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Conditioning the dog for a hard battle is an art and a very difficult 
subject to outline in a manner that will agree with the ideas of various 
successful shapers and handlers throughout the country. Each has his own 
particular theory regarding the best method to put a dog in shape for the 
battle of his life. We do not claim to be an authority by any means but 
will in a small way try to set forth a few things that will be of help to 
the beginners.
It is more difficult to condition the dog for a battle than it is to train 
a horse for a hard race, and requires at least as much time, possibly 
more. Many kinds of dope used in times past and parties not knowing how to 
shape their dogs properly, has often caused the best dog to lose. A dog 
should not be “pitted” until he is at least eighteen months old, although 
occasionally one is found that will develop into fighting maturity at an 
earlier age.

MATCHING: Never give away weight if you can possibly avoid it. A pound 
or two is a considerable handicap if the dogs are lightweight or stay 
under forty pounds. It is best to match at a stipulated weight the dogs to 
weigh in at the specified weight or under. This is a point often 
overlooked by amateurs and has caused the loss of many fights. Along with 
putting the dog in shape an equal effort of the experienced dog man is to 
out-match the other fellow by setting a dog down without an ounce of 
superfluous weight and still be able to get out of him all he ever had in 
the way of strength and fighting ability. At the same time, the old timer 
may have information on the other dog that may cause him to figure the 
possibility of that dog not being able to do the weight without weakening; 
or on the other hand, that he may be a smaller or lighter dog than the 
stipulated weight and will be brought in with just that much unnecessary 
Another thing the experienced pit man gives considerable attention to is 
the fighting type of dog - that is, his favorite holds, or the type of 
punisher he happens to be. Some dogs are adept at legging; others are the 
breast and shoulder fighters; some work after the brisket, belly, or 
stifle, and others are close head fighters. Most dogs prefer to fight on 
top while a few are natural under-fighters. Every pit dog man has his own 
ideas as to what constitutes the best fighting dog and believes that 
particular style has certain advantages over the others. As an example; if 
one is matching against a leg fighter he will want to use a hard biting 
nose dog, one that will eat the legger’s nose off. All such things are 
worthy of consideration. The dog men have their various friends scattered 
throughout the country and lose no time in trying to ascertain the size, 
fighting style, breeding, and other information that might prove helpful 
should they contemplate matching a certain dog. The breeding is considered 
of much importance. However, all these things may have particular 
advantages, but the most intelligent system is to take no chances - give 
the other fellow the benefit of the doubt. Credit him with having an A-1 
fighter, a game dog, and a conditioner that will have the dog in the best 
possible shape. Then on this theory proceed to put your dog in the “pink” 
of condition, at the same time being quite sure of his lowest possible 
weight and ability.
When the match is made and the forfeits posted the first step is to clean 
your dog thoroughly. Give him a good vermifuge and see that he is entirely 
free of worms. Follow this with a good physic, which should be given on 
two consecutive days. The following day, which will be the fourth, give 
him a big dose of castor oil, followed by five drops of Fowler’s Solution 
of Arsenic. About five or six days of light exercise and he will be ready 
to begin training. Do not let him serve any bitches and keep him away from 
all dogs - where he can not hear them bark if possible. It takes at least 
four weeks to put a dog in first class shape.
DIET: Every experienced conditioner has his particular ideas for feeding 
during the training period. The proper food is a matter requiring good 
common sense and careful watching. Dogs are like humans in many respects, 
no two are exactly alike. The food that one dog works and thrives on many 
disagree with another. Feed wholesome muscle and strength building food 
that the dog likes and that agrees with him. For the first day or so after 
cleaning him out a mixture of stewed turnips, carrots, cabbage, parsnips, 
and bullock makes an excellent diet. Many shapers feed only lean chopped 
beef mixed with well-done toast crumbled into small pieces. A few fresh 
raw eggs added occasionally are good. Of all diets this will probably be 
found as good, if not superior to any other. Do not be afraid of over 
feeding your dog as you are putting strength into him and reducing at the 
same time. However, one should not allow him to gorge himself to the point 
of sluggishness. Feed no fattening foods. A dog’s digestive organs are 
much slower functioning than those of a human. It requires from twenty to 
twenty-four hours for the food to pass through his body. He ordinarily 
should be fed once a day, although many successful trainers feed both 
morning and night about thirty minutes after his last rub down. Allow the 
food to cool before giving it to the dog. During the last few days of the 
training period, it is well to regulate his feed so that, without making 
any great change in the time of the meals, his last feed will come 
twenty-four hours before he enters the pit.
