Exposing The Ute-Finding Myths. (Troy
dog is simply a pig dog that will jump from a vehicle when it
smells a pig and track the pig using its nose. Once the pig is
found it will either bail the pig up or hold it until the owner
Ute finding dog or whatever else you want to call it has reached
god-like proportions among some of the pig hunting community.
Iíve heard stories of people paying in excess of $1500 for a ute-finder.
Iím sure people have paid more. If someone wants to pay that sort
of money for a pig dog then that is their decision, but frankly I
canít see the value. Itís not hard to train a dog to ute-find,
nor does it take any special dog. This will explain what I think
are the keys to starting and working a Ute finder.
the breed of the dog is largely irrelevant; almost all dogs have a
good sense of smell and are more than capable of finding pigs.
Itís up to you. What kind of dog you want to hunt? Choose the
type of dog that you like, youíll be happier with it and probably
put more effort into its training. When I choose a pig dog I
donít categorise it in terms of being a ďfinderĒ or ďholderĒ. I
like dogs that will both find and hold cleanly. There are three
factors that I consider when getting a dog - parents, confirmation
and hunting drive.
is no doubt that a lot of good pig dogs had parents that have
never seen a pig and yes, hunting is instinctive to most dogs but
its important to me that the parents of any dog I select work and
work well. It probably takes 12 to 18 months to train a pup to
ute-find on its own. When you add up the time, money and patience
required, a new dog is a big investment. And you want it to
work. Thatís why I choose pups from the best working parents I
can find, there is no guarantee that the dog will work but if both
the parents are good solid workers your chances are maximised.
Iím wary of getting pups from breeders that only work the father
and not the bitch or vice versa. Sure, she may have grabbed a pig
or two that another dog caught but what is the full story? Did
she bite pigs on the leg? Was she aggressive around other dogs?
Hard to control? Unless the both parents are hard and regular
workers from someone you can trust give them a miss. You may have
to wait a little longer or travel a bit further to get the pup you
want but believe me it will be worth it in the long run.
before that the breed of the dog is unimportant. Well I think
that is true to a certain extent. There are many breeds and
crosses of dog used to catch pigs and stating that one breed of
dog is better than any other is a quicker way of getting into a
fight in a bush pub than arguing about the one or two shot rule on
the pool table. Regardless of what breed or type of dog you choose
confirmation (shape and size) is important. Too small a dog and
itíll lack the leg speed and power of the larger breeds. Too
lightly built and you compromise holding ability. Too large and
itíll overheat quickly and lack the agility to chase and corner
effectively. Itís a fine balance. Iíve had most types and shapes
of dogs and I believe that a dog with a body about the size and
shape of a Dalmatian is just about ideal.
for the record the dogs that I prefer are Wolfhound and Staghounds
crossed with Boxer and Bull Mastiff or something of that sort. If
you get a good medium sized, three quarter staghound bull mastiff
or boxer cross about 30 Ė 35 kg that is agile and with plenty of
leg I reckon they are very hard to beat.
in the business of creating a good ute-finder then without
question the most important quality your dog must have is the will
and drive to hunt. A dog will never find pigs without it. Itís
the want and need to find and chase game that makes a good Ute
finder and itís the extra commitment and determination to hunt
that separates the good finders from the exceptional ones.
all dogs have this instinct to hunt and chase game. Normally itís
a case of turning it down rather than brining it out of a pup, but
more on that later. Itís this drive that makes dogs you wouldnít
normally associate with pig hunting pretty good finding dogs.
Border Collies, Kelpies and Pointers can all make excellent ute-finders,
some say the best. Iím certainly not going to argue against
them. But when you choose a Ute finder from traditional pig dog
breeding how do you know if itís got this ďdriveĒ? If you are
choosing a pup less than six months old then itís really important
that you look closely at the parents. I reckon that there are a
couple of things you can look for in the parents that help you
decide if their pups are worth buying. Firstly, have a look at
the parents, are they nervous or aggressive? Ask how often the
parents are worked. The more they are hunted the better the
chance is that they are good, hard workers. Ask if the parents
have been bred before, if so how did the pups go? Did they work
at a young age? If this is their first litter then ask how quickly
the parents started working. I think that this is the most
important question that you can ask of a pig dog breeder. Iíve
had lots of dogs over the past few years and had more than my
quota of dogs that didnít make the cut. Without exception all of
these underachievers took a lot to get started. Some hunters will
make excuses for pups and say ďitís just the type of dog; they
donít come good until there 18 months oldĒ. I couldnít disagree
more. Just as all the failures that I have had didnít work as
young dogs all the good dogs I have owned or worked have shown
some interest in pigs from the first couple of times they are
taken out, normally about six months of age. You may be thinking
that this is fine if all you need is a pig holding machine built
like a fridge. But it seems to me that the drive, instinct and
hunting qualities that make a dog want to hold or bail pigs at a
young age are the same qualities that make excellent ute-finders.
