Ed Barnes on Bulldogs
“Bulldogs” is a very large topic, and I will do my best, but I have to admit right now, it is not my area of expertise. For a good many years, as I have already told you, I didn’t use a bulldog. Here in ranch country the bulldog is either loved or hated. The majority of the old timers coming in on the hate side. “Hate” is a strong word, but along the way I kind of soaked in the anti-bulldog sentiment, not from experience but just from rubbing elbows with the old men that were not in love with them.
When my dog pack went to the totally loose side I needed a bulldog. A neighbor had picked up an APBT pup for free at the tire shop down the road and after the “puppy” wore off they grew uninspired and offered him to me. He was a looker for sure. I put him in my most iron-clad kennel and kept a sharp eye on him. I was weary to say the least. I named him “Chunk,” and he was a chunk! Luckily for me he was a natural, because I probably would have ruined a lesser dog. To this day I measure bulldogs off Chunk’s back. This dog would blow into a bay, then slow way down or even stop as he got within seeing distance. Chunk would look the situation over and plan an attack. Most times he would circle around behind and come in from the right side, hit the ear and body up to the hog and ride him like a pony. He’d drop his back end and anchor, and never shake or thrash around. A hog would spin trying to get a jab at him but he stayed stuck to the side and out of harms way. I caught countless hogs for 6 years with Chunk. In those 6 years I put stitch or staple to him no more than three or four times, all the while wearing no vest! Chunk died in his prime in a four-wheeler wreck. I haven’t owned one better, or even equal since and I seem to go through about 2 a year.
Over the years I have acquired a fondness for bulldogs. You just can’t watch a breed with so much heart and gameness and not admire it. Their fierce loyalty. Their total and complete lack of fear. Their strength. Their willingness and eagerness to do battle with another animal that by numbers alone should be able to handle them, but cannot because of the bulldogs mindset!
I hear it all the time, folks bragging that their bulldog “Hits like a freight train,” I usually smile and nod, all the while wondering what they are thinking. Now it’s kind of entertaining to watch a hard hitting dog, but it’s not the best way. The bulldog I have now does it, and I don’t like it, and his life will not be a long one because of it! “Gumbo” flies in head first, hits an ear from head on and half the time he is caught on the right ear with his body across the snout on the left side of the hog. More times than not he looks like a rag doll getting tossed around. He gets cut on sows! He’s no star obviously, but he’s a solid dog that gets the job done most nights. He doesn’t miss too awful much, never lets go and has no dog aggression. For these reasons he will eat my dogfood and do the job he loves and the job I ask of him, however sloppily.
I have often wondered if the catchdog vest is in part responsible for sloppy dogs? Before store bought vest were readily available we did without, or made do, sloppy and unintelligent dogs culled themselves. Years ago I took an old canvas army tarp and cut a pattern and had the wife sew me a vest. I really thought I had something, and it was better than nothing, but of course it cannot compare to the vest we have today. But are these hi-tech vest saving the lives of lesser dogs that go on to breed yet more lesser quality dogs? I would have to say they are, the only question is on the quantity and impact it is having on the breed as a whole. After I lost Chunk I began the search for a replacement and nothing seemed to stack up. After years of lesser dogs I had somewhat found myself accepting of the fact. A couple years ago, after catching a hog and watching sloppy bulldog work I found myself thinking back to Chunk the next few days. I wondered if Chunk would have even been the kind of dog he was if he had worn a vest his whole career. Since that day I do something different with my new bulldogs. When I start a bulldog he doesn’t wear a vest until I see that light click on, where he gets tired of being cut-down all the time. Some wise up, they get a style. Some never get that light bulb moment, but they all get the opportunity.
