The beagle is considered one of the oldest hunting breed and is especially bred for hunting rabbits. However, all beagle dogs do not show interest in tracking rabbits and need to be trained. This has happened because certain breeders have focused on cultivating only selective traits like being a show dog and so on. Therefore, if you are looking for a hunting beagle, try to find a purebred from a line of hunting and tracking beagles. This will ensure your beagle has the required genetic traits and capacity to become an excellent hunting dog.
Once you have acquired beagle pups, you can start training them as soon as they are five to six weeks old. Initially the training will only focus on developing the pup's searching abilities. Start with some treats and make your pup smell biscuits, dog food or piece of sausage in your hand.
Once you have sparked interest in your pup, toss the food so that your pup has to use its nose to find it. Your pup will soon get accustomed to these searching games, and will start wagging its tail and snorting when the hunt is on. These exercises will prompt your pup to use its scenting abilities frequently, and soon it will become second nature.
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After your beagle is around seven weeks old, you can start training for tracking a scent and retrieving. At this particular age your pup will have a shorter span of attention, and hence your training sessions should not last more than fifteen minutes, and they can be repeated only twice during the day. Your first sessions for retrieval training should be conducted inside your home, preferably in the hallway.
Toss a sock roll down the hallway when your puppy is looking at you, and then prompt it to fetch it. Your pup will eagerly go after the sock roll, however while returning it will try to run past you with the roll. Hence, when your pup reaches your location, you need to take the roll away from it and say some praise like "good dog" along with some petting.
Once your pup has learnt to retrieve the sock roll, you can take this training outside. Now, you can put a rabbit scent on the sock roll and after a few sessions, you can start with a small dead frozen rabbit. The point of using a frozen rabbit is that you can use it again. Your training session will last about half an hour, during which time the rabbit will thaw, and then you can place it back in the freezer.
After your pup is perfect at retrieving in the garden, you should start tracking training. For this, you will need to tie a sausage on a string and quickly drag it on your lawn. Your pup will follow the sausage around, but you need to be fast, so that it does not get to bite into it. After every five feet or so, leave a piece of the sausage as a reward, but keep stretching the trail. Later replace the sausage with rabbit scent and then the rabbit. You will be amazed how fast your beagle pup is able to master the art of tracking and following a scent.