TV’s top bounty hunters Dog and Beth Chapman, their heartthrob son Leland and his heartthrob-in-the-making son Dakota are back with all-new episodes of their hit CMT reality series, Dog and Beth: On The Hunt.
In the series — a grittier, cross-country version of their long-running A&E series Dog The Bounty Hunter — the three generations of Chapmans travel throughout America, helping local bail bondsmen sharpen their know-how, update their equipment and catch some serious bad guys (and girls) in the process.
Dog recently called me from his Hawaii home to talk about his show, his craft, the politics of bounty hunting and his expanding family of bondsmen.
Channel Guide Magazine: We’ve spoken before about the impact you’ve had not just on the fugitives and other bounty hunters you have helped, but on the legions of fans from around the world who look to you and your family as role models. Does that responsibility and public spotlight ever get overwhelming or is it always a blessing?
Duane “Dog” Chapman: It’s actually is a 24/7 blessing. I think the whole idea of being a celebrity is that you “celebrate” what they do. There are celebrity actors, celebrity TV personalities, celebrity writers — so I think we are celebrated or appreciated for our art in bounty hunting and catching the bad guy.
As far as being a role model, I hope to God that I can be that — but you have to realize that everybody can make mistakes and has failures and that sometimes our left foot is bigger than our right and no one is perfect. So it is sometimes very stressful to be looked up to. I try to think “What would Jesus do in this situation?” and try to do the same.
CGM: Does it make you feel good that people continue to clamor for the whole family — the whole Chapman bounty-hunting team — to be reunited on the show, and to know that the family you’ve built and with whom you’ve endured so many ups and downs has made such a collective impact?
Dog: Yes it does! And the family is growing ’cause now the grandkids are coming, of course, and there are in-laws and outlaws. Today Cecily turns 21, and for the last year, she’s been “Dad, I need to bounty hunt!” So she got her bail license and I am sure she will be part of it soon, because its in her blood.
Gary Boy is 13 and says he is 17 so he can become a bounty hunter. Grandson Dakota is already in play and my other grandson Dylan is in the Armed Forces, so he is doing his thing there. Everyone is growing, growing, growing and turning of age, and they all want to be in bail bonds and bounty hunting.
CGM: Anything new we should watch for as Season 2 unfolds?
Dog: Let me tell you, I have never filmed a more aggressive season than this one. There is so much methamphetamine and heroin. Methamphetamine has taken over the country. No freezes any more — they all run. We are known for catching the bad guys, so we pull into these small towns and the bad guys try to take off. Even the highway patrol is watching the roads, and when we get in, they bust three or four of them trying to get out of dodge. So it is really a different kind of season.
Last year we went to a family, Leo and Jeff, which we did again. Some are not like brand brand-new, but some are. They are now really asking for the help, and it is hard to go in there because they think you are going to make it perfect and it’s not like that. We’re not there to rebuild or remodel the whole thing; we are there to add some of the tricks that we have learned from different sources, government sources, private sources, computer and iPhone tricks.
It is now getting very sophisticated. We now have this thing that if you sit down and you get up, it can detect your body heat. So now when we say, “Are you in there? Come out!” we can look through the walls and basically see if you are there. A guy told me the other day, “Dog, this is unfair!”
It is not the same old “catch a bad guy, give him a cigarette.” It is a lot different now. We are lucky we have an hour for each show now and CMT is doing these things called webisodes, so the scenes you hope to God don’t get cut are not getting cut anymore. They are showing them and a lot of things that are happening behind the scenes.
CGM: Plus, you don’t just have to catch the bad guys — you have to catch the bad guys on a production schedule.
Dog: And we have a budget we have to stick with. So you have to catch these guys fast. In a week you are done, so you better catch them — and some of them have been out for years, 6-7 years. A week ago we had not caught a guy for 6 or 7 days and my boss was screaming at me. I said, “Look, man! People have been looking for this guy for 7 years!” It is stressful. You gotta roll in, catch them and roll out. If you don’t catch them, that’s tough.
But it is fun. I am not griping or complaining. It is just a lot of work. People need to realize that it takes a lot of work. The things you are successful at, you put more work into or more thought into, and the more you put behind it the more successful you are.
CGM: Were there specific things that you learned from doing the first season that you applied to the new episodes?
Dog: Let’s say you are very good on a guitar and all of a sudden you switch to a piano. You are a musician, so you know tone and how to read notes and you get it, but you could never play a piano as good as you could play the guitar.
The first year was a completely different show than this year. We’re going door-to-door training people we never met. That was an eye-opener. Pulling into a town with the bus, signing autographs at meet-and-greets — that is no more. Now you are coming in under the radar. The bus is hidden and we are hidden. We are getting used to it.
The first season was different — it was harder and we weren’t as good. Now we are polished up and it is more relaxed. Because we are not coming in here to make them look like idiots. We are going to do this lovingly and we are here to save your life — we are not here to enhance your popularity.
And people now realize that bail bonds is something just about anyone can do. I am surprised at the female factor in bail bonds. I am astonished. More females. And we have a NFL star who was injured and can’t play who becomes a bounty hunter. We have a lot of different people who are coming in.
CGM: In the season premiere, you spotlighted a young man who had every opportunity to end up on the wrong side of your services and actually rose above it and now wants to follow in your footsteps. That had to be particularly satisfying.
Dog: Dion is doing really well. He has been on more arrests and has more clientele. Listen, I came from Philadelphia. It was bad. The city itself is bankrupt. So people can sell marijuana and get out of the hole. They need to get out of the hole and that’s all they got. They are great people — it is not like al-Qaeda. This kid — four years in college, struggled the whole way, three or four jobs, paid his way with a small grant and did it. And after four years, you think you are going to go get a job, but no one would take him. He has a degree in criminal justice and no one would take him. Not because of his race. There are no jobs and that is the leaders fault.