We cannot talk about bulldogs and not talk about gamebred dogs or even dog fighting. No matter which side of the dog fighting fence you are on we have to all agree that fighting dogs made the APBT. Without the fighting the breed would not be where it is today, that is not even up for debate! The money and the fame fueled the flames to breed better and better bulldogs, and those men did. I am not going to go deep into gamedogs, but I have had the honor to sit and talk with some of the old guard and some world famous dogmen and I have yet to meet one that did not love the dogs to the center of their being. The gamedog men have taken the science of breeding, nutrition, and care further than any other dog sport and they hold a wealth of knowledge that cannot be rivaled in the dog world. To shun that knowledge because of it’s source is a waste. I have never been to a dogfight, I have no desire to either, but I respect a man’s freedom to do as he pleases as long as it doesn’t infringe on my rights, and I will gladly take any well placed advise from any source.
I have never owned a gamebred dog, though I have hunted with many. It is the difference between a .22LR and a .22Mag. The two best catchdogs I have seen, after Chunk, were both gamebred; Mongo and RJ. Mongo was owned by my good friend and hunting partner Kolby. He was Carver / Eli bred and hell on a hog. I only saw the dog miss one time in two years, though he lacked the smarts of Chunk he was a fine canine. RJ was owned by a man I used to hunt with a lot and he was an equal of Mongo though I can’t remember his breeding. Both of these gamebred dogs had a level head, they both had a switch and as long as the switch didn’t go off we were fine, but if the switch got flipped it was going to be ugly! I could toss my bulldog in the same box hole with either of them and not worry about a fight. RJ and Mongo both would be considered ‘hot’ but they had the intelligence to go with it. Not all ‘hot’ bulldogs share this trait though! For myself I have never seen the overwhelming benefit of the ‘hot’ bulldog when coupled with the risk. I just place such a high value on my baydogs that I don’t see the benefit, many will disagree and it is a personal decision.
Whether a ‘hot’ gamedog, or a ‘cold’ gamedog (a term I don’t agree with) or a side of the road or pound bulldog, socialization is the key! I will not take a bulldog over 4 or 5 months old unless I know where it came from and am 100% certain it has had the right handling. Bulldogs take a heavy hand, a bulldog that has ruled the roost the first year of his life is a handful! One time I was in bad need of a catchdog. I had an acquaintance, who was by no stretch of the imagination a dogman, and he offered me a bulldog about a year and a half old - perfect age to start. I looked the dog over, made some fast movements around him, grabbed him in the flank hard, showed dominance and the dog was fine, just happy go lucky. I took the dog home and staked him out on a chain spot. I kept an eye on the dog for a week and saw no warning signs at all. One day I was out in the yard and my boy, about 6 at the time, walked past the dogs chain spot and this thing came alive! The dog was mid-air, mouth agape right at face level with my boy and my heart sank. The dog hit the end of the chain and I bet his mouth wasn’t 4 inches from the boys face. I was already at a run and pushed the boy back. The dog shrank with me around and went back to normal. That dog never ate another scoop of my food, and I never took an old dog from someone I didn’t know and respect again. Most run of the mill Johnny home owners can’t handle real bulldogs, or even real Catahoulas. Don’t take their trash.
The feed bowl, like most times, is the best training tool in your toolbox. I like to feed a bulldog pup with an older grouchy dog, while standing right there. You want a dog that will exert dominance but not take it too far! (This method will work with some bulldogs, but not most ‘hot’ dogs, even as pups their heart will overpower their body.) I let the old dog whoop the pup off the food, then after a bit let the pup finish it off. After a dozen times of this I feed the bulldog pup by himself, but this time I whoop him back, he eats when I LET him eat. As always, it can’t always be punishment, you have to show these dogs a lot of praise. I am against hunting dogs, and dogs in general, in the house except when it comes to bulldogs, bring them in, pet them and let them sleep in your bed if your of that mindset. The very best catchdogs you will ever see spend a ton of time with their owners. Haul the pup to town, get him around people, dogs, horses, cows and bigfoot - show him the whole world and show him you are the center of it.
