Monday, July 27, 2009

People and Dogs

The point of this blog post is to illustrate how frustrating it is for me and my friends to deal with the public as a breeder and trainer. The old timers I am working with gave up a long time ago trying to educate people to the point that they are not breeding to sell, because they don't want to have to deal with the stupidity of the buying public.(sorry, if the shoe fits!) They are for the most part, breeding and giving dogs to the right people such as myself, who they know are going to properly handle the dogs. Many people who call me appreciate that I go to great lengths to qualify my buyers on the phone before I ever show them any dogs. Others get offended that their money is not enough to qualify, and hang up on me. Good riddance! Just because you show up with a pocket full of hundred dollar bills does not qualify you to buy my dogs!

Often when I go to meet someone to make a hunt with my dogs for sale, the buyer thinks I am going there to "show" my dogs. In truth, I am going there to evaluate his facilities, observe how they treat the dogs they already own, and decide whether or not I think they qualify to own my dogs.

For instance, one gentleman was interested in buying a dog and he was in a great area for hunting rice fields about 40 miles away from where I live. Perfect, but... When I got there, he had several dogs tied out to a horse trailer in a parking lot near a tractor barn miles from his house, with cheap WalMart plastic coated cables and one of the dogs had about 5 wraps around his back leg. I waited about 15 minutes to see if any of the 5 or 6 people walking around there were going to observe the dogs delimna and free the dog from the cable wrapped around his leg. I had to control myself to not help the dog right away, but after about all I could take, I unwrapped the cable and thought to my self that if my dogs would be "secured" like this, they would be crippled, strangled or not be here in the morning if this guy tried to tie em out the way he tied his. I didn't tell him, but he was disqualified in less than half an hour after I arrived. The dogs were blue leopards with fur that was about three inches long and he claimed they were catahoulas. Not in my book!

We walked his and my dogs all the way around a field of ripe rice that had a lot of hog sign. When we got to the middle way along the road, and I started seeing less sign, so I cut straight through the middle of the field and made sure none were hiding in the middle of the field. Well, he was convinced that the hogs were still in there. I knew they were there earlier that morning, but based upon tracks, my guess was they had crosssed the road and left that field some time ago. After we made the round, he wanted to argue that "the hogs were still in this field" of about 30 acres, which I knew were no where near that rice field. I didn't bother arguing, and later the neighbor came over and confirmed my guess. He had seen the hogs, as I suspected, cross the road at about 9AM. They had been gone for about 6 hours before we got there.

I do not like to sell dogs tied up in my yard. If it is a woods, dog it should be sold in the woods! Only problem with that is I have to drive an hour or more to get into hogs at the moment.

I am working on a land deal just 20 minutes up the road from my house. That would be very convienent, considering the hog problems they have there and the benefits for the land owner, myself and my started pups.

I am always looking for new places to hunt close to home. I do have hogs behind my house, but a couple thousand acres is not enough and my dogs don't understand trespass laws. So the man I just mentioned above is someone I would love to hunt with in the future because he has a lot of hogs and he doesn't live very far from me, but... it looks like we can't do business, or hunt together.

Too bad.

Most people who call me, want a finished dog, and all they want to invest is money and no time. Even if you are buying a finished dog at 4 or 5 yrs. old, you better plan on spending time and at least get that dog warmed up to you. I like to spend months with a dog before taking them to the woods. And on more than one occasion, I have spent a year or more bringing a dog around that was abused to the point of being terrified of men.

So...I would rather sell puppies than dogs, but earlier this year...

Two of my customers lost the puppies that I sold them at weaning for a simple lack of regular worming. When I asked the first one if he had wormed once a week as I instructed at the point of sale, he replied: "We never had a chance to worm".

I am thinking to myself; you had the dog for 5 weeks before you brought it to the vet and you never had a chance?

Less than a week later, another customer calls and advises me that his puppy died. At this point, I am becoming educated to seriously question every detail of regular scheduled worming and vacination. When I ask about the worming, he informed me that he gave it a seven way vacine at 12 weeks. So I asked "what about the worming?" And he asked me, "Doesn't the 7 way vacine kill all the worms?" No! It doesn't kill worms, it builds an immunity to bacteria and viruses.

And another one bites the dust from pure ignorance and neglect.