WATER: When cool, after his work, a dog should have all the pure fresh 
water he will drink. There is some difference of opinion as to the kind of 
water that should be given. A number of trainers contend that boiled water 
is the best as it is minus the fat producing ingredients and that a dog 
will not get feverish or thirsty and froth so quickly when trained on it. 
However, some of the greatest of all conditioners have informed us that 
pure water just as it comes from the well, spring or lake is as good as 
any. If the dog is being worked properly he will not take on flesh and if 
he is given plenty of water he will not become feverish, at least not from 
any cause due to his drink.
Be sure that the dog’s quarters are free from drafts and that he has 
plenty of clean dry bedding and an abundance of fresh air. Talk to him 
while working and rubbing, as it will accustom him to your voice and help 
him to keep in a more cheerful mood. When in the pit he will need all the 
assistance you can give him in the way of words of encouragement.
A very important thing to bare in mind is that to reduce a dog’s weight 
requires lots of walking. You walk him for hardening and reducing, the 
treadmill or training machine if for his wind. The spring pole is an 
exerciser and strengthener of all muscles, more specially those around the 
jaws and neck. If a dog has a good bite this work will perhaps be the 
means of improving it. If a dog is not a hard biter it is seldom if ever 
that you can develop one for him. A great many of the old timers trained 
dogs that never worked on spring poles and there are many dogs today that 
will not work on either a spring pole or coon hide. The Lamkin treadmill, 
a very successful invention for training dogs is described in the 
advertising section.
Rubbing is a very essential part of training. A dog should be rubbed at 
least until cooled off after each bit of work. The principal rub should 
come after the main workout on the treadmill machine or training machine. 
It takes at least thirty minutes to rub a dog dry. Most trainers have 
their opinions as to the best solution for rub-downs. Many use a half and 
half mixture of alcohol and water. One kind is probably as good as 
another. This is very helpful in removing the fat from under the hide. A 
dog’s skin is not porous and very little of the liquid will soak in. It’s 
the rubbing that does the work. Rub with the play of the muscles and from 
the tip to tip. The belly, breast, and flank rubbing is quite important. 
Many of the dog men of the old school claim that to be in proper condition 
a dog must be entirely free of fat.
CARE OF THE FEET: The condition of the dog’s feet should be watched 
closely at all times during the training period. It is not necessary to be 
continuously “doctoring” them unless the pads show too much ware or the 
dog goes slightly lame after the first few days work. The pads on some 
dogs’ feet are naturally tough and will go through the training period 
without any particular care if his work is properly diversified (another 
thing strictly up to the trainer’s good sense) and the track or treadmill 
footing is properly chosen. A smooth soft track or road free from grit 
should be used for the dog’s walking and his treadmill track covered with 
at least two layers of canvas or other material that will be easy on his 
feet. Washing the feet in luke-warm water and thoroughly drying them after 
roadwork will help keep them in a good healthy condition and lessen the 
chances of lameness. Should your dog be one whose feet are prone to 
tenderness a good foot washing is necessary. Edible tallow is very good to 
help keep the feet in good shape. A solution of white oak, or post-bark 
can easily be made that will toughen the dog’s feet. Take about six quarts 
of the bark chopped fine and place in a vessel and cover with water. Allow 
this to steep for about three hours or four. When it is cool it is ready 
for use. Do not place this in an airtight container as it will burst a 
glass or earthenware jar if covered. Tanic acid is also good for 
toughening the dog’s feet.
