Barney Fife’s Keep
Agree on a date with your opponent that gives you eight weeks to condition your dog.
Set a specific time of the day for the match. This should be the same time of day that you will be able to work your dog. If you rise early and will work your dog at six a.m. Then set the match time for 6.a.m. Dogs are creatures of habit and do well on a predictable schedule.
Agree on the amount of the wager. Half of this should be sent to the referee as the forfeit. Always get a cash or money order forfeit from your opponent unless you know them very well. Agree on the rules, referee, number of people per side and the meeting place immediately prior to the match. I like Cajun rules with a 10-30-30. This means there is a 10-second scratch count, 30 seconds in the corner between scratches and a 30-second out of hold count (bottom dog to scratch). Get a referee that knows the rules and is impartial because his decision is final. Go over the rules with the other handler and referee prior to the match. This eliminates arguments during the match.
Set up negotiations directly with the person you are matching into. Do not negotiate through 3rd parties, which causes misunderstandings.
If you are traveling to your opponent, try to get a weight or bet advantage to cover the disadvantage of traveling. Also set up a meeting spot no more than 15 minutes drive from the match site. This eliminates long bumpy drives to the site, which disrupt the match dog.
Match high ability hard biting dogs in cold weather this type of match dog exempts large amounts of energy and is more likely to “run hot” or become exhausted. A long-winded defensive can go in warmer temperatures like 70F. A dog can be matched at an air-conditioned site in hot weather.
It is best to set up private (ten per side) matches early in the morning. The early hour keeps many of the loud mouth troublemakers away from the match. These bums are the ones that start fights make bets they can’t pay off and so on. Also few dog men are willing to get up early and work their dog, so you have an advantage if you worked your dog at this time of the day.
A dog’s correct pit weight is that weight where he is at the lowest possible weight with no loss of strength or bite. It is one of the hardest things to learn in the game.
Feed and weigh your dog once per day. That means he goes 24 hours between meals. This way, your dog will be weighed with no feces in his bowels and will show his true weight. Your dog should have access to fresh watch at all times. Use a calibrated test weight to best your scales once or twice per week, so you know your scales are accurate.
It will take 20-30 days to determine your dog’s correct pit weight. Decrease your dog’s feed until his ribs are visible and his stomach is tucked up. The dog will be within 5 lbs. of his pit weight. Start the exercises and daily documentation of weight at this time.
Write down your dog’s daily weight on a calendar as well us any work done that day. Walk your dog on a leash for 30 to 60 minutes per day. Gradually reduce this daily feed. Pay close attention to how your dog acts and how hard he pulls on these walks. This strength or the lack of it will determine when to stop reducing the dog’s feed. When any loss of strength is noticed, quit reducing the feed. See if the dog’s power return while maintaining the same volume of feed. If the strength returns, reduce the feed again and note the results on your calendar. Add food if your dog does not regain his power.
After 20-30 days your dog will fall on his correct weight. Experiment to see if the do can go a pound lower or higher and note the effect on your dog’s strength. If there is any doubt about the correct weight, always go to the heavier half or pound.
BRINGING A DOG IN THE PIT RIGHT ON WEIGHT
You have been weighing your dog each day after walking him until he has defecated and urinated. This is before you work him. This daily weight is written on your calendar along with the daily exercises. As you approach match time, you need to know what your dog weighs at various times during the day. During the last week, weigh your dog three times per day. You will know what your dog weighs after eating, twelve hours after eating and twenty hours after eating. This way you will know if your dog is under, over, or right on the contracted weight no matter what time of the day he is weighed.Few fanciers except the most disciplined can bring a dog to the pit exactly on the agreed weight. However this can be done with dedication to the program outlined here.
For example, your 45lb match dog would weigh 46 1/2 lbs. after eating, – 46 lbs. twelve hours later, -and 45 3/4 twenty hours after eating. He takes a dump and urinates and comes in at 45 lbs. If this dog weighed 45 1/2 lbs. twelve hours after eating, he’d probably weigh in at 44 1/2 lbs. or 1/2 lbs. under the contract weight.
In a situation like this you could feed a slice of wheat bread twelve hours after feeding and your dog would be exactly 45 lbs. at the weigh in.
