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Cougar Hunting Dog Tries to be a Pet

MJ on "her" couch

The woman's tone on the phone indicated her frustration. "We have this dog, M.J., and every time I run with her on the trail, she puts her nose down, makes this horrible sound, and runs away." She sounded desperate. "Do you know the problem?"

"I think so. Does she have a short coat and long ears? Does she howl really loud?"

The woman seemed surprised. "Well, yes."

"M.J.'s a hound. She's doing what she's bred to do."

A long silence. "I'm a trail runner. Our family loves the outdoors. Is there a way to keep her from running off?" She went on to explain that she and her daughter, while visiting a local ranch, encountered the last puppy in a litter, and her daughter was not going to let them go home unless they purchased the dog. It was so cute, white with larges splotches of black and brown, and those big velvet ears. She licked the daughter and found herself a home. The problem? She was from a long line of mountain lion-hunting dogs.

She asked, "Is there anything we can do?"

"That depends on you," I said. "I can teach M.J. to come on a dime, but her genes will always tell her to smell and run. I'll have to work with you so that you know how to handle her, and you'll have to be vigilant. If you're not paying attention, she'll be gone." I explained that her dog needed a lot of exercise, but she could give her that if we could get her to where the two could run down trails together.

She didn't sound confident.

It took me every minute of two weeks to teach M.J. to recall even in when on the trail and "on the nose." Then the hard part: teaching my client.

She learned fairly quickly to recall M.J., but because she ran a business and had children and lots of friends, she was on the phone constantly. It would only take 2-3 seconds of inattention for M.j. to bolt.

It took us a few times of working together, but she learned to recall M.J. reliably. One day my phone rang. The woman sounded very happy. "I just had one of the best hikes ever. I had a nice run with beautiful weather and M.J. came instantly when I called."


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