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Advice on Training Hunting Beagles

by Charles "Chuck" Terry

First, let me state that no man should claim too much credit for the “magic” of a hunting Beagle pursing a rabbit. Credit properly goes to the Creator (to whom we owe thanks!) and to countless generations of men and women who assisted in the "hunting Beagle" breeding and selection process. In fact, those who argue “nature” have a point. The influence of genetics was presented to me through personal experience over twenty–five years ago. Unfortunately, I must be “mentally challenged” in that it took me twenty years to learn the lesson presented.

When I was a young boy, my family “babysat” a Beagle for a militar family that was headed for Germany and was unable to take “Princess”. She and I quickly became the best of friends and she accompanied me on my (near daily) small game, hunting adventures in the fields and woods behind my home. Like many 12 year old country boys, I could hardly wait to get home from school each day, and get my chores done so I could grab my single-shot 12 gauge. I would head out in search of squirrel, dove, quail, rabbit, woodcock, or other types of quarry (depending on season and availability). Princess followed me everywhere and my hunts were no exception. Even though she was raised in an apartment in Florida, she ran what I believe to be the first rabbit she ever saw at about 3 years of age.

Despite 'NO TRAINING' from me, Princess became the second best rabbit dog I have ever had. The only assistance I provide was opportunity and a “good petting” when she brought a rabbit to the gun. I liked to hear her run! She enjoyed it so much that I would not shoot the rabbits unless there was no other game available to harvest, or the rabbit came to me making the shot too tempting to pass up. There is no doubt Princess could jump her own rabbit and circle solo since she was literally a one-dog show. She was relentless in her pursuit, and though intelligent and obedient in every respect, she could not be called off a rabbit track.Losses were rare and quitting was not in her vocabulary, so often I had to pick Princess up off the line and practically carry her home.If I put her down too quickly, she would simply return to the “point of loss” and start running again. This led to my getting in hot water with my dad once for leaving her at a fishing hole on the other side of town because she was still running at dusk. Dad did not accept my excuses that she would not come when I called, and that I could not transport her on my bike anyhow. We drove to the pond to retrieve her but she was still running.My dad was a little more understanding after an hour of climbing old fences, and picking his way through the thick undergrowth only to realize Princess still had to be carried to the car – a job that was delegated to me!

Without a doubt, Beagles are born to run! On the other hand, I feel proper training (nurture) helps a Beagle reach his/her full potential. As trainers, we must give the dog plenty of opportunity to hone its skill through experience. Just as humans, Beagles get better (up to their inherited potential!) at what they do with practice. The trainer’s job is to provide plenty of opportunity and control the environment as to minimize the potential for the hound to develop bad habits or faults. How that opportunity should be provided is the debatable part. I will give my thoughts and insights as to just that. However, I do not intend to say this is the ONLY way it can be done. THERE ARE MANY WAYS – THIS IS MINE!

Starting is probably the most critical step in the process. From the beginning my Beagles have been trained “naturally” by exposing them to wild rabbits. As previously stated, with Princess, I did nothing. In my desperate (and largely unsuccessful) attempts to replace her a few years later, I made lots of mistakes. First, I ignored genetics to a large degree and had plenty of culls as a result. Secondly, in my anxiousness to expose my trainees to rabbits, I helped jump them. Thereby, encouraging the dogs to rely on my assistance. The list of my mistakes goes on! Through my failures and advice from more experienced Beaglers, I learned better how to assist without interfering. In recent years, I have learned the importance of keen observation, logical thought, dog behavior study (through both observation and research), and just plain common sense in what to do and, more importantly, what not to do in training.

In starting a pup, I know many people use tame rabbits and/or a starting pen. I hope one day to have a pen myself but so far I have not been able to convince myself that it is worth the expense and work involved. I am sure both of these tools can help but ONLY TO START THE PUP. I read many stories on the Q&A boards of dogs that I feel were harmed by too many sight chases. When the dog starts, put him on the real thing in the conditions you plan to run/hunt! Out of necessity, I start/train my Beagles in fairly open terrain compared to where I hunt. They adjust but you can tell they are not used to the heavy briars we hunt the first few times out. However, the desire bred into them overcomes all (including briars!) once they get a whiff of rabbit scent.

Years ago, I used to throw pups into the pack and let them learn on the go. Most would start this way but I agree that this is not ideal and CAN lead to “me too” hounds incapable of doing it solo. I now start my pups with my slowest, best line control dog. It is important to maximize the scent and following the lead of such a dog keeps the trainee on as much scent as possible. Once the pup begins to open on a track, you can pickup the older dog and let the pup try it for himself. If he losses the line and recovery seems hopeless, the older hound can be returned to help with the check.

Once a pup is well-started, I like to brace him with a hound of like speed, style, and ability. Again, this (short of soloing him) maximizes the scent available. Many Beaglers like to solo a hound a lot. I know other will take exception, but I would solo a hound extensively only if he is going to be run solo. As a hunter, a dog that is TOO independent is undesirable, as my hounds will be hunted in a pack. Even at a trial, your Beagle will be expected to hunt with other hounds. As the hound progresses, run him with increasing challenging packmates but avoid too much pressure until he gains confidence.

