In my opinion, the game test is a very important part of breeding and matching gamedogs. I think that the purpose of the game test is misunderstood by many dogmen. I also think that a lot of poor advice has been written about game testing. The stories that dogmen tell about the way they game test their dogs are offten exaggerations or lies. I am going to write about why I believe dogs should be game tested and how I would test them. If you do not agree with what I have to say on the subject, feel free to skip this article or write your own. I am writing my opinion of the truth, whether it makes the reader happy or conforms to popular belief or not. I don't really care if some readers disagree with me or not, but if my advice is helpful to anyone, they I would be happy about that. I came to my opinions from twenty years experience of running a yard of sixty dogs. I won't change my opinions for you and I don't expect any experienced dogmen to change his opinions for me. The article is for those that are still learning and want to read an opinion that is somewhat different than those they may have read before.
WHAT IS A GAME TEST?
I would describe a game test as a hard roll for your dog, usually, but not always thirty minutes or longer. It is a roll in which your dog will get hurt, tired and getting the worst of the fight. This game test will tell you what your dog will do when he is tired and being handled by his opponent. Does he have the gameness to keep trying to win against a stronger dog, when he's tired and on the bottom most of the time? How does he act in his corner? How does he scratch into a dog that's getting the best of him? The game test will answer all of these questions and also tell you about your dog's stamina and fighting abilities. A game test should never be against an opponent of the opposite sex. To make sure that your dog gets the most out of the roll, their opponent should be several pounds heavier, but do not overdo this!
WHY GAME TEST A DOG?
One reason to game test a dog is to see if they are worth a bet in a match. I think that the better fighter a dog is, then the less game testing they require. For instance, if you have a dog that easily handles dogs of his own size in rolls, he would probably handle his opponents in a match as well. What is the point in half killing a dog like this in a game test. He probably won't need extreme gameness to win his match, because he will be top dog most of the time. A dog without much fighting ability will probably have to come from behind if he is going to win. I would test this type of dog somewhat harder before betting on his, because you must depend on his gameness and stamina to win a match. The other reason for game testing a dog, would be if you were goingto use the dog for breeding. Any male or female I use for breeding purposed must have passed a reasonable game test to demonstrate their gameness, stamina or ability. If they could not pass this test, then I would not use them for breeding purposes, not matter how well bred they might have been.
HOW OLD SHOULD YOU GAME TEST?
I think a dog should be at least two years old and mentally ready for a game test. They should be fully started and have been rolled at least four times. Some slow starters are nowhere near ready at two years old and you must go by the way they act and not their actual age. Your dog should be in perfect health, because the test will put a strain on their heart and system. I don't condition a dog for a game test, but they should be lean and healthy, but not conditioned for a match. One of the reasons I game test a dog is to see how they act when they are tired. If they are conditioned, it will take longer before they are tired, forcing the test to take longer and your dog to take more punishment. I also use these tests to see how much naturals 'air' the dog has and it's hard to tell this when you have worked them for six weeks. I try to roll the dog that I'm testing into a bigger dog that wrestles well, but doesn't bite hard. I believe that most dogs will quit, because they are tired and on the bottom, not from being bitten hard. The idea is to test the dog's gameness, not to break its bones. I also try to avoid rolling them into a dog that fights in the mouth, so that they won't lose any teeth.
You should always be in control, remember this is a roll not a match. Have an idea of how you are going to test your dog. Pick an opponent of the same sex, that is about five pound larger, a strong wrestler, but not a hard biter. This dog should outfight yours, without cutting them up or breaking any of their bones. Make sure to have a watch on, don't guess at the time, know how long the roll has lasted. The game test is to find out if your dog is reasonably game. You must use some imagination and make an educated guess as to their gameness, by the way they act during a reasonable game test. If you insist on known for sure whether your dog is dead game or not, then you will probably end up killing him. I can truthfully promise anyone, that a dead dog makes a poor dog for future matches. A dead dog does not make much of a stud or brood bitch either.
Many game dogs are killed each year in game tests by dogmen that don't know what they are doing. The story is always the same, "Gee, he was the gamest, toughest, best damn dog I ever saw; too bad we took him a little bit too far in his game tet, now he's dead..." Any fool can roll a game dog to death, it is up to you to not take him too far. I can watch a dog in a hard thirty minute roll and know about how game they are. Sometimes I am confident in a dog's gameness after watching him roll for only fifteen minutes. I have the experience and the ability to know a dog is deep game without taking him to death's door. I have learned what to look for. I have used my mehtod of judging dogs gameness from a medium hard roll and I have almost never been wrong. Yes, a couple of times a dog that I'd though to be dead game did quit in a long, hard match, but 98% of the time my judgment of a dog's gameness has been correct. This may seem like bragging on my part, but I do have the ability to spot a game dog, without half killing them in a roll and I do know other dogmen that have this ability.
