Lightning is now six months old and ready to start running rabbits! So far, we have only done a little yard training with Lightning. For the most part, he has just enjoyed being a pup. The kids helped with leash breaking him and we have worked on the basic commands every hunting dogs needs to know. (Read previous posts about Lightning here and here)
At six months old, Lightning still has some growing to do, but he is plenty strong enough to tackle thick briars and get after a rabbit.
We really enjoy training beagle pups. We use the term “starting a pup” to mean introducing a pup to rabbits. They will instinctively use their nose to track the rabbit and once they start tracking and barking on the track, we refer that as a “started pup.” We are currently working with two pups, Lightning and his litter-mate sister. Typically, we prefer to work with just one pup at a time – as they often end up playing and distracting each other. So far these pups have been all business.
The key to working with young beagles is patience – you can’t get in a hurry! At this stage it’s most effective to focus on positively reinforcing their good actions – praise them every time they do they do something right…like getting in the briars to hunt. They are not even sure yet what they are hunting for but its a step in the right direction!
I prefer to start my pups in the wild (versus a starting pen). I leave a hedgerow of briars and brush near the kennel for the purpose of training pups. I keep the hedgerow fairly narrow with mowed lanes on each side so the pups are more likely to have sight chases. Pups typically progress from sight chasing a rabbit to using their nose to track the rabbit scent.
These pups don’t mind getting in the thick stuff to look for Mr. Rabbit! That’s a good sign.
These pups have not yet “started” but we do not expect it will take long. A few more trips to the hedgerow and I think they will start scent tracking rabbits. It will not be until next season that these pups will join the pack in the field for a hunt. For now, we will continue to give them plenty of opportunities to practice chasing rabbits at home.
pictures and post by Peter