The idea is to know if you need to feed your dog twelve hours prior to the match. You can only determine this if you know what your dog should weigh during the day.
If you are traveling by car to the match site, try to simulate this trip during the keep and note how far the travel effects your dog’s weight. Some dogs gain weight because they are so relaxed, while others loose weight because they are nervous during the car ride. So put the dog in the car several times each week (in a sky kennel). Dogs are like humans- they do well when their schedule is predictable.
Be sure to have accurate scales and a 50 lb. certified test weight to prove that your scales are accurate. Check your scales with this test weight periodically. Sudden changes in temperature will change the accuracy of your scales as well as your dog’s weight.
Always be sure to walk your dog so he has defecated and urinated prior to arriving at the match site. A dog will be too excited to empty out when he arrives at the site and will be over weight as a result.
If staying at a motel, I will walk my dog, weigh him, and drive to the match site (which is no more that 15 minutes by car). The dog will stay in the sky kennel until the weigh in, this way; he burns no energy until he steps in the pit.
If you arrive at the match site early, leave your dog in the sky kennel keeping him warm and comfortable. Do not let him shiver to keep warm, which wastes valuable energy. Bring extra blankets to wrap around the sky kennel if need be.
If your dog is completely empty but over weigh, do not attempt to work this weight off the dog. This will weaken your dog. If need be, pay the forfeit and go ahead with the match.
If your opponent is over weigh, encourage him to work off the extra weigh, which will weaken his dog. I will occasionally take the forfeit and go ahead with the match if the opponent is no more than 1/2 lb. over weight and my dog took the keep well.
Your dog should be defecating at the same time every day during the keep. He should have no problem emptying out on schedule just prior to the weigh in. If he won’t dump, place a cotton tip applicator (Q-tip) up his rectum and he’ll dump immediately.
It is twelve hours prior to the match and you have driven to a motel to sleep, expecting to match early the next morning. You weigh your dog (you know what he should weigh 12 hrs. before the weigh in) and he is 1/2 lb. under what he should weigh. Give him one slice of brown wheat bread and weigh again. If he is still under, give him another 1/2 to one slice and weigh again. Do not give any more food or water 12 hours prior to the weigh in.
If you are traveling it is good to bring your own water with you for your dog to drink. This way there is no possible reach in to a different water supply.
Follow this schedule closely and your will bring your dog in exactly on weight, well-rested and ready to go. This example involves using the 45-lb. match dog mentioned earlier. The match time is Saturday at 8:00am.
Feed wheat bread (one to two slices) to bring dog’s weight up to what he normally weighs at 8pm each evening (46 lbs.)
I do not give my dog Azium (Dexamethazone) for several days prior to the show. I give one injection of Azium S.Q. (under the skin) 2-4 hours prior to the show. The dose varies with the size and style of the dog. The low ability dog gets a higher dose (4-mg) because he will probably win by out gaming or outlasting his opponent. Azium will cause a dog to urinate and can cause dehydration if used for more than 12 hours prior to the show.
I also do not use diuretics (drug that increases urination) to help a dog make his pit weight. Drugs of this group like Lasix dehydrate a dog, which will cause loss of strength and endurance. I never dehydrate my match dog. Even if your dog is lucky enough to win, he will be much more likely to die from low volume (hypovolemic) shock.
Make sure that your dog is in perfect health during the keep. He should be free of external parasites like fleas, ticks and ear mites. Clean your dog’s ears with a Q-tip cotton swab. Ear mites cause discomfort and any offensive style dog should have absolutely clean ears.
The opponent of a hard mouth dog is certain to get on the ears in an effort to hold out your hard mouth dog. If those ears are inflamed due to ear mites, the pain caused by biting the ears will be severe.
Your match dog should also be free of internal parasites including tapeworms, which are transmitted by fleas. Use your local veterinarian to check stool samples for parasites and for any abnormality that develops during the keep. I use ivermectin liquid wormer to control hookworms, round worms, whipworms and heartworms. I prefer the cattle Ivermectin which comes in 30cc containers and can be injected (S.Q.) or given by mouth.
