Dogs were once trained to help hunters in wild

Recently I saw on television that a man had been injured while trying to save his dog from kidnappers. The man was dragged down the street as he tried to hang on to the car, however the kidnappers sped away with the dog.

Through the years dogs have become an important part of the family. Although many rescued dogs are sought, very expensive breeds with pedigrees are also purchased. The most expensive dogs today are the French bulldogs, with puppies selling between $3,000 and $5,000.

Even though dog ownership has risen in popularity there are some people that prefer cats. These two animals are quite different. A dog is a high-maintenance pet, demanding training, regular walks, and lots of attention. However dogs are loyal, empathetic and playful. Dogs can be trained to detect cancer and many other illnesses.

A cat needs little attention and is quite independent. Your home will be free of mice with a cat as a pet, but there is a downside, the litter pan will have a very unpleasant odor if not changed regularly.

Pet ownership has increased 20% since 1988, with 53% of American households having dogs while 35.7% of households have cats. Usually, there are two cats to a household.

Often a puppy is given as a gift to a child at Christmas. This could cause a problem because that cute puppy will grow to a mature dog. A commitment is made to take care of the pet for the next 15 to 20 years. The average American spends $2,000 a year on their canine member of the family. This amount includes food, veterinarian bills, leashes, collars and even clothes.

In the Bible it states that God made the birds, animals and everything that creeps upon Earth, and then he made man, giving him dominion over them.

Early man had to become a hunter to survive. He was given certain advantages fitting him for the life of pursuing and taking the wild animals around him. The biggest advantage was a brain large enough to give man reasoning powers to devise tools and weapons. With this brain, man was able to study the habits of wild animals and come up with ways to either kill or trap them.

However not all was in man’s favor for he could neither compare with the animals in speed nor sight and sense of smell. Although man’s weapons made up for the speed of the animals, he needed something to detect game and also protect himself from danger. This led primitive hunters to train dogs.

Dogs belong to the family Canidae, and all domestic dogs are Canis familiaris. Although our word dog is somewhat of a mystery, the word appears to have come from the Latin word Canis, which was not used until the 13th century. The word hound was used for the animal until the 16th century.

According to the book “The Hunters and the Hunted” by George Laycock, the most common belief is that wolves are the ancestors of today’s dogs. This partnership could have started in many ways but most likely by a hunter that came across a litter of wolf pups and took them to tame.

Dogs were not only fast runners, but also had a sharp sense of smell allowing them to detect odors at long distances. The dog became a constant companion to man.

Gradually dogs were bred for special types of hunting: short-legged dogs were bred to go down in burrows to scare game out of the hole to the waiting hunters and long-legged dogs were bred to chase down the swift animals. Dogs that had powerful jaws were bred to fight bear and wild boar.

With the advance of civilization, people found freedom from the demand of daily living. They had time to pursue hunting with dogs simply for fun rather than a necessity.

There are six recognized breeds of dogs: sporting dogs (bred by hunters), hound dogs (bred to follow the scent of a trail left by an animal or person), working dogs (bred to herd sheep or cattle), terriers (originally bred to force game out of their underground homes), toy dogs and larger non-sporting dogs (bred as pets).

Kings and noblemen became great dog fanciers, using the dogs to hunt game for the thrill of the chase. Peasants were not allowed to own dogs because the rich knew that dogs would enable them to kill the king’s game for food. The dog helped man to become so successful in the hunt that almost every hunting scene depicted in a work of art will include a dog.

In the early days dogs were used to hunt bear. Each hunter had his own special way of training a dog to hunt. Through the years, a story has been told about a man by the name of Steward who was said to have had the best bear dogs in the area. Steward had killed many bear while hunting with his dog, Runner. Word spread and Runner became famous.

The years passed and Runner had aged. Steward was looking forward to future bear hunts and acquired another pup to train. However training the new pup was not an easy task. In desperation, Steward decided to don an old bear hide, with the intention that the pup would chase him. After ordering his son to tie up old Runner, Steward, clad in the bear hide, proceeded across the field. The pup took chase and every time the pup got close, Steward would turn and growl at the pup. The pup reacted to the growling by running away.

At the same time, old Runner was lunging and straining at his rope until finally, the rope snapped. Off he went, in full pursuit of Steward, who was clad in the bear hide.

Steward saw old Runner coming toward him and stood upright. He began yanking at the bear hide in an effort to take it off, but it was too late. Old Runner took a bite of the hide and hung on. The pup caught on and joined in the fight, also biting at the hide.

Steward was finally able to remove the bear hide but not before the dogs had worked him over, causing him to spend several weeks recovering from wounds. The pup did get the idea of bear hunting and became a mighty fine bear dog.

Man has many sayings about dogs — “barking dogs seldom bite”; “every dog has his day”; “let sleeping dogs lie”; “sick as a dog”; and “you cannot teach old dogs new tricks.”

The last one meaning that elderly people are not adaptable and do not take readily to new ways. This one I can relate to.

Well, if you are one of those parents who opted to give their children a puppy for Christmas, remember a well-behaved dog is a pleasure to have around, however, an untrained dog will bring you nothing but grief.

Bill Bower is a retired Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Officer. Read his blog and listen to his podcasts on the outdoors at www.onemaningreen.com.


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