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Yes, they can be devastating catch dogs when you are hunting feral hogs. Pitbulls are really good at catching prey, but not well suited for a long pursuit through varied terrain.
Traditionally, pitbulls are viewed as endlessly loyal guardians by their proponents, and aggressive fighters by their detractors. This debate has persisted for ages, and is not likely to end any time soon.
Chances are, if you’re reading this now, you’re most likely in the former category, and would like to know if your faithful and beloved canine companion can also serve well as a hunting partner.
Many other breeds of hunting dog have sustained hundreds of years of artificial selection in favor of endurance, soft mouths, and overall wandering spirit, while pitbulls have been bred for their territorial nature and impulse to protect their home and its inhabitants which they hold most near and dear.
As pitbulls were originally bred as fighting dogs, making physical contact with prey is often their priority. In turn, they’re instinctively drawn to catching (and often killing in the process) their prey, as opposed to giving chase and flushing out prey for the human hunter to shoot. Pitbulls’ strong jaws may not be suitable for a hunter who wants the carcass of their prey intact for meat, taxidermy or other purposes, as they may rip it to pieces before bringing it back.
What Type of Game Can a Pitbull Hunt?
Based on their muscular physiques and determined attitudes, pitbulls can be very effective at hunting feral hogs, which have become a serious pest and threat to local wildlife in much of the western United States. They do not need to kill the hogs, but chase, catch, and hold them in place until the hunter delivers the killing shot. Based on their strength, size, and largely fearless disposition, feral hogs can be extremely dangerous to hunt, so it is advisable that you suit your pitbull up with proper equipment, namely in “cut gear” made from Kevlar or chain mail.
Read more here in our article about how dangerous hogs are to dogs.
How Do You Train a Pitbull to Hunt?
The key to training Pitbulls to hunt is the same as what you would use to train them for anything else: positive reinforcement. When training a Pitbull to track for hunting purposes, you need the following items: a 20-50 foot leash, a durable tracking harness, a person to find, and an open, distraction-free area.
Have the other person run and hide somewhere 20-30 yards away, scuffing their feet along the ground as they go to leave a strong scent in their wake. They should have a bone, toy or other treat that the dog would like to obtain. After the person is well situated in their hiding place, let the dog lead you to them, offering praise and affection once they’ve reached the destination. Repeat this process 5-10 times when the dog can see the person run, and starts getting used to finding them by nose.
For the next phase, the dog should not be able to see the person running away before they hide, forcing the dog to track them entirely by scent. Continue to make the exercise more challenging by having the other person make ever more elaborate, circuitous paths for the dog to track. If possible, perform these exercises in damp conditions where the dog is downwind from the person being tracked so the scent will carry most effectively.
Pitbulls are generally area trackers, which means they’re more likely to keep their heads up and smell the air for scents than go directly to smelling the ground. You can encourage them to sniff the ground by placing the leash between their legs. To keep their spirits up, always make sure that the dog finds the person and receives their reward. Later, the hunting dog training can be directed towards following other scents, such as that of the wild hogs they need to hunt.
We have written an extensive guide on how to train your hunting dog here and also have a written article on what type of exercise is best for a hunting dog, you find that article here.
How Does a Pitbull Compare to Other Hunting Dogs?
Pitbulls and their close cousin the Dogo Argentino are most adept at hunting feral hogs but are less well-equipped for taking down other types of game. For hunting rabbits, beagles’ small stature, agility, and supreme scenting ability make them a better choice. For duck hunting, labradors’ thick, water-repellent coat, webbed feet, and soft mouth make them best suited to wading through marshlands to track waterfowl and carefully bring back prey that’s been downed in places human hunters cannot reach.
Foxhounds, initially bred to be used on traditional English fox hunts, are the best breed for running down deer thanks to their stamina, keen sense of smell, great vocalization, and propensity to work in packs. Pointers are natural-born grouse hunters with long legs meant for hours of running in the tall grass. Countless other breeds are the superior pick for hunting a particular type of game, as that is what they have specifically been bred to do for hundreds of years
Cut Gear and Protective Vests for Pitbulls
This gear can be purchased through online specialty hunting equipment providers. The gear does not protect all parts of the dog, though, so it’s best to act fast and shoot the hog right after the dog makes contact to avoid possible injuries. Some states do not allow pitbull hunting of hogs, so be sure to verify the law in your state before proceeding.
Pitbulls are catch dogs which means that they will literally attach to the wild hogs and hence work really up close with the hog and therefore be in constant risk of getting bitten or injured by the tusks. If your hunting pitbull gets injured which really isn’t uncommon even if you have the right cut gear you need to make sure you know what to do. We have a guide written on the subject here.
We have done a ton of wild hog hunting with Pitbulls so we have also tried a lot of different cut gear over the years, we compiled all our thoughts and ideas into a post on the best protective gear for your hunting Pitbull in this post here. I really think you will get some good ideas from it!
Beyond hog hunting, Pitbulls are effective as rat killers and can work to eliminate rat infestations in agricultural settings and elsewhere. Given their natural instinct for guarding territory, they are also good at keeping unwanted animals away.
In this graphic video-clip you can see how Pitbulls work as catchdogs when hunting for hogs. Its really impressive how strong they are.
Pitbulls are extremely devoted to their owners, and most eager to please. They can be trained to track game based on scent, and will happily join you on a hunt for whatever prey they get a whiff of, but their determination and sheer physical force makes them too powerful to be good hunters on all but the most rugged and dangerous of game. They are loving members of your family, but also fighters by design who lack the restraint necessary to be part of a successful human-canine hunting team. If you want to read more about american pitbulls you can find alot of information here on wikipedia.
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36 years old, been hunting and fishing my entire life – love the outdoors, family, and all kinds of hunting and fishing! I have spent thousands of hours hunting hogs and training hunting dogs, but I’m always learning new stuff and really happy to be sharing them with you! hit me up with an email in the contact form if you have any questions.