Choosing a young dog up to about 12 months of age from a breeder
or hunter requires some care. My advice is to go to someone you
either know or someone that you trust. When considering a young
dog ask the same questions that you would when buying a pup, plus
a few more. Has the dog had any work? How did the dog perform?
Did the person selling the dog breed it? If not who did? Buying
a dog that is a bit older allows you to assess its character more
fully than a young pup. Get the breeder to let the dog out and
have a run around. Does it tear around crazy like it hasnít had a
run for weeks? Does it run around, do its thing and come over to
you or the owner for a pat? If the dog is only socialising with
the other dogs in the yard or is timid (not just shy thereís a
difference) give it a very big miss.
it run around and then jump up on the back of a Ute. If it does
thatís a good sign. Ask the breeder if you can take the dog for a
drive up the road, preferably around some stock or kangaroos.
Once youíre driving along does the dog stand up and sniff the air
or look scared or lay down immediately? If the dog is an older
pup say 6- 12 months old what does it do when you drive past
stock? Youíre looking for pups that are interested, have a sniff,
work out that those things are stock and none of their business
and look away. This shows that the pup is keen and will hunt but
knows the difference between game and stock.
youíve got your great new pup with heaps of ability. Its parents
are great workers and it really looks the goods. All of that
ability is not much use unless the young dog knows what it is
supposed to be looking for. Thatís the part where you come in.
Starting your ute-finder
get a bunch of pig hunters together the odds are that they will
all have different ideas on how to start young dogs and how best
to get them finding pigs from the ute.
the different training methods have their merits but there is one
overriding rule to teaching dogs to find pigs. Ready? Here it
is. Pig dogs chase pigs. Not exactly brain surgery and I donít
think it will win me a Nobel Prize. But trust me, the most
important thing you can teach a dog is that pigs are the only
thing it should be interested in. All the other things can come
it so important? Letís talk a little bit about hunting. Almost
all pig hunters that do lots of Ute finding hunt with the dogs
loose on the back of the Ute. This allows the dogs to jump from
the back of the vehicle to investigate every time that they smell
a pig. Itís important that the dogs do not jump off and chase
anything other than a pig. If the dogs are jumping off and
sniffing around you should be sure that its pigs they are after or
youíll be chasing them all over the place on the trail of
that some hunters out there will be saying that their Ute finding
pig dogs will also catch foxes on command, point Quail and
retrieve Ducks. Fine, if thatís what you want but I like to know
that when a dog of mine jumps off the Ute that itís after a pig.
personally know professional kangaroo shooters that use their dogs
to find shot roos in long grass. Most of them say that the dogs
wonít jump of and chase roos and mostly thatís true. But if you
quiz them further most would admit that the dogs would chase roos
if youíre walking up pigs on the ground.
of the story? Just as one size does not fit all there is no dog
that can hunt different game. So donít try to find it. People
smarter than you or I took hundreds and in some cases thousands of
years to develop breeds that have unique traits. Be specific and
clear in what you want your dog to hunt. If you want to retrieve
ducks then buy a Labrador, letting your pig dog do it will only
cause you problems.
do you teach your dog to be so specific? Again itís a simple but
important rule. Start them early, work them often.
starting them early I donít mean that you should take your eight
week old pup hunting. Iím talking about introducing the pup to
all the sorts of things that should not concern it. Get a light
lead and show your pup the neighbourís chooks or your kidís pet
rabbit. Let the pup get used to all these things, allow it to
sniff and investigate but if it gets rough or wants to chase in
any way pull it back on the lead and chastise it.
