Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Is There So Great a Demand for Finished Dogs?

Amos, a 2 yr. old Plott/Catahoula cross.

There are three main factors I will address here collectively.

1. There are many new people getting into hog hunting.

2. The hogs of today are fighting and running hogs, due to genetic selectivity.

3. Too many people are breeding dogs that are not the elite, hunting stock necessary to keep up with our modern wild hogs.

Before I contemplated the answer to this posts title, I was in awe as to the number of ads listed in the "Dogs Wanted" section of As I thought about why the demand was so great, it was clear to me that many new people are getting into hog hunting and want a ready to go finished dog now. So they attempt to buy a finished, ready to go dog and have no clue as to the breeding, raising, and training that goes into a finished working hog dog. Not to mention how to handle the dog when you get to the woods, marsh or swamp. I understand that it might seem simple to many people to simply buy a finished dog and then you are hunting. But not so fast.

Although many people regard a Catahoula or YBMC as the ultimate hog dogs, they fail to understand that a large part of these breeds of working dogs hunting ability, is in their natural instincts which goes back to the Red Wolf, and thus genetics is responsible for the hunting ability, more so than in the environmental conditioning or "training" of the dog.

In the dog's mind, their natural instinct motivates them to hunt for the leader of the pack. Because you, the owner, feed and control the dogs on chain or kennel, in their mind, you are the leader of the pack, not your "best" dog.

Failing to understand the dogs natural instincts and "cooperating" with the dog or even learning from the dog, causes many people to do more harm than good in the training of hog dogs. And on that note, a bay pen should not be used by novices trying to train a dog to hunt hogs. If you are new at hog hunting, best thing you can do is go to the woods with someone who knows what they are doing or just bring your dogs to hogs and learn from the dog. Of course this, "learning from the dog", does not make sense to many people. But, think about it, if we are so smart, and hogs are so stupid, why do we need a dog?

For instance taking a dog to a baypen too many times, often causes a dog to think it is your job to bring them to hogs when in fact, what you ultimately want, is for them to bring you to the hog! It is good to take puppies into a baypen up to about 8 or 10 months, then bring them to the woods. The only exception to the rule is maybe if your puppies have never seen a hog before you can use a pen to help them get focused and know what a hog is. But make sure the hog is tough enough to not be caught in the pen.

When I advised Reggie Little that I realized my dogs were smarter than me and thus I was now learning from my dogs, he stated: "Now there is the sign of a true dog man".

So why are there so few finished dogs and such a great demand?

This is only the beginning of a very big and complex situation.

1. There are many new people getting into hog hunting.

In essence, most people want to invest money in a dog that is ready to go and not invest the time needed to develop a relationship that is in line with the dogs natural pack insticts. This relationship is built in time and it cannot be bought or over looked. My belief is the best hog dog you will ever have is the one you raise from a puppy. Because simply put, you must establish a relationship that is built over time. If... that puppy is from a proven line of hunting dogs and you raise them up for a couple of years, you will spend time with the pup and develop a close personal relationship. The problem is we live in a society that wants instant gratification.

And worse than that many people don't understand that you can't get "finished dog" performance from a dog until they are about 3-4 years old.

2. The hogs of today are fighting and running hogs, due to genetic selectivity.

So let's look at the problem of people misunderstanding wild hogs. Too many people think hunting hogs is like hunting deer.

Although deer will live and die in a one square mile area of where they are born, hogs on the other hand are very adaptable and travel great distances in a short time and may never return to where you find their sign from last night.

Often times hogs will hunker down and hide as we walk or ride through them knowing if they move they are more likely to draw the dogs attention.

Many times I have seen hogs go to deer or cattle hoping to use the deer and livestock to distract the dogs in a chase and lose them.

I also assume it is no accident that hogs run to the highway or gator hole and hope to get the dog killed. If you think hogs are dumb, guess again.

In terms of genetic selectivity or "only the strong survive"(a.k.a. survival of the fittest), if hogs don't run, and fight hard, they get caught and don't reproduce. For this reason, running hogs are the only one's to reproduce and it gets worse every generation down the line. The running hog factor is getting to be a real problem compared to the way it was when I first started hunting hogs 15 years ago.

3. Too many people are breeding dogs that are not the elite, hunting stock necessary to keep up with our modern wild hogs.

