In general, it can be expected that hound dogs will be more difficult to train in off-leash activities. Hound dogs have been bred to devote themselves completely to the task of sniffing out their quarry. Their droopy skin and long ears help to funnel smells into their exceptionally well-equipped sniffers.
Watching a hound dog on the scent, droopy brow furrowed in concentration, is a beautiful thing. The triumphant bay of discovery and of jubilant chase, also, are wonderful to behold--that is, if you are on the hunt behind a pack of beagles. If, on the other hand, you are trying to enjoy a walk through the park with your canine companion, and the quarry is a squirrel that your hound dog has now treed very loudly to the consternation of other park goers, you may be less thrilled.
How can you teach your scent and prey-driven hound dog to stay with you when walking off leash? Well, when it comes to beagles, you have something to your advantage. Most beagles absolutely love food. One of the challenges of beagle ownership is keeping off the pounds. Furthermore, those powerful noses beagles possess are equally capable of picking up the smell of a delectable treat that you have just procured from a treat bag, so using a food lure to bring your beagle back to you can be very successful.
The younger your beagle is, the easier it will be to teach her to stay with you off leash. All puppies instinctively want to be near their person, so if you start when your beagle is a puppy all tripping over her ears, and encourage staying close, your beagle will continue to develop and internalize this training as she grows. Even if you have a grown hound dog, however, you can teach your beagle to walk with you off-leash. Training, in this case, may require more persistence and food rewards, but you and your beagle can get there.
Throughout the training process, it is helpful to develop impulse control in your beagle in as many situations as possible, not just when you are walking with your beagle off-leash. Think of your beagle’s impulse control as a muscle that must be developed to be as strong as her powerful nose.
For all training techniques, it is important to know what best motivates your beagle. Just because beagles have a reputation for loving food, don’t assume that your particular beagle won’t be motivated best by toys. Introduce your dog to lots of goodies at various times and see what she consistently responds most enthusiastically to.
If you are using a leash to train your beagle, be sure it is clipped to a sturdy well fitted harness. You will want a leash that can go at least as far as you would want to let your dog wander off leash, and it is best if the leash has some elasticity so that your beagle will not pull sharply against you if she should try to run.