Sunday, August 1, 2010

Our Relationships Or The Lack Thereof

You think your catch dog has a lock on his jaw? Well check out this ones lock jaw success!

In case you are wondering, that is a dead pig in his mouth!


Today's post is about a time honored tradition that is passed from generation to generation. Men take out the older boys into a close relationship with nature and hunting dogs and allow them to witness, experience, and learn how to put meat on the family table. And some of the possibilities and consequences of a lack of such a relationship, for our youth today.

And, as is the case with many of today's youth, they have not known the pleasures of becoming a hunter or fisherman because they did not have a daddy in the house to teach them, and all too often, if they did have a daddy in house, too many of us modern day daddy's have been too busy with the demands and distractions of modern living to exercise and share our privileges of hunting and fishing in the wilderness and teach the youth of today how to put the seafood and meat harvests of those wilderness outings on the table.

Today we have more than enough to eat on the shelves at the super market. We do not, by necessity, have to fish and hunt. Only a little more than half a century ago, that necessity of hunting and fishing, was, for many people, a way of life.

So as a result, there is a primal subconscious yearning in the youth of today to go and do what we have done generation after generation after generation, which is to go out into nature and be a man/hunter/fisherman, but the youth of today are often doing it the hard way, by trail and error, because they don't have an experienced old timer to teach them.

And so, I am hearing a lot of complaints from experienced and knowledgeable hog hunters, regarding the negative effects of the newbies trying to learn by trail and error, and in their opinion ruining it for us all.

For instance if you have never hunted with a one dog wonder, or hunted very little, you might assume because, you are hunting a very dangerous wild boar, that the more dogs you have on the ground, the better, is the way to go. Truth is if you are running too many dogs, you cause the hog to run more because of too much pressure on him, and he is running for cover. When he gets there and can back up into a fallen tree or thicket, he turns and starts killing dogs because too many dogs causes the best dog, which could proberbly keep the hog at bay by his self, to catch. He is catching because he has help and thinks it is enough help. But without you to throw the hog and tie him the hog can begin to cause injuries sufficient to kill or completely shut down dogs one at a time.

Too many of the youth today grew up with and are caught up in, the virtual world of computers, the make believe, Hollywood generated, visual world of television, movies, and video, and have lost touch with the generational relationship of father to son, and the satisfaction of being in the wilderness hunting and fishing with someone you love, respect and trust. And with that, many of today's youth attempt to get a dog to hunt hogs and have no clue about the importance of a close family-like relationship between us and the dogs. And it is very important because a dog often will not hunt for someone they do not know, trust and love.

The fastest growing recreational activity in America today is bird watching. Why? Because it allows many of us who do not need to hunt or fish to eat, to get out there and commune with nature, without necessarily, killing a fish, a bird, or a mammal.

Yet here in Louisiana, being born into the greatest pantry of wild foods in North America, we not only take all of the above for food, we also harvest amphibians and reptiles, too. Cajuns are known for their tasty food and what a lot people do not realize is that a lot of our delicious food is so good because of the abundance of wild game and seafood in our environment, which goes into our cuisine.

Because wild hogs are not an indigenous species, and so many of us have lost our hunting skills, they are not regulated by natural predators, and are experiencing a population explosion and wild hogs are showing up everywhere, which opens opportunities for many young people yearning to be more out into the real world of nature and wilderness to become hog hunters, and exercice the priveledge of hunting to satisfy the primordial yearning to provide meat for the tribe.

But my point here is we have, in many respects, lost touch with nature, and service animals. What better way to get the youth of today out there than for fathers and mothers to bring their sons and daughters out into the wilds to hunt hogs with dogs, and to fish and learn the time honored tradition of putting meat on the table.

But if we are getting into something we have not done, and don't have an old timer to teach us what can we do but learn by trail and error? Consider the true story I am about to share next.

