The beagle is a small- to medium-sized dog that is often bred to hunt rabbits and is hence called a "rabbit dog." By giving proper training started at an early age, you can avoid problems with your dog later. Beagles are usually amiable and eager to please, but once distracted, they may require discipline to bring them into line. This is particularly true if the beagle starts chasing after deer—or “running deer.” At the first offense, a disapproving tone or hand gesture should work, but if your beagle continues, try using an electronic collar to bring the dog into line.
Training methods vary between owners, but most agree that you can start training your beagle as early as four to six weeks. When the puppy is a few weeks older, throw out a soft toy and teach him to fetch it. Once the puppy masters this activity, rub the scent of a rabbit, called rabbit dander, on the toy and throw it out for him to retrieve. When he is a little older, you can introduce him to domesticated rabbits.
Training with Rabbits
When you introduce your beagle to domesticated rabbits, do so in your back yard or pen. Then teach your maturing dog how to track a rabbit by smell, and take him out to a running pen, or enclosed space, to practice hunting wild rabbits. All the while, you are limiting the interest of your dog to rabbits. Continue training until your beagle is ready to join a pack of more mature hunting dogs.
Some owners used structured exercises, rewarding each desirable behavior with a treat. At a minimum, your dog should know and obey the commands “come,” “no,” and “down.” However, even with proper training, your beagle may start running deer. Catching the bad behavior at the first offense hopefully allows you to get a handle on the situation from the outset. A severe verbal command or hand gesture should correct the situation. Otherwise, your beagle may interfere with your other dogs and disrupt the rabbit hunt.
If your beagle continues to rebel, you can do one of two things: separate the offender from the pack and not allow him to hunt; or, use an electronic collar that allows you to administer a mild to moderate shock to your dog if you see him start running deer. You also can put a small swatch of cloth smeared with rabbit dander under the collar and intentionally shock the dog during a remedial training exercise. This helps your beagle relate the unpleasant experience with the smell of deer and decide to stick with rabbit hunting instead.