In Dog We Trust: A Bounty Hunter's Tale

America's favorite bounty hunter, Duane "Dog" Chapman, is out with a new book about his reality TV exploits, his tumultuous past and how he narrowly avoided spending some serious jail time in Mexico.

Chapman recently opened up to ABC News Now's "What's the Buzz" about the man behind the muzzle.


A Rough Start

Childhood was not easy for Dog, who said his father beat him regularly.

"I couldn't shower in the eighth grade because my legs were completely black and blue," he said.

His rough childhood did not lead to carefree teenage years. Dog joined a motorcycle gang at the age of 16, where he was given the nickname that America closely identifies with him.

"I always talked about God, like I wouldn't rob a church," Dog explained. "We had a guy named Preacher, a John the Baptist, and they named me Dog because it's God spelled backwards…and I was always there when they needed it."

Getting a nickname was not the only thing that happened to Dog while in the biker gang. According to The Associated Press, Dog was convicted in 1977 of being an accessory to murder. He was sentenced to five years in prison, and it was behind bars where Dog got his first taste of bounty hunting.

The Bounty Hunter Is Born

"I worked outside the prison gates and one day an inmate was being thrown into solitary confinement. As the guards were escorting him he hit them and took off running down the prison road. A lieutenant was coming to work and drew down to stop the fleeing felon and I jumped in front of [him] and said 'Don't shoot, I'll catch him!'" Dog told ABC News Now. "So I ran after the guy and…I captured him and got him on the ground. The lieutenant walked up behind me, threw down handcuffs and said 'Hook him up, bounty hunter.'"

That one phrase changed Dog's life forever.

"At that age, in my 20s, I was looking to associate with something else besides an outlaw motorcycle guy. I knew that plan didn't work, there wasn't a bucket of gold at the end of that rainbow— there was a cell. I had to re-establish myself and find somebody else to be and when [that lieutenant] said 'bounty hunter' it rang a bell in my ear," Dog said.

When he was released from jail, Dog had trouble finding a job due to his ex-con status but his experience in prison led a judge to give him an opportunity to be a real bounty hunter.

"I said [to the judge] 'I can't get a job,' and the judge said 'I heard what you did in prison when you ran another inmate down, would you be good at that? And I said 'Of course I would.'" Dog recalled. "Then the judge said 'If you can catch these couple of guys, I'll pay your child support' and 'Dog the Bounty Hunter' became a live person."

Dog was met with immediate success in his new profession.

"I caught the first guy in 10 days, then I caught another, and then I cleared about 12 [off] his…docket," Dog said.

That judge then introduced the new bounty hunter to the FBI and local bail bondsmen, and it jumpstarted his career. Dog claims to have caught 6,000 fugitives in the past 27 years. He did not rise to fame, however, until his 2003 tracking and capture of Max Factor heir and serial rapist Andrew Luster. The capture of Luster led to an offer to do a reality show, A&E's "Dog the Bounty Hunter," but would also cause him years of trouble.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Luster skipped bail and Dog and his crew, mostly comprised of family members, set out again to track him. They eventually caught up with Luster in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and captured him. Unfortunately for Dog, bounty hunting is illegal in Mexico and he was taken into custody. Dog and two of his team members were eventually charged with kidnapping. The three posted bail, but never returned to Puerto Vallarta.

Mexico demanded Dog be extradited and in Septemer 2006, Dog and his fellow bounty hunters were arrested in Hawaii to face Mexican charges of illegal detention and conspiracy in their capture of Luster. By this time, Luster had been convicted of raping and drugging three women and was already serving his 124-year sentence.

The arrest started a nationwide campaign to protect Dog from Mexican authorities. In addition to fan protests, 29 congressmen sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking her to block the extradition of Dog to Mexico.

Dog lost his extradition battle, but not before running out the clock: He is no longer wanted by the Mexican police because the statute of limitations has run out. The Associated Press reported that prosecutors are likely to appeal, but for the time being Dog is a free man.

Bounty Hunting Is a Family Affair

With the Luster case almost behind him, Dog can return to doing the job he loves with his family. Some may feel he is putting his wife and children in harm's way, but the Chapman family sees it a little differently.

"They're not [in danger] because they wear bulletproof vests," Dog said. "To have [my family] around me all the time where I am protecting them…I'm just that kind of dad. I want to be able to scream their names and know where they are."

He also thinks he is teaching his children valuable lessons.

"We live in a world today where there is the victim, the predator, and the guy that watches over. I want them to not be a victim, especially not a predator, but one of the people that watches over," Dog said. "They're learning that from me so I feel very safe by having them around."

The Future

Dog will continue bounty hunting for the foreseeable future. He calls the career his mission.

"Who better to watch [an] alleged innocent person…than me – someone who has been there?" he asked. "Someone like me who has lived with them and knows them as he knows himself."

Although he plans to continue to take on regular bail jumpers, there is one high profile fugitive even more notorious than Luster that Dog would like to take on.

"I've got my phone ready," he said, for the president to call and ask for his help in finding Osama bin Laden. "That is the Christmas I'd like to have."

Catch "What's the Buzz" for the full interview with Duane "Dog" Chapman. For more information, tune into "Dog the Bounty Hunter" on A&E or pick up his new book "You Can Run But You Can't Hide."