If the hunter does breed and most don't, they breed something that hunts, but doesn't come from a foundation breeding program that has produced generation after generation of high performance dogs. If you have a dog that hunts, but did not come from generation after generation of elite hunters, what makes you think it will reproduce it's hunting abilities? Unfortunately, hog hunters are often left to breed the survivors of hog hunting who are not the tight baying, find or "strike" dog because that elite dog got killed before reproducing due to running with too many dogs and catching before the bulldog got there.

Worse yet, a newbie often doesn't understand that buying a hog dog is only one element of successful hog hunting. Hunting hogs is like unlocking a treasure chest. You need a key, you need to know where to put the key and how to handle it. The dog is the key. The woods is the chest. The hog is the treasure.

Most breeders I talk to express frustration that 95% of the people calling them want finished dogs. Often times the problem with a finished dog of the catahoula breed is, it won't hunt for just anyone. Maybe if you give the dog a warm up period, which may take weeks or maybe months, they will come around. Best thing to do in my opinion is get a good started dog at about 1-1&1/2 yrs old and spend time with it before you attempt to evaluate the dogs hunting abilities. Also call the previous owner/breeder periodically and get as much info about the dog as possible. The breeder/seller may also be a wealth of information about how to raise, train and develop the kind of relationship that best fits that bloodline or specific dog.

I have found that some of the most aggravating, shy, hardheaded puppies come to be the best dogs in the end, because what makes them such a problem as a puppy is intelligence and natural instinct, ultimately leading to a great dog in the woods. Most people dealing with these problem puppies are going to ruin the puppy before it ever gets to the woods, because they punish it for doing natural puppy activities. That is not the puppies fault! My advise; let the puppy be a puppy for two years.

I was talking with a friend yesterday about his hunting partner who buys about 8 or 10 YBMC a year, and about every 4 or 5 years he gets a good one. Meaning he goes through about 40 or 50 dogs before he finds what he really wants. And what he wants is a dog that will find his own hog, and get behind a running hog and stay with him for 8 or 9 hours if that's what it takes.

He went on to tell me about a dog that they hunted as a one dog wonder until he got killed and then they had nothing coming up behind him because they failed to breed the dog before it died. Then they couldn't find anything like him for years until Clyde bought a son of Patch and Ruby from me. When he called to advise me he was about to give up on Catahoulas and wanted to know if I had anything. I told him yes, I had started pups from Patch, a new Blair bred bloodline crossed over my old Maurice line.

I sold him my pick of the litter female for $400 and gave him the pick of the litter black and tan male for free. That male went on to be the best Catahoula hog dog he ever owned and when it got killed before it was almost three years old. I predicted the female would then be even better than the male, now that he was gone. A true prophesy to this day, but initially he asked why do you say that, she was always there and helped, but he was the real find dog? I advised him to take her out and see what she'd do.

He later called me to ask, "How did you know she was gonna turn on?" I replied, "Now that he is gone, she is the lead dog and may well be a better dog than he was."

Although I only paid $100 for Patch, I looked for about 4 or 5 years before I found the elite, Blair bred, find his own hog, silent on track, don't trash, catch on command, don't need no help, load up in the truck, ready to go 24/7/365, one dog wonder, who found his own hog first time out, who is now the foundation of my breeding program.

I did not buy Patch based upon his papers, I bought him on sight. Then I got a hold of his papers and said to my self, "No wonder"! I won't mention any names, but you can go to this link on the Old Dog Hall of Fame page at the Fort Bayou Ranch website and see for yourself.

Bear in mind, I went through many culls to get where I am with Patch.

Once I had Patch for a few months, I put him in the baypen and he bayed like a master. Patch was a pet for two years before I got him. Until I brought him to the baypen that day, he never saw a hog in his life. The first day he saw a hog being bayed at my pen he was chewing the lead to get in there and get him some!

So based upon that, we went to the woods. I thought he would learn to hunt from Bob, my best dog at the time. In about 5 minutes, Bob was bayed up and as we worked our way to the bay, I heard another dog start baying over to the left. It was Patch. Instead of helping Bob and learning from an old master, Patch went and found his own hog, first time ever in the woods! Wow! I was surprised to witness the true to form performance of a one dog wonder. Just like the old timers told me; "You need to hunt him, by his self". But if you never tried it, it don't make sense.

