The saying “That dog won’t hunt” was made famous by the late Gov. Ann Richards. Apparently the expression was considered pretty exotic by some, but it’s just plain obvious if you grew up around bird hunters on the Gulf Coast of Texas.
You see, the season for duck and goose hunting is in the cold, wet part of the winter and waterbirds hang out in marshes. Yes, it does get cold down here, sort of. The wind off the marshes cuts like a knife!
So even with rubber waders on, you really don’t want to go pick up the dead birds yourself. And if you were to step down into a deep place, well, endless misery would ensue if you were way out in the marsh in the cold. You do not want water in your waders!
If you’re any kind of a duck hunter at all, you have—or borrow—a good bird dog to take hunting.
The only problem is that not all dogs can be used for hunting, even among the hunting breeds—especially since many of the great old hunting dog breeds have become popular as pets. Once a dog breed becomes popular, people start breeding them to be calm and lethargic and lie around the house.
People buy what should be high-energy, hyperactive hunting dogs and then want them to not require much exercise, not chew up the furniture, not dig up the backyard, and not tear the shingles off the garage. The problem is that dogs like that tend to be not so much interested in hunting.
Some dogs are gun shy (even with training). Some can’t be cured of the habit of chewing on the birds. Some just don’t have the hunting sense to see the bird fall after a shot is fired, go get the bird, and bring it back to the boat or duck blind. They just want to go home where it’s warm.
So even people who breed hunting dogs to be used as hunting dogs can’t count on all the dogs in each litter to be trainable for hunting. Some dogs just won’t hunt.
Hence the expression, “That dog won’t hunt!” when somebody tries to pass off a statement as fact that clearly is false. It means they aren’t going to get away with it. It’s as obvious and as useless as a Labrador retriever that can’t swim. And that’s pretty doggone bad.