Always keep in mind that TRAINING SHOULD BE DONE UNDER ACTUAL HUNTING/RUNNING CONDITIONS AS MUCH POSSIBLE! I look back at hounds I have owned and I recall problems that could have been avoided. If you are going to take friends hunting, take them training occasionally too! I have had packs that did great for me but take someone they did not know and they would not hunt! If you plan to run with other Beaglers or trial, take them hunting with other dogs they do not know from the “get go”. If a dog shows signs of being skittish around people and/or crowds, do as Ronnie Kilgore suggests: take him/her and a lawn chair to the parking lot of a busy shopping center.

While trash breaking is beyond the scope and intent of this article, I do want to share one thought on the subject. I used to avoid areas where there were deer. I would drop a young dog or two into an overgrown, old house sight no more than ¼ acre in size in the middle of a 90-acre field only to have a 100-pounder tear out on the other side. Often the young Beagles would be right behind him! Deer are unavoidable here in Georgia; therefore, I bust it wide open. I make no attempt to shelter the dog from deer as he must learn to disregard them while hunting rabbits.I try to train/hunt my Beagles where there are plenty of rabbits and should they attempt to take the track of a deer, I intervene swiftly. It is much easier to break them as pups than it is when they run their first deer six months later.

Many Beaglers try too hard to make a science out of it all! As Jack Kaiser, suggests, “enjoy” your Beagles. When hunting/trialing/training becomes a chore, you are going about it wrong! I hear all the time that running dogs of different speeds or styles will ruin them and that hunting with mouthy dogs will encourage mouthyness in packmates. It is probably not good for a pup but for the adult dog, I see no harm. I will not run my dogs with known trash runners, but otherwise, I will put my dogs down with anyone’s. I believe good pack dogs will adjust to the speed of the fastest dog in the pack.If the lead dog over-runs repeatedly, intelligent packmates will realize this and begin to turn the track on him and make him look foolish!If the fastest dog is also intelligent, he will drop back upon realizing the error of his ways.If not, he is an idiot and you cut him from the pack. If the lead dog is true, and the others will either pack-up and ride with him or drop back and run independently behind him.If a dog is mouthy, the others will learn this quickly, ignore him for the most part, and still hark to the voice of trusted packmates. The bottom line is: NO BEAGLE IMPROVED HIS SKILL IN THE KENNEL WAITING HIS “TURN”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! KEEP ‘EM RUNNIN’!

by Charles "Chuck" Terry

First, let me state that no man should claim too much credit for the “magic” of a hunting Beagle pursing a rabbit. Credit properly goes to the Creator (to whom we owe thanks!) and to countless generations of men and women who assisted in the "hunting Beagle" breeding and selection process. In fact, those who argue “nature” have a point. The influence of genetics was presented to me through personal experience over twenty–five years ago. Unfortunately, I must be “mentally challenged” in that it took me twenty years to learn the lesson presented.

When I was a young boy, my family “babysat” a Beagle for a militar family that was headed for Germany and was unable to take “Princess”. She and I quickly became the best of friends and she accompanied me on my (near daily) small game, hunting adventures in the fields and woods behind my home. Like many 12 year old country boys, I could hardly wait to get home from school each day, and get my chores done so I could grab my single-shot 12 gauge. I would head out in search of squirrel, dove, quail, rabbit, woodcock, or other types of quarry (depending on season and availability). Princess followed me everywhere and my hunts were no exception. Even though she was raised in an apartment in Florida, she ran what I believe to be the first rabbit she ever saw at about 3 years of age.

Despite 'NO TRAINING' from me, Princess became the second best rabbit dog I have ever had. The only assistance I provide was opportunity and a “good petting” when she brought a rabbit to the gun. I liked to hear her run! She enjoyed it so much that I would not shoot the rabbits unless there was no other game available to harvest, or the rabbit came to me making the shot too tempting to pass up. There is no doubt Princess could jump her own rabbit and circle solo since she was literally a one-dog show. She was relentless in her pursuit, and though intelligent and obedient in every respect, she could not be called off a rabbit track.Losses were rare and quitting was not in her vocabulary, so often I had to pick Princess up off the line and practically carry her home.If I put her down too quickly, she would simply return to the “point of loss” and start running again. This led to my getting in hot water with my dad once for leaving her at a fishing hole on the other side of town because she was still running at dusk. Dad did not accept my excuses that she would not come when I called, and that I could not transport her on my bike anyhow. We drove to the pond to retrieve her but she was still running.My dad was a little more understanding after an hour of climbing old fences, and picking his way through the thick undergrowth only to realize Princess still had to be carried to the car – a job that was delegated to me!

