If you think bounty hunters are a thing of the past, there's someone we'd like you to meet. Duane "Dog" Chapman grabbed headlines last year when he nabbed on-the-lam rapist and Max Factor heir Andrew Luster in Mexico. These days the burly ex-con, who has brought in more than 6,000 fugitives over a 25-year career, is the subject of a new A&E reality series, Dog the Bounty Hunter. We grilled him about his work, his workouts and the family business.

Q: So what does a bounty hunter do?

A: A bounty hunter is someone who returns accused criminals to court when they fail to appear. When they abscond from justice, we track them down and bring them in. Q And how'd you get into that?

A: I tried the life of crime when I was young, in my early 20s, and it didn't work. So after I got out of jail, I decided to change my life. The direct opposite of a criminal, of course, is a lawman. The bottom line is, crime equals punishment and love equals love, and that combination did it.

Q: Right. Does being in shape help you chase criminals?

A: It's an absolute must nowadays. You've got to be fit. You've got to be both fast on your feet and strong in your body. You must do that 'cause it's the drugs you're battling, too.

I upped my poundage on all my sets when we were chasing this one guy, and it was a good thing because he had the strength of three men.

Q: How often do you work out?

A: I work out every other day at 24-Hour Fitness. I use free weights for bench pressing and a lot of machines for legs and the rest. I read Muscle & Fitness and use a combination of what Arnold and all the bigger guys [recommend]; I try to pull the parts that seem to match my body and use their repetitions or sets.

Q: What does a Dog like to eat?

A: A typical breakfast is oatmeal, eggs and some Muscle Milk. Lunch is tuna fish and another Muscle Milk. Dinners are light, maybe ribs or salmon. I eat brain food: walnuts, raspberries. You've got to stay keen in all aspects of your life. You've got to stay a natural step above the crackheads, the iceheads, the PCP guys.

Q: How do you find these people?

A: You have to get inside them and become them. You have to know all their habits, their weaknesses, their strengths. Their mothers, fathers, girlfriends, what kind of cigarettes they smoke, what kind of pop they drink. You have to hunt them as you'd hunt quail — go where they're at, infiltrate their organizations and grab them. You stand the last place he stood, close your eyes and meditate, and besides "God, I need your help," you say, "What would I do if I were him?"

Q: Who was the toughest to catch?

A: Andrew Luster. It took 166 days. Besides my children being born and [my wife] Beth saying "I do," it was the most exciting night of my life.

Q: Some guys must put up a fight. How physical does it get?

A: I've been shot twice, stabbed a few times. I've had a broken nose. All my crew has been hospitalized. I just had two black eyes and was in a knee and elbow brace.

Q: Do the cops resent you catching people they can't?

A: Your reputation in this business is everything, and I've worked 25 years on mine. I can call police captains and it's "Dog, what do you need?" Cops are my heroes. One of the great things is when a victim calls to say, "I can finally sleep tonight." Another is for a cop to say you're doing a great job.

Q: Tell us about your new show.

A: They're doing a day in the life of Dog Chapman and his family — working out, getting the kids ready for school, going after people — only it's for a month or so. We take them from the mug shot to the apprehension all the way to the jail. They film every single bit of it. We usually catch one guy every other day. Every episode, I believe, has a capture.

Q: Your kids often go on stakeouts with you, right?

A: The ones who are over 18. Two of them work side by side with me, and a couple of the others work part-time for me. It's a family affair. They've all been raised ducking down in the seat of the car because dad's got to bring a guy in.

Q: Why the nickname?

A: When I was 16 I was in the Devil's Disciples, a motorcycle gang. They wanted to rob a church and paperboys, and I said I couldn't do that 'cause God would strike me dead. The leader of the club said, "You talk about God a lot, and you're always there like man's best friend. Dog is God backward." I've had the name ever since.

>> Dog the Bounty Hunter airs Tuesday nights on A&E.