I also know other experienced dogmen who cannot tell if a dog is game unless they see the dog take his death game. If you don't have the experience or ability to tell if a dog is game during a resonably hard roll, then I suggest you have a trusted friend, who does have this gift, with you when you game test your dog.
Here are some of the things I look for when I am testing a dog for gameness:
1). A game dog always thinks he's winning even when he's losing. He enjoys the fight and has a confident look on his face. He always keeps trying to win.
2). When a game dog is take to his corner, there's no doubt that he's going to scratch. He is always looking at his opponent and trying to get at him.
3). He scratches straight and hard, without hesitation.
4). He will stay in hold if he can
I breed and match dogs under the Cajun Rules. The Cajun Rules is a scratching contest and scratching is the name of the game. A dog can make every 'bad move' in the book. He can turn, yelp, cry, drop his tail and put the hair up on his back, but if he makes his scratches in time, he can win the match. On the other hand, your dog can fight like an ace, throw his opponent all over the pit and cut him up, but if he fails the scratch, then you lose. I have seen many fights end up with the winner being a beaten up mess and the loser with hardly a scratch on him. Why? Because the beat up dog made his scratch and the other did not. Your dog can have all the ability in the world and be a mile ahead, but if he doesn't scratch, then you lose! This is why, the way in which my dogs act in the corner, between scratches and the way he goes across on his scratches is so important to me. If he hesitates to bite the other dog when he gets there, then I lose confidence in the dog. Hesitation on the scratch or slow scratching is just a step away from not scratching at all. When I have the pleasure of watching a truly game dog in action for thirty minutes or so, and then see him screaming and struggling to get back to the opponent, at the end of a roll, I feel in my bones, that he is game. Matching a dog is always a gamble anyway. No test that you can give a dog will guarantee that he will win his match. The idea is to find out if he is reasonably game, without rolling the life out of him. This is no joke! I have seen great dogs ruined by unbelievable game tests. These dogs passed their tests, but they were never near as good after the tests as they were before it. I have noticed in rolls and matches that dogs usually got hurt when they could no longer fight back. As long as they were able to push for a hold, they usually didn't get hurt too bad, even when they were badly outfought. But, when a dog could lay there and take it, the other dog could push into the bites and shake out his holds. It's like the boxer that's been stunned by a hard punch and can't keep his hands up to block or punch back. The other boxer can not hit him clean and with full force. The hurt fighter cannot block the punches or roll with them, so he takes it full force, blow after blow and can be seriously hurt.
It's the same thing with a dog that's too tired to fight back, he can be badly injured. Watch the game test closely and if your dog gets so tired that he can't fight back, you should stop it right then. Scratch your dog and call it a day. If you are an inexperienced dog man and have a more experienced dog man helping you test your dog, then make sure that he has your best interests in mind. After all, he didn't buy your dog or raise it from a pup. He has nothing invested in your dog, and unless he is really your friend, it's nothing to him if your dog is ruined.
When I was first starting in the dog game, I had a so-called friend 'help' me test my dogs. This man had much more experienced that I did, so I listened to his advice. Every time I tested a dog, he would tell me to roll it harder or to bring in a second dog on the one I was testing. Even when satisfied that the dog I was testing was game, he would try and get me to keep the test going. Then it dawned on me, that when this man tested his own dogs, he didn't roll them for that long or that hard. It was only when MY dogs were tested that he encouraged such long, hard tests. He was not my friend and he only wanted me to ruin my own dogs, so that he could sell me some of his own 'game' dogs.
I believe that some of the game tests suggested by some well known books are too hard. The Armitage book "Thirty Years with Fighting Dogs" has a severe game test that Mr. Armitage recommends. He says you should use two rough, hard-biting dogs, much larger than your own dogs. He says to roll your dog for twenty minutes with the first big, rough dog and them immediately put the second dog on his for another twenty minutes. He says that if your dog will scratch after that, then he's worth a bet. I agree that a dog which lived through that and scratched would be worth a bet, if you ever got him healed up. If you tried that Armitage test with today's dogs, you'll kill the dog you're testing more often that not.