I want to share a story of a young man who came to me wanting to buy Catahoula puppies to raise them to be hog dogs. Before he could receive his puppies, he and his wife decided they needed to place a brindle Catahoula female that they had rescued, and start fresh with well-bred dogs, to raise them to be puppies that would be hog dogs some day. Having gotten rid of that brindle female, before he could come get his puppies, once again another opportunity to rescue a dog arose.

That dog, as it turns out, is a six month old pit bull, which he assumed could be a catch dog. I later advised him that a pit bull does not always make a catch dog, no more than a Catahoula will always make a hog dog. What he did not understand about a pit bull being raised to be a catch dog is that, ideally, a pit bull puppy must be raised up in the hierarchy of mature bay dogs, who will dominate and never allow the pit bull's powerful dominate nature to be directed to other dogs. As that pit bull matures and understands his place in the hierarchy of the pack, he will know that his glorified position as catch dog makes him a very, very important and special member of the team, and he should control his aggression and direct it where it belongs in catching and holding a mean dangerous wild boar, until assisted by the man who owns all the dogs, the hog is thrown down, tied and we all share in the glory of bringing the bacon home.

Like many of todays youth he had no clue how complex the hierarchy system is, or how it operates in the success of a man and dog team for hunting hogs.

Many young people today have grown up using machines that served them. Be it for transportation, recreation, or entertainment, ie: Ipod, Game boy, Nintendo, television and computers. And unfortunately, as useful as computers are, most use them are used for entertainment more than research and education. for me a computer is a tool not a toy. I use it for work, not for play.

To get back to growing up in an industrialized society, the youth of today believe that if there is a job to be done we buy something(spend money), we turn it on, or fill it with gas, then we turn the key, and it works for us. What has happened in the man/machine world of today is that the youth have grown up without understanding the importance of getting a job done through the relationship between us and the animals who serve us. Today, horses are more recreational than service animals, yet in the first half of the twentieth century, horses, mules, and dogs were critical elements of our survival, because we lived off the land instead of the grocery store. So with internal combustion powered transportation, the value of the horse for transportation became obsolete. Now on the other hand, dogs have managed to stay withn us as pets, and be an important part of our lives as pets and security, and thus not gone by the way much as have horses. but most dogs today are bred raised and trained to be pets, not working dogs, and we have lost the art of handling and useing them as such for the most part.

Dogs have for thousands of years, always been a part of the family as a pet/security/companion and during hunting season, as part of the team as a hunter. Many cowboys of today are still using Catahoulas to increase the efficiency of penning cattle too. Nonetheless, the youth of today have failed to understand the importance of building a relationship with their hunting dogs. And the responsibility of building that relationship falls squarely upon us. If we do not build a relationship of trust based upon love, affection, fun and games as a puppy, that dog may never grow up to be eager to serve as a hunting dog, no matter how well bred to hunt, once it becomes an adult. This is true for just about any dog be it a pet or a hunting dog. I am painfully aware of how difficulty it is to convince people, that just because you 'buy' an experienced started or "finished" dog, does not mean that you're hunting hogs successfully anytime soon.

No matter how well trained or experienced that dog is, if it does not have a connection with you, and that requires time to develop, it will most likely not hunt for you. I have seen many people pick up a dog on Friday afternoon and after I told them to give the dog time to warm up to them, they bring it back the next day convinced the dog is no good because it would not hunt for them.

I have seen many people get rid of a dog they thought was no good because it wouldn't hunt for them and then later regret giving the dog away because it became a great hunting dog with someone else. Now maybe the dog was a late bloomer, and would not fire off for anyone no matter who, what or where, or the dog failed to be motivated to hunt because of a lack of relationship with the person. Either way the failure was not on the dog, but the man.

And worse, many of us being so smart and well educated, we fail to realize that dogs and horses understand English in spite of not being able to speak it, and so fail to do something that is so simple, so easy, and so essential in establishing a working relationship with our hunting dogs; talk to them, and use proper tonality.

