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The Game Test 
by CA Jack

The previous article demonstrated the confusion between what it is to school a 
dog as opposed to what it is to game-test a dog. I want to draw a distinction 
from the other perspective now because it is very important. Without getting 
into everything I wrote in the last article, suffice it to say that schooling is 
an education for your dog, while the game test is an education for you. When you 
school your dog, you gradually teach him what's going to happen when he's in the 
pit without challenging his heart too much; it should be pleasurable for the 
dog. When you game test your dog, however, you teach yourself what your dog will 
do when things get tough - and the roll should be hell for your dog. In 
schooling, it is your dog who benefits from the chance to develop his style and 
confidence against a wide variety of opponents (without challenging this 
confidence). A game test, by contrast, doesnít benefit your dog at all - in 
fact, it is very harmful to your dog. [This is why some dog men prefer to put 
their dog in a cheap match rather than game test him for nothing, and there is a 
lot of sense to this. I personally wouldn't game test a dog I intended to match; 
I would only game test dogs that don't have enough ability to match. I mean, if 
your dog is blowing through all of his opponents in his schooling rolls, then 
why beat the hell out of him and take away a match from his win record by game 
testing him? No confidence in his breeding? Instead, just put him in a cheap 
match and let that be his game test. Something to think about.] Just remember 
that you are literally taking something out of him in a game test - as the 
intent of this test is to have your dog get as tired and as throttled as 
possible (without losing him in the test). Clearly, this is not in the interests 
of the animal, but is only for the dog's owner, as every serious bulldog owner 
needs to know whether or not his dog has any depth to him. By contrast, in 
schooling, you are just trying to get your dog experienced without putting too 
much trauma on him. 

Anyway, once your is thoroughly schooled and fully started THEN you can game 
test him or match him. If he looks good, I suggest you simply match him. But 
suppose he's just OK. Bred great, acts great, but not talented enough to be 
matched. It is here, in my opinion, where the game test comes in (or for a 
retired match dog that was never stretched out in any match due to his ability). 
You have to know his true quality before you breed him. Whatever the case, the 
dog should be both thoroughly schooled and fully started before being 
game-tested. A dog needs a minimum of 5 short rolls (against opponents of 
varying styles) to be considered thoroughly schooled, and I define a dog as 
fully started when he will go across on his own and take hold. (If he has to 
wait for the other dog to bite him first, the dog is not fully started and 
cannot be judged yet.) If your dog has been properly schooled, so he knows what 
to do against a wide variety of styles, and he is fully started, you then select 
an opponent that is a proven good dog, and perhaps a pound or two heavier than 
your dog, for the game test. Make sure that your dog is lean and healthy (but 
not conditioned so you can also check his natural air) and parasite free before 
you put him through the rigors of a serious game test. Now is the time where you 
finally let things go the distance, and you may now pass judgment on your dogís 
true quality. You get to look at his overall ability throughout the long haul, 
his natural air, his intelligence and adaptability to each situation, how he 
acts in the corner and scratches, his desire to finish if things go his way - 
and his deep gameness if they donít. After the smoke clears, you can happily 
breed the dog, show the dog - or get rid of the dog - but donít ever game test 
the dog again. 

The reason I say don't test your dog ever again is I have seen many people game 
test a dog once, and then they second-guess the test a month or so later. "I'm 
not sure I tested him hard enough," they think to themselves. What this means is 
the dog's owner lacks confidence in his own judgment, and in reality he is just 
scared to match the dog, or to declare him game - so he tests the animal again. 
Such people basically are afraid to be wrong in their judgement in front of 
their peers, so they tests their dogs over and over again "just to be sure." 
Understand that there is no amount of game-testing which will assure you that 
your dog wonít quit the next time up. Nor will there be any game test that will 
assure you of a victory when you match the dog. Thatís why we call it gambling. 
Even such great dogs as GR CH Sandman and GR CH Texas both quit and lost when 
they faced the right dogs. Does this mean that Texas and Sandman really were not 
very good dogs? No, they were great dogs - they were just taken to the well one 
too many times. 