I have seen two dogs used to test one dog many times. I personally don't think it's a good idea. If your dog has been fighting with the first for twenty minutes or more, he will usually be too tired to stay with a fresh dog. The second dog will give him a beating much worse than he would take in a match. He only has to fight one dog for money, so why use two dogs for a test? Some dogs that would be dead game to one dog will get confused and quit against a number of different dogs in a row. If you pick the right opponent for your dog to roll with, then one dog is all it takes to test your dog. Test your dog once only to your satisfaction. Many times, I have seen dog men roll their dogs very hard. When the roll is over, they think that he's game, but they're still not sure. So two or three months later, they roll him hard all over again. I've heard of some dogs being tested four or five times over. This is crazy! Test your dog one time only and never test him again. A game test is harder on a dog that are most matches. The dogs that are tested four times could have won four matches, but by the time his stupid owner finally gets up the courage to match him, he's all used up from game tests and his chances of winning are decreased.
Test your dog the same way, regardless of their breeding. Many dog men will test a dog within an inch of its life, if it's breeding is different to their main line. They 'baby' the dogs of their own bloodlines and look the other way or make excuses if they look bad. School them all correctly, give them all a reasonably hard test and let the chips fall where they may. A well known dog man is famous for the insane game tests he puts dogs of other bloodlines through. He is out to stop the dog and prove that this line is not as good as his 'family' line. He rolls the dog he wants to stop very hard and then the next day, when the dog is still too sore and swollen to get out of his dog house, he rolls him hard again. He continues to roll the dog hard everyday, until it quits and then says he knew it was a cur all the time. This only proves that any fool can quit any dog that has hair on it, if that's what he wants to do. This guys own bloodline, his family, are not game dogs, but he babies them in their rolls. His dogs wouldn't take 1/10th of the punishment he hands out to dogs of other bloodlines. Some dog men, although not as extreme as this guy do tend to test other lines much harder than their own.
I believe many dog men flat out lie about how hard they test their own dogs. After all, you weren't there when they tested their dogs, so you have to take their word for it. If one dog man is saying he rolled his dogs into a give pound bigger dog for thirty minutes, then the next dog man has to top him. He says he rolled his dogs with a ten pound bigger dog for an hour. Then another dog man comes along with the story of using three different dogs on his dog for an hour and thirty minutes. The harder the game tests are in these stories (lies), the game it's supposes to make their dogs look.
Many times I hear of a dog that has been through an unbelievable game test, never made a bad move and scratched like a rocket. This dog has been with three or four rough ones, off the chain for almost two hours. Then this same dog is matched and he quits in less than an hour after taking very little punishment. How could this happen? Simple! The dog was never tested that hard. The game test was a bullshit story. I have been at some game tests and seen what really happened and then heard about the same tests some time later. The test that I hear about is absolutely nothing like the test I witnessed.
Let's say a guy is testing his dog with his fellow dog men and drinking buddies. They're all a bit high, but they check their watches when they start the test. The dog rolls with the first dog for maybe fifteen minutes. Then, to make the test a real good one, he has one of his friends go home and get another dog. It takes twenty minutes to get back with the second dog, during which time his own dog has had a good rest. Then he rolls his dog into the second dog for ten minutes and his dog scratched. Then to make sure that no one can doubt his dogs gameness, he has another friend go and get a third dog. It takes another twenty-five minutes for this third dog to get back. His dog goes another five minutes against the third dog scratches again. The owner checks his watch and sees that one hour and ten minutes has passed. "Wow!", he says. Oven an hour and ten minutes with three dogs in a row; can anybody doubt the gameness of his dog? He has taken rather mild test and turned it into something it was not. His dogs never went anymore than fifteen minutes with any one dog and got plenty of rest between each new dog. So, don't believe everything you hear about how game dogs are tested. Most of it is bullshit. If you roll a lean, healthy dog off the chain into a slightly bigger dog for thirty to forty minutes, you should know plenty about his gameness, if you know what to look for. If you are careful, you can learn about his gameness without taking too much out of him. Then you can match a fresh dog with all his teeth.
Many of the dogs from my yard have proven their gameness for my customers in two, three and four matches. I have never found it necessary to roll a dog for more than forty five minutes or to use more than one dog against him. If you plan to test a dog that's over six years old, please remember that they can't be tested as hard as a younger without putting their health in danger.