Patch is a natural born hog dog. I can take no credit in teaching him to hunt. The experience started in his genetics. All I did was take him to the woods and he went and found his own hog in about 15 minutes out of the truck.

Better than that, it didn't stop there. Patch has produced generation after generation after him who are just like him.

Although I do still hunt Patch, I am careful to keep him from harm. He has scars to prove his grit, but Patch is much too valuable to me as a stud dog for me to risk his life at this point in the game. I hunt his children and grandchildren and hopefully I will find at least one more good cross like Ruby to breed him to before he is gone.

On the other hand when most people get a dog like like Patch, they hunt him until he gets killed and then go looking for another one to buy as a finished dog for $200. But why would anyone sell an elite, high performance, finished dog for $200? Temporary insanity? That would be my guess. Or maybe like when I bought Patch, the man did not know what he had. I even asked Mike who sold me the dog, why so cheap? I asked him that after he had my money, mind you. He said the dog was some one's pet, who had a lifestyle change, and the dog couldn't go with him, so he asked Mike if he wanted him. In essence, Patch was a rescue who ultimately found a home and a lifetime relationship with me.

Because a one dog wonder should be hunted alone, if they hunt with a pack and gang bang the hog, when help(the pack) arrives the best dog catches. If he catches before the man is there to throw the hog, guess who is most likely to get seriously injured or killed? The best dog!

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 hog dog behavior at present.

Like the old timers tell me, "You got to go back to nature".

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 or will challenge his authority and win.

When the scouts locate 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 strength 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 catches. Being caught off guard, the hog was 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.

There is something called genetic selectivity, in layman terms this is often stated as "only the strong survive". Meaning in the end, only the strong reproduce. But when it comes to hunting hogs with man and dog, if the best dog is the one getting killed, because he catches before the man is there to back him up, he is very likely to get killed before he reproduces because the person who owns him is only thinking about the short term goal of hog hunting and not breeding. And if the man is hunting with a pack of dogs the way most people do, often the dogs will catch before the man can get to the bay.

Although some of my best hunting dogs are female, I rarely hunt them because I am careful to guard my breeding stock and hunting females can distract the males if they are close to coming in heat. Too many times I left with a bitch not knowing she was close to her heat cycle. And here I am an hour or two from home and letting the dogs out at the boat landing and all the males are smelling where she just pee'd. Ohhh, Ohhhh. For this reason, I prefer to hunt males only and run my young started females to evaluate where they are. But, I also have the added benefit of keeping my best girls from harms way.

And on that note there is a lot to be said for spaying females who hunt, so to avoid the influence of a heat cycle screwing up a hunt, big time! Of course, because I am a breeder I don't practice this as a rule of thumb.

In my opinion the main reason there is suddenly such a great demand for finished dogs is that the best dogs are getting killed before reproducing and what survives to reproduce is not worth breeding because they are not the elite high performance strike dogs. Then people buying these puppies are often disappointed with the lack of performance of the dog as it matures, so the next time they buy a dog, they want to buy an experienced, finished dog. If more people would breed foundation, high performance, elite dogs, then dog buyers would be satisfied with started dogs because a well bred started dog often is finding his own hog at 1 1/2 yrs old to 2 yrs old with very little woods experience up to that point.

Unfortunately the present supply of finished dogs cannot meet the demand because most people who hunt, do not want to invest the time in raising a puppy and most breeders are not interested in raising dogs for other people to use for hunting.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hog Dog Field Trails

Arnold, a son of Patch and Ruby, born 12/17/2008.

We are forming an association to set standards in the hog dog field trail industry. There are big names who are in the know as to what needs to be done. Such as Reggie Little, who puts on a fine example of doing it right, at his Fort Bayou Ranch in Van Cleve, Mississippi.

The standard includes using quality, healthy, large boars, with blunted teeth and it is essential that honest judging be provided.

We are able and willing to support the pens that comply and shut down the ones that don't!

Of course we are all in agreement that putting on a baying is a lot of work and costs a lot of money. But... if done right it makes money and there is no excuse for keeping livestock you can't take proper care of, if you are making money from those animals. If you can't do it right, don't do it. Too many times in the past I witnessed hogs in baypens that were weak, and maybe sick, and at least once about 10yrs. ago, a hog was used that was cripple. That is unexcusable, and it makes the industry as a whole look bad.