How about Shane Kier of Grand Junction, Colorado. Earlier this year, he came all the way from northwest Colorado to buy 2 started cowdogs at about 8 months old to work with his 8 year old aging cowdog Catahoulas. Just to make sure he had some good working dogs for the long haul and into the future, I also gave him free of charge, no deposit, 4 puppies to raise up on his ranch along with the 2 started dogs he bought for about half price. He got my pick of the litter female(meaning, I wanted to keep her for myself) from Patch and Ruby, a fine blue leopard female from Scarlet and Elijah(a son of Patch and Ruby), and 2 blue leopards, male and female from Angel and Handsome.

I told him that he didn't owe me anything for the puppies, and that I owed him for transporting my dogs to Colorado. And when he sold some pups, we could split the money.

I gave Shane, my pick of the litter female, which I could have easily gotten $500 for from someone on my waiting list who put down a deposit before I even spoke to Shane, because I wanted him to have plenty to work with and chose from, considering he came from so far and the logistics involved of us doing business again in the future. The fact that Shane is a working cowboy, whose daddy bought puppies from Amos Mann at Two Diamonds Ranch decades ago, and now he comes back to this part of the world, gave him a lot of respect in my eyes. So.. if you are in NW Colorado and need a well bred Catahoula cowdog puppy born 12/24/2008, I can give you Shane's number if you will give me a call first at 337 298 2630.

Our plan was to sell the one or two that he didn't want to keep, and split the money.

Now it seems he is very satisfied with the pick of the litter female I gave him from Patch and Ruby as he plans to breed her in a year or two to one of his 8 yrs old. Also, everytime we spoke, he tells me the started dogs(about a year old now) are coming on as expected for their age. He has for a while, kept a calf at home in a round pen for training purposes, and will expose these pups to various activities related to cowdog training as they grow.

Now obviously, I have a great deal of faith in Shane to trust him with my 4 pups, no charge, and no money down. But... not to fault him. I do want to share what happened about 2 months after the dogs got to Colorado. And bear in mind I advised him of my worming program and told him to worm them once a week for about a month, and then every two weeks till they were about 6 months old.

He assumed these dogs could be wormed like they do in Colorado, meaning, not till they are six months old! These 4 pups almost all died. Luckily, his wife took in a stoll sample and the vet gave her Panacur. I guess Shane did not realize if you live in Colorado but buy your dog from Louisiana you cannot treat it like it was born in Colorado.

About 20 years ago, consider the registered puppy I sold for $400 and later called the people to advise them that the litter registration papers had come in and they could come and get 'em.

They advised me that they didn't need the papers because they decided they didn't want the dog anymore and had took it's collar off, turned it loose in the front yard, called animal control and reported a stray dog and had it picked up for free!

If they had not lied to animal control and turned in the dog legally, it would have cost them $25. Luckily for the dog, I was able to "rescue it" and paid $65 for the privilege of taking this fine pup back home and saving it from being euthanized.

But...why didn't they just bring the dog back to me if they didn't want it?

Jesse, a son of Bob and Angel, with his son, Gus(14 weeks old).

A friend of mine who is a very respected breeder of Blair bred dogs and life time hog hunter, advised me of one of his customers complaining about the one year old, registered Blair bred hog dog he bought for only $200 about a month ago was not able to keep the hog at bay. Oh, the dog by itself was finding hogs on it's own, then stopping and baying, but the hog would bust and run when the man approached. I have to ask if he was on an ATV and how close, and then my next question is where is the bulldog? What does he expect the hog and dog to do? The dog is only a year old. Give it a few years and I pity any hog that tries to run. Give it a couple more years and it may be stong enough to catch without a bulldog. In the meantime, if any man approaches a one year old dog baying a wild hog that ain't tied, caught or penned and that hog don't bust and run, there is something wrong with that hog!

How about this one; I meet a very good friend I have known since he was a boy and we are to hunt on his land, so I thought.

When we get there, we are on someone else's land, and the owner of the land we are to hunt on is riding around on an ATV goofing off, racing, cutting donuts, making loud blasts on the exhaust, etc., and there are two women also on ATV's who are laughing and smoking cigarettes. Which is like playing a loud sound system while hunting hogs in a pick up truck with a mesquite grill burning on the slider hitch, with one or two loud mouth Plotts anouncing our intentions of grilling pork asap.

