Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How Important Is Breeding?

A couple of years ago I bought www.bloodtraildogs.com as a domain name and built a site to sell my Catahoulas as blood dogs. And because the Catahoula is versatile, has a good nose, is a hard working, eager to please it's master kind of breed, they are an excellent candidate for a blood dog.

What I learned from talking to people who called me through that site was that most people who want a blood dog, don't know how to train and handle working dogs, because we have become mechanized and industrialized in the last half century, and thus lost touch with working animals like horses and mules. Most people who called me about dogs they already had, were using bird dogs, such as pointers and labs, hounds and curs, and as breeds these were good dogs, but they couldn't get them to fire off, and thought that maybe they needed another breed. I think a lot of their problem was expecting too much too soon and the dogs just needed more time.

Now on the other hand, I have seen puppies six months old that were getting it, but they had been running training drills since they were weaned.

If you think you are going to find a breed that is a natural and not need time to repeat the drill again and again in training, good luck. No matter how well breed, you will need to put time into training. Some are easier than others.

I am a breeder and trainer of the Louisiana Catahoula, and as far as I am concerned they are the ultimate blood dog, so you could assume that I am prejudiced to that breed, but the truth is, I believe that most people do not need an elite, high performance breed of dog like a Catahoula to do blood trail work, because if you let the wounded deer bleed out and get weak or die before putting pressure on them your blood dog is usually following a trail that is only a few hundred yards long, and most breeds are capable of following blood if the circumstances are not too extreme.

By extreme, I mean crossing rivers, and going long distances like a mile or more. So if you are hunting in a place with a lot of water, or looking to buy a dog for a hunting club where you will encounter a lot of variables, a well bred working breed such as a lab or a cur, makes a lot of sense.

I believe based upon my experience as a breeder, in dealing with the public, most people cannot handle an elite, high performance breed of working dog, unless that dog has a regular job, to consume it's naturally high level of energy and so the best dog for most people who are shopping for a blood dog is quite possibly the dog that is already at their house as the family pet, and I don't care what breed it is. You might consider giving your lap puppy a try. I am not trying to talk you out of buying a started Catahoula if you think you can handle it, but a lot of people think they can buy a well bred, finished dog and invest no time in it and it will work for them.

Catahoulas are especially sensitive to the relationship factor, and that often takes time for a dog raised by someone else, to warm up to a new owner.

I say this because no matter how well bred, raised, and trained a dog is, especially if it is a Catahoula, that dog may not hunt for you until it knows you or as we say "warms up to you". For some dogs it may take months to relax around certain people.

The dog you have at home, already should be obedient to your program, want to go everywhere you go and travel well. To get a new dog that is already trained and experienced, or a new breed of dog, as a solution for finding lost deer, may be a very good idea, but finding one that is already well bred, raised, trained and experienced, will none the less, still need to be socialized and all this not only sounds expensive to me, and you will still need to invest time too. Finished dogs requiring no input of your time, quite frankly are, I am sure, hard to find. The high performance working breeds such as pointers, labs, and curs, are by their very nature, going to require and need more time being put into them in training and socialization, to make them easy to handle and not diminish that high level of hunting performance when on a leash. Although some dogs will drag you down a blood trail on leash, others for some reason will not hunt until unleashed. Ultimately, after years of experience, the dog should be able to be off-leash and work with you.

I prefer to work off-leash, but there are times when you are in an area with restrictions and you must have the dog on leash and certain breeds have so much hunting abilities and drive that you can't turn them loose, or you will loose them.

Just like certain breeds have unique qualities, also certain dogs no matter what breed, are in their own way unique and should be treated with respect of individuality.

Too many people are operating under the assumption that breeding is everything, and given the right breed, with a good nose, the dog will hunt. Well, maybe.

I have had several calls from people with Bloodhounds, who were still shopping for a blood dog because the bloodhounds were not getting it. A couple of the customers had young dogs, and I believe were expecting too much too soon, but several had mature dogs that were trailing blood just fine and finding deer, but...were too big and hard to handle, or too aggressive and prone to running live unwounded deer.