A good handle on a catchdog is golden. No one likes a pulling dog as you walk to a bay. No one likes a dog that can’t be tied back near other dogs after a catch. No one likes a dog that squeals at the truck when he can hear a bay. It’s all pretty simple stuff yet many just deal with it and don’t put in the work to make their hunt more enjoyable. A few years back I was eating lunch at a gas station and ran into an old friend. We got to talking about hunting and I let it slip I was in need of a catchdog, seems I’m always looking for a catchdog when everyone is looking for a strikedog. “Hey, I got one you can have,” he sounded eager, “She’s old but she will catch good!” I figured. “Only thing is, keep her away from other dogs after a catch ‘cause she will sure grab another dog.” I was forcing interest. “And if you gotta whoop on her just give her two swats, third one she’s gonna eat your lunch!” I weaseled my way out of that very politically. Why feed such a dog? Life’s too short.
Squealing at the truck is a very simple fix, even in a hard headed dog. A shock collar or a stick will do the trick. Often with age they will settle into things on their own. Pulling is simple too, it just takes the time. Take about 20 feet of rope, roll the tag end up and leave about 4 feet to use as a lead on the dog, keeping the very end of the rope tightly in your hand. As you lead him if you notice he is pulling or even not taking note of where you are, drop the slack in the rope, grasp the tag end hard, put it to your chest and take off running as fast as you can in the opposite direction. When the slack is gone you will have the dogs attention. Repeat. After just a few times you will notice the dog keeping a visual reference on where you are, he doesn’t want to be surprised to find you running the other way. Repeat every day for a few days and most dogs will lead much more comfortably. Use a wide collar when doing this, the object isn’t to snap their neck, but just to get close. When you ‘lead’ a dog you should be in front, with the dog slightly behind you or at least even with you. If the dog is at the end of a rope 4 feet in front of you who is leading who?
Another trick for stopping the pulling dog is simple to do, but hard to explain. I will give it a shot though. Snap the lead to the dogs collar. Run the lead down his side and at the flank put it under the dog and loop it around over the back. Now loop the remainder of the lead around the part you ran down his side, the tag end going in front of the lead going down his back and then behind the dog for you to lead from. This makes a ‘second’ collar that goes around his flank. The slightest pull from you tightens it. The first few times some dogs will lose it, flip over and flop like a fish. It is not terribly painful, but he flank is a dogs soft spot, it is vulnerable. If you want to see a dog’s real temperament grab them in the flank.
While we are on handle let’s talk about a catchdog releasing on command, it is often spoken of as the holy grail of catchdogs. It takes a great deal of training to get a bulldog to release on command, I doubt I could do it. I respect the time and effort invested but I don’t want such a dog! I don’t even like the dog that can be pulled with constant pressure off a hog. I want to physically break a bulldog off a hog. I do not want to run into a bay, guys screaming at each other and the bulldog ‘think’ he heard the signal to release. Things could get more dangerous than they need to be! And while we are talking about breaking dogs off lets discuss the proper way, because I’ve seen far too many boys put a breakstick in my dogs mouth and get yelled at. A breakstick is not meant to be used like a crowbar, thats just a good way to break teeth. The breakstick should go well behind the canines, towards the back 2/3rds of the mouth. To get the dog to release it is not a prying action, it is a twisting action, like revving a motorcycle throttle, just enough so that as someone else is holding good pressure on the dog lead the dog slips off the ear. My friend Ronnie Creek turned me on to an even more gentle way to break dogs off a hog, and while it hasn’t worked for me on all dogs, when it does work it is very simple and easy. Ronnie fashions a deer antler, about 7” long or so, at a sharp angle you put it in the dogs mouth and reach to the back of his tongue with it, a little bit of pressure and the dog will release. It is almost a gagging reflex. I’ve seen old timers blow in a dogs ear to get them to release, I have also seen old timers about get their face bit off doing so! I’ve sat back and watched kids choke a dog off, all the while shaking my head in dis-belief. I have also seen guys kick dogs, punch dogs, and beat ‘em with a lead - obviously that is sending mixed signals and should never, ever be done.
