Throughout the rural South, hunters rarely use the word “beagles.” Rather, they speak of their “rabbit dogs.” Beagles trail rabbits and hares with more enthusiasm and efficiency than any other canine.
But as any versatile hunter knows, a good beagle will also trail and flush upland game birds within shotgun range, and most can be taught to retrieve. If I were choosing a first hunting dog for a youngster, I’d pick a beagle from an established working bloodline. That’s what my father did when he presented me with a beagle pup for my tenth birthday. His training advice? Make friends with my new pup. Teach him his name and to come when I call him. Then take him hunting. He’ll figure out the rest. Good advice.
Yes, beagles are as independent as they are affectionate. They must range widely to locate game, and then trail with no help from a handler.
But independent doesn’t mean stubborn or untrainable. If you’re flying into the U.S. from another country, you’re likely to be greeted at the luggage carousel by a member of the Department of Agriculture’s Beagle Brigade. Just try to slip a single slice of a prohibited fruit or meat product past one. She’ll bust you and look so cute doing it, you’ll want to scratch her ears while you’re being written up.
• Watch your beagle’s weight. Hounds love to eat.
• Take your pup afield regularly.
• Tolerate disobedience. Beagles will try you.
• Shoot over your pup before she’s become a maniacal rabbit hunter.