Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Terrier Work, Part 9 -- Foolish Youth

The 1960s saw a wage rise in the UK and an increase in leisure time as well.

More young people had easy access to cars, and as a result more young men were able to get out into the countryside.

Impatient young men eager for experience, and with a "dominance" attitude towards all thing wild and natural, found badger earths easier to locate than fox dens, especially in the summer and early fall when fox were rarely found to ground.

Many of these same young men sought "pull cord terriers" that would start right out of the box, but which too often ended up too hard for sensible badger work.

With the entry of hundreds of young men into the terrier world, a kind of culture war seems to have occurred. On one side were the older diggers who knew more about wild animals and places and tended to be more conservation-minded. These older diggers stressed the value of bagging and moving badgers rather than killing them. This was the generation that had seen poison and traps sharply reduce fox and badger numbers in many areas.

On the other side were young men who wanted to "prove" their dogs and who considered a scarred-up terrier as possessing the only true "red badge of courage" — never mind that it was more often the scarlet letter of inexperience or the wreckage of over-heated canine aggression.

Too many young men with too many over-hard dogs chasing too few badgers created a situation which fell right into the hands of animal rights advocates.

As Eddie Chapman writes in his excellent book, The Working Jack Russell Terrier [Dorset Press, 1985]:

"The macho terrier men ... with the image that they portrayed, gave the antis all the fuel they needed to persuade the general public that with literally hundreds of new people suddenly joining the sport, too much pressure was being put on the Badger population, so that it was in danger of being extinct, and ‘bang’ a Law was passed that protected them from being dug."

Along with the first restrictions on badger digging, the 1970s saw the first use of terrier locator collars and telemetry boxes.

Terrier transmitters and receivers made by Deben Industries were relatively simple affairs. A very small transmitter, about the size of the first two joints of your little finger, was attached to a terrier’s collar. This transmitter sent a very weak radio-signal to a handheld receiver which was about the size of a thick cigarette pack or portable AM pocket radio. Inside the receiver was a small directional antennae. By turning a volume dial on the side of the receiver box, the location and depth of the dog could be ascertained (though not always with perfect accuracy, and never under a power line).

No invention has done more to save terrier lives than the locator collar, and today no one with an ounce of common sense would allow a dog to go to ground without one.

Locator collar technology did have a downside, however. Prior to the invention of locator collars, mute dogs were considered nearly worthless as they could not be dug to unless you were willing to trench an entire earth. With the new locator collars, however, mute dogs found a place in the field and this trend has, unfortunately, proliferated, degrading the quality of the terrier gene pool by encouraging the use of over-hard mute dogs.

To order American Working Terriers

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