Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A One Dog Wonder?

About a year ago I built a puppy pen attached to my bay and put about 15 puppies from several litter in it. They were running around my yard and getting into trouble so they needed to be controlled. The result of depriving them from too much freedom and focusing their attention on the older started dogs baying a hog in the pen resulted in the best way I have ever found to train a Catahoula puppy dedicated for hog hunting.

Within a few weeks most were baying through the fence as seen below.

Jessie baying with his son Gus in the foreground
and the pups of 2009 in the back.

One of the pups named Chester, out of Scarlet and Elijah,
was sent to a ranch near Nacodoches, Tx on trail as a cowdog.

One day Chester at about 11 months old, was driving a herd of cattle and crossed a hog scented trail and broke away to find his own hog and kept it at bay until the cowboys got back about 2 hours later. When the cowboys approached, he caught and they killed the hog. Upon deciding he was too inclined to hunting hogs to be a cow dog, he was sent home and I promptly sent him to my buddy John in the Silsby, Tx. area to work him on hogs.
John hunted him three times and called me yesterday to advise me that Chester had once again went out and found his own hog all by his self. John was on horseback and turned out 2 more dogs from the truck to help Chester and headed in to catch this hog. Before he could get in there, Chester took a cut in the neck and did not survive.

As a rule, I prefer to keep my started dogs out of harms way until they are about two years old as they have a much higher survival rate that way.

The problem with a Blair-bred Catahoula is that they catch when they have help. You can't break them from or train them to do this. They are bred that way, as it is the natural instinct of a wolf to catch when they have enough help.

Now I do not want to critizise my friend because this is hog hunting. We are doing battle with a very dangerous animal. And I was not there to judge for myself whether these help dogs were actually needed or not.

But it sounds to me that the only help Chester needed that day
was a man and a catch dog.

I don't blame my friend for what happened, I only hope he considers that maybe I am offering him a different kind of dog that needs to be handled in a new way from the dogs he has worked with in the past.

I am not mentioning his full name because he felt bad enough losing his new friend, and told me he had not had a dog killed in 7 years. He also talked about how well behaved Chester was riding with him in the cab of his truck, as it has been very cold lately to ride in the back, and he had been hauling him around as much as possible to help him warm up to his new master.

The point I am hoping to make here is for newbies who are just getting into hog hunting and want good dogs to learn how to handle them properly.

Hey when the old timers told me to hunt Maurice by his self, I didn't try it.

It wasn't until Patch and his descendants come along and did what they do best all alone, that I realized the old timers were right.

Smoke, a son of Angel and Handsome

I am getting a lot of calls from people who read these articles and agree with me. They hunt foundation bred dogs and the dogs live long lives because a well bred dog does not need to be trained to hunt, they need to be trained to survive, and then properly handled when hunting.

Proper handling, is hunting a one dog situation by their self so that they are not putting pressure on the hog, and thus the race is short, or so we hope.

Furthermore, by thierself they are not as likely to catch until you arrive

Then being ready to throw the hog as soon as the catch dog is turned loose.

OK, what if it is a 500# hog?

More bulldogs and more men.

And forget about sending in any other help!

I have to confess I still like to send a one dog in with a started young dog, not as help, but to train the started dog.

Josephine a sister of Chesters, and Scarlet(with red collar)

Of course, this is an ideal scenario. Reality is, that no two hog hunts are the same, and sometimes when you see the hog, turn the catch dog out and you think "we got this one!" he gives everyone the slip and is gone.

This is what makes this so exiting. Hunting hogs with dogs is a challenge and you better be ready to learn some things along the way.

I am learning from my dogs everytime I go out.

And on that note we went out on Saturday near Duson, and on Sunday to New Roads.

I am hunting with a new buddy who turned a fine long range Catahoula out and he opened up and was gone south. What I did not know was Ronnie expected my dogs to follow him, move in and stop the hog the way his other dogs do.

In time this is possible, but my dogs had only met his the day before for the first time and the two I had on Sunday were not the same dogs I had brought the day before.

The only other dogs Ronnie had brought were a young gyp and his catch dog, a Ridgeback/Catahoula cross. He assumed my dogs would honor his dogs chase and stop the hog the way his do.

And had I moved up toward Ronnie with my dogs they could have got in there and helped.

Instead, I thought we would hunt in two teams and moved my dogs away from his and we caught a small gilt and headed back to the truck to cage it in the box.

I later learned that Blue was a great long range dog with a lot of nose but not the grit to stop a running hog. Thats where Ronnie's Plotts come in.

For the most part this hunt was a scouting trip to get a feel for the lay of the land and meet a new land owner with a lot of hogs on his land.