We may have become very disconnected from nature, but dogs still live in the pack mentality of their natural, wilderness, survival mechanisms. They are part of or at least want to be part of, a team who hunts, kills, and eats. We need to understand that dogs have not lost touch with their basic hunting instincts as much as we have. They have not 'evolved' to the degree that we have. In my opinion, we need to de-evolve. We are not as good at hunting as we think we are. And if you think you're such a great hunter, why don't you go try it without your dog?

The point here is we need the dogs to serve us in the course of hunting hogs, be it a find dog, a chase dog, a bay dog, a catch dog, or a one dog wonder who can do it all and do it all by his self.

An interesting revelation I have had recently is that many people believe a 'good' hog dog should be a long-range dog, because they have hunted with people who had long-range dogs, and that was the limit of their awareness, based upon their experience. I think their limited experience of hunting hogs with a limited variety of different dogs has caused them to fail to understand, value, and experience the benefits of a short range dog.

One of the biggest problems of a short-range dog that most people have is that the dog keeps coming back and sitting down at their feet, and then they get mad at the dog because they think the dog should be getting out and hunting. What most people who are just getting into hog hunting don't understand about a short-range dog, is that they will come back and sit at your feet when there are no hogs in the short-range.

What the dog is communicating is, "I am waiting for you to move up." And so if this is occurring and you want your dog to hunt, my advise is; you need to move up. Ideally you should be out walking in the woods when you hunt, not sitting on the ATV, the tailgate or in the boat, so if your dog checks back, he knows you are backing him up, and paying attention, and not being lazy at the mechanized conveyance and waiting for him to do all the work. If you are hunting out of a boat or truck you should be following your dog via a tracking collar and moving up as close as possible without distracting him or alarming the hog and causing it to break and run, so that the dog learns over time that he can count on you to be there if he finds a hog and starts to chase or bay. Whether he is in a chase and you are right behind, or at bay and you come in to catch, he learns that he can go as far and as fast as need be and you are there to back him up, every step of the way.

And one of my biggest complaints about hunting with someone on an ATV, is that we don't move without starting the ATV, which is noisy and is counter-productive to sneaking up on a hog and shutting it down at bay as quickly as possible.

Possibly one of the causes of hogs running so much today is so many people hunt them on noisy machines and are for the most part only alerting the hog to their position, and driving the hog away. By moving only with the machine, instead of walking slowly and quietly through the woods with the dogs, you are making it harder to hunt not easier. Think about it, if you are having a problem with running hogs you can't stop, maybe you need to work an area without the noise maker constantly giving away your position.

Many people today finding fresh sign want to drop the tail gate, open the dog box door, let the dog out and expect the dog to do all the work, and meanwhile we sit on the tail gate and wait for the chase or bay to begin.

I like to walk through the woods with my dogs, and being almost 55 years old, I prefer to be on the back of a mule and allow him to ride me through the woods because it is easier to keep up with my dogs if we get on a running hog, and I can cover more ground, not to mention, I have a more commanding view of the horizon, and if I need to haul ass and get the hell out of harm's way, I can out run a hog on a mule or horse real easy. I also have the ability to out pace my dogs, intercept them before they get to a highway (hopefully), and even get into a bay a lot quicker if damage is being done and I need to step in and intercede with a well-placed bullet and keep a bad hog from killing my dogs.

Other great benefits of riding a mule is that they are silent in the woods, and I can carry a lot more on that mule with me, than I can carry on my own. Not to mention they can go a lot of places the ATV can't. Hunting hogs off of horse and mule is old-timey, and I think most of us today use an ATV or a truck or an outboard-powered boat because it is convenient, and commonplace, but it is noisy and in my opinion counter-productive to catching more hogs than it is helpful. Yes, use it to get there, then turn it off and walk through the woods with your dogs very slowly. If a dog checks back with you, encourage them, pat their head, and tell 'em good boy, and point where you want them to go, and send them out again. Relate to the dog affectionately, enthusiastically, and verbally. Make sure the dogs knows you approve of his activity and are having fun with them.