I came across the single most elegant way to break a bulldog off a hog while a sow chewed on my fingers! We were hunting around Texarkana one night in a light snow. The dogs were on fire! We got a nice sow caught and the dogs were rolled out on the next one. As usual we had a bulldog latched on to an ear and no one had a breakstick. I was observing as another man handled the hog. The dog wouldn’t release. I started gathering up a tree limb to use as a make-shift breakstick like I always do when I noticed the dogs were bayed in the distance. I found me an appropriate stick, and in a hurry reached across the hogs head to break it - a move I KNEW was wrong but I was in a hurry to get to the next hog. This sow flung her head in the blink of an eye and had my two middle fingers between her teeth before I could string a decent set of cuss words together. Everyone just laughed as I screamed like a girl. This sow must have been half snapping turtle as she wasn’t letting go and there was little chance of a lightening strike. Through the screams I managed to get the words out, “Cut this bitches ear off!” The sow was grinding and the bulldog was yanking and my two fingers were caught in the middle. After the bulldog was off I managed to get the sow off me after repeated punches with my left hand to her head. My left hand hurt almost as much as my right when it was all over. And of course everyone laughed, except me!
A bulldogs adult teeth do not set in until they are about a year and a half old. While we can do a little bit of training to catch before then, with small pigs, we do not want to put the dog to a true test until the teeth are set. The canine teeth are important, but not as important to holding a hog as many think, still we want to protect them. There is no rush, and the first year and a half of a bulldogs life is time to get his basic training and socialization done anyway. I like to haul a bulldog pup along on hunts, in the box just to get them around the baydogs and other catchdogs, with no expectation of doing anything else with them. Haul the pup to town. Expose the pup to as many other dogs as you can. Teach them basic commands. Teach them to lead properly. It’s like training a horse, when you expose them to as many things as possible so that when the situation comes up in the real world you don’t have a rodeo on your hands.
When our bulldog is old enough to start with teeth fully set we will start with a pig about the same size as the dog. I like to put one or two baydogs in the pen to bay, then hold the bulldog outside of the pen for a good while. You want to see the bulldog wanting to get in there! If the bulldog is not consumed with the desire to get in there amp the excitement and anticipation up, if time does not do this then get the hog to squeal. Sometimes the squealing will kick in a dogs prey drive. If our dog is losing his mind we are almost there, but we aren’t just throwing him in to see if he catches! Instead we catch the pig, remove the baydogs from the pen entirely and lead the bulldog to the pig that is being held down on his side. Lead the bulldog to the ear! Keep the dog lead tight in a way that enables you to stop him from catching anywhere but the ear. It may seem like a small thing, but habits start with small things! Two or three times in a single day is as much as I want to do this. If the dog is going in straight for the ear, I will stop here with the hog held down and move on. If the dog is wanting to catch anywhere, or anywhere other than the ear then we will repeat the training with the dog on lead. The goal here is to increase our odds of making an ear dog.
The next step is letting the dog catch a hog in a pen without the help of us. We can use baydogs to bay the hog and send him, like in the woods, or we can just let the bulldog in the pen on his own. I prefer to bay the hog first, it cuts out the chasing the hog around and mimics our hunting better. The hog should be close to, or slightly larger than the dog. When the dog catches we move in fast and break him off the hog. We are not testing his dexterity! If the dog catches ear then we can ease our way on to larger hogs. After a few goes he can be hauled to the woods. First few times in the woods I like to send an older catchdog first, then stagger the younger bulldog in, so that the hog is caught when he gets there. This serves a couple purposes; 1. We don’t lose a hog, and 2. It is a confidence booster for the young dog.
If the bulldog doesn’t catch ear in the pen the first time he has to catch without us, then we can back up and go back to holding the hog and focusing him on ear. Do NOT reprimand him for not catching ear, nothing good will come of that!
If you have a ‘hot’ bulldog that you are worried about catching another dog in the pen then we have a big problem! If you ‘think’ this may happen then save yourself the trouble, heartache, and liability and find another catchdog prospect!