If being a multi-winner in the hands of excellent dog men cannot guarantee your 
dog of victory, then being "multi-game-tested" wonít either. What it will 
guarantee you is that you have taken additional matches out of your dog, since a 
real game test is tougher on a dog than most matches. So, as I said, school your 
dog first - then (if you like what youíve seen so far) it is time for a game 
test - or go for a cheap match instead as I prefer. Whatever you do, just don't 
continually game test your dog out of your own lack of gameness in not being 
able to decide whether or not you like what you've seen. This is the bottom line 
I have noticed in nearly all dogmen who game test their dogs several times - 
they're too chickenshit just to bring the dog out and take a risk on losing. And 
in testing their dog repeatedly, what they don't realize is that each time they 
beat their dog up in a game test, they decrease its chances of winning a match 
by putting unnecessary trauma on the animal and throw a potential win in the 
trash. Every game test, or match, for a pit dog is about like 30 to 40 matches 
for a boxer, which is why a 3x winning pit dog is considered to be a Champion, 
and a 5x winner a Grand Champion. To be able to win just one tough match is an 
accomplishment for a dog, to win 3 or 5 times is something special. So don't 
take unneccesary wins out of your dog by repeatedly game-testing it. Understand 
what a game test is for. It's just to get an idea. An idea of what your dog is 
made of - not a guarantee. There are no guarantees in this sport. 

What you are trying to do in a game test is you basically are trying to bring a 
dog to a point where there is some threat to the animalís life, and you are 
trying to see how he handles it by his attitude. Does he want to keep going? Is 
he thinking about quitting? You have to put a certain amount of trauma on the 
dog, in the form of dominance, fatigue, and punishment, in order to figure this 
out. However, you must exercise good judgment and not let your dog actually lose 
his life. A dead dog cannot be matched, it cannot be bred, and most people would 
be uninterested in purchasing a dead dog - so only a fool would take a dog to 
the point of no return in a game test, for this will accomplish nothing, except 
to prove what a heartless idiot his owner is. Nonetheless, you want to bring 
about conditions in a game test that come just close enough to make you start to 
worry that your dogís life might be in danger. 

To do this, you need to select the proper opponent for your dog, one which is 
probably a pound or two heavier, and a proven good dog. If you know what you are 
doing, you do not have to use two dogs to game test your dog. Using two dogs is 
far too risky for your dog's safety, as if they are both good dogs going against 
him, your dogís chances of death or irreparable injury are great. [If they are 
not good dogs, then why use them?] Using two dogs in a game test only proves 
that the dogís owner doesnít have a good eye for what heís looking for, nor good 
judgment as a manager in looking out for his fighterís interests (unless the 
first dog happens to get wrecked). You are trying to test your dogís gameness, 
reasonably and safely; you are not trying to break his bones or take his life. 
If you take too much out of your dog, by putting dog after dog on him, or by 
putting him too far uphill in weight, you will either kill your dog or get him 
injured so badly that he will be rendered useless as a match dog. 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:

Some of the signs to look for in a game dog are: 

1. Top or bottom, winning or losing, does your dog stay in holds? To me, one of 
the surest signs of gameness (or lack thereof) is whether (or not) the dog is a 
holding dog. If your dog is always in there with a hold somewhere, no matter how 
tough it is for him, the chances are heís a game one because he's still trying 
to win. But if your dog goes down and he letís go and starts to panic, and he 
seems more preoccupied with getting up than he is with doing his job, the 
chances are heís a quitter. 

2. Does your dog have a confident expression on his face; in other words, does 
he look like heís enjoying what heís doing? No matter whatís happening, your dog 
should always be intense and think heís winning. If your dog's eyes start to 
wander, or if he turns away from his opponent at some point, and/or starts 
hollering in pain, the chances are heís thinking about doing something else. 

3. Is your dogís tail up and wagging, or is it dropped, limp, and/or fuzzing up 
at the back. You should hope that itís arched over his back (and/or wagging) or 
you are probably the owner of a cur. 

4. Does he struggle in the corner to get back to his opponent, or does he just 
stand there content that he's been given a break? A good dog is upset that the 
action was stopped and wants nothing more than to return to it - and heíll let 
you know it by the way he acts in the corner. But if your dog is in the corner 
and does nothing but stand there looking up at you, the chances are itís OK with 
him that you stopped things for awhile - which is not what youíre looking for. 

5. When he's tired and is turned back around to face his opponent, does he hold 
his head up and look down at his opponent - or does he hold his head down and 
look up at his opponent? A tired dog that lifts his head up generally is letting 
fatigue whip him and is concentrating on his breathing - and is therefore sure 
to quit to fatigue; by contrast, the tired dog that lowers his head and glares 
up at the dog is suppressing fatigue and is maintaing focus on the opponent - 
which is what you want. 

