In our breeding program, one of the main traits we are breeding for is hunting ability. A prepper dog has three primary jobs in the far North; hunting, guarding/watching, and hauling. The idea is similar to the stone age hunting dogs of long ago, such as the extinct mammoth dogs, or the original arctic Inuit dogs. First and foremost the dog was a hunting partner. The dog or team of dogs used their superior senses to track down and/or hold at bay large game. As the large animal was distracted, the hunter could skewer the animal with atlatl darts, spears or arrows; all the while the prey was too busy focusing it's attention upon the harassing dogs. They were also used to track down wounded game that had escaped, and were bedded down far away.
In the stone age environment there were many large dangerous predators and scavengers. They could arrive at the kill site and menace the hunters while they butchered their mammoth, seal, walrus or wooley rhino. An early alarm system was necessary to give the butchers time to prepare for defense against things like saber toothed tigers, cave bears, packs of wolves or polar bears. The dog had to do
guard duty and watch for intruders, while they butchered the animal. In my recent hunt for moose this fall, Ladislaus, my KB dog, did exactly what I have described. As I butchered the moose, he stood guard with his back to the moose and I, and went out to do a circular trek of sentry duty on the perimeter. He heard something approach unseen in the willow thicket and asserted our territorial dominance.
The stone age hunter would use dogs with packs or travois frames to haul the heavy loads of meat to camp. Later, the dog sled was developed to a high level of sophistication by the Inuit, for hauling large loads of flesh. It was not uncommon to haul 1000 pounds of whale blubber or other game by a team of arctic huskies. I have spent many years hauling water, firewood, camping gear, trapping gear, food and even harvested game with dog power. In many environments of the North, a dog is the only practical beast of burden capable of getting the job done.
The Boreal Prepper Dog is primarily Hunter/Guardian/Transport. Today I want to focus more on the hunting aspect of the BP dog. The original Inuit dogs were often called to do all three duties. Unfortunately, sled dogs have been bred for specialization in modern times; and have been reduced to harness work exclusively. There is the occasional rare Malamute or Siberian Husky that develops a fetish for hunting and harassing other animals, but they are not reliable for such traits as breeds. I have had a few such dogs in the past, and it was a pleasure to watch them work on game.
Here at St. Hugh's Mountain Kennel we are trying to revive that original hunting trait. Yet we do not want to loose that harness/sledding trait in the process. So we introduced a Karelian Bear Dog and some Siberian Laika to the breeding program. We also had some success using our Akita to track wounded game and scent work. These three breeds have hunting potential, like dynamite has explosive potential. But fusing it with our sled dog genetics can be a complicated task, that ideally takes about three generations of cross breeding.
In this breeding plan we must ask the question, "How do we want our dogs to hunt?"
I say this because in the world of hunting dogs, dogs have been bred for specialized hunting tasks for so long, that the options are many. A do it all hunting dog is hard to come by, though there are some breeds that claim such a lofty ideal. There are tracking dogs, pointers, retrievers, tree dogs, dogs that herd the game towards the hunter, dogs find and hold game at bay for the hunter to shoot, dogs that kill game such as the sight hounds who run down and kill wolves and coyotes, bear dogs, and terriers that dig into burrows to kill and pull out subterranean game. There are elk hounds, fox terriers, fox hounds, squirrel dogs, coon dogs, Labrador retrievers, hog dogs, dogs that specialize in mountain lions, and those that track wounded deer for recovery.
Expecting a single dog to to do all these varied tasks, and understand when the hunter wants them to do one tasks rather than another, is asking more than most hunting dogs can give. For the last several centuries, dogs have been bred for hunting specialization. They are bred to have one or two specific hunting skills and excel in that narrow spectrum of skill only.
What skills do we want to breed into our dog line? What game do we most likely want to pursue? Subsistence hunting in Alaska has seasonal hunts, and varied game options. Some hunting does not even require a dog. One has to be an opportunist and be able to adapt to different scenarios. The primary game of pursuit for our family is moose. In other parts of Alaska there are caribou, musk ox, bison, deer, and bears. Moose is the most common large game animal in our area. Black bears are also common and eagerly sought after.
There are breeds of dogs that are already well adapted to hunting moose and bears, though difficult to get good specimens of. Elk hounds, Jamthunds, Siberian Laikas, & Karelain Bear dogs, all have potential for hunting bears and moose. But in Alaska we have a problem. It is illegal to pursue big game or harass them with dogs. Specifically the Alaska hunting manual says...
"You may not... Hunt big game with the aid or use of a dog, EXCEPT: dogs may be used to hunt black bears under a permit issued by ADF&G. A single, leashed dog may be used in conjunction with tracking and dispatching a wounded big game animal."
Technically one can not pursue any big game, such as moose or bear, with a dog. The only exception to this is by a special permit for black bears (hard to get), and using a leashed dog to track a wounded game animal. This means that the traditional method of hunting bears and moose with elk hounds and bear dogs is illegal in Alaska. Breeds that have been hunting this way for literally 4,000 to 6,000 years are now illegal to hunt with in Alaska. Other countries use such dogs to hunt this way routinely, without any damage to game populations, or danger to the hunter/dogs in any excessive risk. Yet for some reason, Alaska state government decided to outlaw a hunting tradition that is older that the state itself. It is a method older than written human history and civilization.
