Little Lion 

On the hunt with Moo Shu the Shih Tzu

He wants a retriever, a pointer, even a spaniel. She wants something that will fit in her handbag.

Proud males, just because you're now responsible for the care and feeding of a dog bred to be dote upon by a Chinese empress doesn't mean you can't teach him to kill. "Shih Tzu," after all, means "little lion." And any lion ought to know how to bring down a wildebeest, a wild turkey, or, at very least, those pesky mice in your attic.

If anyone can teach a Shih Tzu to hunt on the level of the hunting world's canine kings, it's Chad Hayes of Dillon, S.C. A winner of ESPN's Ultimate Outdoorsman reality show, Hayes hunts duck and quail when he's not leading fishing trips and ecotours off Kiawah. "If you're not into the outdoors in Dillon, you find yourself very bored on the weekends," says Hayes, who hurried home from school as a child to hunt with his granddad. "Dog training is just second nature to me."

Hayes' own German short-haired pointer, Wynn, is the doggie equivalent of Survivorman. Born to hunt, he'll find a bird, point you to it, and bring it to you once you've shot it down. "I get a lot of satisfaction from training a puppy and watching him make mistakes, correcting those mistakes, and then seeing him succeed in the field," Hayes says.

Unfortunately, we don't have that long. We've recruited Moo Shu, a year-old Shih Tzu, but we've only got him for the morning before his owner wants him home. So we'll have to work quickly.

Step one when training a dog to hunt, Hayes explains, is understanding the differences in breeds. German dogs are better in cover, while English dogs are more fit for a chase.

What about cute little Chinese dogs? "Being descended from royalty, Shih Tzus take a little more pampering and nurturing," Hayes says. Fortunately, we came prepared with a pocket full of treats, and the understanding that we'd have to let Moo Shu move at his own pace. After a 15-minute posed photo shoot (he was just fabulous), the star was ready for a rest.

The Shih Tzu may not have made the official list of dog breeds to be used for hunting, but we have faith in our pup. Unfortunately, Hayes' dog Wynn keeps pointing at Moo Shu, ready for the okay to go in for the kill.

Wynn is denied today, and we move on to step two — basic obedience.

Before teaching your pooch how to "point at the bird that you smell" — confusing his little puppy brain — he needs to sit, stop, and heel on command. With Moo Shu this won't be a problem; he loves to sit still and bat his eyes for the camera, so we move on to the next step — leash training.

According to Hayes, leashes help reinforce the word "no" by allowing the trainer to tug and prompt the dog when learning simple commands. Choker collars don't actually choke, he explains, but simulate how the dog's mother would bite at its neck to correct it. Moo Shu seems pretty good about sitting (for .2 seconds) with the leash. It's time to hunt. Bring on the carnage!

Mid-explanation of how we should start Moo Shu off with a fake mouse on a string to encourage his "hunting extinct," a massive, horned creature runs across the field. Who knew that the woods of Wadmalaw Island harbored a population of wildebeests? (No one, apparently.) Moo Shu doesn't hesitate, taking lion-sized strides toward the big beastie. Spooked by the little Shih Tzu in the pink camo vest, the larger animal hesitates and doubles back. Hayes brings it down with his gun.

Over a lunch of fresh South Carolina wildebeest, we ask Hayes if he's surprised about the little lion's success. "A little, but I think I'm going to have to get a Shih Tzu now," replies the world-class hunter.

Burly owners of foo-foo dogs, rejoice.

Editor's note: Only portions of this story are complete and utter horse Shih Tzu.

2008 Southeastern Wildlife Exposition


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