A LIFE WITH BEAGLES
By Denise Nord
hile I was writ- ing this article, a dear friend of mine called to tell me she had just been diagnosed
by the trainer you’ve paid money to. But it wasn’t working. I loved training my dog, even as frustrating as it was; and I was really interested in competing in obedience with her. Th e instructor rolled her eyes and told me to correct Chelsea harder. About the same time, I was fi nishing my BA in psychology and one of my lab classes was to train a rat to press a bar using posi- tive reinforcement. Hmm, slowly a light bulb went on—could I do this to train my Beagle? She liked food. And then Karen Pryor and Gary Wilkes came to town in the early 1990s and introduced clicker training. Much more fun for both Chelsea and I and we began to have success in the obedience ring. Since then I’ve shared my life with 7 more Beagles and we train and compete in con- formation, obedience, rally, tracking, agility and lure coursing. Some day we will add nose work, barn hunt and dock diving to that list. Beagles of all trades! I’ve had three genera- tions of show line Beagles who have excelled in multiple activities. To live successfully with a Beagle, you have to appreciate their independence and sense of humor. Th ey are great problem solvers, often to the dismay of their owners. If you want to compete in dog sports with them, you need to be willing to let your ego go and know that they will embarrass you at some point, no matter how well trained. Th ey will come up with unique ways of getting the job done (or not) Once when showing in Utility, I sent my girl out on the directed (glove) retrieve. She ran out to it, then saw a glove in the next ring and decided maybe she should bring that one back too. Luckily the Golden Retriever in that ring didn’t notice, or care, that sud- denly a Beagle was in his ring, eyeing the glove. Rio came back when I called her— and the judge was laughing so hard he couldn’t write “NQ” on our score sheet. Beagles will stop in the middle of a beauti- ful agility run with their nose up, air scent- ing someone’s ringside lunch and leave to see if they will share.
with cancer. Her attitude is great, she likes her doctors and is being proactive about her treatment plan and I hope to celebrate many holidays and achievements with her for a long time. I met her because of my Beagles. My Beagles have introduced me to some of the best people on earth. Beagle people are much like their dogs: happy, sociable, and we like to hang out together—and eat! A Beagle’s sweet face, sense of humor and wagging tail are beacons to dog lovers. I try to participate in “Meet the Breeds” at shows and events and it was at one of these that I met my friend. She was planning ahead for a puppy; I was planning to breed. Unfortunately my girl only had one puppy who still lives here, but I connected my friend up with another breeder friend and soon a Beagle puppy joined their family. I am so happy right now that she has that Beagle girl as part of her comfort and care team. Th ey give us their unconditional love, and have a great ability to console us while we stroke their soft, velvety ears. What more can you ask of a dog? A Beagle fi rst entered my life over 25 years ago. I brought home a poorly bred puppy who was still too young to leave her litter; and even at 6 ½ weeks old, she was smarter than I was. Oh, did I struggle with her; she lived up to all the bad things I’d heard about Beagles: stubborn, loud, mouthy, single minded; except for ‘stupid’—this was one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever met. Chelsea taught me that Beagles are crazy smart, tena- cious, creative little dogs with a wicked sense of humor. Th at if I wanted her to play my games, I had to make it worth her while. Back then, most dog training was correction based, “Do this or else.” I had a dog that said, ‘Do that and I’m outta here.’ When you are a novice dog owner, it’s hard to buck the sys- tem, hard to not follow the instructions given
Photo by Bill Nord
Photo by Lois Stanfield
Humorist Dave Barry described Beagles as “a nose with four feet”. People bring them home because of their cuteness, failing to realize (or remember) that they were origi- nally bred to hunt rabbits. Th ey don’t need humans to guide them, their instinct takes over and o ff they go. When the nose drops, the ears turn o ff . A Beagle will keep his nose down to fi gure out where the bunny went— when the bunny is sitting in plain sight, 20 feet in front of them! But the bunny got there in a circular fashion, not a straight line, and the Beagle must follow his nose to get there. Th at sense of smell is what drives a Beagle and why they are so food motivated and have a strong prey drive.
180 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , M ARCH 2014
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