February Sneak Peek

Traits of a Rabbit Dog

By stephen Wiggins

In the January 2012 issue of Hounds and Hunting there appeared an article by Gary Lee entitled, “In the Field: A Conversation with Dean Biscamp.” It took the format of an interview with Dean answering twenty-one questions about different aspects of beagling. Dean is a lifetime beagler who is well respected within the beagling community, having received a “Breeder of the Year” award multiple times by various beagling associations. The sage advice that he related from his experiences is priceless. It is one of those articles that ought to be read periodically for the extensive knowledge and information it contains on all phases of the sport of beagling, from planning your own breeding program, to training, to successful trialing.
One of the questions that Gary posed was: “What traits do you look for in a hound?” Dean replied, “I’ll list them in the order of their importance: brains, search, nose, toughness, and handling.” While there are other qualities one might add, these five should be near the top of anyone’s list when evaluating the ideal rabbit hound. It would be beneficial if every beagler committed to memory these traits as a continual reminder of the kind of dog we want to produce in our own breeding programs; or, as a standard when evaluating a prospective hound for purchase. Following is a brief discussion of each one of these traits.
1. Brains: This pertains to the dog’s intellectual ability. Whereas the beagle is a scent hound bred to instinctively flush out and pursue game, the dog is also a rational creature with the ability to absorb ideas and impressions. It possesses an intellect and therefore makes decisions on what to do or what not to do. The more intelligent the hound the more aptly it will apply its natural instincts by efficiently following the scent line with the least energy expended. The smart dog learns from experience and becomes more proficient by not repeating mistakes. All dogs make mistakes, which are momentary slips in judgment. A repeated mistake becomes a fault. Thus, the smarter the dog is, the fewer the faults. This is based on the principle that faults in a hound indicate an apparent lack of intelligence. Further, a hound might be strong in one trait that makes up for deficiencies in another. For example, a dog might lack a good nose but is still able to excel because of its high level of intelligence. But, there is probably not a trait that a dog can possess which compensates for lacking brainpower. Smart dogs are usually the ones who rise to the top.

Check out page 14 of our February issue to view the rest of this article.

Author: Tamah DePriest

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