THIS ARTICLE IS FOR HISTORICAL ENTERTAINMENT AND DOES NOT CONDONE ACTIVITIES WHICH CONFLICT WITH THE ANIMAL WELFARE ACT OF 1976 OR REVISIONS THEREOF. SHAPING
Conditioning the dog for a hard battle is an art and a very difficult subject to outline in a manner that will agree with the ideas of various successful shapers and handlers throughout the country. Each has his own particular theory regarding the best method to put a dog in shape for the battle of his life. We do not claim to be an authority by any means but will in a small way try to set forth a few things that will be of help to the beginners.
It is more difficult to condition the dog for a battle than it is to train a horse for a hard race, and requires at least as much time, possibly more. Many kinds of dope used in times past and parties not knowing how to shape their dogs properly, has often caused the best dog to lose. A dog should not be “pitted” until he is at least eighteen months old, although occasionally one is found that will develop into fighting maturity at an earlier age.
MATCHING: Never give away weight if you can possibly avoid it. A pound or two is a considerable handicap if the dogs are lightweight or stay under forty pounds. It is best to match at a stipulated weight the dogs to weigh in at the specified weight or under. This is a point often overlooked by amateurs and has caused the loss of many fights. Along with putting the dog in shape an equal effort of the experienced dog man is to out-match the other fellow by setting a dog down without an ounce of superfluous weight and still be able to get out of him all he ever had in the way of strength and fighting ability. At the same time, the old timer may have information on the other dog that may cause him to figure the possibility of that dog not being able to do the weight without weakening; or on the other hand, that he may be a smaller or lighter dog than the stipulated weight and will be brought in with just that much unnecessary poundage.
Another thing the experienced pit man gives considerable attention to is the fighting type of dog – that is, his favorite holds, or the type of punisher he happens to be. Some dogs are adept at legging; others are the breast and shoulder fighters; some work after the brisket, belly, or stifle, and others are close head fighters. Most dogs prefer to fight on top while a few are natural under-fighters. Every pit dog man has his own ideas as to what constitutes the best fighting dog and believes that particular style has certain advantages over the others. As an example; if one is matching against a leg fighter he will want to use a hard biting nose dog, one that will eat the legger’s nose off. All such things are worthy of consideration. The dog men have their various friends scattered throughout the country and lose no time in trying to ascertain the size, fighting style, breeding, and other information that might prove helpful should they contemplate matching a certain dog. The breeding is considered of much importance. However, all these things may have particular advantages, but the most intelligent system is to take no chances – give the other fellow the benefit of the doubt. Credit him with having an A-1 fighter, a game dog, and a conditioner that will have the dog in the best possible shape. Then on this theory proceed to put your dog in the “pink” of condition, at the same time being quite sure of his lowest possible weight and ability.
When the match is made and the forfeits posted the first step is to cleanWhen the match is made and the forfeits posted the first step is to clean your dog thoroughly. Give him a good vermifuge and see that he is entirely free of worms. Follow this with a good physic, which should be given on two consecutive days. The following day, which will be the fourth, give him a big dose of castor oil, followed by five drops of Fowler’s Solution of Arsenic. About five or six days of light exercise and he will be ready to begin training. Do not let him serve any bitches and keep him away from all dogs – where he can not hear them bark if possible. It takes at least four weeks to put a dog in first class shape.
DIET: Every experienced conditioner has his particular ideas for feeding during the training period. The proper food is a matter requiring good common sense and careful watching. Dogs are like humans in many respects, no two are exactly alike. The food that one dog works and thrives on many disagree with another. Feed wholesome muscle and strength building food that the dog likes and that agrees with him. For the first day or so after cleaning him out a mixture of stewed turnips, carrots, cabbage, parsnips, and bullock makes an excellent diet. Many shapers feed only lean chopped beef mixed with well-done toast crumbled into small pieces. A few fresh raw eggs added occasionally are good. Of all diets this will probably be found as good, if not superior to any other. Do not be afraid of over feeding your dog as you are putting strength into him and reducing at the same time. However, one should not allow him to gorge himself to the point of sluggishness. Feed no fattening foods. A dog’s digestive organs are much slower functioning than those of a human. It requires from twenty to twenty-four hours for the food to pass through his body. He ordinarily should be fed once a day, although many successful trainers feed both morning and night about thirty minutes after his last rub down. Allow the food to cool before giving it to the dog. During the last few days of the training period, it is well to regulate his feed so that, without making any great change in the time of the meals, his last feed will come twenty-four hours before he enters the pit.
When cool, after his work, a dog should have all the pure fresh water he will drink. There is some difference of opinion as to the kind of water that should be given. A number of trainers contend that boiled water is the best as it is minus the fat producing ingredients and that a dog will not get feverish or thirsty and froth so quickly when trained on it. However, some of the greatest of all conditioners have informed us that pure water just as it comes from the well, spring or lake is as good as any. If the dog is being worked properly he will not take on flesh and if he is given plenty of water he will not become feverish, at least not from any cause due to his drink. Be sure that the dog’s quarters are free from drafts and that he has plenty of clean dry bedding and an abundance of fresh air. Talk to him while working and rubbing, as it will accustom him to your voice and help him to keep in a more cheerful mood. When in the pit he will need all the assistance you can give him in the way of words of encouragement.
