurry up with the nets boss!”

Once the handler has learned to read this individual behaviour there is no more “let’s try this one,” it is simply a matter of following the dog along and waiting for it to make the decision. All canines have the olfactory capability to do this job – even purebred Greyhounds, the ‘ultimate sighthounds’, can be developed into marking dogs.

Some years ago a well-known pest controller had a former track bitch from me which he later informed me could reliably mark both ground game and vermin below ground. He also broke her to ferrets and later bred some very handy lurchers from her. Although it is easier and perhaps more straightforward to start with a puppy, it is possible, with know-how and patience, to develop an older dog to do this job.




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