Droncit is the wormer of choice for tapeworms. The last worming check is given one week prior to the match (week seven).
The cattle Ivermection dose is 1/10 of a cc/ml per 20 lb. of body weight. So a 40 lb. dog would get .20 to .25 (1/4) cc of Ivermectin every thirty days.
Your match dog’s living quarters should be clean and warm. Do not keep your dog near the other yard dogs. I try to isolate my match dog from any distractions so he can rest quietly after the work out.
It is important for the handler to spend as much time as possible with the match dog. Develop a strong handler0match dog bond, which will become significant during a hard match. Take your dog with you on drives into town and watch TV together.
Be careful when using anabolic steroids on bitches to keep them from come in heat. This can lead to an infected uterus or pyometra, which means that your bitch will never have puppies. Use 25 mg. every 2 weeks.
Do not use high doses of antibiotics just prior to the show. This will cause the normal intestinal bacteria to be killed resulting in diarrhea and weight loss. Keep a close eye on your match dog. If she seems slow or sluggish and she is not overworked, give a seven-day dose of amoxicillen. This is a good broad spectrum (kills most bacteria) type of antibiotic.
Again, I use one dose of Azium given S.Q. 2-4 hours prior to the show. Azium (Dexamethazone) helps prevent the tissue swelling that causes hypovolemic shock. For this reason, Azium can be very useful, particularly in dog’s who rely on grameness to win, by outlasting their opponent. I always use 2 mg. of Azium on every dog. Dogs that are not high ability pit dogs get 4-6 mg. under the skin (S.Q.) two to four hours prior to the show.
If you want to use Anabolic Steroids, give injections of testosterone cypionate every two weeks. The final injection should be after the peak work out one-week prior the show. A good dose is 1/2-1 mg. per pound.
In addition to injections of Testosterone cypionate, give tablets of Anavar twice per day. Give one 2.5 mg. tablet in the morning and another in the evening. A large dog (48 lb. or larger) could take two tablets twice a day. Both of these anabolic steroids will increase power and aggressiveness without causing weight gain. I use a four week cycle when giving these drugs to my dogs.
Every day, your dog should be happy to see you and bursting with energy. If not, he is overtrained (stale) or is sick.
I like to keep the feeding as simple as possible and do not use any of the powders sold to enhance performance.
tart with the best dry dog food you can buy. All of the best brands are good. I use Purina Pro Plan Performance dry dog food. I use corn oil as my fat source and brown wheat bread as the complex carbohydrate source. In addition I add 2-4 ounces of raw calves liver for the B vitamins and iron. These ingredients are inexpensive and effective.
A 45 lb. dog would get approximately 2-3 cups of dry Pro Plan Performance, 2-4 ounces of raw calf’s liver, two slices of wheat bread with one tablespoon of corn oil poured on each slice of bread. This is fed once a day after the dog has cooled down from his work out. The feeding should be at the same time of day as the match. If the match is at 6am, then all meals are fed around that time.
NEVER feed simple sugars like candying, syrup or simulating products, they will cause the dog to fight hard for 10-20 minutes because of the high blood sugar level. After this time the sugar will be broken down causing the dog to loose his strength and energy. This is called a sugar high and sugars crash. STP’s CH. Bonnie lost her 5th match into “Smiley and me” because of this mistake.
When you weigh your dog twelve hours prior to the match and he is lighter than expected, feed wheat bread to bring him up to the correct weight as previously mentioned. Carbohydrates like bread can be absorbed in twelve hours. It takes longer for fats to be absorbed, so no fat should be in the feed after, the last mains feeding 24 hours prior to the show.
When matching in cold weather, you can feed more carbohydrates than normal. The high carb feed will cause the dog to fight at a faster pace than normal and possibly “run hot”. The cold temperature should make it easier for your dog to fight at a fast pace and not “run hot”. In hot weather, decrease the amount of carbohydrate and use more fat in the diet. The fat is a less intense, long duration energy source, more suited for warm weather.
You can buy calves liver in a supermarket or from a butcher. Cut the liver into o2-4 ounce slices and wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze. Put one slice of liver out to thaw per day, so it will be ready at feeding time.
