Thursday, June 17, 2010

Can't Get Your New Dog To Fire-Off?

If you have young started dogs that are well bred and not firing off, maybe the solution is not getting new dogs, but handling them differently. And... this is very important: give them time. Some dogs are late bloomers, and do not fire off until a year and half or two and a half. I know many people who were convinced the dogs were not any good because they were not baying at a year old and got rid of the dog and later regretted the rejection. Even if you get new dogs, and you keep repeating the same thing that didn't work with the last bunch of started dogs, if it is not the dogs, and it's you, changing dogs don't change nothing.

Based upon the last few years of doing business on the Internet, I have learned there are a lot of people out there assuming they are going to find a good finished hog for cheap. The reality is, there are too many people hunting hogs at the moment to find good finished hog dogs at a cheap price, unless you are very lucky, and find someone who is getting out of it, or going through a divorce, lost their job, or moving and the dogs can't go.

You are more likely to to succeed in purchasing a good hog dog at a price you can afford if you get a well bred, well raised(as a puppy), well started, hog dog and invest some time in the dog and get them warmed up to you before you expect to see some positive results in the woods. It is not uncommon for me to spend a 3-6 month time frame warming a dog up in my yard before bringing them to the woods.

But this article is not so much about breeding or the very important factor of relationship with our dogs as much as diet.

And the point I want to make here is we have to go back to nature and understand what motivates a wolf to hunt in the wild: he is hungry!

I was speaking to a young man in Florida who had 5 started dogs who wouldn't fire-off and get out and hunt. These dogs were young, well bred and had experienced many hunts with dogs that would leave out and find hogs. Even though they would honor the bay, most of the time they were hanging around his feet. He tried everything and was about to give up and get some more dogs, but he just so happened to call me shopping for dogs and I began to coach him and question him about his past experiences, and the results have been very encouraging. He thought he would come to me to get some more, because the 5 he had weren't working. After talking a few times he started trying different things, and 2 of the five are fired off real well, and the other three appear to be catching on too.

And what did he do different?

He started cutting back on their feed.

Often times we think if we are nice and generous to our dogs they will reward us, but in nature a dog doesn't hunt unless they are hungry.

What makes you think it is any different in your domestication of your hunting dogs.

Now don't starve your dog, Please!

But cut back gradually, and don't feed them the day before you hunt.

And better than that, don't feed them for 48 hours before hunting.

And the day you hunt, bring feed with you and feed them in the woods before you leave the truck. But only feed them about a cup so as not to fill them up. And this is very important: when you get back to the truck after hunting, feed them well, say about 4-8 cups of feed before you leave to go home. If they have not eaten a day or two before the hunt it is a reward after the hunt, especially if they have gotten out and hunted, to pour the feed on them and let them eat as much as they want.

When you do this it not only rewards the dog for hunting with you, but if they get lost, and are hungry, and know you fed them before the hunt, and the last time they got back to the truck after a hunt, and there was feed there, they may save you a scouting trip looking for a lost dog at the end of the day, and come to the truck on their own.

I guess you are thinking if they are hungry and know there is feed in the truck, they won't leave out. But stop second guessing me here, I am trying to teach you something about natural instincts in a dog and common sense in us. Most of us do not operate from a point of common sense. We're not living off the land like our ancestors did; we get our groceries at the store. We feed our dog from a bag. And so we are out of touch with common sense things our ancestors understood from the necessity of living off the land and depending upon their dogs to put meat on the table and survive in the frontier days and during the Great Depression of the 1930's.

Point is, like us, our dogs have gotten spoiled by the abundance of our prosperity in the last century. In the old days, people lived off the land and they hunted for meat regularly. Even if they had domestic livestock, the dogs were a part of the slaughter and would receive scraps and fresh blood when a domestic animal was killed.

Today we are so domesticated, us and our dogs, that most of us are out of touch with common sense things which our ancestors used for everyday survival. If you want good dogs, you need to be open-minded. Better yet, find an old timer, sit with them, talk to them, and more importantly, listen to them. Even if it does not make sense, go try what they tell you to do. I don't want to say forget everything you know about training a hunting dog but be careful about assuming something you "think" makes sense, when you actually haven't experimented a whole lot of different ways to train or make a dog fire off and get out of your feet and hunt.

I believe a lot of dogs are hanging around our feet because they are trying to figure out exactly what it is we want them to do.

Even if they are bred to hunt and you don't need to "train them" because the hunt is in them genetically, you need to motivate your dog to hunt, by controlling the diet.

Let me repeat this: In nature a hungry dog hunts, and a dog with a bellyfull of food lays around, and hangs around and won't leave out to hunt until it gets hungry again.

For years, I thought I knew better than the old-timers trying to tell me what to do. It wasn't until my dogs showed me what the old timers told me, that I realized I was wrong all along, and most of the time! The old timers never lied to me, and they never told me anything that I did not live to see with my own eyes, but it really was often not until my dogs taught me what the old timers told me, that I believed it.

Now, if you want to believe you're smarter than your dog, go ahead. But I want to advise you, no two dogs are the same, and if you have these Blair bred dogs I am presently breeding and working with, you need to change the way you handle them in the woods and change the way you relate to them in your yard or they just won't hunt for you. If a dog does not hunt the way you want him to hunt, you might consider trying to hunt the way the dog wants to hunt. And... learn something new about hunting hogs, because hogs are getting smarter all the time, and we need to adapt or change the way we hunt to keep up with these new, smart, fast running hogs. Your dog may need for you to let him show you how he hunts for you to understand that hog hunting is an ever changing scenario, that differs from geographical local to season, to hog and to dog. No two hog hunts are ever the same.

