Do you have a problem with your beagle running? This question depends on whether you intended for him to run (as in running rabbits or field trials for example) or if he just got away from you and won’t listen to a word you say – that is if he is even within hearing range.
Beagles were originally bred to run after wild game (rabbits and hares, in particular), so if your beagle is just a family pet you’ll want to take measures to make sure he doesn’t run off and get lost or hurt. If you intend to let your beagle follow a scent, whether for hunting, beagling field trials or just a fun game, you’ll need to learn how to keep him safe and within your control.
Beagle Running Explained
First, you’ll need to understand what causes beagle running. Beagles have a strong, well-developed sense of smell and can track a scent on the ground perhaps better than any other breed of dog. They were bred to be determined to follow the scent as far as it takes them, so these built in abilities and instincts will lead to trouble if you aren’t careful. They will be very focused on the scent, so keeping their attention can be challenging.
You should also realize that not all beagles will have as strong an instinct to follow a scent, due mainly to breeding for other purposes, such as family pets or show rather than hunting. Knowing this when you are looking for a breeder can help you find a beagle pup that is either bred to run a scent or one that isn’t, depending on your preference.
Beagle Running Training Basics
When you’re done with your beagle running and it’s time to call him back, one way that works well is to train him to respond to a whistle. A referee whistle works well, since it is loud and will carry for some distance. You can teach your beagle to respond to the whistle by rewarding him with treats. Start with small distances and work your way up gradually until he’ll return from any reasonable distance and no longer needs the treat to respond. Just keep in mind that if your beagle is on a fresh scent, he may not respond as he normally would.
If you have a beagle that was bred with a strong scent tracking instinct and you want to learn how to do field trials or hunting, you should seek out a local beagle or hunting hound club. There you can participate in activities like training and field trials and learn from the experience of more seasoned hound handlers. Be prepared to learn a whole new vocabulary as you and your beagle learn what it takes to “carry a line” or what happens when your beagle has “jumped” a rabbit.
If you are only looking to have some fun with your beagle running a scent that you laid down, you can do this on your own as long as you follow a few simple guidelines:
- Start on a lead – you don’t want your beagle running off on another scent. Keep the lead short at first (6 feet). As your dog learns to be more obedient you can give him a bit of leeway by using a long lead (a piece of small, but strong rope with a clasp will work).
- Use food as a reward. To keep your beagle running where you want and not after the deer that was there 4 hours ago, use food to lay down the line with the scent (also called a drag) and provide some treats along the way as rewards. You could, for example, tie a hot dog to a string and drag it behind you through your yard or an open field. Some dog treats or even pieces of the hot dog could be used as rewards as your beagle tracks the line (lay bits of treats along the scent trail so he’ll find them along the way).
- Provide a definite ending point for the scent trail (for example, leave the hot dog there) so your beagle learns that there is a big reward when he’s accomplished his task. Don’t forget lots of praise, too!
- When laying out the scent line, try as best you can to keep it away from other foreign scents that might confuse your dog (like the ice cream cone that little Jimmy dropped in your backyard, for example). Also don’t make any sudden turns, at least at first. Keep the trail smooth and gradual so your dog can learn to follow the scent easily.
- When you reach the point where you want to let your dog off lead, be aware of potential dangers in the area. Stay away from roads if possible as you don’t want your beagle running into traffic. You may want to consider a tracking collar if you are not in an enclosed area.
- Practice recall with the whistle after your beagle has “accounted” for the quarry (even if it is just a docile hot dog).
- If your beagle latches onto the scent of another animal, such as deer, that he shouldn’t be tracking, be sure to get the leash on him and get him under control. Beagle running on game other than intended (usually rabbits) is referred to as trash or off game and it’s a habit you don’t want to allow.
We’ve touched on a few points on beagle running and if it sounds like fun, be sure to find some help from a local club or other beaglers. This is a sport that can take years to master (more for you than your dog, probably) and the best way to make it safe and enjoyable is to find a knowledgeable person that is willing to help.