Without a doubt, Beagles are born to run! On the other hand, I feel proper training (nurture) helps a Beagle reach his/her full potential. As trainers, we must give the dog plenty of opportunity to hone its skill through experience. Just as humans, Beagles get better (up to their inherited potential!) at what they do with practice. The trainer’s job is to provide plenty of opportunity and control the environment as to minimize the potential for the hound to develop bad habits or faults. How that opportunity should be provided is the debatable part. I will give my thoughts and insights as to just that. However, I do not intend to say this is the ONLY way it can be done. THERE ARE MANY WAYS – THIS IS MINE!

Starting is probably the most critical step in the process. From the beginning my Beagles have been trained “naturally” by exposing them to wild rabbits. As previously stated, with Princess, I did nothing. In my desperate (and largely unsuccessful) attempts to replace her a few years later, I made lots of mistakes. First, I ignored genetics to a large degree and had plenty of culls as a result. Secondly, in my anxiousness to expose my trainees to rabbits, I helped jump them. Thereby, encouraging the dogs to rely on my assistance. The list of my mistakes goes on! Through my failures and advice from more experienced Beaglers, I learned better how to assist without interfering. In recent years, I have learned the importance of keen observation, logical thought, dog behavior study (through both observation and research), and just plain common sense in what to do and, more importantly, what not to do in training.

In starting a pup, I know many people use tame rabbits and/or a starting pen. I hope one day to have a pen myself but so far I have not been able to convince myself that it is worth the expense and work involved. I am sure both of these tools can help but ONLY TO START THE PUP. I read many stories on the Q&A boards of dogs that I feel were harmed by too many sight chases. When the dog starts, put him on the real thing in the conditions you plan to run/hunt! Out of necessity, I start/train my Beagles in fairly open terrain compared to where I hunt. They adjust but you can tell they are not used to the heavy briars we hunt the first few times out. However, the desire bred into them overcomes all (including briars!) once they get a whiff of rabbit scent.

Years ago, I used to throw pups into the pack and let them learn on the go. Most would start this way but I agree that this is not ideal and CAN lead to “me too” hounds incapable of doing it solo. I now start my pups with my slowest, best line control dog. It is important to maximize the scent and following the lead of such a dog keeps the trainee on as much scent as possible. Once the pup begins to open on a track, you can pickup the older dog and let the pup try it for himself. If he losses the line and recovery seems hopeless, the older hound can be returned to help with the check.

Once a pup is well-started, I like to brace him with a hound of like speed, style, and ability. Again, this (short of soloing him) maximizes the scent available. Many Beaglers like to solo a hound a lot. I know other will take exception, but I would solo a hound extensively only if he is going to be run solo. As a hunter, a dog that is TOO independent is undesirable, as my hounds will be hunted in a pack. Even at a trial, your Beagle will be expected to hunt with other hounds. As the hound progresses, run him with increasing challenging packmates but avoid too much pressure until he gains confidence.

Always keep in mind that TRAINING SHOULD BE DONE UNDER ACTUAL HUNTING/RUNNING CONDITIONS AS MUCH POSSIBLE! I look back at hounds I have owned and I recall problems that could have been avoided. If you are going to take friends hunting, take them training occasionally too! I have had packs that did great for me but take someone they did not know and they would not hunt! If you plan to run with other Beaglers or trial, take them hunting with other dogs they do not know from the “get go”. If a dog shows signs of being skittish around people and/or crowds, do as Ronnie Kilgore suggests: take him/her and a lawn chair to the parking lot of a busy shopping center.

While trash breaking is beyond the scope and intent of this article, I do want to share one thought on the subject. I used to avoid areas where there were deer. I would drop a young dog or two into an overgrown, old house sight no more than ¼ acre in size in the middle of a 90-acre field only to have a 100-pounder tear out on the other side. Often the young Beagles would be right behind him! Deer are unavoidable here in Georgia; therefore, I bust it wide open. I make no attempt to shelter the dog from deer as he must learn to disregard them while hunting rabbits.I try to train/hunt my Beagles where there are plenty of rabbits and should they attempt to take the track of a deer, I intervene swiftly. It is much easier to break them as pups than it is when they run their first deer six months later.

Many Beaglers try too hard to make a science out of it all! As Jack Kaiser, suggests, “enjoy” your Beagles. When hunting/trialing/training becomes a chore, you are going about it wrong! I hear all the time that running dogs of different speeds or styles will ruin them and that hunting with mouthy dogs will encourage mouthyness in packmates. It is probably not good for a pup but for the adult dog, I see no harm. I will not run my dogs with known trash runners, but otherwise, I will put my dogs down with anyone’s. I believe good pack dogs will adjust to the speed of the fastest dog in the pack.If the lead dog over-runs repeatedly, intelligent packmates will realize this and begin to turn the track on him and make him look foolish!If the fastest dog is also intelligent, he will drop back upon realizing the error of his ways.If not, he is an idiot and you cut him from the pack. If the lead dog is true, and the others will either pack-up and ride with him or drop back and run independently behind him.If a dog is mouthy, the others will learn this quickly, ignore him for the most part, and still hark to the voice of trusted packmates. The bottom line is: NO BEAGLE IMPROVED HIS SKILL IN THE KENNEL WAITING HIS “TURN”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! KEEP ‘EM RUNNIN’!

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Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).