I mention this to warn anyone out there who may hunt big game with dogs. Serious consequences can arise if the Department of Fish and Game finds you using a dog to bay a moose or tree a bear to shoot. That being said, there have always been people in Alaska that hunt big game with dogs on the sly and always will, till the end of time. In Canada it is still a traditional practice to find and hold at bay polar bears with dogs and shoot them.
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What can be done with a dog though? Well, recovery of wounded game can be done with a dog. If one shoots a moose near some bramble of alder and willow, it is not uncommon for the moose to disappear in the blink of an eye. I have heard many stories from fellow hunters that shot a moose and were sure it was a killing shot, only to walk over the few hundred yards to find that the moose is gone. They are well able to vanish, if the shot does not kill them instantly. I have found a moose that survived the night with a double lung shot, because the bullet failed to fully mushroom. It took hours of circling around in some bramble and wet trails to find a moose that traveled hundreds of feet into thick brush after it was shot. It could have been found in five minutes with a recovery dog.
Many moose are lost in such situations. They could be easily recovered by a good tracking dog. We have dogs that are born with an instinct to recognize the scent that comes from the gland between the toes of the moose hoof. If encouraged while young to track such scent, they can easily recover lost moose that a human would never find. The thought of having a 1,500 pound moose hide in a thick patch of bramble and never be recovered is an unpleasant one. Letting so much meat rot and be eaten by ravens is irresponsible, and wasteful. Having a good tracking dog is simple and can make the difference between wasted meat and meat safety filling the freezer to the brim. Remember that the state requires you to leash such a dog while tracking.
While technically not legal, the same recovery dog is well able to discern between old scent and new scent from a moose. I suppose that technically it is now illegal for a dog to smell moose track unless the moose already has a bullet in it. That being said, how is one to prevent a dog from scenting trail? So it is possible to use such a dog to trail a live moose, and eliminate the old trails that would waste ones' time wondering in circles for miles. That is what we call a, "hot nosed dog." In hound work, trailing scent, there are two kinds of noses. One is called a, "cold nose." Which means that the dog will pick up on even the oldest scents and follow it until it leads to an animal to shoot. Since many big game animals travel in large circular motions for miles such scenting could take days and miles of hiking. The, "hot nosed," dog will always abandon an old scent for the freshest scent that presents itself. We call it hot nosed because the scent is so fresh it is hot. The dog can even sense the faint heat signature a few minutes after the animal has left a track. If the dog tracks close in front of the hunter the hunter can learn to watch for body language that will communicate what the dog is sensing.
This is very different than the traditional elk-hound hunting method of Scandinavia and Russia. In the old country the dog ranges quietly as far as is necessary to find fresh moose trail. Once the dog catches up to the moose he circles and barks, called, "holding at bay." The dog only barks while a moose is held in position. If the moose begins to walk away the dog goes silent again, and tries to circle ahead of the moose to cut off his retreat. Once the dog gets the moose to turn and stay in one spot again, the dog resumes the annoying barking that distracts the moose. By this method, the hunter is able to tell exactly where the dog and moose are, and what is happening by hearing. If the dog barks, the moose is still; if the dog goes quiet, the moose is moving. In such hunting the dog is usually far out of sight from the hunter. They also are genetically disposed to herd the moose towards the hunter.
In Alaska this method (which goes back to the stone age) is not allowed. So an Alaskan moose recovery dog must naturally stay within eye sight and control of the hunter. The hunter then follows the silent dog, and is very attuned to the visual body language of the dog. If the wounded big game is still alive but wounded in the brush, a barking dog could spook it and drive it to run a mile or more further. Thus a good dog is a quiet dog in this game recovery method. If it were a bear that was wounded, it may attack if frightened by barking, especially if it is wounded enough that it can not out run a pursuing dog. A dog that offers a quiet whimper or growl to the hunter, letting him know the bear is very near is more appropriate than loud barking.
This means that the traditional barking elk-hound or bear dog is not the ideal in this scenario. Such dogs are bred to have loud distinctive barking voices. They must be disposed to bark for a long time if necessary, and it must be a loud, shrill, piercing bark that travels far. The tone of the bark must be such that it annoys the moose or bear rather than frighten the animal to retreat. This is why I like the Akita temperament in hunting. My Akita are very quiet dogs that hunt silently. They also look back at the hunter, and gives a lot of communication by body language. They tend to stay within eye sight of the hunter.
The other possibilities for hunting with dogs is in treeing fur bears, squirrels and upland game birds. Before the state government stepped in with regulation, it was a common practice for native people to hunt with a husky as a tree dog in the forested zones. It was a small Spitz like dog, sometimes called a, "giddy," that would trail lynx, pine martin and porcupine until they ran them up a tree. The hunter then caught up to the barking dog and would shoot the game animal out of the tree. Such practice has been outlawed, for pursuing fur bearing animals though, and such dogs are now extinct in Alaska. It is a sad story of bureaucracy destroying a way of life that was well adapted to the resources and environment for native people. And we can learn a lesson from such a sad story, that we should not allow the state to make extinct our traditional Alaskan subsistence lifestyle for rural Alaskans.