I still think the most effective way to hunt wild hogs is with short-range dogs and we walk the dogs through the woods, or better yet ride a good mule, but that is me.

To get back to the pack mentality in dogs, as the leader of the pack, we should always guide or steer the hunt from behind, like a sheppard drives a herd of sheep, and the scouts can circle back periodically to make sure they are on track with the team. As a dog matures they expand their range and become more long range as they learn to trust that we are going to follow them no matter where they go or how far.

And remember, the scouts will always be out in front, but will basically follow the direction of the leader of the pack, who steers from behind. If you don't know what I am talking about, you and I are the leader of the pack. I am the killer and the protector, and the provider. I rule with absolute authority and power; I control the food, the water, the freedom of the dog, and its very life is in my hands, back at the camp and home. They know this because they have seen what happens to a hog when I stick em or pull the trigger, or what happens to dogs who rebel against my authority and are not in the systemic hierarchy of my pack.

Although I do discipline my dogs, I almost never ever hit them and be physically mean and abusive. The most I need to do is to raise my voice, and it is torture to a dog who is dedicated to serving and pleasing me.

To get back to the young man who got the six month year pit bull, and the heirarcal pack instinct, he did not understand that to raise up the Catahoula puppies under the pit bull was most likely going to result in the puppies being traumatized by this older dog, and being new at the game of hog hunting, he never was taught or understood that a pit bull puppy should be raised with older bay dogs, not the other way around. Furthermore, just because you get a Catahoula or a pit bull doesn't mean you have a bay dog or a catch dog. Having a well organized and fine tuned hunting team is a costly and time consuming process. It takes years to get it right, and will have to go through many dogs to find the right ones, and have a well ordered and effective organized hunting team.

Luckily for me, when I got my first Catahoulas, they were great dogs, and I lived in the wilderness where my pups grew up living off the land, with miles all around us with very few neighbors. It was common for half my dogs diet to be raw fish that I caught off of the wharf with a cast net every morning. But twenty years ago, I think the gene pool of Catahoulas had not evolved into so much trash like we got today. And on that note, today many people believe if they buy a Catahoula and it has papers, and especially if it's an NALC registered Catahoula, it will be a good dog.

Papers don't mean much unless you have the right name on those papers.

Names like Two Diamonds, Camp a While, Weems, Ray, Tuska Homma, McGuire, C.W. Crews, Carpenter, Wagers, Blue Sky, Lee, etc.

What I have found is that I lucked out from the get-go, and because I had such a great working relationship with my dogs, the old-timers, who had some of the best dogs in the business, have taken me under their wing and helped me build the gene pool that is now in my kennel to be one of the top-performing Catahoula kennels in the state of Louisiana. I want to give credit where it is due; the performance of the dogs I am breeding today is in large part due to me finding people who had better dogs then me and bringing them into my breeding program, and out crossing, not line breeding.

Now people, I am not bragging. This is no brag, just fact. I got good dogs, and I want to give credit to the old timers who have given so much to me, by passing their dogs and knowledge on to me, I didn't have to learn it all by trail and error, but I did make my mistakes, and then went to them for advise.

I want to pass it on to the next generation by helping people that are new in the business to get good dogs and learn how to properly raise them and handle them as elite, high-performance, working dogs. Be it a cow dog, god dog, pet/security, search-and-rescue, a service dog for the handicapped, or a blood-trailed dog for deer hunters.

I know this is a hog dog blog, but Catahoulas are very versatile, and it would be to your benefit to use your dog for as many different services as possible. I'm sure some of you are worried if you use your hog dog to trail deer blood, they will trash on deer, but hey, you proberbly are not hunting hogs during deer season if you got any sense, so why not have your Catahoula hog dog there to help you find that lost deer? And...you might learn that your dog is smart enough to know when you are hunting hogs to leave the deer alone. And who knows you might run into hogs while deer hunting, and bay a hog during deer season and be able to mix some wild pork into the deer sausage.

