Dog Sense vs Mechanical Dog

By Krystal Rohan

I suppose that hog hunting with dogs was almost still a secret not all that long ago. I mean there sure were not articles in the news and it wasn’t on the front page of a PETA website ten years ago. Certainly there were no businesses dedicated entirely to providing tack and gear for dogs that pursue wild hogs. There were, however, dog men and hound men that used “old school” methods to pursue hogs. They knew what they knew from their kinfolks or family friends, passing information down from years of learning it the hard way. They used common sense, horse sense, dog sense, and just grew up knowing how to work around animals. These folks were not the type that shared their cyber stories on the World Wide Web. Those “Old Schoolers” did not have time to waste sitting down and explaining, making sure you got every detail memorized either. If you wanted to know, then you had to work, do, and listen. You kept your mouth shut until you had been around awhile. You did not deserve an opinion anyhow. That is how you got a “feel” for working with and being any good at having any “sense” with an animal.
The animals were treated about the same – worked hard and earned their keep or they were not kept. Only the very best earned the right to reproduce and get a ration of feed. Most folks did not have the compassion or the time to find a caring home for an animal that did not earn its own dinner. It was just not a priority. That is how it was, and that is another way our society has changed. Today’s society does not seem to have a natural or common dog sense about it. People are learning from TV and other media to treat our animals like people, talk to them as people, and consider them to have human emotions (which they DON’T). Sometimes they exhibit behaviors that we can perceive as human-like or emotional. I am guilty here also. I prefer my hog dogs’ companionship over most people. There is nothing wrong with having a companion animal.
Dog sense has nothing to do with how many years you have owned a dog. All that indicates is you have had the means to own one, not that you understand it. You do not have to be a dog psychologist to hunt one either. However, the more knowledge you possess of a dog’s mental and physical needs, the better foundation you will have in order to work/train the dog into an animal that is prepared to do what you request. When hunting a dog, you are doing just that – requesting it to perform a task or a series of specific tasks. With all the rookies entering the sport of hog doggin’, I have been hearing many requests for “mechanical dogs” – dogs that can make decisions and react consistently. That doesn’t sound too difficult….Right? Hhhmm- yeah, right!
You should be willing to allow a proper amount of time for the dog to adjust to its new living environment, become familiar with new pack members, new diet, new water, new ways of being handled, new ways of being hunted, and new terrain. I guarantee that most new owners do not allow time for the dog to adjust to the recent changes. I am not suggesting allowing an animal to sit up for several months, but some animals react differently to even the mildest of changes.
The World Wide Web is a good place to read about the weekend warrior drama and all the details that come along with new adventures. It is very accessible to folks of all ages and all backgrounds. With the internet, a person can be fully decked out with dogs, all the equipment, and just enough information to be completely dangerous in less than one week. I compare it to “Wanna-Be Cowboys”. You can find a local western store; get some boots, a hat, jeans and a belt. Then head to the local horse trader, buy a horse and a saddle. You may look the part, and maybe even live on a ranch, but that SURE don’t make you a COWBOY. Being a cowboy is a state of mind and a way of life – not a dress code or what you own. Being a dog man/houndsman or woman is the same thing. It is a way of life, what you know in your heart, and how much dedication you have. So before you jump into the hog dog hunting scene, think long and hard about it before you attempt to get your hands on a living, breathing creature with a mind of its own – the hunting dog. It is not a mechanical or repetitive machine.
I know most of you have read some advertisement in the paper or on the internet describing a dog for sale. Usually, it is brief. However, most people tend to visualize something much more detailed. For example, finding an advertisement on the internet that reads: 2 year old NALC Catahoula, champion bloodlines, guaranteed to bay own hog, Gritty, $300. This sounds like a good deal to somebody that needs a dog and is just getting started. It may very well be a good deal for any dog hunter. But the ad does not claim anything exceptional and the price definitely reflects that as well. It is an average price for an average dog. However, if you are reading between the lines and painting a wonderful picture in your head of striking, baying, and catching all the hogs in the woods within the first ten minutes of being interested in the dog, then any fault falls upon you. I think this is where most disputes between buying and selling dogs begin. The above mentioned “gotta have a dog for the weekend”, unsuspecting, about to be fooled, dog buyer reads the ad, makes the call, asks the not so necessary kind of questions, and makes the plans to purchase the dog. Friday comes, and he makes the 240 mile trip to get the dog. Everything is going great, until Saturday morning. It turns out Ol’ Spot don’t get out very far, not even out of sight even though he has all the latest protective gear and gadgets. The dog just won’t hunt – even walked Ol’ Spot up to a feeder that had hog tracks going this way and that way. Ol’ Spot must be a dud! Somebody was trying to pull a fast one! I have heard so many similar stories and situations it would make your head spin. What gets worse is the bad mouthing and trash talking that gets stirred up over a simple problem. Ol’ Spot is the one that gets the worst end of the deal. Had Ol’ Spot been a mechanical type dog that could be turned on and tuned in like a tracking collar, the story would change to how much of a bargain he was. At no fault of his own, he was not given a fair chance to see if he performed as described by the previous owner. I have witnessed situations just as described, with Ol’ Spot being a fair dog with a whole lot of potential in the pursuit of hogs and hunting. However, the new owners never took the opportunity to explore the right avenues to bring out the best in the dog in order to see the dog’s very best performance. The dog is expected to fit into the “new” program, hit the ground running, never look back, or else he won’t make the cut. Some dogs can do just that. Usually those dogs come from similar hunting situations and owners that are similar in their expectations and treatment. Making drastic changes with new handlers can dramatically change the dog’s performance and temperament. Sometimes it is the human element and not the dog that is the problem.
Next issue we will discuss some tips used to develop dog sense and some methods used to train your dog to act more mechanical in his hunting routine. Stay tuned!
(First published in Wild Boar USA magazine, Volume 1 Issue 7 - Nov/Dec 2007)