Hunting dogs, especially beagles, are born and bred to track the scents of rabbits, but discipline must be instilled in them for successful hunts. This is actually an easy process, since dogs like beagles will pick up the rest when you train them for the hunt.
You must not only train your dogs to successfully track rabbits without their presence, but for them not to harm the rabbit once it is captured. This will be essential as you are training them.
The best time to train your dog are as pups, and the right age to train them is around 3-4 months. Around this age, begin to introduce your dog to rabbits. If you introduce the dog to rabbits any younger, you stand the risk of scaring the pup. You can even begin with 8 week old puppies by having them fetch a sock. Throw the sock and have them pick it up. The pup may try to run past you, but catch it and show affection, but always maintain a dominant stance. Never let the pup ignore you. Do this continuously. This will give them a head-start on becoming masterful hunters.
Scatter some treats around the area, so the pup can learn to track scents. The best way to introduce them to the hunt faster is to drag a piece of meat and have your canine follow the scent. You can tie a piece of meat to a string and have your pup track it across the yard. Be sure to reward them as they continue following the meat.
You can also use a frozen rabbit to get your dog accustomed to tracking its future prey. With the presence of the rabbit, at this point you should train him with the down command. This will make the pup used to responding to your commands during a live hunt.
Begin training around a wide open, preferably enclosed area, such as your fence. Having at least an acre is ideal.
You don't want your dog to harm the rabbit in any fashion. When your dog barks when tracking the scent, verbally reward them. Watch them as they track the rabbit, and intervene if the dog is struggling in any way. Keep having the dog sniff the rabbit and chase it when on the loose. If the rabbit seems too tired, use another rabbit or take a break.
The goal is to have the dog get the scent of the rabbit. Try doing this at night, since it will pose more of a challenge to the pup.
And the best way to mold your pup into a hunting dog is to have it interact with more experienced dogs. Your trainee will begin to learn from other pack members and will begin to imitate their behavior. Have your new pup join in on the hunt to get acclimated. But before having your pup join the pack, take your trainee dog with you alone on a rabbit hunt. This also allows the dog to learn at its own pace without having to learn everything from the pack.
You'll know when your dog is ready for the hunt when it begins tracking rabbits without encouragement. Beagles will work in teams, and your pup will learn to work as a unit during actual hunts. Eventually, the hunting instinct will become natural, and you'll have another hunting pal to join in on your rabbit excursions.