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Beagles are part of the hound family, and their sense of smell is incredibly keen. You can harness this gift and give your dog a job by training your Beagle dog how to track deer. Following scents is a natural behavior for a Beagle, and they are used all over the world for finding animals in the wild. Whether you live on a large property surrounded by woods or like to take your Beagle for walks in the country on the weekends, this can be a fun activity for you both.
Beagles need mental stimulation as well as physical stimulation, so adding the "job" of tracking deer to your walks will tire out your Beagle's mind and make him even more excited to head out to the trail with you. You don't want your Beagle to get carried away and chase any deer he finds, so make sure you have him in control at all times. Teaching your Beagle this skill will not only be fun for him, but it might give you the chance for some fantastic wildlife sightings.
Learning how to train your Beagle to track deer not only taps into his natural instincts, but it's a fun way for both of you to get exercise. Make sure to start the training when your Beagle is a puppy. It's much easier to train younger dogs than older dogs. You want to make sure you have him controlled with your voice, on a leash, or with an e-collar at all times so he doesn't chase the deer. You and your Beagle can get into trouble for chasing deer or "harassing wildlife" and your Beagle could get kicked or hurt if he gets too close. If you plan to track deer at a nature preserve or park, make sure you know the rules for dogs and stick to them. Following your Beagle's nose can lead you to many interesting locations and many wonderful deer sightings.
You'll need a few supplies to kick off your training, depending on the method you choose. Though you may not be able to cue a live deer for training, you can simulate one so your Beagle is ready when he smells one in the wild. You'll need:
- Deer scent from a hunting store.
- A piece of deer hide or an antler. You can usually find these at hunting stores too.
- Pieces of clothesline varying in length from 30 ft to 100 ft.
- An experienced tracking dog to teach your puppy the ropes.
- A dog who obeys you very well, even when distracted, or an e-collar.
The Deer Hide Method
Start with a well-trained dog
First make sure your Beagle can sit, stay, and come back to you in a variety of situations. You can use your voice or train him with the help of an e-collar.
Introduce the deer scent and hide
Outside your house, put a few drops of the scent on the deer hide. Let your dog sniff the scent.
Create a trail
While your dog is in the house, create a scented trail by adding a few more drops of the scent to the hide and dragging it across the ground a short distance to a tree or rock where you can conceal the hide. Add a few drops of scent to the ground along the way.
Let him sniff
Bring your Beagle outside to the start of the scent trail. Let him follow the trail and praise him when he finds the hide.
Extend the search
Each time you head out to train, make the trail longer and more complicated.
Introduce the deer
After your Beagle is comfortable finding the scented hide, take him out and look for deer yourself. When you see one, bring the Beagle right to the spot after the deer runs off and let him sniff around. Encourage him to follow the trail the deer took from that spot.
Let him find the deer
After a while, he should start to pick up on the scent of deer while you are out and about. When he starts tracking, follow him through the woods and praise him when you see signs of deer and especially when he leads you right to them.
The Scented Line Method
Cut a few lengths of rope
Start by cutting several lengths of rope. Clothesline or even 11m static rope will work. Start with 20 ft, then move up to 100 ft.
Soak the line with scent
Start with the shortest length and soak the line in a bucket of water mixed with deer scent.
Make a trail
Once the line is soaked, lay it out in a trail in the backyard. Put a prize at the end of the line. This could be a deer hide or tail that he can play with.
Let your Beagle smell
Bring your dog to the start of the line and let him sniff. Encourage him to follow the line.
When your beagle reaches the end of the line and gets the prize, give him lots of praise and treats.
Increase the length of line
Once he's mastered a length of rope, move on to the next length. Vary where you lay the rope and what obstacles your dog needs to cover to get to the prize at the end.
Remove the rope
Once your beagle is interested in tracking the line, remove the rope and create a trail by dribbling the scent and leaving a trail to the prize. Wait for about 15 minutes, and then bring out the dog and encourage him to follow the scent. When he finds the prize, let him bark and play with it.
Start the search
When you think he's ready, let him track deer for real. Take him out to the woods and let him start to search. If you come across signs of deer, be sure to praise and encourage him.
The Experienced Dog Method
Introduce the dogs
If you or a friend already has an experienced deer tracking Beagle, the older dog can usually teach the younger dog how to track. Start by introducing the two dogs in a neutral spot.
Set up a scent trail
Create a tracking trail with deer scent in the back yard or practice area for the older dog to follow.
Let both dogs out to track
The older dog already knows what to do and will begin to follow the scent. Your Beagle puppy should start to model the same behavior.
Reward both dogs
When the dogs find the prize at the end of the scent trail, make sure they both get rewards.
Continue to practice with the fake scent trail until your Beagle is emulating the same behaviors as the older dog.
Head to the woods
Take your Beagle out into the woods with the older dog to look for real deer. Make sure the Beagle is honing in on the behaviors of the older dog.
Take him out alone
After a few months of working with the older dog, take your Beagle out on his first solo tracking session. He should quickly gain the confidence to sniff out deer.
By Katie Smith
Published: 01/11/2018, edited: 01/08/2021