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Foundation Training

by Ken Jorgenson


          In my opinion, one of the most enjoyable and easiest things to do in Beagling is to start a pup or adult dog chasing rabbits. Put a domestic rabbit in the backyard and let the dog out of the house or kennel and watch the reaction of a dog that suddenly discovers something new invading his territory. Some can't wait to tear off after the small furry invader; others will stop dead in their tracks to assess the situation. "Whoa, this wasn't around any other time I've been out here. Maybe I'll just sniff the air a little bit. Hmm, doesn't smell too dangerous. I'll just lower my head and look mean and it'll; oh no, it just moved! Now what? I'll just move a little closer. It moved again! Hey stay still. I'm trying to figure out what you are. Stop, stop! Well if you're going to be that way, get, get, aroooo, aroooo." Either way the dog is sight chasing and having a ball.

          The hardest part of Beagling is to get the started pup to stop hunting and come in when you call him. It may be getting late and it's time to go or the dog is having trouble figuring out a check and you want to put him on the line where you saw the rabbit go. Or if you're at a field trial, time has run out or the judge has called a dead track and you are to leash up your dog. Whatever the case, the started dog just has different ideas on when to give up and come back when you call him.

          My first dog, Jasmine, didn't care if I stood all day and yelled for her, it didn't matter to her if I strained my voice or got hoarse, all that mattered to her was that she was having fun and she just wasn't tired enough to give up the chase. What she convinced me of was that I needed a whistle (to save the vocal cords), and a shock collar to get her attention.

          The whistle was easy to get, the shock collar was a different story. "But honey, I know it's expensive, but I really need it to get her to mind me and besides it could save her life. If I know she's getting too close to the road, I'll have better control of her and can keep her from getting in a dangerous situation. Now what if I didn't get the shock collar and she ended up getting on some road because I couldn't stop her and she got hit, you know you would just feel horrible."

          Well, I did get the shock collar and it was just what Jasmine needed. Boy could she turn around on a dime when she heard my three short whistle blasts. I've used the shock collar on other dogs and I've learned that they're not the cure all by themselves for certain dogs. You strap on the shock collar to a dog and you go off hunting. It's time to go or move on, you call the dog, he doesn't respond, so you zap him, and now he runs off in the opposite direction-confused and frightened, not knowing what in the heck that was that just bit him in the throat. What's needed in any training is foundation work or yard training. The implanting into the dog's brain of what he is to do when you give him a certain command. This is done step by a step by step method of consistency and timing. Consistently giving a dog correction when he doesn't respond to a command, and correctly timing it so that the dog doesn't become confused by mixed signals or messages.

          I start my foundation work at a city park or school yard that has a lot of open running room and most importantly no rabbits to entice or distract from what the dog is there for; training.

          I use a prong collar and 30 to 50 feet of 3/8th inch nylon rope. I let the dog wander off and when he gets about to the end of the rope from where I am, I will blow three short whistle blasts, pause a second or two and then yank on the rope and encourage the dog with verbal commands to come.

          If the dog only comes back a few feet or stops halfway, I yank on the rope without blowing on the whistle, letting the dog know that he hasn't completed the task. The trainer must be pulling in the slack of the rope that was created when the dog came back part way.

          Some dogs figure out that when they hear the three short whistle blasts that they can quickly turn around, come back a ways, and then stand there and enjoy watching you as you hurriedly try to pull in enough slack to give him another yank on the rope. "Oh, but I love to entertain my dog."

          If you have on hand a scrumptious food treat that the dog is given upon completion of the task, they soon learn to come back on the run the whole way. I give the dog lots of verbal praise and then let the dog wander off again. When he gets 30 to 50 feet away from me I will repeat the sequence of the three short whistle blasts, pause a second or two and then yank the rope, encourage with verbal commands and then reward him after completing the task. The dog soon learns that if he turns around quick enough in your direction when you give him the command to come, he can avoid the correction ( the yanking of the rope) by obeying the command.

          After a few times of this the dog may get the wrong idea the he is being corrected for wandering off, and will hang around you and you won't be able to get him to go very far from you. This is the time to stop the lesson for this day. Go back the next day or so and repeat the lesson using the same sequence and timing. After only a couple of days you will think that your dog is ready to go off leash and you will be able to trust him to come back when you call him.