In essence, because of the breed, they had too much dog for the job. Think about it, do you really think you need or, want a 120# dog dragging you through the briars on a deer's scent trail that is not even the wounded, bleeding deer you shot? Another thing about a bloodhound; you better keep them on a leash so you can keep up with em, and if you have to turn them loose, never turn them loose without a tracking collar. I like a dog that works close and repeatedly checks back with me if it is not on a leash.

That is common with a Catahoula, but the hound breeds, tend to range out farther and have a drive that can go on for hours and for miles without looking back. And on that note, no matter what breed you go with, I recommend you invest in a tracking system, and always work your dog with a tracking collar, in season and off, so no matter how far, how fast it is moving, or what direction your dog takes, you know where the dog is, and can determine what plan to follow. No matter what breed you go with, tracking collars will save you a lot of time and guess work.

Another thing about certain breeds, and proper handling, is for the aggressive breeds such as Catahoulas and Pit Bulls which are short range and prone to catch and fight with a deer if it is not dead when they catch up to it,
I recommend you work your dog with a tracking collar and a protective vest.

The dog above is wearing a protective vest which was orange when it was new and clean. Not only is blaze orange easy for you to keep track of, but for the safety of your dog, just like us, don't you think a dog should be wearing orange during rifle season for deer for the same reason we do? The plastic coated wire sticking up behind the dogs head is the antenna on the tracking collar. If you hunt around as much water as we do here in south Louisiana, you might also consider buying a vest that is not only orange in color, but has floatation built into it. A good blood dog will not hesitate to hit the water in pursuit of a bloodied deer. I have driven the swamp in a boat, in the middle of the night, and picked up dogs on huge floating cypress logs that were a mile or more away from land. A floatation vest also has the benefit of insulation against the cold of winter.

Now does breed matter? Yes, of course it does, especially if you don't have enough hunt in the dog to cause it to work off of natural instincts to start with. But it can go the other way, and also have way too much hunt and be a pain in the ass to handle in the woods, because it is dragging you around on a leash, or if you turn it loose, it is gone because it is a too long range a dog to be a blood dog. Not to mention the problems that comes with keeping a working dog happy, healthy, and under control when it is not hunting season.

I like a dog that not only has a lot of hunt in the genetics, but is also easy to handle in the woods come hunting season, and is not a pain in the ass to live with all year.

No matter what breed, to have a good dog come hunting season, you must spend time, and haul this dog around with you during the off season. If it is a working dog, it needs to get out and do things with you so it can just be a dog in the woods with no pressure on it, and so it does not go crazy on a chain or in a kennel full time during the off season. Not only to fine tune the dogs obedience, and ease of handling, but to allow the dog to be evaluated in the woods, and get comfortable with the routines and program. Especially when you go squirrel hunting in October or scouting for sign, and to mow grass on the lease, or to fill the deer feeders. Bring the dog, and allow it to get to know the place where you hunt, the truck, the boat, ATV, horses, other hunters and the routes to and from, so they can get comfortable in the pre-season and know the routine when it is time to get to work.

No matter what the breed, you will need to get to know that dog individually, as a unique personality, and try to work with the dogs personal nature. All dogs, no matter what breed are neuvophobic, and what that means is; they are scared of anything new. They need to visit a new place a few times to get accustomed to it.

I like a Catahoula that pulls, because as a breeder, I am looking for a dog with natural drive, but there is a limit or balance of qualities that makes a dog a great one when it comes to working a blood trail. You not only want a dog with natural hunting drive, you want a dog that is easy to handle, and ultimately can work with you off-leash and on. For a dog, to effectively work off leash they should be checking back with you from time to time, and know to bark when they find the deer, but be silent on track the rest of the time. Most hound dogs do not check back, and can't keep their mouth shut if on a scent. I like a dog silent on track because it does not alert the deer to our approach. And... if the deer is not dead when we approach, and I can get close enough to get another shot without the deer getting up to run, great! Then again if the deer does get up and run, a pitbull or Catahoula often will try to stop a deer on the move by biting it on the throat and taking it down. Although some people use open mouth hound dogs to trail, I prefer a silent on track dog for the simple reason that I do not want to alert everyone in the woods when I am trailing.