Do not let your match dog chew animal bones because it blunts their teeth and bone pieces become lodged in the dog’s throat or intestines. Work them on the hide or give them large “rawhide bones” sold in stores.
This diet and the nutrient sources do not change during the keep. Any variation in diet can cause diarrhea, so avoid changing your feed at all cost.
EXERCISE IN THE KEEP
My keep places a priority on strength training which is different from many keeps which works strictly on endurance. This program will improve both strength and endurance. It will attempt to avoid “staleness” by utilizing a variety of exercises and plenty of rest days. The variety of exercise will keep the dog from getting bored and keep him trying to do his best work.
I divide the exercises into either strength or endurance training and alternate these routines, here are some examples:
*Walking the dog from a leash-leash walking
*Dog pulls a chain while you walk beside him -chain pulling
*Dog runs while pulling chains next to you, your car or bicycle.
*Treadmill-cat mill-jenny-turn table
*Running from a leash next to your car or bicycle
*Dog sprints after Frisbee or softball
*Swimming Fighting the hide (I don’t classify hide working)
Strength training will give your dog the power to drive into his opponent and obtain the hold he wants. It also helps him dominate his opponent by shaking and overpowering him.
Always do strength training every other workout to allow muscles to recover and rebuild. After a strength work out, give the next day off or do endurance training. Think of strength training like weight lifting for humans, which will cause muscles damage if used on consecutive days. Different types of strength training develop different muscles even though the exercise seems similar.
An example would be a dog pulling chains and a dog dragging you while on a leash. The resistance the dog ipulling against is coming from different angles, resulting in the development of different muscles. So much the types of strength and endurance training are important not only to develop various muscles but also to keep the dog from getting bored.
Endurance training will keep your dog from getting tired during the match. A dog will quit due to exhaustion before they will quit due to punishment received from a hard biter. So obviously, endurance training is the base of a good keep. You will gradually increase your dog’s endurance until the peak or maximum work portion, which is seven days before the match.
I recommend that your walk you be dog from a leash during the first two weeks of the keep. Start at ten to fifteen minutes per walk and work up to one hour per walk. This toughens up the dog’s pads and tones his muscles. So you leash walk for a two week pre-keep and condition for a six-week total for a total of eight weeks.
I recommend writing down all conditioning information on a daily calendar. Information included would be daily weight, type of work and length of time. Do this work, any medication given (wormers/steroids/etc.) and any abnormalities noted.
I make up my own calendars on Xerox 14 x 17-copy paper. This documentation will be a valuable reference to note your dog’s progress or to look back upon to see what keeps worked the best for which dog.
I have had success having my dogs pull chains using the following set up. The dogs wear a 2-inch wide collar. Attached to the collar is a 5-6 foot thick cotton or nylon rope. On one end is a heavy snap, which is clipped on the dog’s collar. On the opposite end is a metal ring about 3 inches in diameter. Chains of recorded weight can be attached or removed from this ring.
* 10 lb. chain/12 lb. chain/5 lb. chain.
I purchased these materials at hardware stores. I try to condition my dog to his style of fighting. For example I do interval training (short periods of intense work followed by rest on less intense work) on dogs that fight at a very fast pace. These barnstorming dogs need to get accustomed to this type of training (like 10-30 second wind sprints) other wise; they will run hot during the match. A good number of Zebo and Bullyson bred dogs that I conditioned, were able to barnstorm their opponents and then slow down and barnstorm again. The interval training prepared them for this type of fighting.
Wind sprints can be done on the treadmill, during roadwork or while pulling chains. Sprints are very hard on a dog’s paws so make sure they are in good shape prior to sprinting your dog. Because dogs become tired of interval training I save it until later in the keep. Your dog’s paws probably can not take the stress of interval training until late in the keep anyway.
All exercise and the length of workouts can be adjusted to suit the dog. For example, a dog might be so powerful that the weights listed for pulling, might not be enough to ensure good workouts. In this case, you would increase the weight of the chains. Some dogs will not pull chains, so use another exercise. Try to use exercise that the dog enjoys and eliminate those that the dog dislikes. Dogs should enjoy their workouts.