          Don't get into a false sense of success too early. Your dog knows that he is being controlled by that rope and if you let some dogs go off leash too son, they're smart enough to know that you don't have control over them. What I do is go down in diameter of the size of the rope to a 3/16th " nylon rope and gradually go down to the size of a kite string or twine. What I'm doing by this is weaning the dog for him to get the idea that although he many no sense the dragging of the rope, I still have control over his inaction to my command co move.

          After training two to three days on each rope size you are ready to start the dog off leash using the shock collar. Some dogs respond very favorably by this time when you give the command to come and it may not be necessary to use the electronic transmitter.

          Others know when they are not on any lead or long kite string and think, "aha, I don't have to obey because my master has no control over me." That's when you surprise him with a little jolt. Again, the setting is the same; park or schoolyard, and the sequence is the same. Give the command, pause a second or two, electronic jolt if you don't get a response and then reward at the completion of the task. Remember, if the dog does respond to your command, do not zap him with the transmitter, this is his reward for responding to you correctly. After a couple of days of training at the park with the shock collar it is then time to put the dog in a hunting situation with the shock collar. Your dog may respond well at the park when he can expect a food treat at the completion of a command, but it's entirely different when your dog is chasing a rabbit. To him that food treat can wait until he's tired of running Mr. Rabbit.

          That's when the shock collar really is worth the money that you paid for it. Now don't forget your dog is still training at this point and the sequence and timing are still critical in conveying the message to your dog that he is to obey you. The temptation will be strong to see if all of your time has paid off and you will want to try out what you have taught him, but don't be too quick to cal your dog to you. You don't want your dog thinking that he is being corrected for chasing rabbits. And you don't want to call off your dog in the middle of a rabbit chase just to see if he is going to respond to your command. You don't want to give your dog mixed messages, so be patient and wait to call your dog back when you would normally call your dog.

          When you call your dog for the first time in a hunting situation, stand in a place where you are very visible to him. You want to give him a place to go to, and you need to be able to see if he is responding to your command. Many times your dog will be so intent on either running a rabbit or finding a rabbit to run that you are the last thing he is thinking of and it just may not register to him at first that you are calling him.

          If he can't really locate you he may become frightened or confused over receiving the correction (electronic shock) that he may run in any direction. So make it easy on your dog and situate yourself so he can correctly respond to your command. What your goal is, is to get to the point that you don't have to always have the shock collar on your dog every time you go hunting in order for him to come to you when called.

          The reason I use the prong collar when I start my training is that it doesn't go slack like choke chains can if they are slightly too big, and they pull evenly from both sides of the neck. Also, the prong collar conveys the message a lot more convincingly than a choke chain or regular collar. I believe the pressure the dog feels from the prong collar is much more akin to what the dog will feel from the shock collar.

          Since I use the (first generation) Tri-Tronics Beagler system, I have found that the middle level of electrical stimulation or (orange) contact point is best suited for this type of training. It is not so harsh that it discourages the dog to hunt but harsh enough to let the dog know that you mean business. But then again not all dogs are the same and the orange contact point or middle level of stimulation may be too harsh for your dog. You will have to experiment to see what works best for your dog. A safe bet is to try the lowest contact point when you are still doing your training at the park or schoolyard and then go up from there to see what works best for your particular dog.

          To some, my method my seem excessive, but each days lesson shouldn't take more than thirty minutes. So in an hour and a half you could work three dogs separately and in two to three weeks you will have laid a foundation your dog will use every time out.

          Now there may be times when your dog needs a refresher, so don't be surprised if he starts getting lax in the obedience department. After all, some Beagles can be very stubborn. But for the most part you should be able to get to the point where you can expect your dog to come to you on a consistent basis when he is called.

          The age of the dog that you train using this method, should be over eight months old. You can very easily make a young pup skittish about being outdoors with you if his early training is too intimidating. You can still do some early training by calling your pup and rewarding him with a little food treat. Cut up hot dogs work great for this. Another thing that I like to do is take a pup with me when I train another dog. I let the pup wander freely with no leash and it learns from the actions of the older dog and soon puts it all together. Make this a fun game for your pup.

          What you want to do is implant into their young brain that when you call them and they respond they are rewarded. When they are older you want to implant into their brain that when they respond to your command they can avoid correction and still get rewarded.

          The way that you call your dog is up to your own personal preference, be it your voice, a training whistle, or some type of hound horn. What's important is that your dog hears you and that they can relate to what it means.

          I hope this is helpful to someone. Good hunting to you all!!!

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).