As we are going into the woods, I put out my youngest, spayed,(2 yr. old) by herself, so she could warm up behind the pickup as we drove into the woods. I really didn't expect she would hunt by herself, as she never had before. But she was right at two years old and she ain't the puppy she used to be. We had gone maybe a couple of hundred yard and she picked up a scent, took a 90' turn and went into the woods. I asked my friend who was driving to stop so we could let her hunt. He said they(on ATV's behind us) would pick her up. I am thinking to myself, 'no one is gonna catch my dog'. So we get to the woods and I have to ride back on the ATV to call my dog out. When she came out with her tail between her legs, acting like she knew she done something wrong, I praised her because there is almost nothing worse to mess up a young started dog who is leaving on their first trail by their self than to be called out.

If you are ever working a started dog and it leaves on it's own for the first time, let it go and and hunt as much as possible, then praise it when it comes back. Encourage it to hunt some more if it wants to and if it leaves out again, don't move until it comes back unless you are following it into the woods and encouraging it to go and find the hog.

OK, so we get back and join the gang in the woods already, where there is fresh hog sign and I turn out my two oldest(4and5 yr. olds). They leave on track and are working fine and then the leader of the gang starts hollering for me and my dogs to move up and follow them. I being on someone else's land, follow the lead and call my dog off fresh scent for a second time in less than fifteen minutes. I am starting to wonder if they are ever gonna let my dogs work.

The most amazing stupid thing was the one dog he brought must have just been in heat or soon coming in because I had to leave the 5 year old in the box on account of he keep sticking his nose in her rear end. When I questioned him about when was the last time his dog was in heat? He said about a month ago, and if I had good dogs that shouldn't matter! OooooKay! So I persisted in questioning him and said why did you bring a dog that was in heat just one month ago? And he commented that they come in heat every 30 days don't they? No! Horses do that, cowboy. A dog comes in heat about every 5 months.

These "hunters" are really taking me and my dogs for a Sunday walk. Repeatedly I asked them to wait when my dogs would hit fresh sign and scent. They replied that they didn't want to have to baby sit some dog. If it hit a scent, it should be gone even if we were on the move. And my question is why should we be moveing away from the dogs if they are on fresh scent?

Well I am sure the hogs were long gone, considering all the commotion from ATV's and fools hollering at me and my dogs.

But everytime my dogs did leave out that day they made me call them out to follow the "leader" who thought he would lead my dogs to where the hogs were supposed to be. At least in his mind he thought he knew.

Well I couldn't agree with that more, if at that point my dogs weren't thoroughly convinced that I didn't want to hunt on account of every time they started to follow a trail that day, they were called off!

Wait a minute! I thought the dogs were supposed to take us to the hogs!

Later the organizer of this "hunt" tells his dad(the publisher of a baydog magazine), what happened and his dad asks him; "Boy, are you so stupid, that you done forgot, them dogs don't leave out, until you stop?"

I rest my case on this one.

From where I stand, it looks like I have been too nice and to trusting of people for too long. Even though this post has only been up a short while, I am getting the right people calling me.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Way It Was...

In the old days, the Catahoula, was often the only dog on the homestead because that was all people could afford to feed.

To understand how to handle an elite hog dog today, you must have a fundamental understanding of the pack instinct in wolves which is still a strong motivating factor in dog behavior at present.

Now...I just read somewhere that someone was claiming there was no wolf in the genetics of the Catahoula breed.


I don't know about his bloodline, but I can assure you, the Blair bred dogs that I am breeding, do exhibit the instincts, behavior, and look of wolves too much to be denied. And yes, the Bulldog and Greyhound is in there too, but the focus here is to understand the pack instinct that is in most domestic dogs today so we can work within the natural instincts that have enabled wolves to hunt, survive and operate as a pack in the wild.

The alpha male or lead dog, does not lead by location, but by dominance. Meaning in a hunting situation he is not in front, the scouts are. He is none the less the boss of his pack because no one can challenge his authority and win.

When the scouts located a hog, they chase, stop and bay to alert the rest of the pack as to the location. A trailing wolf is always silent on the track in order to close in on the hog as quickly as possible.

When the dominate alpha male arrives at the bay, often he stays back awhile to evaluate the strenghth of the prey, and let the scouts weaken the hog. When the time is right the alpha male who is well rested, powerful and skilled at killing, rushes in and catches the hog by the ear, throat or neck. The scouts help in the catch after the alpha male caught. Being caught off guard, the hog is until now, convinced that he could not be caught.

Once the hog is caught, he either bleeds to death or suffocates from choking or maybe dies of exhaustion and heat stroke.