6. Finally, how does your dog scratch? I realize that some very good dogs happen 
to be slow scratchers, but generally you want a dog that scratches HARD. Some 
hard scratchers have bashed their heads against the boards (in missing their 
ducking opponents) enough times where they adjust their style. Theyíll tippy-toe 
half way (making sure that their opponent isnít going anywhere), and then 
theyíll rocket across and really blast their opponent. Whatever the case, not 
only is hard scratching a very good indicator of a dogís gameness, but it can 
actually stop the opponentís dog when things get in the trenches. How would you 
like to be in a knock-down, drag-out fight with someone for an hour and still 
have your opponent screaming and struggling to get back at you, like nothing's 
ever happened? Well, if your dog's opponent has any cur in him, your dog's hard 
scratches tell him, "NOTHING YOU DO HAS ANY EFFECT ON ME!" Hard scratches have 
stopped many an opponent. 

The bottom line is, only after you have schooled your dog properly should you 
game test your dog - and do that only once. If your dog passes your game test, 
then either show the dog, or breed to the dog, or get rid of the dog, but donít 
deliberately put him through the rigors of a game test again. Doing this will 
save your dogís best efforts for the show, and it will keep him in there longer 
if things do go the distance for real. If you insist on game-testing your dog 
several times, and he follows this with a long hard match - look for the fat 
lady to sing eventually if you keep this kind of thing up. You must always keep 
in mind the medical evidence proven by Pavlov: dogs form simple associations in 
their thinking. If you stretch your dog out too hard, and/or too many times in a 
row (without breaking up the pattern with short, easy ones), the chances are 
very, very high that you are taking steps toward ruining your dog becuase he 
will begin to associate the pleasantness of fighting contact with the 
unpleasantness of horrid exhaustion/punishment. You may love ice cream, but if 
you are forced to eat 40 buckets of it every time you sit down to eat it, and if 
you do this often enough, you just might lose your taste for it after a while. 
Get my drift? Therefore, don't ruin your dog's love of battle by repeatedly 
stretching him out and beating him up, and you will go a long way toward keeping 
him in there if things do happen to go the distance for real in a match. 

TIP:

If you game test your dog prior to matching him, or if you've matched your dog 
and he gets stretched out hard in his contest, and you want to avoid your dog 
forming this negative association of pit action and exhaustion/punishment, 
here's the antidote: Wait several months for your dog to recover, and then give 
him a light bump for 5 minutes against a dog he can easily handle - and then do 
it again a month later. Once again, the reason to do this is you do not want 
your dog to associate performance with horrid exhaustion, because that more than 
anything else will ruin a dog. Breaking up a grueling ordeal with a couple of 
easy ones is they way to avoid your dog forming this association. 

To those "hard core" dog men out there who think I am being too soft on a dog 
and that this is babying a dog too much, which will result in curs escaping 
"true testing" - I say BULLSHIT. My dogs have an 87% gameness ratio against some 
of the best dogs/kennels in the country, some of whom have proven to be as game 
as any dogs that have ever lived, literally dying in holds or crawling for more. 
So these methods work. Still, I donít care how game a dog has shown in the past, 
it can be stopped if you really want to stop it. If you doubt me then try this 
test: set your dog down for 40 minutes. Then set him down the next day for 40, 
and do it again and again, 40 minutes every damned day of his life, and believe 
me, heíll quit. No one would test their dogs this hard, of course, because itís 
unfair to the animal, and no bloodline or individual dog could pass this severe 
a testing process, so I think I've made my point. Therefore, donít get all high 
and mighty about how game any dog is - heíll quit if you test him hard enough - 
or often enough - I donít care what heís shown in the past. The point of this 
article is many dogs that have quit and been put down would not have quit had 
they been brought along properly. Your job as his owner is to try not to have 
him quit by managing the animal properly, and this schooling and game-testing 
process I have outlined will help your dog along in this regard. The key to 
schooling a dog is to remember it is just that: schooling. You school your dog 
for only two reasons: 1) to develop his style and 2) to develop his confidence. 
Schooling is something totally different from game-testing. Once you finally 
game test your dog, or if he gets exhausted after any match, remember to bump 
him for a short period against an easy opponent a few months later and then do 
it again a month after that. This will prevent your dog from forming the 
association of extreme exhaustion and pit action - and will go a long way 
towards keeping him in there when he finds himself in the trenches when the 
money is on the line. 

- California Jack