A Catahoulas short range, intelligence, adaptability, devotion, and diversity of service can be a good standard or measure of a great blood dog, but extreme patience is required on your part to get them there, and that may take years to achieve no matter what the breed. But a Catahoula should not be the standard by which a good blood dog is measured, because the standard should be based on performance not breeding.

The standard, no matter what the breed, should be a balance of hunt and handle, and by handle I mean the hunters ability to control the dog by leash or verbal commands. Many people are intrigued by my ability to verbally handle so many dogs and so effectively. But I know how to talk to a dog and relate to them through their body language, and if I raise them up from puppies, and we have plenty of time to develop a relationship allowing me to work my dogs off-leash and have total control. If you are not familiar with high performance breeds like bird dogs and curs, you may need to consider finding an easier breed of dog to train and handle, and focus on training and diet to fine tune the dogs natural hunting abilities.

Far too many people are overlooking the fact that they have a family pet that already has a relationship with them and may work just fine given the right diet and training to figure out that following the blood is the name of the game.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Blood Trail Dog Testimonial

I just got a call today from a hunter who shot and lost a 10 point buck and searched on his hands and knees in a cane patch for over 8 hours and then came back the next day with a experienced blood dog and the dog found the deer in a half hour after he started looking.

Most interesting part was after over 24 hours the meat wasn't good, but the very impressive mount was found and salvaged because a day and a half after the shot, the extended time frame didn't diminish the scenting ability of the dog to do its job.

I will get his story in his own words and post that testimonial ASAP.

After we have given up and gone home, thinking there is no way; a dog can come behind us and save the meat and make it a good day.

With a blood dog you will not only save meat, you will save time. We track visually, and it is very time consuming and easy for us to lose a blood trail visually and ultimately, to lose a deer. Even one stuck like a pig and gushing blood, can suddenly stop bleeding or go to water and start to swim and stop the visable blood trailing, making it nearly impossible for us to continue to follow via a blood trail.

But a blood dog is not hurt by a little rain washing away the visual trail or even a deer swimming often doesn't stop a good dog, because a dog is scent trailing not sight trailing.

If you would like to learn more about how I train my Catahoula dogs to trail blood, you can visit my site at:


or to learn more about the Catahoula breed, you can click the link here to my Catahoula site: www.catahoula.ws.

If you would like to call me, my cell phone is 337 298 2630

If you like what I am writing here, check back, I should have a book published soon.

And next time you or your friends are skinning out a deer, catch some fresh blood in a bucket or tub, and lay out a trail nearby, then see if your family pet is interested in finding out what is at the end of the trail.

You may be surprised to find your family pet is a natural born blood dog.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Breeding, raising, training, socializing, handling

For as long as I have hunted White tailed Deer, I have had blood dogs, because I had the dogs before I started hunting in 1986. What I didn't know at the time I started hunting was that my dogs were going to be very useful in terms of increasing my success compared to people who didn't have dogs.

A couple of years ago, so many people began buying my puppies to raise them up to be blood dogs and people started calling looking for started dogs, that I considered there might be a business niche in blood dogs. So I began to research the market and discovered that there was a serious problem out there that most people accept as "that's how it is".

The problem is we are shooting and losing more deer than we find. I first got that "estimated" proposal from state Wildlife and Fisheries biologists, and I didn't believe it. Then I set up a website at www.bloodtraildogs.com and started getting calls from people all over the country, and they confirmed the problem of lost and wounded deer as being a "major" problem.

I believe my reluctance to accept the proposal was based upon the fact that "I" have lost very few deer in my life, but that is me, with my dogs. When people started calling and sharing their failures of the last hunting season, I could see the problem was big, but not unsolvable. The real problem at this point as far as I can see, is people have accepted that shooting and losing more deer than you find is "how it is". But it doesn't have to be this way, not if you own and know how to use a blood dog.