normally progress training to the paddock and the pup to being
around stock and kangaroos at about four months of age. The first
couple of times just let the pup have a sniff and a run around,
let it enjoy the area. If it runs around too much put it on the
lead so that you retain control. The next step is to put the pup
in a situation where it wants to chase something. I normally do
this with kangaroos but the same theory would apply to stock,
wombats or cassowaries. Find an area where there are lots of
kangaroos that are relatively quiet and used to humans, such as
you would find at a camping ground, youíll also need a dog lead
about 1.8m long and a long piece of thin nylon rope about 15m in
length. Walk around with the pup on the short lead and get as
close as you can to the Kangaroos. When they start to move watch
the reaction of the dog, if it lurches forward shout pull it back
on the lead and yell, loudly, stare at the dog and yell a couple
of more times. Go over to where the roos were sitting. If the
pup sniffs the ground and tries to follow the rooís scent repeat
the shouting and staring. Walk around for a few minutes more and
repeat the process if the dog shows any interest in the kangaroos
again. For the next phase of the training put the dog on the
nylon rope and let him run around loose. I like to do this on the
same day as the short lead training as it seems to reinforce the
message. Let the pup run around and explore the area, call it
back now and then and give it a pat. The dog will probably be
feeling a little unsure about the whole episode and will probably
stick fairly close to you anyway. Walk around the area and try to
find some more kangaroos. This time if the dog starts after the
roos stand on the end of the rope and yell No! Chastise the dog
and pull it toward you on the rope. Repeat this process a couple
of times. Finish up back at the car and do something that the dog
enjoys doing, chasing a ball, a swim or just a bit of a game, itís
up to you. This tells the dog thatís it has done a good job and
you are happy with it. Donít worry that the dog will associate
the fun thing with the kangaroos. They have a very short
attention span and if you watch and older dog discipline a younger
one the younger one comes back almost immediately seeking
reassurance. This is what you are simulating.
Depending on the pup I like to do this sort of training for an
hour or so on a weekend afternoon. I try to do a block of about 4
weekends more or less in a row so the message sinks in. Pups in
their ďteensĒ 8 to 12 months may take a little longer to get
through too. I find it easier to take pups out at the 4 to 6
next natural progression is to walking through kangaroos or stock
with the dog off the lead. Let the pup hunt about naturally but
when you see kangaroos or stock call the dog and give it a pat.
This will teach the dog to come to you when it sees something
other than a pig.
Training pups in this way may not stop pups chasing game
altogether, especially after you start the pup on pigs. You
really need to work hard at it and have lots of patience. This
training though gives you a great base to work from and will make
the pup much more controllable. If it does chase a roo or rabbit
you should at least be able to call the dog back and discipline
it. By the time the dog is 8 to 10 months old you should be
reasonably comfortable with the pup around stock and the main
types of wildlife. It will take some time for the dog to get used
to other things such as foxes. But with a good amount of training
already done the pup shouldnít be too bad.
found that when the dog matures a bit and has caught a few pigs
that instead of coming back to you when kangaroos are in sight it
will stop and look back to you as if to say ďlook boss Iím not
chasing these thingsĒ. Thatís the stage you want to get your dog
to. Itís not easy and it takes a lot of work, but its worth
Working your young ute-finder
them often. At the 8 to 12 month stage you should work the pup as
much as you can. Twice a week is good if you can manage it. I
try to take my dogs hunting at least every weekend and then one
afternoon during the week. This is easier said than done of
course as all of us have work and family commitments. I find it
difficult to squeeze in a hunt in the winter when the days are
Depending on the timing I try to use short weekend hunts and quick
afternoon runs in the summer to get pups to a stage where they can
catch smallish pigs on their own or lug with another dog and are
stock and kangaroo proof. I then try to organise a couple of four
day or even a week long hunt out west in the cooler months. You
simply canít get better work for young dogs than catching 8 or 10
medium sized pigs in a day. I like to take my 4-wheeler bike and
ride along the lignum creeks or scrubby patches with 2 young
dogs. This gives you the opportunity to correct the dogs if they
are showing interest in wildlife. This is also an excellent way
of teaching the pups to ute-find. After you flush and catch a few
pigs the pups will be very keen to look for more pigs and the
progression to jumping off the bike when they smell a pig is an
easy and natural one.
