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You’ve barely had a minute to catch your breath since your Beagle puppy entered your life. In many ways, he’s exactly what you expected: determined, even-tempered, intelligent and excitable. He puts a smile on your face as soon as you see him bounding up to you. However, one thing you didn’t count on was how much energy he would have. Fortunately, you have plans to put that energy to good use.
Training him to hunt rabbits will benefit both of you in a number of ways. Firstly, it’s a fantastic way to channel his energy into something productive. This type of training will also instill discipline and set him up to be a well-trained, obedient dog in the future. It’s also a fantastic way to bond with your new canine pal. Not to mention, it could significantly improve your hunting results.
Training any puppy to hunt rabbits can prove challenging. He will be restless and eager to explore everything around him, so keeping him focused won’t always be easy. Training will start by teaching him a range of obedience commands and getting him used to his future hunting environment and prey. To do all this, you will need the right incentive. Fortunately, Beagles have a particularly strong sense of smell. So the right smelly food will be your gateway to successful training.
Because he’s a puppy, he should be receptive and keen to please his new owner. This means you could see results in just a month or so. However, if he’s stubborn and not the most avid student, then you may need up to six months. If you can get this training right you will have an efficient and obedient hunting partner who will ensure those days of returning empty-handed are over.
Before you get to work, you will need to get together a few bits. Some rabbit decoys and scent spray will be required. You will also need to stock up on tasty treats for rewards and motivation.
Set aside 15 minutes each day for training. You will need access to a yard and local fields for training. The more often you train, the sooner you will see results.
Once you have all that, just bring patience and an optimistic attitude, then work can begin!
The Follow My Lead Method
Take him out
You need to regularly take him out looking for rabbits. If you walk through fields full of them on your daily walk, then you already have the perfect training ground. Keep him on a long leash but make sure he has some freedom to sniff around.
Capture his attention
When you see a rabbit, stop and try to draw his attention to it. You can point and talk in a high pitched voice. Just be patient until he finally catches on.
Once he’s aware of the rabbit, you then need to show him how it’s done. Charge towards the rabbit waving your arms in the air and shouting. Beagles mirror their owners behavior, so if he sees you always get worked up and run towards them when you see one, then he will soon follow suit.
Because he’s a puppy he will be particularly receptive. This means consistent rabbit chasing will soon become habit and part of his routine. So make sure you take him out several times a week to practice. Don’t worry, he will soon start chasing them himself and then you won’t need to lead by example anymore.
Make sure he always gets a reward when he chases a rabbit. Puppies will quickly give up if they think there is no reward waiting for them at the end.
The Scent Training Method
Spray the rabbit scent on your decoy toys and then spend a few minutes each day playing around with them. Play games, get animated and leave them in your Beagle's bed. You want him jumping up at the mere sight of them.
Create a trail
Now head into the yard and wipe the decoys along the ground, making a trail leading to a hidden decoy at the end. You’re going to teach him to use his nose to sniff out his future prey.
Now secure him to the leash and take him to the start of the trail. Point to the ground, whisper and encourage him to follow the trail. If he gets distracted, pull him back on. You must make sure he always gets to the end and finds the decoy. He needs to know there will always be a rabbit waiting for him at the end if he persists.
When he does get to the end of the trail, shower him in verbal praise. You can also give him some mouth-watering rewards and play with him for a minute or so. The happier he feels, the more eager he will be to play again.
Mix it up
Take him out on a couple of scent trails each week. You can then gradually start making them harder and after a few weeks start setting them up in local fields. Continue giving him rewards until he naturally starts sniffing out rabbits on his own.
The Start Early Method
Enroll your pup in some group obedience classes. These classes will help teach him all the basic obedience commands you will need later on, from ‘down’ to ‘wait’. It will also increase your level of control, not to mention socialize him with other people and pets.
Fetch & tug of war
Spend a few minutes each day playing fetch and tug of war with him. Use the rabbit decoys when you play. This will help him naturally develop the skills he will need later on to be an effective hunter.
Make sure you take him out regularly and get him used to his future hunting environment. You don’t want your Beagle puppy charging away as soon as he hears a gun shot. Also spend some time stealthily walking through fields in preparation.
Make sure you encourage any promising behavior with treats and verbal praise. Any interest in rabbits must be rewarded. This will get him associating rabbits with positive consequences.
Don’t use punishment
It is important you never punish your Beagle puppy. He may become overly aggressive towards other humans and animals. Beagles respond best to positive reinforcement.
By James Barra
Published: 02/27/2018, edited: 01/08/2021