PREPARING YOUR BEAGLE TO GO AFIELD By William Given
A bench championship is solid proof that your Beagle is a good repre- sentative of the breed. If you have been in dogs any real time at all, I am certain that you have heard the phrase, “A well balanced dog has a title at both ends of its name.” Unquestionably there is some truth to it. But an obedience title, rally title or agility title does not mean that your Beagle can do what he was bred to do. A tracking title comes closer, but still doesn’t quite do it. A Field Championship does, even though the title doesn’t go at the end of the name. Preparing a Beagle to earn a field championship takes some time, some energy and of course money. Fortunately is does not take a lot of money nor does it take a great deal of e ff ort. It does take time. But if you enjoy the time spent with your dog afield, then it will be time well spent. LEARNING TO FOLLOW A TRAIL Trailing hounds, like the Beagle, must learn to focus on a single track before they are ready to work live game. Since Beagles are small game hunters, a game trail instead of a human track is best used in training them in preparation for going afield. During this early training, it will be much easier for both you and your dog if you make an artificial trail. Th is is eas- ily accomplished by saturating a bag of sawdust with commercial game scent and dragging it behind you about 100 yards. Th en, with the dog on lead, take him to place where the scent starts. When he locates the scent, encourage him to follow it and correct him if he wanders. At the end of the trail, reward him with praise and a favorite treat. When he has learned to fol- low an easy trail, make your trails more complex by adding distance and turns
“A well balanced dog HAS A TITLE AT BOTH ENDS OF ITS NAME.”
through thicker cover and over rougher terrain. You should spend at least two or three months on this stage of training.
way he will gain it is by hunting as often as possible. Again, an older and more experi- enced dog can be of great assistance during these sessions because the young dog will follow him and learn by imitation. Wheth- er you take your Beagle afield alone or with another dog, always take him on a lead so that he knows you are in charge. When you reach the hunting area, release the dog and encourage him to start hunting by talking to him as you walk through the woods. In areas where the cover is dense or game is scarce, beat the bushes with a stick as you walk along. Th is is where the phase “beating around the bush” came from. Rabbits and other small game will often hold fast at the approach of danger and can sometimes be flushed out of hiding by such action. You also need to be alert for signs of game, and you may see a rabbit or hare take o ff before the dog is able to scent it. If you do, call him back to you and help him locate the trail. RUNNING A FRESH TRAIL When you locate a fresh game trail, the dog will likely take o ff on the scent, especially if there is an older dog along on the hunt. If he does not, start him on the trail by showing him the way. You will know he is on the scent when you hear the deep-throated baying that all small game hounds instinctively sound when they hit a fresh track. Th is is the climax of the chase and the reward for the many hours spent training. Th e musical cry of your hound closing in on his quarry is one of the most exciting sounds in the field.
FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH LIVE RABBITS
As soon as your Beagle demonstrates his ability to follow an artificial trail, he is ready to work live rabbits. A rabbit from a pet shop works wonderfully. It is easy to care for, is slow enough for a young or inexperienced dog to keep up with and it leaves a simple trail that is easy for the dog to follow. If at all possible, this phase of the training should take place in an enclosed area. Th is way the rabbit and the dog are in little danger of running out of your area of control. You allow the dog to sni ff the rabbit while a training partner holds it. Th en take the dog out of sight and release the rabbit. Unleash the dog and encourage him to find and follow the rabbit’s trail. An older and more experienced dog can help greatly during this stage of training by leading the way. In any case, stay close behind so you can separate the dog and the rabbit if necessary. Take the dog out with the rabbit for a week or two and keep the sessions short so that the dog will not lose his enthusiasm. HIS FIRST TIME IN THE FIELD Th e most challenging phase of training your Beagle will occur when you go afield after wild rabbits. Here the trail may lead anywhere. It will likely be old or it may not exist at all. But the measure of a good trailing hound is experience, and the only
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