If you buy a dog from me, I will always be available for consultation. I consider that puppy which you bought from me, my dog, for the life of the dog. I hope to build a relationship with you, where we can become friends. I am painfully aware how many young people just getting into this today, do not know how to buy, breed, train, raise, or handle a Catahoula. I not only want to be a breeder, but to be available as an authority for consultation purposes, on raising, training, and handling, these fine-working dogs, that so many people love because of the way they look, but have no idea how hard it is to handle an animal that is smarter, faster, and more in-tune to their natural instincts than we are.

If you are trying to make them to be a pet and not allow them to exercise their working abilities that is bred into them, good luck. My dogs are bred to hunt, not trained. I train them to survive.

So, for the young people just getting into this today, who need to get out and commune with nature, and exercise the privilege of being the provider of meat on the table as a hunter/fisherman, a Catahoula is a great investment. But you need to put more than just money in your dog. You need to invest time in them. They want to go hunting with you; they want to go fishing with you; they want to be a part of your everyday life.

What I am getting to here is that a Catahoula is capable of a wide variety of services and functions, and you have to understand this and attempt to give the dog the ability to serve in a wide variety of working areas, so it does not go crazy trying to figuire how to be a working dog, when you got them tied up or kenneled 98% of the time. And if you want a dog to be a working dog, the hardest thing most people have with dealing with Catahoulas, is allowing them to be a puppy for the first two years of their life. Too many people expect way too much performance too soon and fail to understand how important it is to invest time just playing and having fun, and investing into the dogs pack instinct of relationship in the hierarchy of the wolf pack, or our family environment.

I will be writing articles about the finer aspects of relating to a dog as you being an absolute ruler and authority, balanced by the importance of fun and games and affection and encouragement. Too many people are one way, or the other. Either they love up on the dog and spoil them rotten and do not control the dog with absolute authority and consistency, and thus fail to be the leader of the pack, or they are so authoritative and demanding of respect and obedience, that they punish the dog and are in many cases abusive and bully the dog to the point where it is afaid of making a mistake, and it will not hunt for them, because it is too worried about making a mistake and not being forgiven, but punished as usual.

Positive Reward Training is allowing the dog to run and play and to be encouraged and rewarded with affection and head rubbing and belly rubbing, when they do something right for at least two years, and then watch what happens when they get to the woods, and they run into a wild hog.

So many times I have seen dogs purchased by people as puppies to be "made" into pets, come back to me because they are not bred to be pets, they are bred to hunt. And having never seen a hog in their life, at two or three years old, fire off the first time they go to the woods and there are hogs there. If they are bred right, they don't need to be trained to hunt.

What has been aptly labeled Positive Reinforcement Training is the primary motivation of my dogs desire to serve and please me. Over and above that, is the genetics to hunt, and in that combination, how can you go wrong? So, if you want a dog to obey you and live to please you, you will need to relate to the dog as a dog thinks, and reacts through natural instincts, and tries to adapt to our modern mechanized family life.

Maybe you didn't have a daddy to teach you to be a hunter, but that dog will none the less be looking up to you as the leader of the pack even if you are not a good leader, he is watching and analyzing your every move. If you know of someone who has good dogs see if they will let you bring your dogs and the older experienced dogs teach yours. If you are new at this try to find someone who is experienced and has a good relationship with their dogs before you attempt to go and learn the hard way, like I did for about the first ten years that I hunted hogs, before I began consulting the old timers.

Here is a video I found on Amazon.com if you would like to study hog hunting on a DVD.

4 comments:

Nathan Golding said...

You could have not said it better!!!

smithroy33 said...

Thank you for the wisdom you shared. Well said & well written. I appreciate you.

smithroy33 said...

Well said & well written! I appreciate the wisdom.

mike.speyer@hotmail.com said...

Nice.... I wanna hunt with you!