Furthermore, we cannot avoid dogs getting cut in the woods, that is part of hunting, but in a baypen competition, where we control the hogs, feed them and worm them, we can blunt the teeth. There is no excuse for dogs getting cut in competition.

And regarding honest judging, the baying I attended this past weekend in Hardin County north of Beaumont, Tx is a perfect example of why we need to standardize the industry practices.

Ten years ago, I went to this same baypen because Bruce Hall was the judge. Two weeks later, I would go to Union Hill near Oakdale Louisiana, because Bruce was the judge there too.

But, this past weekend the judging was pitiful in spite of the fact we were assured by the management that there would be honest judging and good hogs with blunted teeth.

Bear in mind we were called by the management of the baying last week and he asked if we could help him boost attendance. Sure, we wanted to help.

But we listed our conditions: quality, healthy, large boars, with blunted teeth and it is essential that honest judging be provided.

He agreed to our conditions and we started calling our contacts. I personally invited everyone I knew in the area and brought in 5 people in two vehicles not including my own truck with 18 dogs in the trailer. I drove three hours one way and consumed about $50 in fuel expenses, one way, to get there. Time and money well spent in my opinion. I also invited several others who had already made other plans and couldn't be there. later they were amazed to hear that we had 39 dogs in the one dog bay.

We were having a great time meeting people we had not seen in a long time, not to mention making some new friends along the way.

But things turned sour for us after my one of my friends dog made a perfect run and got a less than perfect score.

We began to discuss what had happened. I had first congratulated my friend on the impressive show his 15 year old dog put on, and told him I watched the bay and did not see see one mistake. I asked him what was his score, then the word got to us that he scored a 19.8, not a perfect score of 20 that he deserved.

First let me explain something. Every dog enters the pen with a perfect score, and is judged on his mistakes. He must control the hog from running, bark continuously, maintain 100% eye contact(not look out), and back up if charged without turning around(not turn out).

If a dog cannot stop a running hog and set him up against the fence controlled by barking, looks out, turns out, or is distracted in any way he should not get a perfect score.

That being said, the old dog should have gotten a 20.

When we analyzed the situation we realized the only dog on the board with a perfect score was owned by the head judge's grandson. Now I didn't see the dog run who was given the perfect score so I talked to other people who did. They told me there was no way the judge's grandson should have gotten a 20, on account of several mistakes made by the dog and further commented that this goes on all the time and that is why they don't like to go to this baypen.

Later we discussed the same judge, doing the same thing to my friend in Van Cleve Mississippi earlier this year. Then he remembered the same judge being over-rided by Bruce Hall at a Boarbusters event in Ville Platte, La. about 12 years ago. It seems the judge gave my friend a less than perfect score, for a dog that should have been in first place. The best part about that baying run by Bruce Hall was that in spite of the judge's giving him 3rd place, at the end, Bruce stepped up and awarded my friend first place, because he knew he deserved it.

As we further analyzed the events of this past weekend we discussed some changes that need to take place for us to attend this facility again.

It seems the management of the baypen was in the back of the baying loading hogs in the chutes. An important job no doubt. But we believe he needs to be in the baypen when the events are running to monitor dogs, owners and judging. We agreed it was not his fault, if he couldn't see what was going on.

Another thing regarding the judging, is that from the platform the judges are on, there is no way they can see the dog's eyes to determine if he looks out. The judges platform is near the entrance gate to the pen and most hogs move to the far side of the pen away from the judges platform. In that scenario, the judge is looking at the dogs tail most of the time not the face. The solution to this problem is either another platform over the chutes or a judge from the side lines.

Another thing was the dogs kept sniffing the ground where a female dog had urinated. That spot needs to be treated with gasoline and then the ground turned over and sprayed with gasoline again to prevent dogs from being distracted by the scent of urine.

Now bear in mind, we had fun and we want to go again. I have many fond memories at this baypen with my daughter(now 16 yrs old) and she wants to come with daddy again.

Also my friends son was there and he wants to compete again, but unless we can convince the management that we are serious about doing this right we will not support his business. I have talked to several people who advised me that they don't go there because of crooked practices in the past. We tell them it has new management and still they are cautious. I don't blame them after our experiences this past weekend.

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.