Never work a dog until he is exhausted. When the dog is tired and gasping for breath, he’s had enough work. I like to stop the work out before this point. Give the dog a chance to walk around to cool off and give as much fresh water as he wants to drink.
I often combine different exercises in one workout. Try to go from one exercise to the next with a minimum of rest so the work out is continuous. Your dog will not get a rest during the match, so he should go through the work out in similar fashion.
Changing the types of workout as well as the location will help your dog to enjoy the work. Dogs enjoy variety in their exercises, just like we do. So do road works and chain pulling in different locations if possible.
The amount of work gradually increases until the peak workout which is one week prior to the show. Always give your dog a rest day after a hard workout so he can recover and get stronger. After the peak workout, the work dramatically decreases during that last week.
I like to have my dogs pull chains because it increases my dog’s power. As a result, my dog have usually been stronger than their opponents have. Walking a dog from a leash also puts strength into a dog. However chain pulling is a more efficient use of this time. Dogs normally pull on the leash for the first 10-20 minutes and then walk beside the conditioner. A dog pulling chains pulls the weight during the entire walk. Offensive dogs use a lot of energy driving into an opponent and will tire quickly unless they are accustomed to this sort of stress. Chain pulling simulates this situation.
Do not run or chain pull a dog on asphalt roads. Use dirt roads or grass fields, which will keep your dog’s paws intact. Never do strength training on consecutive days. This is like weight lifting for humans and will excessively tear down muscle. Alternate strength training with endurance training or rest days.
Lazy workers will work hard if worked along side another dog. I have used non bulldog pets and young unstarted bulldogs, which run loose while my match dog pulls chains. Several devastating dogs like McGee’s “Panther” Mike’s “Beast” and Super Gnat’s “Smiley” put out maximum effort during workouts when worked with another dog.
No matter how lazy the dog, there is always some form of exercise that the dog will like. Tar Heel Matt’s 2 x winner Gigit did not like to pull chains on a walk. However she loved to run her kennel chain fussing at other dogs. So I put Gigit on a huge 20-foot chain and timed her on my watch as she drug the chain all around, fussing at the other dogs. Gigit was only a 31 1/2-32 lb. bitch.
Some dogs would not work the hide. So I’d take a dog they despised and let that dog work the hide while my match dog watched this 20 feet away in the cab of my truck. After lavishly praising the dog on the hide, I’d let my match dog take a turn at hide working. Invariably they started to enjoy hide work.
I set the height of the hide by moving the nylon rope up or down. The knots in the rope get stuck in the snap. No metal is neat the dog’s mouth. The height is set so the dog’s front legs are off the ground while he is holding and fighting the hide. This forces the dog to work, using his neck, back and hind legs (just like in a match). A garage door spring gives the dog enough resistance, but stretches enough not to yank out a dog’s teeth when he pulls back hard on the hide. The garage door spring can be attached to a tree limb or fastened to a ceiling beam in your basement.
The key to being a good handler is to stay near your dog and remain alert during the match. It is just that simple. Being able to leap around the pit does not ensure being a good handler.
If you were in a prizefight, you would want some company in the ordeal. Dogs are pack animals just like we are and benefit from having a friend nearby. Always stay near your dog and you will notice if he is fanged (bit through his lip by his K-9 teeth).
You have developed a strong bond with your dog because of all the time you spent together during the keep. This bond will enable you to reassure your dog and control the pace at which your dog fights. Always use the same words of encouragement during the match that you have used during the keep (i.e. good boy! etc.) Encourage your dog in an excited manner only if he has a deep (not a skin hold) hold on his opponent. Otherwise just stay where he can see you and talk in a calm, soothing voice.
Constantly encouraging your dog will cause him to fight at a very fast pace and he will fight himself off his feet in twenty minutes.
If your dog is fanged he can not bite hard because he is biting into his own lip every time he closes his mouth. Notice this immediately and inform the referee. The referee will verify that the dog is fanged and then attempt to unfang the dog while they are still in hold. If this can not be done, the referee will order the dog’s separated and the handler will unfang his dog. I use a ballpoint pen, which I slide along the dog’s gum and push down, freeing the entrapped lip. Once a dog has been fanged or had it’s muscle bitten, it is more likely to get fanged again due to the swelling of the dog’s lips. (If your dog gets fanged in rolls, he will get fanged in a match) Azium will help prevent a “lippy” dog from getting fanged because it controls swelling. Ask a knowledgeable friend to also watch for your dog getting fanged. With both of you looking, your dog will be less likely to have to fight, biting into his own lip.