I don't care if the blood stopped or the deer crossed water, a blood dog will 9 times out of 10 amaze you at how persistent and effective they can be when it comes to finding lost, wounded, and dead deer.

Breeding, raising, training, socializing, handling and the last aspect of major importance is diet. All of these are important subjects to study in using and training blood dogs, but the most important is diet, which could be in the category of handling, but is so huge, I want to put it in a category all its own.

The handling of a blood dog in the woods, on a blood trail, is very critical, but more importantly, how you handle or relate to the dog in raising as a puppy and obedience in everyday situations will determine how well that dog ultimately performs for you in the woods when on a blood trail. So, handling will be broken down in two parts; the handling of the dog leading up to the blood trail, and the handling after you get to blood.

If your dog is not obedient and submissive to your authority before you get to blood, the dog may not work at all on blood, because it may be rebeling and acting up and want to play. You should teach your dog to be obedient and well behaved before you ever get to blood, and know the difference between work and play. The puppy or dog should understand when on leash, it is time to work, and when off leash time to play. In time, an experienced dog can be worked off leash if you have verbal control of them.

As much as I prefer to work my dogs off leash, I have to advise you to train and start to work your dogs on leash because you have total control, and there will be times when that is the only way you can use them and the dog needs to be comfortable with that application too. In time, as you have a better verbal handle on your dog, you can start to work them off-leash and evaluate what works best for you and your dog.

The thing about a leash is it puts the dog in a relationship with you in which it is completely subjective to your control. Ultimately if you develop a relationship where you can effectively control your dog off-leash like I do, you can use your dog that way too, but for now, I am writing this as if everyone reading it, is a novice and is just starting out training a puppy or completely green and unexperienced dog.

There is two sides to handling a blood dog. Obviously, what you do in the woods on a blood trail is important, but the relationship you build with the dog before you ever lead them to blood is more important than the handling of the dog when you get to the blood trail. It is more important for the simple fact that no matter how well bred, raised, trained, and experienced a dog is, if you don't have a relationship that motivates that dog to serve you, they may not hunt for you.

About half the people who call me for blood dogs want a finished ready to go dog, that will not only find deer, but be perfectly well behaved. The problem with that perception is that I can train a dog to listen to me and it does so because it is obedient based upon our relationship, not the training. If I train the dog it will listen to me and most likely only me. If you want the same level of performance from your dog as I get, you need to invest time. No way around it. No matter how smart, obedient and well trained a dog is, the performance of that dogs working abilities is based more upon a personal relationship with you than training or breeding.

many people think, that a good dog will work for anyone, anywhere, anytime, and if it doesn't work it is not a good dog or may be it was not properly "trained" or experienced enough.

Now I know what they are thinking, if you spend enough money, you can "buy" loyalty, trust, devotion, motivation and love. But the truth is these things can't be bought, they must be earned. And it is between you and the dog. You must prove that you can be trusted to back the dog up. Now this is why raising a puppy is such a good idea, because you have to invest time, no way around it. The problem with raising a puppy is so many people who want "fast food" results when raising and training a dog is expecting too much to soon. I say let the dog be a puppy for two years. Meaning don't expect a puppy to act, think, and perform on the level of a seasoned dog.

I get this with my hog dog customers so much, that it shouldn't surprise me here with the blood dog business. People want to invest money and "no time".

They want to buy instant gratification, but fail to grasp that a working dog is part of a team that functions as a unit, and that unit or tribe, or family, or wolf pack, must be formed over time. You will get out of your dog relative to what you invest in time.

It seems that American consumers are programed to buy what they need and have lost touch with the reality of using working animals. Dogs are not tools, games, or machines designed to entertain or serve us, and then be left hanging on the wall or sitting on the shelf, or stored in the backyard shed until until we need them again. They operate on a natural instinct to be part of a pack of wolves and want to go everywhere you go and be there to help with any problem that arises.