work and more work. The next stage is the finishing one. At
about 12 months you should be able to work the pup as a part of a
team or on its own under a little supervision. Try to work the
dog as much as you can. Always work the young dog with other
ďstraightĒ dogs that only chase pigs.
your dog starts to find pigs it will be jumping off the Ute,
probably at night and going tearing off into the bush. Youíll
have to put a lot of trust in the dog and hope that it is doing
the right thing. Donít call the dog back unless you are sure that
itís after something it shouldnít be. Youíll also probably get a
lot of false starts and missed pigs at first but as the dogís
tracking ability improves so will the amount of pigs caught. Be
patient. Most dogs only get better with more experience.
lot of work training a dog to ute-find and getting it to work
properly. There are no shortcuts. It can be frustrating and
expensive. But seeing a dog locate a pig scent from the thousands
of others that waft past, trail a pig and then catch it is
fantastic. If thereís a bigger buzz in pig hunting I havenít
found it yet.
Bonk, a Blue Great
Dane Bull Mastiff Wolfhound that I bought from Kevin Grob. A
good fast dog that found to a medium range from the ute. The
first dog that I taught to ute-find.
Boyd, a Bull
Mastiff cross owned by Cliff Rose. A good honest finder that
lugged very hard. He found to a long range so he was kept in
the cage until he started making a noise. Heís an old dog in
this photo and is showing it.
Axle, a Wolfhound,
Boxer, Bullmastiff cross at about 8 months. I started him for
a mate and had to give him back. This was one of the first
pigs he caught. He was an A grade ute finder. He would
scream in the back of a ute if he could smell a pig. One of
the best dogs I have ever seen, he was the complete package.
My wife Natalie on her first pighunt is not quite sure what
its all about.
Rambo, a Bully,
Stag, Cattledog cross. Owned by Shane Mundy. The first dog
that I saw find off the ute. He was a great finding dog in
any situation, heíd find and bail until another dog arrived.
He is an old dog here and was mainly letting his pups do the
Buddy, a ĺ
Wolfhound owned by Noel Johnson from Clermont. A good finder
off the ute or on the ground. He was very reliable. If Buddy
jumped youíd get pigs. The best dog that I saw for getting
pigs from a mob. As soon as he saw you had the pig he would
be one gone and have another. He was a huge dog and he could
run down boars very quickly. He caught 3 boars from one mob
on his own, all between 90-100 kg. He has lots of offspring
in the Clermont region. There is 33 pigs in the trailer.
Major, the big
black dog gives it to a boar. Major was a Mastiff, Boxer,
Dane that I bought from a guy from Sydney. He was a great ute
finder and had a really good nose. He was a bit slow and
sometimes it took him a long way to pull up a pig. I would
have liked to put him over a stag bitch. He was too hard for
a long range finder and it bought him unstuck in the end.
Rip, the dog on the
ground is a Bully, Boxer, Dane I think. He was given to me by
a mate from Nyngan. He is one of my current dogs. No
world-beater but is reliable from the ute. He gets out of
finds. He is good at catching his own pig from a mob and will
go past dogs on pigs to do it, more to do with him being half
deaf than a smart dog though.
Bill, on the right
of the photo. He was a Dane, Wolfhound, Stag, Bully cross.
He was bred by Jason Hodges from Croppa Creek in NSW. He was
an outstanding finder and started finding off the ute on his
own before he was 10 months old. The best dog that Iíve ever
owned. Jason has bred this line of dog for years and Iíd
recommend them to anyone. The bitch on the left is Becca, a
Mastiff Wolfhound cross, she was a good hard bitch.
Jack, on the left
of the photo was bred by John Loud from Molong owned by a
mate. He was a very hard lugger and hunted hard both off the
ute and on the ground. He often pulled off some fantastic
finds. One of those dogs that would hunt himself into the
ground. Here he has just caught a NT boar and is well in
Another photo of me
and Bill. He was the only dog I had for quite a while and
used to be called on to do all the work. He caught 7 one
after the other on this afternoon.
Fred the foxhound.
Fred was a really nice dog but hunted too far and hard. He
was very open mouthed and scared the life out of everything
for miles. Major in the background. The white bitch is a
sister to Rip (above).