I'm new to the forum, and a new beagle owner. She is 7 months old and I am starting to train her to hunt rabbits. I've hunted with dogs many times, but never my own dogs, as I've always gone with friends.
I've taken her hunting a few times, and right now, she will follow a scent. She hasn't started any rabbits yet, but she will follow a scent. It seems like she looses the scent, but I'm not sure if she just doesn't know what to do, or if she's just young and doesn't want to venture too far away from me yet.
Could you tell me if she we are on the right track (so to speak).
sounds like you are doing great. The more time in the woods you spend now the better. if she is hesitant to venture too for out, that's good for now. Believe me in a few months you'll be glad she's like that. You won't have to run her down or leave her out over night because she won't stop hunting when you do.
To start her on rabbits, take her to a sure bet rabbit place. Where you know you can stir up a bunny. keep her on the lease until you see a rabbit run or you can see one sitting. Then take her to the track and let her go. She may lose it but she'll get the idea. It usually only takes one or two set ups like that to really get the hunt instinct going in a young dog. the first year she'll lose the scent sometimes or overrun when the rabbit turns but the more you take you out the better she'll get. Once she's started take her out with another dog or a pack sometimes if you can. If not just hunt lots...just the two of you. If she get too far out and won't come back at quiting time just leave your coat in the bushes. she'll be on it in morning or later that night.
I think Alaska_Rabbithunter hit the nail on the head. The more time in the woods and the more trails your pup gets to track the better she will get. Try to pick good tracking days at first. A damp morning with little wind gives a young dog a big advantange. Also, when we train our dogs we get in and brush just like we ask the dogs to do. If you walk the trails they may start doing the same. If you get in the brush they will follow and after a few jumps they will figure out thats where they will find the rabbits. When we bounce a rabbit we call out with alot of excitement "there he goes, Yaa Yaa Yaa" and point on the ground in the direction of the jump. All our dogs have learned to honor that call as quickly as they would another dog opening.
For a little money, 1 less stolen jacken, or even worse a lost dog, give serious consideration to a training collar. I have Sportdog Brand collars for all for of my beagles. I hunt in an area with a large deer population so that has helped us train them to stay off deer trails and if they do get out of range for any reason, the collar will let you stop them and bring them back. For me a $300.00 investment in the collar for each dog was a drop in the bucket compared to the time i've spent training them.
You could possibly save $300 by running your pup with just one older beagle who will run rabbits but not deer. There are many such dogs, and the pack instinct is strong, but you can't teach an old dog new tricks.
I have heard that securing the foreleg of a deer to a dog's collar for a while will make him so sick of the smell and the encumbrance that he will forsake chasing deer. I have never tried this rather extreme measure, but I probably would if a shock collar cost me $300, and I doubt that the suffering caused by carrying a deer foreleg around for a while is any greater than the suffering caused by repeated electrical shocks - which may, like an invisible fence, teach the dog to stay away (from you). Shock therapy is not a cure-all for human behavior which is far less genetically ingrained than the hounding instinct in a beagle. We humans place a great amount of faith in technology. Beagles, not so much. In the race between technology and beagles the issue is still in doubt.
My experience with 11 or 12 (I forget) beagles over 35 years suggests that in some significant ways beagles are much like the Viet Cong or the Iraqi Insurgents or the Taliban. Beagles are astonishingly tenacious, and they are dang near invulnerable to any technology short of imprisonment.
Training collars have come a long way from just shocking a dog. My collars have Tone, vibration or shock. The shock settings are variable and set at the lowest setting that the dog feels but does not yelp or cry, probably 1/2 what they feel running through briars and shredding there ears and tails. 99 % of the time tone or vibration is all it takes to get there attention on me but in the rare situatuions where they can't be stopped the shock can save the dogs life. When you get a long winded cotton tail that wants to run a 1 mile circle its good to be able to call the dogs off before they cross a road. And with the coyote population we have in eastern ohio these days I have great reservations against leaving my dog out overnight.
You guys all sound experienced hunters, so I was wondering if I could pick your brain a little bit :-) I have 2 beagles, but am not a hunter, I live in the UK and have a little wood at the end of my road (probably not even a wood compared to the scale you guys are used to) where I exercise my beagles daily, I let them off lead to go and explore and love watching them tracking all the different smells on the ground. The only problem is that one of them seems to have taken a shine to tracking deers, there seems to be quite few pigmy deers in our wood. She used to stop the chase to a whistle, but in the last 2 weeks has started ignoring the whistle and carry on the chase and then turn up half hr or so later wagging her tail howling after us as if telling us off for leaving her behind. I just worry because I've seen her crossing the railway line several times (which is fenced off supposedly, but the deer manage to squeeze through and evidently so does my dog) and the road, so she'll get herself into trouble one of these days. Would you have any training tips on how to call her off her hunt? I have considered one of those training collars that squirt a citronella smell out triggered by dog's barking to throw her off the scent, as she does do a hunting bark when she is chasing something or on a scent, but not convinced it is a right way to go as she does bark an awful lot, she'd probably panic and wouldn't be able to find her way back to me and I don't really want to break her spirit, she is a funny little character :-) Thanks for any advise you can give me.
I definately think the bark collar would be the wrong approach. I've heard everything from penning your dog with goats to attaching a dead deers leg to the dogs collar. I've done neither. We run our dogs 1 or more times a week in areas we know there are rabbits. As long as they are finding rabbits they ignore the deer and show no mind to there trails. A couple times on days when we could not seem to find any rabbits for hours the dogs seemed to get bored and if they spotted a running deer they opened and off they went. When that happens we try to call them off before they get off on the trail but if we can't get them off verbally we use the training collars to stop them.