When a dog turns its head away from it’s opponent, it is a turn and should be pointed out to a referee. The referee will decide if a turn was committed and either recognize or not recognize it. If recognized, the handlers can handle their dogs when they are out of hold. Stay in position near your dog so a handle can be made once a turn has been recognized.
If you have a good scratching dog who is getting bit hard, you would call a turn on your own dog to get the scratching started. The same would be true if your dog’s endurance was not good, and he could benefit from a 30-second rest in the corner.
Handling skills can be developed and practiced during rolls. You will learn how to crouch, set your feet and be ready to handle without bumping or tripping your dog. I handle by approaching the dog from the rear picking up his neck and chest with my left hand and lower body with my right hand. Grab the dog gently; lift with your legs and turn away from the other dog as you move toward the other dog. Continue to spin away from the other dog so your dog will not get bitten. This will embarrass the other handler. Never snatch your dog or grab him roughly. The motion should be smooth and gentle.
Face your dog in the corner, stand him up on all four legs and let him breathe as you check his lips and sponge him down. Do not crouch all over your dog; let him breath and talk positively to him.
If your opponent is scratching hard, release your dog so he won’t get smashed in the corner. If your opponent is hesitating on his scratch, hold you’re dog as still as possible. Any movement will encourage your opponent to complete his scratch.
I wear the same general color as my dog (light dog–light overalls; dark dog–dark clothes). After a long match, a dog will not be able to distinguish the opposing dog from the handler and will see one blob in the opposite corner. Bulldogs will generally not scratch to a human so there is an element of illusion here.
If possible, try to handle your dog when he feels good about the match. For example, if your dog’s nose is getting chewed, try to wait until he gets out of it, and works his own hold before you handle.
Pay no attention to the crowd. Concentrate on your dog the entire time. If the match is not going well, do not get discouraged because your dog will read your feelings and get discouraged as well. Just stay where your dog can see you and gently encourage him. He will weather the storm and come back to win. However if you give up on your dog, he will give up too.
If your dog can not win, don’t leave him down to take a killing; pick him up, because your wager is already lost. There’s no sense in loosing a valuable dog as well.
If your dog is driving into his opponent, but can’t get a good hold your can help your dog. When the opponent is driven into a corner by your dog, block the opponent’s escape by cutting off the route the dog would normally use. Just get in the way and create an illusion to make the opponent’s dog think he is trapped. Be prepared to move out of the way since you can not block or even touch the other dog. Try to create the illusion that the other dog is boxed in the corner.
Always be polite to the other handler. You will be able to get away with more rule bending that way. Always try to get the match over with as soon as possible, because the tide can change at any minute.
It’s good to handle with a strategy in mind. Will your dog benefit from getting the scratching started? Or will he do better with no scratching at all? Is the best plan to try to get in some heavy shots very early in the match or is it best to outlast and outgame the other dog? This strategy determines how you handle.
When entering the pit after the weigh in, make sure that your dog sees his opponent and is ready to go. If your dog does not know what is happening, the opponent dog will rush a cross and get a damaging hold before your dog knows what hit him. I carry my dog across the pit wall and walk to center pit letting my dog see his opponent. Walking backwards, I move to my corner. I never face my dog in the corner until after the dogs are released.
If your opponent releases his dog before the referee’s signal, wait until the last second and lift your dog straight up in the air. The opponent’s dog will slam into the corner possibly breaking his teeth. This is at the start of a match and not during regular scratches.
Some handlers will release their hard biter early to gain an unfair advantage on your dog. You turn their attempt at cheating to your advantage.
Signed- Deputy Barney Fife
Editors Note: Barney Fife was as dedicated dogman as you could find. His whole life was the dogs. Near the end of his life he fell to the temptation of drugs. The modern day approach of scientific research and testing of methods is credited to him.