Here are several points to consider in a Catahoula hog dog of the old days.

1.)In the old days, a family living off the land could most often only afford to feed one dog.

2.)Not only that, the dog had better be bringing home the bacon or he wouldn't live there long.

3.)Also an important consideration is if he wasn't social towards other dogs, children and domestic livestock, and then be gritty, smart and fast enough to survive a wild boar, he didn't live long enough to reproduce.

Here is the problem today.

1.)We can easily feed more than one dog, so a lot of people keep a pack of dogs, or worse they join up with the buddies and turn all the dogs loose at the same time. The problem is, many people are running a pack of dogs and don't realize that the best dogs are getting killed first because they catch as soon as enough help arrives(meaning the rest of the pack). The pack instinct in a well breed Catahoula often has a high degree of wolf in the genes and thus causes the dog to be a find and stop expert. But, because the pack instinct also causes the dog to want to catch as soon as help arrives, if the help is other dogs in the pack, good chance somebody is gonna get killed or seriously injured, before the man with the gun, knife, and rope gets there. If the catch does not occur until the man arrives to throw the hog and disarm the hog quickly, the chance of serious injury is greatly diminished. Don't get me wrong, in the real world things do go wrong, and hog dogs are serious injured or killed sometimes. But, in a one dog situation, the injuries are dramatically reduced.

So, if it is only one dog, or an old and young dog situation, chances are the dogs won't catch until the men arrive. The reason the dog waits until the man gets there is, he knows he can't catch by his self, so he won't. Another benefit of a dog who can do it all in a one dog situation, is there is less pressure on the hog, so it doesn't bust and run from the bay.

All this translates into less time chasing, fewer injuries, and more hogs are caught! If you have the right dog, one dog all by his self, can make hog hunting so simple.

So many people are calling me and telling me they want to buy a finished dog who will go to the bay and "help" their dogs. Of course, I have pissed off most of them when I ask "Have you ever had a dog that didn't need help?" or "Have you ever considered "getting" a dog that doesn't need any help, and then try running them by their self?"

Gus at 12 weeks old.

Today, too many people are letting the best dog get killed before it can reproduce. So what happens when the bitch comes in heat? She breeds to a male who needs help at the bay, not the one dog wonder, because he is already dead.

This is called genetic selectivity. A.K.A. only the strong survive. But in the case of the strongest is getting killed first, because we are mistakenly running too many at one time, and in hog hunting you are dealing with the second most dangerous mammal in North America after the grizzly. If we are causing the weak to survive and be the breeding male, we are producing the exact opposite of what we should ultimatly want. An elite, high performance, army of one.

A survivor and a hunter/provider. If a dog is not strong, fast, gritty, and smart, he won't be hunting hogs for long or even live long enough to reproduce. This dog must be handled properly, and that involves being raised right as a puppy.

Unfortunately, too many people are just getting into hog hunting, don't know better, or worse, they are being "taught" by their buddies to run dogs in a pack, as I was when I first started hunting hogs.

So.. many of us don't know that some dogs should be hunted by themself, otherwise they get killed. The result of the best dogs getting killed is, it usually happens early on in a dogs life and he does not even reach a mature age to reproduce.

This is not rabbit or deer hunting!

When stopped, a boar fights back, and he is a formidible warrior. When it comes to hog hunting the old fashion way, more dogs is not better.

Remenber, in the old days one dog had to do it all, and by their self

2.)We often keep dogs that are not bringing home the bacon. This could be because we are soft-hearted. Or because our best dog got killed from improper handling by running too many at one time or we ran them too early in life and they did not survive to maturity and all we got left to hunt and breed are dogs that need help. I am sympathetic to many dogs that are not elite, and could be put down for business purposes if I were only breeding for hog dogs. But, I am in the dog business. I am a breeder and a trainer and I spend a lot of time with my dogs and have ample opportunity to analyze a dogs performance abilities early on. If a dog is not an elite hog dog I don't put them down, I look for another job for him such as a cowdog, blood trail dog, or companion/security, maybe even just some kids pet.

3.)I could breed only the elite high performance dog for hog hunting, but I would have nothing to sell to the farms where they need something to lay around on the porch all day waiting for the kids to get home.

Because I breed a lot of dogs I can compare one bloodline to another as I raise the pups. I try to keep 5 to 10 dogs from every breeding season, so I can monitor the cross. If it is not a good cross, I won't breed those two again. I train hog dogs, cowdogs and bloodtrail dogs. I am personally breeding for hog dogs, because that is my passion, but most of my pups are sold as companion/cowdogs to farms and ranches with children.