Let me finish telling you about the young man in Florida.

After he started cutting back on feed, his dogs were not standing around his feet as much. Now they are young, and they wanted to hunt, but as long as they had a belly full, they had no natural motivation to hunt. In nature, a dog gets hungry and then they hunt. That is the natural order of things. If you think you're going to change this, good luck!

In the last month, since he started cutting back on feed, Clayton's dogs have hunted. They have found hogs every time because he took them to where there were hogs and they were hungry, so they hunted.

It is so pleasurable and satisfying for me to know that he didn't need a new dog, he needed a little understanding, and some coaching, and to be point-blank, from my perspective, some common sense.

Now,I could have sold him a dog, and before it's over I may sell him a dog, but before he gets my dogs, I want him to know how to handle them.

Breeding, raising, training, are all important. Even if you buy a finished dog, if it is not properly handled when you reach the woods, it may not hunt for you. The most important part of handling a new dog starts at your house, in your yard, and in your truck. If you get a new dog, and it's well-started or even finished, I suggest if you know that it hunts, give it four to six months just to warm up to you because a good dog that was raised by someone else may not hunt for you until he trusts you.

And what I mean by that is: he can trust you to back him up and be there, when the baying starts. If he knows it is his job to find, stop and bay a hog, and wait for you to get there to catch, he will live to be a great dog.

I know what you're thinking: if it's a good dog, it'll hunt for anyone, and that may be true for experienced dogs that are handled by a lot of different people. But there will definitely be a warm up period of several months if you buy a started or finished dog, which could be a lot longer than most people want to give a dog. I understand you paid a lot of money for the dog and you want it to hunt, but hunting hogs with dogs is team work. And you need to work with them as much as they need to work with you; try to find a balance; be a part of the team; don't expect your dog to do it all by himself. And one the most important things you can do to warm up and motivate a dog to hunt for you is to pet them, and talk to them enthusiastically, and love on 'em.

Especially if it's a young dog. You should walk him through the woods; follow them as close as possible; try to be as silent as possible. Ideally, I like a mule, horse, or electric golf cart, and if that don't fit, walk it out.

I'm making two points here. Number one, diet. Number two, relationship. Although diet is easy for many people, relationship is a challenge, for the simple fact that they don't understand that their dog understands English, and thus they don't talk to them. I cannot emphasize this enough: you need to talk to your dog in pleasant tones. When you get excited, notice your dog gets excited with you. They should hear it in your voice, and if you have that kind of relationship with your dog, where they live to serve you, they literally worship you, and they will be watching your every move and hanging on every word you say. And this is very important: your dog is analysing your every word and move. If you spend enough time in this kind of relationship with your dog, especially with a good well-bred dog, you will learn there are some kinds of things that need to be in a dog that cannot be bought, no matter how good and experienced the dog is, they must be earned.

Now if you think you don't need to spend time with your dog, how about you ignore your wife and kids? Let's see how long they stick around. Let's see if they will worship you, and serve you?

While I was writing this, I got a call, and so I just got off the phone with Clayton. His new dog, nine months old, just found and bayed, and he caught, about a hundred pound hog. He sure was proud of his new dog, and they did this with a couple of the year-and-a-half-old that just fired off in the last month on account of he does not hunt them with a belly full like he did when they weren't firing off and getting out. He does not feed them the day before he hunts, and when he gets out of the truck and opens the box, the dogs aren't hanging around his feet the way they did when I first started talking to him a couple months ago.

They are getting out and they are hunting hogs. And at a year and a half, this is the perfect time for a dog to begin to get out and engage a wild hog in the woods and survive.

Now you may think I just talked myself out of selling a dog. But, what I have done here is made a new friend, and I'm not in this for the money, because if I was, I would have declared bankruptcy a long time ago and quit breeding dogs. I love my dogs, and according to Reggie Little, you can ask him if you don't believe me, he claims I am one of the top trainers and I got the best handle on dogs in the business. I'm assuming he knows why: that is I talk to my dogs. I spend time with them, and I let them be their own peculiar self, but I'm always the boss in the end. So if you're new at this, and you want some good dogs, the first thing you need to understand going into this, it's going to cost you a lot of money to hunt hogs. and before you start shopping for a dog, I suggest you save your money, and buy yourself a GPS tracking system because if you have good dogs, and you are hunting hogs, you're going to waste a lot of time looking for them and you're going to lose a lot of dogs and it's going to cost you a lot more than the five or six hundred for the tracking system.

Now should you get a new dog, and you don't have a tracking system, spend time with the dog, months even--letting the dog warm up to you. Save your money, and get yourself a tracking system before you lose your good dog. If you have a good dog, and you're hunting hogs, you're going to need a GPS tracking system. If you can't afford a tracking system, try to hunt with people who do have one and use their collars on your dog. In the near future, I plan to write another post dedicated to dogs diet in relation to hunting hogs, and talk about another important aspect of a dogs natural diet: raw meat.

Now let's get of this Internet and go spend some time in the woods with our dogs.

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