If you spend time socializing your dog and developing a relationship of love and trust, then feed your dog a raw meat diet, and finally bring your dog to a blood trail, "when it is hungry", your dog may be a "natural" when it comes to blood trailing. Now I will discuss the handling of a blood dog on trail later, but if you do not connect with your dog as a friend or "pet", and properly handle(relate) to them "before" you lead them to blood, don't be surprised if they won't hunt for you, when you get to the woods.

Too many people are calling me, needing a dog to trail blood, and they already have Bloodhounds and Labradors that aren't working, so they think the solution is to get another dog, or mabe another breed. A lot of this appears to be the hunter is expecting too much too soon because the dog is still a puppy. But what do you do in the meantime, when you got a deer bloodied and down somewhere and the dog is not going the distance?

Maybe what they need is a new plan from the get go. Maybe the deer hunter needs to be trained, and not the dog. So that is where this publication comes in. I am offering deerhunters an opportunity to increase their hunting success by finding more deer with the help of mans best friend; the family dog.

In the mean time before my book is published, I may be able to satisfy your short term needs of locating lost deer if you can call me and we can get together for a hunt so you can see how these dogs work and maybe match you up with a started dog.

If the drive is not too far from Lafayette, LA where I live, I would be glad to go with some dogs and help locate your deer. If you are frustrated that you don't have a blood dog this season and can't afford a started dog, buy a puppy now, and be ready for next season.

I can be reached by cell phone at 337 298 2630. I am Marcus de la Houssaye.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hunting Season Is In Full Swing

It is Friday afternoon, and time to drive across the Mississippi River,

and into Baton Rouge to pick up my daughter after school.

Tomorrow will be her first ever deer hunt and she is excited.

Last weekend, while in north Louisiana, I got a shot at a doe.

This weekend, we look forward to doing it again, and maybe even better than opening day last week.

My Indian girl is already at my house to dog sit the animals while Christina and I are out of town. This may turn into an overnighter.

The dogs are exited too, because they know what is about to happen!

After a long and pleasant drive into north Louisiana, we drive through Gibsland,

the home of The authentic Bonnie and Clyde Museum.

We are hunting on a lease in an oil and natural gas field, and what that means is there are great roads and shooting lanes everywhere.

Jesse and I put out the scent wafers and have a look around.

Looking pretty good!

Interesting tracks in the peas, chicory, and rye. My bet is they will be visiting this again soon.

Time for us to get in the box stand.

It is isn't long, and I am talking about 15-20 minutes, and I let two does go by, and then a herd of pigs line up to eat at the corn.

Toward the end of the day this nice yearling buck came out and stood in the rye grass.

Then back to the house, and hang him up and start catching some blood!

Although I didn't need the blood dogs to find this deer because it didn't run far, that is usually not the case, but this one was a knockdown. He died less than 40 yards from the rye grass where I shot him.

As I skin and wash the carcass, I like to place a bucket or tub under the deer and catch the blood and water to lay out a mock trail on the back of the property, and into the woods.

This is a good time to let the new puppies who were born after deer season earlier this year become acquainted with fresh deer blood and hang around and get some treats.

Always allow new puppies or started dogs to explore new things on their own. Never try to force a puppy or started dog to get into blood unless they are motivated by natural curiousity or better yet hunger.

Allow them to have a taste of the innards,

and begin to use some of the bloody water to lay out a mock trail right there near the processing.

You want a young or started dog to get very comfortable and relaxed around the smell of blood. For this reason, never let a puppy explore a processing site unless you are certain there are no dominate dogs that might be guarding the kill, and jump on the new dog. That would cause the new dog to be on guard around blood, rather than going to look for it. Remember: Blood trailing is a process, where by, the dog uses it's nose to end it's hunger. A blood dog is not looking for blood, they are looking for meat, and they are going to use their nose to get there. Puppies are always hungry, so start them young by sharing in the kill and giving them some little treats when it is skinning time.

What you want to instill in a new or started dog is the understanding that blood trails lead to food. And believe me, a blood trail that leads to a belly full of tasty tender venison, leaves a very strong impression, when that young dog gets there and his belly was empty to start with.

