Wednesday, May 8, 2019

My Dogs Are Smarter Than Me

It took me a long tome to realize that my dogs were smarter than me.

Here is an instance that helped bring me closer to that realization.

I was hunting in a boat about 10 years ago, cruising a levee with a nice breeze coming off the land toward the boat, with me were Maurice and Frank my two best dogs at the time, and I could tell the dogs were winding something. Then I saw some movement up in front heading south and turned the boat into the bank to let the dogs out. When they bailed out, one went north and the other south. I immediately got angry at the northbound dog, He was going the wrong way! A least that is what I thought.

I moved up to the front, grabbed the bow line, jumped out of the boat and looked north. Maurice was stretched out like a greyhound, smoking hot, and running in overdrive on the tail of the north-bound hog! There were two hogs moving in opposite directions, with a dog right behind each one. Right before Maurice could sink his teeth into some nuts, the hog made a hard right hand turn and Maurice was moving so fast, he passed him up, put on the brakes and did a 180' turn. Meanwhile the hog leaped into the air and landed in the water about 10 feet from land. He did make but a few strokes before Maurice leaped into the water he was caught on the ear. If he couldn't out run Maurice, I assure you he wasn't going to out swim him either.

Now let's analyse this in retrospect. Based on my limited view there was one hog, From the dogs point of view, based on winding the hogs, there was more than one and they each went and found their own hog. It wasn't my plan, but they were one dog situations, doing it their way. And at that time, I didn;t believe in hunting one dog at a time. I liked to double team a hog. Problem with that is they usually have enough help and catch before I get there. And that is dangerous.

Here is another scenario which is similar.

I sold a two year old, Catahoula/Plott, dog named Amos, to a guy named Kendall from Meridian, Mississippi. He drove about 5 hours to get to me and claimed he needed a dog to produce caught hogs now, or he would lose his hunting priviledges with the farmer who owned the land and was suffering serious crop damage.

He was impressed with the 9 month old dogs he saw in my pen, but decided on the two year old named Amos. He asked how much I wanted for the dog and I told him the dog was worth a thousand if he was worth a dime. But I would help him out and sell the dog for $500. He asked if I would take $400. (Little did I know, I was dealing with a dog trader at the time)

Anyway, he took Amos and caught 4 out of 5 hogs he got on in less than a week. Looked good to me. Mission accomplished.But I was about to be played like a woman who is told what she wants to hear by a man who has selfish covert motives and is trying to get into her pants.

So next weekend, calls me up and advised me he didn't like the way the dog hunted, cuz it was hanging around his feet after he walked around this big briar patch and knew there was a hog in there because the tracks were all going in and none coming out.

I asked him what was his next move, and he said he was going in with the dog and see what happened. Later that day we talked and he advised me that after he walked into the briars, Amos went on ahead and found a sow, bayed till he got there, and caught on command, when he got close enough. In fact he caught two sows about 200# each in the same briar patch that same day about half hour apart. As he was tying the first hog, Amos went and found the other one and kept it there until he was in sight and once again Amos caught when help arrived.

I said congratulations, and he said he couldn't believe the dog was laying down at his feet when there were hogs less than a 1/4 mile away. I said the dog has been with you less than two weeks and doesn't know you yet. Until you walked in and he knew he could count on you to back him up, why hunt? He is an excellent short range dog and you have caught 6 out of 7 hogs you got on in two weeks. What is the problem? The dog is only two years old! Give him time to get to know that he can trust you to back him up!

Well he says he will bring him back and trage him out for an other dog, I said no problem, I got people standing in line for Amos.

Bring him back, I got you money right here. He says no, I don't want the money back, I want to trade him for another dog. I said OK, no problem.

Meanwhile Charlie Fontenot is planning to meet him at Fort Bayou in a few weeks and they start talking on the phone and Charlie says you are crazy if you get rid of that dog. Do you realize you may never find another dog so valuable again, and for only $400?

Charlie went on to tell Kendall that he has always caught more hogs with short range dogs because you don't spend as much time on the chase. A good short range dog that is gritty enough to stop a hog and back up and wait for help doesn't have to chase because the hog doesn't run unless there is too much pressure.

So after talking to Charlie, Kendall calls again and advised me that he decided to keep Amos, because Charlie convinced him of how valuable the dog was.

And about a week later, the next call I get from Kendall he advises me that he sold Amos and wants to come get another one. I said no! NO! NO!

I had already lined up another customer who was waiting for Amos.

Now my new customer and myself are left hanging out to dry.

I don't mind him changing his mind and keeping the dog, but it looks like maybe he sold the dog to another man in Meridian who I gave Kendall,s number to as a reference, so he could call Kendall and verify my claims about the dogs I sell.

I have never heard from either of them since.

I believe Kendal thought he could play me and do it again and again.

Meaning: Come and buy a dog for cheap from someone who is trying to help you after you pretend to be their friend and don't have a lot of money to spend and resell it for big money, and make money off of my hard work again and again.

Come on! A two year old Catahoula/Plott cross who is finding and catching hogs all by hisself is worth a lot of money.

Then there is John Meyers in the Sour Lake, Texas area.

John took Chester, a son of Scarlet and Elijah, who was already finding hogs all by hisself before he was a year old.

John took Chester and claimed he got killed, and offered to pay me the $500 he owed me for the dog the day he claimed Chester got killed. I told him don't worry about the money now, we can settle up later.