A very important thing to bare in mind is that to reduce a dog’s weight requires lots of walking. You walk him for hardening and reducing, the treadmill or training machine if for his wind. The spring pole is an exerciser and strengthener of all muscles, more specially those around the jaws and neck. If a dog has a good bite this work will perhaps be the means of improving it. If a dog is not a hard biter it is seldom if ever that you can develop one for him. A great many of the old timers trained dogs that never worked on spring poles and there are many dogs today that will not work on either a spring pole or coon hide. The Lamkin treadmill, a very successful invention for training dogs is described in the advertising section.advertising section. Rubbing is a very essential part of training. A dog should be rubbed at least until cooled off after each bit of work. The principal rub should
come after the main workout on the treadmill machine or training machine. It takes at least thirty minutes to rub a dog dry. Most trainers have their opinions as to the best solution for rub-downs. Many use a half and half mixture of alcohol and water. One kind is probably as good as another. This is very helpful in removing the fat from under the hide. A dog’s skin is not porous and very little of the liquid will soak in. It’s the rubbing that does the work. Rub with the play of the muscles and from the tip to tip. The belly, breast, and flank rubbing is quite important. Many of the dog men of the old school claim that to be in proper condition a dog must be entirely free of fat.
CARE OF THE FEET
The condition of the dog’s feet should be watched closely at all times during the training period. It is not necessary to be continuously “doctoring” them unless the pads show too much ware or the dog goes slightly lame after the first few days work. The pads on some dogs’ feet are naturally tough and will go through the training period without any particular care if his work is properly diversified (another thing strictly up to the trainer’s good sense) and the track or treadmill footing is properly chosen. A smooth soft track or road free from grit should be used for the dog’s walking and his treadmill track covered with at least two layers of canvas or other material that will be easy on his feet. Washing the feet in luke-warm water and thoroughly drying them after roadwork will help keep them in a good healthy condition and lessen the chances of lameness. Should your dog be one whose feet are prone to tenderness a good foot washing is necessary. Edible tallow is very good to help keep the feet in good shape. A solution of white oak, or post-bark can easily be made that will toughen the dog’s feet. Take about six quarts of the bark chopped fine and place in a vessel and cover with water. Allow this to steep for about three hours or four. When it is cool it is ready for use. Do not place this in an airtight container as it will burst a glass or earthenware jar if covered. Tanic acid is also good for toughening the dog’s feet. The schedule to be used during the training period must be arranged by the trainer. What hours would suit one would not suit another. Use common sense and arrange the dog’s work as conveniently as possible. The following will be found to be a fairly good schedule. Begin the morning with a walk of from three to six miles, more if necessary, allowing the dog to stop and empty out as often as he desires. Upon returning give him a little work on the treadmill, beginning with say two minutes the first day and increasing it each day gradually. Follow this with a good rubdown, after which give him all the water he will drink and put him away until afternoon. If feeding twice a day, give the morning feed about twenty minutes after the rubdown. In the afternoon give him another walk from three to six miles and more work on the treadmill. A good rubdown and plenty of water and he will be ready for his supper in about twenty minutes afterwards. Use your watch on the mill work and do not overdo the thing.
After a few days follow either the morning or afternoon work with a few minutes on the spring pole, if the dog will work on one. If using a pull in the hands, have it about six or eight feet long and a rope about two or three feet fastened to the end of the pole. Tie or sew a sack or coon hide to this rope. Make the dog hustle to get hold of the hide but do not hold it so high that he must jump for it. This will accustom him to turn quick for a hold and to hold when he gets it. About the fifteenth day he should be nearing the fighting weight. If he isAbout the fifteenth day he should be nearing the fighting weight. If he is still above weight increase the walks. If under weight increase the feed.
If he is at about the right weight keep him where you have him only do not let up on the work or increase it too much. A day or so before the fight ease up on his work a little unless he is hard to keep within the weight limit. Walking is the best thing for reducing weight and you run no risk of overdoing things. The day of the fight do not work any but give him a moderate walk in the morning and put him away without rubbing. It will not hurt to give him water unless the fight is to be within a few hours. When ready to start for the pit walk with him if possible. If not be sure and see that he empties out before going to the scales. Some handlers give a few ounces of sweet milk, beef tea, or water just after weighing in. The foregoing schedule is not a set rule, one must use his own judgment as to the proper length of time to get his dog in the best shape. Some dogs require longer than others to be properly conditioned. Do not burn the dog up the first few days. Do plenty of walking and rubbing, these things alone will put him in pretty fair shape if he is properly fed. The spring-pole, merry-go-round, treadmills, etc., will be found in the chapter “Miscellaneous”. There also will be found short paragraphs on such subjects as “Hints on handling”, “Foul tricks”, “Articles of agreement”, “Registering agencies”, and other kindred subjects.
The spring pole will be found very helpful in shaping as it exercises nearly every muscle in the dog’s body, especially the jaw, neck and back. Take a hickory sapling sixteen feet long (any wood with a good spring to it will do as well). This pole should rest in a forked stick, or through an eye-bolt set in concrete, the top of which should be eighteen to twenty-four inches from the ground. Stake the big end of the pole to the ground, at a distance from the forked stick which will place the pole at an angle of about forty-five degrees. Take a one-quarter inch rope and run through a small pulley, which should be attached to the small end of the pole, and tie one end to the butt of the pole. The other end of the rope to be suspended in the air at whatever length one wishes, although it should not be high enough to cause the dog to jump to take hold. Either a coon hide, well sewed together, or a grass sack, is good for the dog to hold onto. If a sack is used it is best to moisten the sack to keep the ravelings and lint from bothering the dog. Fasten the sack, or coon hide on the rope securely or a strong dog will soon tear it loose. To properly condition a dog for a fight it is very important that one must have a good mill to exercise him. There are a few patented treadmills on the market. A number of dog men use the home made merry-go-round know as the Bowser Mill. Most any experienced fighting dog men can furnish the plans for this type mill. A number of successful conditioners use various types of table mills. If you are a beginner we would suggest obtaining the advice of some experienced conditioner. Of course, each will have his own favorite type of mill and perhaps point out the various good and bad points. The main thing is to get a good and easy running mill that will not be in constant need of repair.