But Dion is doing really good. I just talked to him the other day and he was so happy to see himself on TV. He had problems with his daddy and his daddy didn’t believe he was with Dog. His dad didn’t believe it. I asked, “What is daddy saying now?” and he says, “He is just crying!” He is just so proud of that boy. He was raised in even a worse world than when his daddy was his age.
CGM: Would I be wrong to suggest that you enjoy your role as mentor as much as you enjoy your job as bounty hunter?
Dog: No, it is that way. Even when I get a rapist or murderer down on the ground, I would rather heal a relationship or give a kind word or encouragement and see it in their face. I am the kind of guy when I give a present, I want to watch you unwrap the present and undo the ribbon and I want to see your eyes light up when you see what you got. Those seconds are the greatest seconds in the world.
I look back at things and that is what keeps me going. Because as a celebrity you get to read “He’s a jerk! He’s a fake!” Because people are allowed in this world to say what they like. You can’t slap anyone in the mouth physically — but you can mentally slap them. So I get to go back and think about the good things.
I was talking to a lady the other day and she said, “Dog, I am so depressed” and I said, “You have way too much time on your hands, honey! I am busy every day, so I don’t have time to sit and be depressed. Sit down and think of things that remind you of bad thoughts and then depression kicks in — because you have invited it in. If you are busy all the time, how can you get depressed?” So I put a schedule together for her for 13 hours a day for 2 weeks. She called me yesterday, “I am so happy!” I said, “Why?” She said “I don’t know!” I said, “The reason you are not depressed is because you are working, you are going!”
CGM: It is pretty fascinating to watch the moment when the people you catch forget the cameras and what has just gone down and realize that you really are being kind to them and honestly want to help them.
Dog: And I tell them that — “The camera’s not even there. Look at me, talk to me, brother” — and they do. People are like, “Oh God, the cameras!” and I say to them “Forget it’s even there.” I tell the camera guys, “Back off and shoot wide because me and him are going to talk.”
I have done it this way since I started with the first guy. It takes about a minute to get them to loosen up and talk.
CGM: How has social media changed how you do business, since the whole wide world is pretty much connected 24/7 now? I would think that when you are spotted rolling into a neighborhood, you pretty much know that people are on their cell phones and their social media accounts and that your need to work quickly just launched into warp speed.
Dog: It changed it completely. We had a guy last week go out the back door — he was watching the window and saw us coming about a half a mile away. We followed him into a valley and didn’t see nothing, but there was Beth over there with a drone. When we come to the front and he goes out the back, we see that with the drone. We have to adapt to whatever. It is stealth. It is dark and we got to see.
But we actually have more friends than enemies. We always say “sh, sh, sh!” and they want to help Dog. We always have to keep them back there is real guns, real drugs and I wish every year that only thing we shed was tears. We can’t brag about that anymore this season. There’s blood! There’s ambulances.
It is because of the meth. It is what is making all of this. All the killing and the violence, freaking out and school shooters. Years ago it was called the snitch drug. It would make you talk. They used it the war as a truth serum. They use it on al-Qaeda right now. I never did it, because, back in my day, if you did, you were a potential rat. And thank God I didn’t, because I have had guys hanging around me that have and said if I had tried it I would be hooked on that s–t.
Dog: We are coming across guys coming up with a butcher knife to 10 cops and all 10 of them start shooting at the same time. Those days are over. You take them down with tasers and pepper spray and you don’t have to kill them.
I am on the road supporting Tom Tancredo for governor of Colorado. So is Ted Nugent — and Ted wants to debate me on guns. I say guns are fine — it’s the bullet I don’t like. We can drop an elephant to its knees, but you want to blow a kid’s heart out because he is stealing your stereo in a make-my-day, Trayvon Martin kind of way? That’s for sissy men! And he was like, “We will debate later, Dog.” [Laughs]
CGM: Leland’s your weapons expert, but Beth displayed quite the reflexes with that taser in the season premiere.
Dog: That just shows — do you really have to kill these guys? That girl did a flying kick and missed Beth by an eighth of an inch and the crack house guns were coming out underneath the couches. I said, “You touch that gun, you are going to see Jesus.” I couldn’t use that [on camera] because the guy wouldn’t sign [a release]. But you see that taser dropped her and subdued her. We brought her outside, took the things off and got her a lawyer.
She beat her case. She is doing community service without having to pay, because she doesn’t have a job. It is the same all over the country. It is the same crime is the same all over. You are always going to have violent crime due to the way humans are, but we don’t need to have the violence due to drugs.
CGM: Before Season 1 aired, you and Beth told me about the challenge of dealing with state and federal regulations that make it virtually impossible to ensure the safety and professional capacity of bondsmen and bond agencies. Are you still working on that on a more global level?
Dog: We are going to different states and passing laws. When I was a kid, they had this cartoon called “I’m Just A Bill,” and I always knew that some day I would be working at the Capitol. We are now going to congressmen and senators and legislators — Democrats and Republicans — to explain to them what is needed and they have passed bills for that. First of all, they want the public’s safety, but they also want it to be fair. No one has refused us when we have gone in. It is a blessing that we are able to do that.
Some states will say that if your guy comes to our state and you are not licensed for this state, you can’t hunt him here. Well, we killed that law. It is called reciprocity: If you have a warrant in one state and it is a felony and you go to another state, a licensed bounty hunter can still get you.
And who doesn’t want to meet a governor? You can’t believe where you are standing. In my world that is next to meeting the president.
New episodes of Dog and Beth: On the Hunt air Saturday nights at 9/8CT on CMT.
Photos: CMT/Nels Israelson