With that restriction against treeing fur animals with dogs, there is the exception of animals that have no market value for their furs. One can legally tree porcupine, squirrels and upland game birds. And it is common practice to hunt grouse with a dog to point and retrieve.
I have three dogs that will tree and point grouse. My two males will do it with only one bark and then come to find me, so as to lead me to the tree with the grouse. If they spook a grouse from the ground to flight, they will follow it to the landing sight (usually a tree) and point to it with their fixed gaze like a radar dish. My female Siberian Laika does all this, but will also range very far to do all this. Once she trees a grouse (or squirrel) she will bark until I arrive. The two males are Finnris, my male Siberian Laika, and Ladislaus, my Karelian Bear dog. I am certain that they will pursue and tree any small animal that will go into a den or climb a tree, not being dogs of discrimination. They do tend to have a preference for grouse and squirrels though. The dogs will always be able to find more birds than the hunter can alone. A day of bagging grouse with a good dog is a fine experience that one never forgets. And chasing a dog to tree squirrels can keep a new child hunter busy with dad all day long.
Here is a picture of my Siberian Laika, Inga, at about 3-4 months old. Even at that young age she was already starting to express her prey drive. We started her as soon as she was able to keep up on hikes with the .22 rifle. Here we had a harvest of two grouse and some squirrels.
Generally it is good to have a dog around as an alarm system for intruding predators while out doing our outdoor work and subsistence hunting. As a general rule a dog must be born with certain instincts to be worth having. These instinct may not be apparent when it is a young puppy, but if they are good pups such instinct will be branded indelibly upon the dogs nature. There are some simple tests to increase chances of picking a pup with these traits, but many times the traits do not express themselves until the pup gets around 6 months old.
These traits would be... 1.) a tag a long dog. They should naturally follow (and lead as they get older) the human and not go off on their own. 2.)A quiet dog. They should not excessively bark in the field unless they have cornered/treed game. 3.)A hot nosed dog. They should be very interested in scents and smells in the woods. Good signs of this are if they are often stopping to sniff things, particularly moose tracks, animal scat, urine scent markers of canines, and feathers of birds. Another good sign is if the young dog shows interest in scenting near dens and sticks their head in a den to smell it.
4.) Look up dogs. I was advised by an expert on Siberian Laika, that a good one is inclined to look up into the trees. It is a sign of higher intelligence and strong prey drive if the puppy looks up at noisy chattering squirrels or birds flying from branch to branch. Such dogs are strongly stimulated by moving objects and like to chase them. Some dogs are more visual hunters and other more by hearing and scent.
5.) Strong body language... a dog has verbal and nonverbal communication skills. Most communication among dogs is by body language. They are masters at reading your body language and expect the same from you the hunter. The more you recognize proper body language, and it's
usefulness in your dog, the more you should reward it as the puppy grows into maturity. This requires you to learn dog body language and learn how to communicate the same way.
Many people get a young puppy and go out hunting, expecting the pup to simply run out, grab an animal by the throat and drag it to the lazy hunter as they sit on a log sipping coffee. This is expecting too much. The hunter has a role to play. First one must take the puppy out into the woods to learn the environment, WHILE YOUNG! The best puppy can be ruined by not giving it time in the woods in those first 6 months. Around 3-4 months old is the prime time to take them hiking and introduce them to hunting. The sooner a pup sees you harvest game, and be given a little piece of it in reward, the sooner the dog will realize that life is all about hunting.
The hunter must also spend a lot of time learning to interact with the dog. The dog will watch you and learn from your actions. As one expert said, "Do what you want your dog to do, if you want it to learn to hunt."
If you want your dog to track, then while they are young you track things. Even in the off season when you can not harvest, you can still practice tracking game. A good dog will eventually be able to tell that you are interested in tracks and start to help you. This is a crucial time to train your dog for your preferred target species. If you don't want it to hunt something in the future, then always ignore the tracks and signs of that particular species. At the end of a successful track, like treeing a grouse, if you can not legally shoot it, then at least give the pup a treat when it takes notice of the game animal. Spend some time looking at the grouse and circling the tree until the pup takes interest also.
Many dogs are far more capable of hunting than their owners realize. It is merely a lack of experience and awareness in the owner that handicaps the potential of the dog. In the end though, hunting is genetically wired in certain dogs and certain breeds. Some dogs, such as AKC show dogs and those bred to be ego soothing pets are largely loosing their original predatory instincts. Start with good genetic potential, and the training will be easier.
Hopefully we will have a litter of pups this spring of 2018 that will have the genetic potential to have these hunting qualities. We bred our Siberian Laika, Inga, to our Huskita, Lars. Here below are their pics...
We expect to have some really strong prey drive in these pups.
They should turn out to be very athletic and high energy hunting dogs. They are also good family dog, loyal and affectionate. If this is what you are looking for in a dog, check our website in Early spring to see what we have to offer.