Many hog hunters ‘like’ a jaw-dog, or leg-dog but I tend to think most ‘like’ that because that is what they have instead of having a jaw-dog because that is what they like. Chicken or egg I suppose? An ear-dog has a few benefits, for starters it is the safest spot for a bulldog to catch. An ear-dog also causes much less damage on a hog then a jaw, leg, snout or ‘wherever I land dog.’ Snout-dogs can control a hog a little better, but it is dangerous and often a hog caught with a snout-dog has to be killed because of a broken snout. I have seen very large boars scream like little girls when a snout-dog has them. In a way, it is almost like twitching a horse. I still opt for the old fashioned ear-dog.
I prefer to send two bulldogs to a bay. On what I believe to be a single hog I will stagger turning the bulldogs in according to their speed so that they get there at the same time - in theory. On a wad of hogs I will send the lesser quality bulldog first (the first catch is the easiest) and hold the better bulldog back so that he gets there a few moments after the first dog. This, again in theory, is so that each dog will catch his own hog, although it seldom works, but I still try.
In today’s world there is a whole mini industry when it comes to vests. Catchvest come in wide array of styles, sizes and materials. Despite the advertising campaigns there is no 100% hog proof vest. If there was a 100% hog proof vest it would likely be a death sentence for the dog that had to wear it. I will not advertise for any vest makers, but there are definitely ‘better’ vest around. They are not all the same! The hog hunter has to think for himself though, the ‘best’ vest in one climate, and terrain is not the ‘best’ in another situation. The ideal vest does not limit the dogs movement, it does not hold in heat, it does not take on water making a dog drown. The ideal vest will stop most cuts, and minimize the severity of others. One thing I will say is get a vest with a built in collar! I find it kind of odd that they still make them in two pieces. They make vest/collars with velcro and plenty of overlap but in my opinion nothing matches up to the build in collar. When a hogs cutter slides off the chest it naturally tends to go in an upward motion and if it finds that separation between collar and vest the cutter falls right in place to slit your dogs throat - that gap as a guide! If you do use a two piece vest/collar put the collar on first, with the vest going OVER the collar. The collar needs to be loose enough that with normal motion of the dog’s head the collar slides on the neck instead of staying put and opening up the gap.
One night, long ago I ran into a bay to a terrible sight. The bulldog was wearing a 2 piece vest and the boar had gotten a cutter between the collar and vest. In fact, it was stuck! The bulldog was getting thrashed, and that is putting it lightly. The hog wanted rid of the dog, but it just wasn’t happening, and the dog, despite the thrashing was trying to get a grip but couldn’t. The old boar had resorted to chewing on the dog best he could. In reality it was probably only a minute, but it seemed an hour as I tried to leg this boar that wasn’t anchored. After some time the bulldog came loose of the tusk and got an ear. With the aid of the baydogs we caught the hog but the bulldog was in pretty bad shape! The vest that was meant to protect the dog had done the opposite!
It seems like a no-brainer to vest your bulldog but that is not always the case, sometimes the safest thing to do is send them in with just their god given skin. Our decisions as dog owners effect our dogs. It seems obvious, I know, but a couple years ago I made a combination of a couple lapses in judgment that my dog had to pay the price for.
I was laying on the couch watching teevee, the phone rang and it was my friend Kolby. He spouted out some slurs while telling me we needed to turn some dogs out. It was around 85 degrees at 2 pm, in early August a cool spell for sure. Usually I stand my ground about hunting in the day during summer, but the cool air had me thinking of fall so I loaded a couple dogs and headed out. (mistake number one)
We drove down an old road we could barely make out, on the ridge of a deep holler. When we got to where we could no longer make educated guesses at where the road used to be, we stopped and kicked a couple cur dogs out. They dropped to our left and sounded off a time or two at barely 60 yards on the x axis, and about 100 yards on the y axis. It was a good ways down! We could hear a very large group of hogs; grunting, charging dogs, and just generally being fussy. I grabbed a video camera, told Kolby and Tanner I would text them when to send bulldogs, and started down.
