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.

1 comment:

bigb said...

I really liked this post and agree on most of it is there anyway i good get hold of you about prices on good hog dogs.