Bunny biters

Beagles are surprisingly versatile hunting dogs

By Darrin McGrath

Beagles are well known for their ability to flush rabbits, but did you know they can also retrieve? These hounds are great at chasing down a wounded rabbit, dispatching it and bringing it to hand, or pulling a bunny out of an impenetrable clump of brush. But you need to properly train them first.

Starting out

Because beagles are notoriously headstrong, it’s essential to begin working with your pup early. Most of the groundwork that will make your dog a retriever for life can be completed in short training sessions in your backyard. Keep the sessions brief, with no other dogs or people around to distract the pup.

Leash logic

Begin by getting the dog used to the leash. This will help when training the pup to come when called—a precursor to retrieval. Use a leash that extends out to 20 feet, and let the dog roam ahead of you. Then kneel down and call, “Where’s my pup?” Include the pup’s name when you call, and at the same time hold out a treat. Gently apply pressure on the leash and ease the dog toward you. When she approaches, offer praise and hand over the treat. Gradually progress to removing the leash—once your pup comes in without it, you’re ready to start teaching her to retrieve.

Toy toss

Throw a toy, and when your pup picks it up, offer praise and call her in. While squatting, hold out a treat. When she arrives, exchange the treat for the toy, all the while praising her. Eventually, you’ll be able to substitute the toy with a frozen rabbit. And with patience and perseverance, your pup will soon be retrieving, and be ready for her first trip into the woods.