by John Rogers, Jr.
I have owned some great dogs over the years, and for many of those years I could not raise a decent puppy from them. I always thought there has to be a better way to do this. Two very good dogs and the puppies turn out bad, what could be wrong.
Because raising puppies was such a gamble I usually just bought good trained dogs that I liked when I could afford them and like most of the men I hunted with I had grade dogs. With grade dogs most of the time you have no way to know their ancestry.
I do have a good friend that has grade dogs that have been in his family for many years. Starting with a few good dogs and some line breeding, accidentally at times, he has a good strain of Beagle. He has never kept any formal records, but he knows the breeding of his dogs for several generations and he is able to produce the kind of dog he likes, by breeding for that type.
For years a registered Beagle had a bad reputation in this area. The walkie-talkies turned people away from registered Beagles. "Papers don't run rabbits. Them papers will get turn up, the first briar patch they come to," were a couple of responses you would get when registered dogs were mentioned.
I think there was only one Beagle club in this area for years, and it was a brace field trial club that promotes and competes with the walkie-talkies. Those were the days before everyone discovered what a great part of the country this is to live in and started moving in and building by the thousands. Meat dogs, were what some people called their hunting Beagles, and the title of trial dog was a name to laugh at.
I had some dogs that weren't full Beagle that I liked then, but I would not have them now. Circling, jumping out, and cutting in front didn't matter as long as they ran good enough to shoot the rabbit. That was the measure of a pack, the rabbits killed each year. Some of my friends even thought a good pack had a lead dog or two, a couple of anchors and some pack dogs in the middle to make more noise.
The lead dogs were the ones that had to run the front all the time, if another dog jumped a rabbit or worked out a check, they would jump out and take it away and drive it hard. the anchors were the dogs that were the rabbit dogs in the pack they would work close, so the wide searchers wouldn't get to far off The lead dogs got most of the praise because they would pick the quick checks and on the hard ones they would cover the anchors and take it away.
I thought for a long time that I wanted to own a pack of registered dogs that would run a rabbit like it should be run. I bought a registered dog occasionally, but wasn't smart enough at that time to know that I should have learned more about the different bloodlines, and sought more advice from people that had done it right for years.
No matter how long you have been raising Beagles you can always learn something new, either from some one who has already made that mistake or you can learn it the hard way, trial and a lot of error. It is good to look at the dogs that you don't like and study them some, too. If you know how a man got the dog he has you can follow his breeding program if you like his dogs or you can do things different if you don't want that type dog.
Nothing is perfect and no matter what you do you will get some culls. But a breeding program that uses research and good sound reasoning can have a high percentage of success. Use not only dogs that have the traits you are looking for in a dog but also comes from a line of that type hound.
Some dogs I have seen were very bad trash runners or would produce trash runners, these dogs should never be bred, if you want rabbit dogs. Few things are more frustrating than finally getting a day off and unloading the dogs in a good spot for rabbits and just as it begins to look like a great day, be left standing alone while the dogs are gone off on other game.
To me control is very important in a dog. Not just line control but the ability to control the dog when you are in the field. I have had some dogs that could run a rabbit like they should, but they went their own way, did their own thing and were very irritating to hunt with. My main rule is, if there is something about a dog that I don't like I don't want to take a chance on having a whole litter like him.
I had a good friend that trained bird dogs for years. He had a small kennel, and was one of the founders of a bird dog field trial club, and most people considered his dogs pretty good.
Once I made the statement to him that, "It sure would be nice to have a pack of hunting Beagles that obey like a bird dog."
His reply was, "Ya'll rabbit hunters just train and work a dog to run a rabbit. We train a bird dog to obey first, then hunt. You got to get a handle on them first if you want them to handle for you."
I have had many dogs that handled good and won't keep one that doesn't. What I would like is total obedience. The Formal Pack People work hard in that direction and from what I have read they have a lot of success.
I have often thought, the Beagle is the most versatile of all breeds. When you look at all the types: Large Pack (LP); Small Pack Option (SPO); Gundog Brace (GB); Walkie-Talkies (Small Pack and traditional Brace); Formal (NBC Organized) Pack; and the show only dogs; "Is there another breed that takes so many different directions?"
Now after all the studying I have decided what type of Beagle I want. I want a dog that has the heart, stamina and drive of a hare hound; the line control of a good, medium-speed SPO hound; the confirmation of a show dog; and the obedience of a formal pack Beagle. I don't want to upset any Brace Trialers, but I like a faster dog, that runs when he has good scent to follow.
The United Beagle Gundog Federation is promoting a good type of Beagle. I like their field and conformation trials. Also, breeding for a gundog Beagle that can earn a CHB title is breeding in the right direction, as far as I am concerned.
Now one thing is for sure, if a man buys dog food and feeds it to a dog, that dog should suit him. I guess that is why we have so many types of Beagles. As I grow older and my back and legs hurt more when I walk, the walkie-talkies are starting to look a little better.
May you always have good running!