Next time we go, Ronnie needs his full team and I want to be staged on the other side of the property so we can converge from two different sides.

Well tomorrows another day and I have a new place to scout near Crowley.

let's hope the snow is not too bad, as I have had enough of this deer season, flu season, and bad weather keeping me on the couch for the last few months.

Jessie, a son of Bob, my official swamp tour guide dog.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Foundation Bred Catahoula

Cayenne Rose, she's a hot pepper!

For over a decade, I operated my breeding program the way most people do. Find a good hunting dog and breed it to a good hunting dog and assume the result will be to get good puppies that grow up to hunt the way the parents do. Right? Seems logical, but the truth is it doesn't work that way.

For over a decade I ignored the advise of the old timers who told me to get some Blair blood and breed it on top of my old Maurice bloodline. I found a lot of good dogs and experimented with many crosses. Mostly these experiments failed. Instead of getting good dogs I was lucky if one in the litter that would hunt.

One day at the Uncle Earl's Hog Dog Trails, I saw an amazing dog being walked out of the campsite next to me, and later that day, I bought Patch on sight, then got his papers and thought; Cool, a Blair-bred dog!

About a month later, at two years old, he demonstated an amazing ability to bay a hog in my pen, in spite of never seeing a hog in his life until that day.

So...I assumed I would hunt him with Bob, my best dog, and Bob would teach him to hunt. Well, big surprize! In about five minutes after turning them out, Bob was bayed up and before I got to Bob's bay, I heard another dog baying about 50 yards away, and looked around to see who was still with me. Both young dogs were following me. Patch had gone right on past Bob and found his own hog! So just like the old timers told me, we went to the woods for the first time, and this two year old(one dog wonder), who had never hunted, found his own hog and bayed until he got cut and the hog broke.

Most amazing thing about Patch is: he does not produce one runt or one cull in his pups. Every litter is smart, fast, strong, healthy, gritty, loyal, devoted and versatile. They make good pets, cow dogs, hog dogs, blood dogs, security, are gentle with children, and are mostly getting into trouble every day as a puppy.

The last quality mentioned is grossly misunderstood by most people attempting to raise a Catahoula pup. Although they outgrow this problem at about a year or two, we can expect to be tested or schooled by a well-bred Catahoula early on. They climb over, dig under, open latched gates, tear through, destroy landscaping, furniture, toys clothes, shoes, etc.

Very important to note here that the test is to determine if you are the boss or not. If you are not, they will rule your house and yard. More importantly, be advised to control your anger, and not be mean to them for being smarter than you are. Because they are also faster than you are, you will not be able to be mean to them again, because you can't catch them.

The most important thing you need to teach a Blair-bred Catahoula is that they can trust you and they must come when called, on command.

It took me about three years of dealing with Patch's descendants to realize that the tests these pups were putting me through everyday, clearly demonstated they were smarter than me.

From that point on, I began to learn from my dogs. Soon I realized that I did not have to teach these dogs to hunt because they were bred to hunt and the hardest aspect of this new challenge was to control my desire to put them in harms way too soon. Too soon meaning, at about 20-22 months with virtually no experience, these dogs hit the ground running and went and found their own hog with no help, just like Patch did, his first time out.

You don't have to teach them to hunt, you have to teach them to survive and that means to bay until you get there. And the easiest way to accomplish this is to resist running too many at one time. In nature, they bay until help arrives, and if that help is a pack of dogs instead of you, guess who is the first dog to get killed? The best dog.

On the other hand if they bay until you get there and then catch, you are there to back them up and throw the hog and the hog as well as the dog has very little injury. So simple.

Early on, I do not have to teach them to hunt, I more importantly need to protect them from getting killed. Because a Blair-bred dog is so fast, smart, and gritty, you lose nothing by letting their muscles, bones and skin toughen up for two years, as a pup. Time after time, my customers take a two year old Blair-bred, started dog out for the first time, and he out hunts their experienced dogs.

Prior to that, many never saw a hog in the woods until almost two years old.

I am not suggesting that you can't or don't need to bring them to the woods, but be careful of running them with anything but an older, experienced dog who is a one dog wonder.

I always hunted my dogs two or more at a time until I got Patch, because that's how I learned to hunt, and I operated under the assumption that hog hunting was dangerous and the more help a dog had, the safer it was.

A foundation bred dog comes from generation after generation of proven, elite, high performance working dogs and then when bred, produces generation after generation of the same after them.

A "freak" is a dog that comes out of nowhere and makes a name for themself, and we assume because they are a good hunting dog, we can breed to them and get good pups who grow up to hunt like the adults do.

Based upon my personal failues with that program, I now breed only foundation bred dogs and the rest is history.