When I got to the bottom of the holler there was a clearing and a wad of around 50 hogs just 20 feet in front of me. The dogs were circling, barking now and then but not 'bayed.' Seems our dogs will bark less on large sounders of hogs, concentrating more on wadding them up with their movement rather than by baying. I climbed a tree, and started the video. To my right about 100 yards I could hear another wad of probably around 20 hogs.
I sent that text to the boys telling them to send bulldogs. (mistake number 2) I waited, ears cocked for the sound of those two bulldogs crashing down the mountain. I never heard it. I could hear voices down in the holler to my right, closer to where I had heard the sounder of maybe 20 hogs. The big wad was still right in front of me, and the two dogs were darting around and really doing a fine job of putting just the right amount of pressure on the hogs. Finally I thought to look at my Garmin. My heart sank when I saw my bulldog "treed" at 650yds to my right. Immediately I recognized just how hot these mid-80's temperatures were.
The boys had sent the bulldogs towards me, but before they could get there I guess, they heard the fussing of the smaller sounder and went to them instead of the group I was watching. The dogs weren't hammering hard enough to draw the bulldogs to them.
I climbed from my perch and took off in the direction my Garmin was pointing to my dog. Along the way I ran into Kolby, we were both gasping for air in the windless bottom. We kept up the pace, "Backup is caught...... or stroked out," I got the words threw the thick spit in my mouth. Kolby cursed a bit, at a run.
When we got to the dogs, Tanner had a boar legged. Backup was laying on his belly in tall grass about 5 feet from the pig, and he is not that kind of laid back dog. Tanner's catchdog, Red, was caught, but staggering and he was in rough shape. I took the hog from Tanner so he could tend to his dog. The truck was a good half mile away. We had no water! (mistake number 3)
Red was in pretty bad shape so I told Kolby to cut his ears. We striped the vest off both dogs and Kolby took an inch off the tip of each ear. The ears bleed a lot, for whatever reason they take a long time to clot. The idea with ear clipping is that the blood loss cools the body. It is a last resort approach though, so use that little nugget with caution.
Kolby said he knew about where a little mud hole was so he and I took off at a run. When we found it we stripped our shirts off and filed them with the thick mud and took back off towards the dogs. Red had passed on when we arrived, and Backup looked a little worse so we clipped his ears. We rang the little bit of water from our shirts onto his groin. The mud was cool so we coated him in it and then scrapped it off. I got him up on my back and we hustled back towards the mud hole. After a little wallowing he seemed to be getting along better. Kolby had taken off topside to get a 4 wheeler and when he got back we loaded the dog and he took off at breakneck speed for the house while Tanner and I led the bay dogs back towards the truck.
At the house we slowly put water on Backups groin and backside, careful to not put the ice cold well water too close to his head. I got a syringe and injected 5cc at a time under the skin on his back. He didn't want to drink any water but I got small amounts of Coke down his throat. I always like to get pop, or some sweet liquid in a dog when they have lost blood, I think it tends to help ward off shock. After a couple hours of little bits of water, and laying in the cool grass under a tree, Backup looked a whole lot better and I figured he probably had a 75% chance of pulling it out. The next day the dog was coming around, drinking and eating but he passed on the next day due to kidney failure.
Both of these dogs were very well conditioned and not fat at all. Backup had better wind than Red, just genetically, and that probably accounts for him holding on longer. These two bulldogs caught hogs all summer, in night temperatures that were often hotter than the 83 or so it was on the day they overheated. It was a humid 83, and I have to believe that played a role in things going south.
I am responsible for the death of these two dogs. I have been at this game long enough to know better. I guess after a long summer of very hot days 83 degrees seemed like an oasis. It is not that you cannot hunt in that weather, but I know to hunt around very wet areas. This was a dry bottom. I know to only send bulldogs from very close and only to those kind of bays that have that set-in-stone sound to them. We also should have been packing at least a little water with us, and we should have left the catchvests at home!