Initially, in training and motivating a young blood dog, you can use their hunger to drive them to follow a blood trail. In time, even if your five year old, finished, and well experienced blood dog has a full belly, they will hunt for you because they know the drill, having done it again and again for several years.

If you would like to call me for consultation, my cell phone number is 337 298 2630.

I am a breeder and trainer of The Louisiana Catahoula. If you are interested in learning more about the breeds natural working abilities, visit the link below:


If you think the Catahoula breed is right for you,and are maybe considering buying a puppy or a started dog, you can visit my main sites and get more information about the breed and my dogs at:


Please be aware; a Catahoula is versatile, intelligent and adaptable. They were and still are, being bred to work. If you need a blood dog, you couldn't ask for a better breed, because they are short range and eager to please, but you better be ready to find work for them in the off season, because they will go nuts if you try to lock them up for months on end. Or worse, you give them too much freedom, and they drive you nuts, dragging off your shoes, or the neighbors trash, or just being puppies and tearing up landscaping, fencing, lawn furniture, and your kids new toys!

The "old-timers" have always warned me; the best dogs you will ever have, always will be the ones that gave you the most trouble as puppies.

Haul them around early on to the camp, fishing, trail rides, camping, etc. Get them as acclamated to every facet of deer hunting as possible, including bringing them into the box stand as a puppy.

And haul them to aged blood trails, seasoned kill sites, gut piles, and if your nieghbor or family is skinning a deer, ask if you can bring your puppy or started dog in for a taste of the blood, even days after the blood was left there, and evaluate your dogs interest. The smell of blood lingers for days even after a good rain washes away all visible evidence of blood, a strong scent should linger. So to get your dog accustomed to distinquishing between old blood and new blood, visit places where blood may have been left a few days or even a week later and observe your dogs reaction to this area where you know there was blood recently. This not only reinforces your dogs understanding of what you want her to do, ie; find blood, it allows you to evaluate where your dogs progress is at, if you are in training.

Bear in mind that it is very important that your dog know the difference between a seasoned trail and a fresh blood trail, because you may kill several deer from the same stand in the same week. That means there may be several places where a fresh blood trail crosses a seasoned trail, and unless a dog is well experienced and a seasoned or as we say "finished" blood dog, they may get confused, and lose the fresh trail, by jumping on to the blood trail left there a few days before.

No matter how much money you spend on a finished, well experienced dog, you will need to invest some time too. A "finished dog" is never finished learning and is in my opinion, always getting better over time. However, like the hog dog business, it appears most people think they can just up and spend money on a dog and invest no time what so ever and the dog better hunt or "it" is no good. What is no good for serious breeders and trainers is dealing with customers who have unrealistic expectations such as expecting a dog to work for them that does not have a relationship with that person. Dogs are not a machine that you can turn off, or a tool you can hang on the wall until you need it. They are living, breathing, creatures who get their feeling hurt if they are neglected for too long of a period of time.

Perhaps it requires too much patience or even too much planning on your part, but you can't get around spending time, with a puppy. And you may never be able to buy the bond that comes from raising a puppy from weaning.

Do you want to have a good blood dog by next season and don't have a lot of money to spend, buy a puppy now. Don't have a blood dog now? And can't afford to spend thousands of dollars on a finished dog? Well let me ask you this; do you plan to hunt next year? My puppies start at $150. The ultimate performance of a blood dog is not so much the result of your training abilities as much as genetics and being well raised as a puppy. A dog who is bred to hunt, does not need to be trained to hunt. They are natural hunters, and usually start young at about 3-4 months. The blood trail dog experience starts with the right genetics. And if there is anything more important than teaching your dog to hunt,it is teaching your dog it can trust you and always count on you to back him up, even if you think he is wrong sometimes.

Spending time with you in the off season as a pet, watch dog, or your childs best friend, is what relationship, loyalty, devotion, and service are built upon. You want your blood dog to help you find more deer than you lose? Then I advise you to invest some time into being his best friend, and come hunting season he will do the same for you.