Was Your Dog Overworked? by Don Carter
I get many letters and phone calls about conditioning, with a vast majority of those inquiries wanting to know what went wrong. The usual question goes something like this: “I just can’t understand it, he fought so much better in his schooling rolls.” Have you ever heard that? I’d venture to say that if you have been in the dogs for a reasonable length of time, you have heard that statement or one similar to it. But why you might ask does that thread run so true. What is it about dogs that makes them seem strong, bite hard and have plenty of wrestling power when taken off the chain with a “normal” looking body, but seem to do just the opposite with poor performance after going through a six week keep.
I’ve been active with the dogs for nearly 30 years, and during that time I’ve seen a lot, heard a lot and been exposed to many different schools of thought when it comes to shaping a dog. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard that a dog was ruined on a treadmill. Dittos for a dog running a catmill, turntable or using a springpole. I’ve done an experiment that I hope you will try. I’ve taken dogs off the chain with a minimum amount of body fat, rolled them in cool weather and recorded the results. They were nothing short of amazing. Generally speaking if a dog is free of internal and external parasites, is in good over-all health, isn’t mud fat, he’ll perform very well if taken off the chain and rolled. It is my opinion that given all the above factors, your dog will do much better off the chain (or walked an entire month) for his match so long as he is in the best of health. But why then condition? Here’s my theory. I believe that most people today overwork their dogs to the point that their dog has lost his bite, his endurance and his will to fight. Now why would I make such a statement? Simple! It’s because it’s true. Let me offer an experiment for you to try and I am open for criticism on this one, so bear with me. Set up a roll with a good friend, one you trust, to take place 30 days after you set it up. Work your dog hard as if you are putting him through a serious keep. Do the whole bit. Go with the treadmill, catmill, turntable or whatever, and give him all you can. In other words, work him until he drops,which is what many dog men do anyway, then roll him. Watch for any signs of fatigue, poor performance, weakness or lack of bite. The most important thing to watch for is if your dog runs hot after a few minutes. Nearly 95% of all dogs run hot from the 15 to 30 minute mark into the match, and if their in shape they should “blow” right through and catch their second wind. Now do the SAME THING after the dog heals or use another dog. However, if you use another dog, the scientific method has been compromised and your data will be tarnished. This time around only WALK your dog for the entire 30 day period. Give him progressively longer walks, and peak him during the last week by taking shorter walks and them tell me what you find. I bet that you’ll have a dog in much better physical and mental shape than the one that you conditioned the OTHER way.
So if I were going to give you the best piece of advice I could offer, it would be to set up a program to maintain the health of your dog. Make sure he has plenty of good food, fresh water ,a shady spot to lay in when the weather is hot and a warm, dry house when it is cold. Make sure he gets all the love and attention that you can give him, and above all, PLAY WITH YOUR DOG!! Treat him like a puppy all of his life. When you get him matched, start his walking workouts with a two mile walk and work him up to where he is doing around eight to ten miles walking. If you want to sprint him, YOU sprint with him. Start out with a thirty yard easy sprint and work up to a five hundred yard sprint BY HAND. Stay away from mills, and any other type of mechanical device for conditioning. Watch his weight, but not to the point of going overboard. If his weight doesn’t decrease much, then lower his food intake. If he loses too much weight too fast, then increase his food intake. Sound simple? It is!! There is nothing magical about conditioning you dog, however, if your not careful and you listen to the majority of the dog men out there, your dog will be ruined before he even steps into the pit. Trust me on this one. A little bit of common sense goes a long way. For instance, if you dog is overworked, he is done/finished before he even sees his opponent. If, however, you tender his conditioning with ease and temperance, your dog will have plenty left with which to do the trick. I guarantee it works.But what does all this tell you? What does it all mean? I firmly believe that the largest percentage of dogs being set down today are overworked to the point of leaving their fight in the gym. That’s an old saying, but a true one!! I learned my methods from men like Don Divine, Ham Morris and Bill Anderson, and virtually all those men were extremely successful in our sport. Now get this, none of them were/are a believer in working a dog until he drops. Each and every one of these men fought their dogs heavy and utilized mostly walking for their primary exercise. I honestly believe that you can put your dog in top shape with ever progressively longer walks making sure that he doesn’t go stale. Remember, we are also conditioning the dog’s MIND as well as his body. As a matter of fact, I think mind conditioning is perhaps much more serious and needful than the body ever thought about being. Now why would I make such a statement? The reason is simple. An American Pit Bull Terrier is born with his God given athletic body. Generally there is very little that you can do to improve such things as strength, bite or even wind. But make no mistake about it, you can take all the strength, bite and wind right out of him by overworking him to the point of exhaustion. It is my opinion that there is NOTHING you can do to improve the bite of the dog. If he wants to bite hard, he can. If he doesn’t want to bite hard, you can never make him. But, you can help get him in good shape.
The next time that you hear someone say, “But he fought so well in his rolls”, you will know exactly why. But you will be the smart one. Someone else will be the chump. I for one have been beating this drum for years to very little avail. Most people still think that you should run a dog until he drops on a treadmill. I have several friends that make and sell mills, and it’s not my intention to ruffle their feathers. If used properly, the treadmill is a valuable tool. But make no mistake about it, you can work a dog just fine with a nice collar, strong leash and a good pair of jogging shoes. In essence, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars, and in the long run perhaps the match and your dog. If you live in a crowded city, this will be much tougher. But it can be accomplished. You can walk at night, or find a nice secluded park setting. I believe where there is a will there is a way.
I wish you well and hope you will at least give this a try. Let me know what happens. The least you can do is the same that you have been doing. I will go on record by saying if your having success conditioning your dog, then don’t fix it if it ain’t broke. But if you have done all you know to do, and it’s not working, then give this a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Don’t overwork your dog. Leave something with him and you will see much better performance.