Trash Breaking
by Michelle Mears

Reprinted from Boar Hunter Magazine

Everyone trains dogs differently. Here are some tips and methods that have worked for me in trash breaking my hog dogs.

All young dogs, and I donít care who owns them, want to investigate every new smell they find while in the woods. Itís your job to fine-tune their excellent nose sensor for that one specific scent- swine. Someone once explained a dogís ability to smell in a way that it helped me to understand a dog's behavior much better. You see, when you are cooking beef stew, you and I smell beef stew, but a dog will smell beef, carrots, celery, etc. Each smell is a separate smell. When your dog is in the woods, the same "beef stew" effect happens Ė trees, coons, grass, hog, etc. Some dogs will pick out one particular smell every time and it may not be the one you want him to choose. These dogs are relatively easy to break. The dogs that want to run every smell are somewhat more difficult to train and require more intense work.

First I strongly suggest you invest in a shock collar. Borrow your buddyís if necessary. It makes the chore easier, you can get your point across even when you canít put your hands on the dog, and the dog wonít associate the pain in his neck directly to you personally and shy away.

Next, identify your dogís favorite trash. Letís say the trash is coon scent, since coons are abundant in many places. Get a live trap and trap yourself a coon. Feed and keep it in your home (I suggest you ask your spouse first!), and put the collar on your dog a few hours before you intend to work with him; otherwise, heíll get wise to the entire collar/shock/trash thing and will only trash when the collar isnít on him. The point of this is to not to have to run your dog forever with that collar on. Put the coon in the trap in the middle of your yard, and then let your dog out. When he goes up to the coon, light him up! Tell him "NO!" But only once. You wonít be there to tell him every time he finds that scent in the woods. In a day or two, take the coon and hide him somewhere in your yard. Let the dog out to run, and when he locates and goes up to the coon, light him up! Wait a few days, then take the coon to a field or nearby woods and hide him again. Get the dog and act like youíre going to the woods to hunt. When the dog starts to approach the coon where you hid him, light him up! Do this exercise until the dog no longer wants to go anywhere near that trash. The object of this exercise is to break the dog in a controlled environment. You can do this with any small animal; you just have to catch one first.

Letís talk about big animals; cows, deer, etc. Now of course you canít go out and trap one of these and bring it home, so weíll go about this differently. Cows are relatively simple. Take your collared dog to a cow pasture (You should ask the owner first.), and then walk your dog on a short lead through the cows. Light him up if he looks at them. Tell him "NO!" one time only. The next time you take him, put him on a fifty-foot lead. If he looks, shock him; if he goes towards them, shock him. Do this until the sight of a cow makes him want to hide. Some dogs will take longer than others to associate the pain in their neck with the trash, and most dogs will need a reminder every now and then until they reach one or two years old. The smarter the dog, the quicker theyíll figure it out. Bulldogs and hounds seem to be the hardest to break.

Deer and bear are the hardest trash to break because you canít really work your dog in a controlled environment. Unless, of course you, are lucky enough to have a deer pen or a friend with a pet bear! If so, refer back to the exercise on cow breaking. Iíve heard of many way to break a dog from running a deer, like putting a dog in a 55-gallon drum with a deer hide soaked in Tinkís #69, closing the drum and rolling the dog in the barrel down a hill a few times! I have tried this, and all I got was a dizzy, deer-running dog!

What I do now is go to some woods where Iíve seen a lot of deer. I bring the dog (collar on), and when I see a deer cross, I put the dog out. When he hits the scent and tries to trail it, you know this drill by now Ė LIGHT HIM UP! The same goes for bear, but most times youíll only have a track to work with. Try to find the freshest track possible.

All of the methods Iíve mentioned work better if you have a pig available. When you are done shocking the dog off what you DONíT want him to hunt, you can show him a pig and tell him "Good dog!". This is positive reinforcement; Trash Ė NO!  Hogs Ė YES! Soon your dog will only select the hog smell out of the "woods stew".

Good luck!

For more information contact Michelle Mears at

High on the Hog Kennels
Michelle Mears
Plantation, Fla.

(954) 791-6473