How to Train a Beagle to Hunt Squirrels

Medium
1-6 Months
Work

Introduction

Your Beagle is everything you thought he would be. True to their nature, Buddy is excitable, even-tempered, intelligent and determined. This makes him a great canine companion to have around the house. However, you want to put your Beagle to some more serious work. You have a problem with squirrels. So while you want to keep Buddy around in the evenings, it would be great if you could put him out to work in the daytime.

Training Buddy to hunt squirrels may be a fantastic and effective way to put an end to your squirrel problem. However, there are also other benefits. For example, the obedience training involved will cement your position as pack leader. This will make it far easier to teach the hound a range of other commands and behaviors. This training will also stimulate the dog and put all that energy to good use.

Defining Tasks

Training a Beagle to hunt squirrels is much easier than many owners realize. This is because Beagles naturally have many of the characteristics needed to be an effective hunter. The challenge comes in finding the right incentive. Fortunately, like most dogs, Buddy probably has a weakness when it comes to food. If not, the right toy could well do the job. Once you have your motivator, you will be able to reinforce training with consistent practice.

If your Beagle is just a puppy then they should be eager to please and extremely receptive. This means you could see results in just a few weeks. However, if Buddy is older and more interested in sleeping than chasing prey, then you may need several months. If you get this training right, you won’t have to worry about squirrels sneaking in through small gaps and wreaking havoc. 

Getting Started

Before you can start training, you will need to go out and collect a few bits. Squirrel decoys and scent spray will be needed. These can be bought from a range of online stores. You will also need to stock up on tasty treats. Alternatively, you can break the dog's favorite food into small chunks.

Toys and a clicker will be required for one of the methods below. Set aside 10 minutes each day for training. You will need a yard or local fields to practice in.

Once you have all that, just bring enthusiasm and a positive attitude, then work can begin!

The Lead by Example Method

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Step
1
Draw their attention
The first thing to do is regularly take the dog out looking for squirrels. When you see one, point, whisper and do everything you can to draw your Beagle’s attention to the squirrel.
Step
2
Charge
Once you have got their attention, charge towards the squirrel with arms waving and shouting as you go. Obviously you won’t catch the squirrel. However, Beagles learn by mirroring their owners behavior. So if they see you always getting worked up, they will soon follow suit.
Step
3
Consistency
It may be time consuming and tiring, but you need to consistently lead by example until your dog starts giving chase of their own accord. So head out several times a week on the hunt for squirrels.
Step
4
Reward
It’s also important your Beagle is given an adequate reward whenever they chase a squirrel. In fact, reward them with a treat even if they aren’t successful to start with. Without the promise of food, they may soon give up, especially in the beginning.
Step
5
Avoid punishment
Leading on from using rewards, it’s important you never use punishment as a training technique. If you do, your dog may become aggressive and then potentially dangerous. Positive reinforcements are far more effective.
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The Scent Trail Method

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Step
1
Decoy play
Spend a few minutes each day playing tug of war and fetch with squirrel decoys. This will get your dog practicing some of the skills they will need later on. It will also get them familiar with the sight and smell of squirrels.
Step
2
Create a trail
After a few days when your Beagle is excited by the mere sight of the toy, head out into the yard to create a trail. Rub the toy along the ground and create a trail that leads to the hidden toy at the end.
Step
3
Start line
Now secure your pal to a leash and take them to the beginning of the trail. Point at the ground, whisper and encourage them to follow it. If they get distracted, pull them back onto the trail.
Step
4
Reward
Make sure your Beagle gets all the way to the end of the trail. He has to know there is always something waiting for him if he keeps searching. Once at the end, you can give a treat and play around with the toy for a minute.
Step
5
Make it harder
Now you just need to create new and harder trails every few days. You can also start creating them in local fields. Before you know it the Beagle will naturally start seeking out and chasing squirrels whenever they smell or see them.
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The Full Package Method

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Step
1
Obedience classes
Start training your dog from as early an age as possible. This is when Beagles are at their most receptive. Start taking them to group obedience classes too. This will ensure they know how to socialize with other pets and people, while also teaching them useful obedience commands they may need later on.
Step
2
Seek out squirrels
Regularly take your dog out for walks through fields and keep an eye out for squirrels. Whenever you find a dead squirrel, take your Beagle over to sniff and take an interest. Point, whisper and try your best to get them worked up.
Step
3
Reward
In fact, reward your pup with treats and verbal praise whenever they sniff around or take an interest. If they associate squirrels with positive rewards, they are much more likely to continue taking an interest.
Step
4
Environment friendly
It’s also important your dog is comfortable in a hunting environment. That means get them used to the sound of gun shots and walking stealthily through fields.
Step
5
Encouragement
Your Beagle will soon be ready and interested in squirrels. Now all you need to do is offer the right support. That means giving treats and lots of verbal praise whenever they give chase, even if they aren’t successful. If you use a clicker when you train, also give that a click whenever they return from chasing a squirrel. Simply keep up the rewards and they will be a natural squirrel hunter in no time.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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