So with two catchdogs gone, we started a couple newbies and that brings up my second point - keeping your mind right when dealing with green dogs.
Saturday morning, me and Tanner Herr loaded a couple dollar store curs and hit a plot of land where the hogs were buffalo-ing all that yellow corn. The dogs hit a track and dropped into a deep holler to the north. Tanners dogs came up bayed at about a mile so we drove to 600 yards and got a green bulldog ready. At 40 yards we could see 10 or 12 hogs. The two dogs were working good. We sent my new bulldog. This was the dogs first attempt at a catch in the woods. It was not the best case because in a wad like that the hog is not really bayed tight to hold him for a catchdog. Well, we saw him hit about a 100lb hog, and he missed. The dog looped around and came to our right and hit another much larger hog, and missed again, and that hog put his running sneakers on! The bulldog stuck with him for 1.6 miles before he started to get home sick and came back to us. It happens, and that is the only way to get dogs some experience. It was starting to heat up so we called it a day and planned to meet up later that evening for another go.
Saturday night we met up and cast dogs at a new place where the deer hunters were mad at corn stealing hogs. The dogs dropped into a draw and we got some barking immediately. They ran to the east, into some of the thickest stuff I have seen in a good while. At 250 yards they sat down bayed so we jumped in the truck and got to within 130yds. At 100yds we unclipped the bulldog that missed two hogs earlier that morning and pretty soon we heard the tell tale squealing that told us we had a caught hog. The dogs bayed within 5 minutes of casting them, and by the time we got the darn hog dragged out of the tangle of briers and back to the truck an hour and a half had passed. Our arms and legs were striped with blood and it looked like we had fought three or four wildcats.
Sunday at daylight we hit yet another piece of land where deer hunters were tired of feeding hogs. The dogs again dropped into a deep holler to the north that held a spring fed creek. It was a perfect place for a hogs lazy day - thick, thick, thick, water, and they knew no deer hunter was going to walk up on them and ruin their napping. The dogs interrupted their siesta. We were still up top, listening to the dogs work, and black hogs were pouring up out of the holler all around us, getting away from them pesky hogdogs. We counted at least a dozen. After we got done watching hogs run across the hay meadow we took off on foot 600 yards, dogs were bayed. As we were making the trek into the bottom, hogs continued to pass us heading for higher ground. The dogs were bayed in the creek. We sent the green bulldog again, and again he did a fair enough job of getting the hog caught.
Some folks will probably think to themselves, "Why would this dude write a story about his dog missing hogs?" Well, it happens, and great dogs are not born - they are made. Like most folks, a dog learns by making mistakes. You have to give your dog a chance to screw up.
There was a time when I would have retired that dog for missing two hogs like that, young or not. I know many men would have. Years back, I would have just moved onto another prospect and started over. Maybe it's a bit of age on me, but I take a little less hard approach to young dogs now. I don't believe in making excuses for dogs, and if I find myself doing it, I will stop and do some thinking. That said, when you are evaluating a dog, you have to take a good look at the big picture and see if there are factors involved that set the dog up for failure. Sometimes we stack the odds against a dog succeeding, and then get mad at him for failing. I know I have lost my temper with a dog, and then after cooling down realized that I was really mad at myself for doing something stupid, and I took it out on the dog.
Sometimes with young dogs you just have to look for the positive things, even when everything looks bad. When my catchdog missed twice I was disappointed, no doubt, but I was not mad, because I understood he was young, and really I had thrown him into a situation where he had a good possibility of failing. When the dog got out 1.6 miles I was glued to my tracker... I was hoping he would show me something good. When 'Outlaw' started heading back to me I was tickled pink. Yeah, he had messed up on the catch, but he showed me some brains and handle when he came back. Strangely I was pretty happy with the day.