In a lot of cases, more is better. More money, more time, more sleep, etc. are all things we can appreciate. Sometimes, however, more can be a problem, such as with more bills or more bad weather. It has been said that all things are good in moderation, but it is determining the level of more/moderation you can live with that will aid in achieving balance.
One way in which you must contemplate whether or not you want more is the number of dogs you keep and use for hunting purposes. More dogs to hunt may in the long term amount to more kills made, but more dogs also mean more initial investment, vet expenses, general supplies (leashes, collars, etc.), and more food to buy. Keeping just one dog is more cost effective, but what if that dog becomes ill or injured? Then you are out the time it takes for him/her to get better or the time it takes to train a predecessor. With that in mind, which is better, a solitary rabbit hunting dog or a pack?
Photo: Charming Dogs
If you choose to own and utilize only one dog, this has the advantage of a close relationship forming between you and that dog, resulting in increased responsiveness. A single dog will want to bond with and please you more so than buddying up to his fellow pack members. Having just one dog also ensures that he or she does not get lost in the crowd so his training cannot suffer; he is always your number one priority, getting all of your time and attention. Channeling the instincts and drive of a single dog can also be less complicated than when a pack is involved. Your lone dog will be able to better focus without the distraction of what other dogs may be doing.
Photo: Gun Dog Broker
On the flipside, however, a pup may learn a lot from observing the actions of other dogs, which can be beneficial to you as a trainer. Dogs have the ability to learn from watching one another and mimicking the actions of other dogs, so if you have a well-trained pack, integrating a new member may be surprisingly easy. There is no substitute for one-on-one training, but having exemplary dogs to back that training up will go a long way when it comes to guiding a new pup.
Another benefit to having more than one dog is that you always have an alternate animal on which you can rely. If one dog is under the weather, it is immediately possible to substitute another, whereas it is pretty unlikely that a hole pack will fall ill at once, although it can happen. While illness can be a problem, so can injury, and injuries can strike without notice. Whether it is a cut pad or a swollen eye, there will come a time when your dog needs to be rested. This could mean a lack of meat on the table, so in times like this having another dog or dogs could make the difference between eating protein or cereal for dinner.
Photo: North Carolina Sportsman
Hunting with a pack does include embracing and understanding a pack dynamic. Your natural leaders will get the job done in most cases, but on days when the leaders are off or out of commission, the rest of the pack can and will step up to fill their shoes. Being sure that you notice which dogs fill which rolls and training accordingly is essential to a successful pack, however, so be sure to develop the skills of all pack members for optimum performance. For example, some dogs will be better at finding and jumping a rabbit and others will excel at straight trailing. Some larger dogs may not be able to pursue a rabbit in tight spaces and the smaller members of the pack can fill that void. When a dog that fills a particular role is not able to perform on a certain day and a replacement is necessary, having a pack member that fills that same role also helps make dogs interchangeable.
Photo: Hound Dogs Running Tumblr
In the end, it all comes down to preference, the expense you can handle, and your willingness to work around illness, injury, and off days. Even the best Beagle will have a day here and there where he just can't get the job done. Like us, dogs get tired and need rest, especially between hunts, and a dog that is sick or injured can't give you 100% if he just doesn't have it to give. If you hunt more frequently than a single dog can handle, then a pack, even a small pack, might be a better choice so there is always a dog (or dogs) ready to go due to the rotation having a pack allows.
Ultimately the call is yours and you may prefer a pack or a one-on-one hunting partnership. Tell us what you have and what you prefer in the comments below.