Here is a four month old, how you like her attitude?

Many of these pups would go on to be great hog dogs if I could find the right people to buy them as hog hunters. But most hog hunters are looking for an experienced, finished hog dog. What is my definition of a finished dog? He is dead, because based on my observations, they keep getting better and better the older they get. In my opinion, the best hog dog you will ever have is the one you raise as a pup.

Spoil your pup rotten, and then give 'em two years, and watch what happens when you take 'em to the woods!

So if you are looking to buy a finished hog dog, keep looking and good luck. Considering the demand for dogs at present and the poor quality offered, think about it; why would anyone sell a good dog for $200 or $300? Fifteen years ago, I was getting $400 for my pups at weaning, and I had a waiting list.

I have found some of my pups are the right cross for elite hog dogs, but they must be raised right and then handled properly as a working dog. I am breeding some bitches who are not my elite stock, but make great pets and cow dogs. But, the focus here is on hog dogs who can do it all by their self, what some people are calling the "one dog wonder".

The benefit for me as a breeder, to be breeding and raising a lot of dogs every year is partly financial, but mostly experimental, in that I can try many new crosses and look for elite performance. If I think you are right as a hog hunter I will sell you an elite dog as a puppy. What I mean here is that you must qualify to buy my dogs. I have seen too many peole bring a six month old started dog home and it is gone the next day because it was not properly secured. They dig, climb, open latches, bolt as soon as a gate is opened and I have seen a number of Catahoula unravel chain link fencing.

If he is not getting into trouble on a daily basis, you don't have a really good Catahoula. Point being; Catahoulas are not for everyone. First of all they need a job. Secondly they need direction(training) and obediance to the master. If you are not the absolute master they will challenge your authority and try to be the boss(A.K.A. alpha male). Because Catahoulas have a strong pack instinct, they need affection and a special place in the hierarcy of a home or ranch. Some Catahoulas serve a very important job(as security guard) and waiting all day for the kids to get home from school. Then they run and play till suppertime.

Another important characteristic to understand when raising puppies of a well breed Catahoula blood line, is that they are gritty on one hand, but very insensitive to mistreatment on the other. If they know you are an asshole, they won't hunt for you or let you catch them, and then you get even more angry and don't help the situation by chasing them when you are angry. If you can't bribe them with food or call them in, don't chase, especially when you are angry, they are too fast and agile for a human to catch.

You need to earn their respect and trust, or you will never know what a good dog is. Doesn't matter if you buy a well bred, and well raised started dog, you will still need to give the dog time to develop a relationship of service, based upon loyalty to you who has earned it.

I believe the most important thing to teach a well bred Catahoula hog dog is to come when they are called. Otherwise they will possibly get run over if you are hunting near a highway, get eaten by a gator in a swamp or marsh or worse, what happens if you can't catch or kill the hog and you can't call the dog off. You lose the dog!

I am patient and persistent in training and I really don't like to hunt a dog until they are two years old, so I have time to put a handle on them. I am aware most people can't call their dog off a hog at bay. These same people claim I have too much handle on my dogs to be "good" hog dogs. They are talking about some thing they assume and believe, but haven't seen.

One of my friends was telling me about a bay he witnessed recently which he described as the most beautiful bay he had ever seen. It was his best dog, and it was all by it self around a herd of about 30 hogs. As Jackie came over the ridge he could see the hogs below and was amazed to see the "one dog" going round and round the herd, staying about 15 feet away from the closest pig. At that distance he did not but too much pressure as to cause any to bust and run, but was also close enough to keep them tight. It took about 20-30 minutes for help to arrive and they did catch a couple of the boars when the bulldogs got there. In the meantime while waiting, Jackie settled in, got comfortable and watched his dog put on a show. Until we talked he never thought about running his dog alone. He always hunted him in a pack with several dogs the way most of us do.

One the most amazing and absurd statements I hear people making when it comes to shopping for hog dogs is: "If a dog(puppy really, as far as I am concerned), is not hunting by 8 or 9 months, I am 'getting rid' of him."

You see, I don't train my pups to hunt. I breed them to hunt. And I keep them out of harms way for two years. This is the only thing I train for in that two years: obedience and to survive a deadly wild boar in the woods.