The schedule to be used during the training period must be arranged by the 
trainer. What hours would suit one would not suit another. Use common 
sense and arrange the dog’s work as conveniently as possible. The 
following will be found to be a fairly good schedule.
Begin the morning with a walk of from three to six miles, more if 
necessary, allowing the dog to stop and empty out as often as he desires. 
Upon returning give him a little work on the treadmill, beginning with say 
two minutes the first day and increasing it each day gradually. Follow 
this with a good rubdown, after which give him all the water he will drink 
and put him away until afternoon. If feeding twice a day, give the morning 
feed about twenty minutes after the rubdown. In the afternoon give him 
another walk from three to six miles and more work on the treadmill. A 
good rubdown and plenty of water and he will be ready for his supper in 
about twenty minutes afterwards. Use your watch on the mill work and do 
not overdo the thing.
After a few days follow either the morning or afternoon work with a few 
minutes on the spring pole, if the dog will work on one. If using a pull 
in the hands, have it about six or eight feet long and a rope about two or 
three feet fastened to the end of the pole. Tie or sew a sack or coon hide 
to this rope. Make the dog hustle to get hold of the hide but do not hold 
it so high that he must jump for it. This will accustom him to turn quick 
for a hold and to hold when he gets it.
About the fifteenth day he should be nearing the fighting weight. If he is 
still above weight increase the walks. If under weight increase the feed. 
If he is at about the right weight keep him where you have him only do not 
let up on the work or increase it too much. A day or so before the fight 
ease up on his work a little unless he is hard to keep within the weight 
limit. Walking is the best thing for reducing weight and you run no risk 
of overdoing things. The day of the fight do not work any but give him a 
moderate walk in the morning and put him away without rubbing. It will not 
hurt to give him water unless the fight is to be within a few hours. When 
ready to start for the pit walk with him if possible. If not be sure and 
see that he empties out before going to the scales. Some handlers give a 
few ounces of sweet milk, beef tea, or water just after weighing in.
The foregoing schedule is not a set rule, one must use his own judgment as 
to the proper length of time to get his dog in the best shape. Some dogs 
require longer than others to be properly conditioned. Do not burn the dog 
up the first few days. Do plenty of walking and rubbing, these things 
alone will put him in pretty fair shape if he is properly fed.
The spring-pole, merry-go-round, treadmills, etc., will be found in the 
chapter “Miscellaneous”. There also will be found short paragraphs on such 
subjects as “Hints on handling”, “Foul tricks”, “Articles of agreement”, 
“Registering agencies”, and other kindred subjects.


The spring pole will be found very helpful in shaping as it exercises 
nearly every muscle in the dog’s body, especially the jaw, neck and back. 
Take a hickory sapling sixteen feet long (any wood with a good spring to 
it will do as well). This pole should rest in a forked stick, or through 
an eye-bolt set in concrete, the top of which should be eighteen to 
twenty-four inches from the ground. Stake the big end of the pole to the 
ground, at a distance from the forked stick which will place the pole at 
an angle of about forty-five degrees. Take a one-quarter inch rope and run 
through a small pulley, which should be attached to the small end of the 
pole, and tie one end to the butt of the pole. The other end of the rope 
to be suspended in the air at whatever length one wishes, although it 
should not be high enough to cause the dog to jump to take hold. Either a 
coon hide, well sewed together, or a grass sack, is good for the dog to 
hold onto. If a sack is used it is best to moisten the sack to keep the 
ravelings and lint from bothering the dog. Fasten the sack, or coon hide 
on the rope securely or a strong dog will soon tear it loose.
To properly condition a dog for a fight it is very important that one must 
have a good mill to exercise him. There are a few patented treadmills on 
the market. A number of dog men use the home-made merry-go-round know as 
the Bowser Mill. Most any experienced fighting dog men can furnish the 
plans for this type mill. A number of successful conditioners use various 
types of table mills. If you are a beginner we would suggest obtaining the 
advice of some experienced conditioner. Of course, each will have his own 
favorite type of mill and perhaps point out the various good and bad 
points. The main thing is to get a good and easy running mill that will 
not be in constant need of repair.