Well later I called because I needed the money and never got a return call. Then someone else who had got screwed over by John, filled me in on John's dog trading business and how there were many people harrassing John for the money he owed them on dog deals gone sour.

He advised me that John was actually evicted by his landlord because of the constant harrassment from disgruntled dog buyers coming to his house and starting arguments in the yard and that John regularly changes his phone number to avoid people who are chasing him down.

The real icing on the cake here is that Chester was seen in John's truck after John told me that Chester had been killed and the word is from a close relative of John that John sold Chester to someone near Houston for big money.

When I called John's number to talk to him, the phone had a message that the number was no longer in service.

Now why would I mention the man's name?

He screwed me over and a number of other people. And everything I was told by these other people fit my own experiences with John. Like he had three phone numbers changed in six months of my doing business with him.

BOTTOM LINE: My advise is do not do business with John Meyers!

Now should he call me and pay me, I will post that news here, but I doubt that I will ever hear from him again.

I am sharing these two incidents with my readers not to smear someone name, but to hopefully protect you from the dog traders out there.

Often when people call me I can tell that they don't know why I am so careful about screening my customers.

The Blair-bred Catahoula

About 8 or 10 years ago, I was advised by an old master trainer to bring the Blair bred bloodline into my kennel and cross them with my Maurice line. I have not regretted following that advice , but I must admit it was a challenge to make the adjustment. Because thee Blair bloodline is so well bred and has determination and grit like I never saw in any other bloodline.

Above is de la Houssaye's Valyrie, a great-granddaughter of Diamond Cutter

The Blair bred Catahoula has affected my breeding and training program so much it is like a whole new breed for me.

Above is Amos Mann and Blair's Diamond Cutter

The first thing I noticed was that almost every dog was capable of finding, stopping and holding a hog all by themself and at a very young age. It was like it was a natural instinct instead of something learned in experience. Hence the importance of breeding over training.

The next big revelation, was that I realized these dogs are smarter than me. I also learned that I could not be as harsh in my disciplinary actions as I had been with my old bloodlines. Because of a high level of wolf in the genes of the Blair bred dog, they are very sensitive to neglect, abuse and disrespect. On the other hand if you raise them up as a pup, and spoil them and make them a part of the family, they will live to please you, and die defending you if you are down.

Above is Hoyt Ferguson from Missouri and a descendent of Diamond Cutter

To properly handle these dogs one must understand the pack instinct and how that affects their behavior. In the wild, a wolf's natural instinct is to chase, catch, and kill. In the event that the prey cannot be caught, the lone wolf bays to weaken the prey and to alert the rest of the pack regarding the whereabouts of the hog. Because barking on the track would alert the game to the location of the hog and predator dog, wolves are almost always silent on the track. In essence, baying is something that must be learned from watching older dogs.

Above is a descendent of Cutter in Italy. Amas and Susan sent a Cutter pup to Italy many years ago.

Another thing I learned by observing pack behavior was that the "leader" of the pack was not in the front in a hunt. The leader of the pack allows the younger, more energetic members of the hunt to go out in front and find, and chase the game down. After the younger dogs stop the running hog, the older dog will observe the bay from a distance for two reasons.

Number 1, he stays back to wait for the hog to tire out, and not put too much pressure on the hog causing it to bust out and try to run again. Number 2, the older, leader of the pack is not as much a finder and chaser as the younger dogs, he is a killer. He waits for the hog to tire out at the bay and then makes his move.

Above is NALC reg. C Arrow Patch

By saving his energy for the kill he is much more effective in accomplishing a swift kill and avoiding injury to himself or other members of the pack.

Above is Scudder, a great-grandson of Cutter

I am Marcus de la Houssaye and I can be reached by email at

The Pack Instinct

Because a Catahoula often has a high degree of wolf in the genetics, it is very important to understand what is motivating a dog instinctually, if you are going to train or hunt one.

The first and most important thing you need to train a well-bred Catahoula is to come to you on command because if they are bred right, they will get away from you and hunt.

As a rule, a Catahoula will always check back and sometimes too often in some people's opinion, but that is the nature of the breed. If they won't come to you, when you call them off of a wild boar with cutters, and you can't catch or kill the hog, you may lose your dog because they may get killed or you will never be able to catch up to them.

A lot of people make the big mistake of chasing a dog that won't come. I have learned this the hard way myself. Better to bribe them with food than to get mad and chase or throw things at them and cause them to not trust you.

A Catahoula lives to please it's master if he is well treated and thus trusts those whom he loves he will come and be rewarded with praise and a rub on his ribs.

ALWAYS reward a dog that comes to you when you are trying to win their trust. If he is skittish or shy, tie him up or kennel and spend time with him and talk to him and massage his ribs (which is very pleasurable)and cause the dog to learn that you are a nice person.

Dogs already know most people are liars and are not nice and so live with a great distrust of humans to start with. You must wearn their love, trust and devotion. Many people have claimed that hunting dogs should not be treated as pets, and I understand the logic as it might apply to other breeds, but that doesn't apply to a Catahoula. The more I spoil my dogs rotten, the harder they hunt for me!

The pack instinct causes them to want to go everywhere you go especially if you are the leader of the pack. And if you are not the leader of the pack, they will challenge you to become the leader of the pack (male or female) and if you are not the leader of the pack, now the dog is making the rules.

I am Marcus de la Houssaye and I can be reached by email at Sorry, but my cell phone is currently private and I am no longer taking calls.