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American Foxhound and Hunting Instincts

April 11th, 2005, 10:36 AM

I own an American Foxhound (his name is Dodger and he's 10 months old). and a few Beagle owners have forewarned me that when he gets his "hunting instinct" between the age of 1-2 years I will never be able to let him off-leash. I am really concerned about this prediction because I can't imagine trying to walk him on-leash (he'd never use up enough energy).

He did go through a phase between 6-8 months old where he was Mr. Independent, hunting a fox and not coming when called but in the last month he has actully started paying attention to me and always coming when called. I was thinking he had matured and we had passed any stage where he would run-off but this whole "hunting instinct" has me worrying again.

Dodger still hunts and likes to "work" (sniff/explore) at a distance from me but always come's when called. I don't like to call him repeatedly and unnecessarily just for practice because I view his off-leash walks as "his free time" but I do occasionally test him.

I've heard horror stories of Beagle's catching a scent and bolting and know of 2 who were hit by cars and killed. Obviously this is the last thing I want to happen but at the same time off-leash walking can't be the alternative. Would getting Dodger involved in "canine activities" prevent his hunting instincts from overpowering? Or is he doomed to run-off at a whim?

Has anyone ever dealt with their dogs hunting instincts? And how have you worked around it!?



April 11th, 2005, 10:42 AM
I dont know really.

But knowing that its a possibility your dog could develop these instincts might be a good reason to get your dog trained on leash as well as off.

that way if you notice hes beginning to get that urge to run after things he shouldnt then you can leash him and go from there.

worst case scenario hes good both on and off leash


April 11th, 2005, 12:14 PM
I just thought I would enclose a picture of Dodger hunting the fox (who I call Troy). They had quite the relationship, Troy is quite a bold fox and often calls out to Dodger (Dodger is too focused on the scent to hear). Troy only ran away if Dodger actually spotted him or I got too close. And when Dodger and I head home, Troy always came out of the woods and I swear he made sure I saw him as if he was saying "I'm still here and always will be!!"

Anyway, I don't let Dodger chase him anymore (I let him sniff around for a trail but once he's got it I call him off). I know many of you probably think I was being cruel but I honestly believe that Troy came out looking for trouble and for Dodger. When Troy (and his scent) was not around Dodger would be disappointed because we'd play fetch instead, but before we would leave Troy would appear - openly showing himself to me and Dodger (often prolonging the walk for a couple of hours).

Anyway, now that Dodger has good recall he won't be foxhunting anymore, I just thought I would show you how things used to be!

April 11th, 2005, 01:28 PM
I understand your worries. My beagle Misty can not be trusted off leash. She is very stubborn and even though she has gone through obedience classes, she is one to bolt at an interesting scent and forget all her commands! The only time she is off leash is at our cottage where there is no traffic. But, she has always been this way. Her instincts never really kicked in because they have always been there. Even as a tiny little pup, she could always be found with her nose to the ground in search of something!

As for American Foxhounds, they are similar to Beagles in temperament. When they catch a scent they find interesting they too can just keep on going and ignore their owners. If you have a secure area where he can be offleash without worrying about cars, then it is much safer.

As Eleni stated, I would definitely recommend some professional dog training classes. They are a great way to teach your puppy how to obey you even with distractions.

Also, there are great activities for you and your dog to enjoy that would allow Dodger to burn off all that extra energy. You could try flyball and agility.

April 11th, 2005, 02:16 PM
My advice is that you leash your dog. We had a Beagle and Dachshunds for 28 years and the instinct to go after squirrels etc. is bred into their darling little bones. They have no road sense. Our dogs were never off leash - and only partly for this reason. I know for sure though that the only possible scenario that would have stopped my dogs from chasing "prey" would have been the certain knowledge that my life was in danger. And that fact would have had to penetrate once the chase was on. You can train all you want, the instinct to chase is part of the package.

April 11th, 2005, 02:51 PM
Our cairn Molly can not be trusted off leash.We walk her on an old tracking flexi which is about fifty feet long.I don't believe you can ever 100 % train over instinct and my Molls is too important to risk losing her down a hole or under a wheel.My daughter rides with a drag hunt(no live animals,a scent is followed by the pack)and of course the hounds are not leashed but it is the pack instinct that keeps them together as well as the whipper in.

April 11th, 2005, 03:05 PM
Thank-you Beagle Mom - my friends have a 9 year old Beagle that they only started letting off-leash once she slowed down - otherwise, she would have been long gone! Dodger has completed a couple of obedience classes and I think I will keep going - in the hopes that it keeps him focused on me!
Thank-you as well, Snow Dancer. At the moment I see no reason to keep Dodger on leash because he is so good right now but I also know that I could regret it. The worst I have had to deal with is being forced to wait until he's done hunting, I know that he could very easily run far enough to get to a road. I will rethink this whole off-leash business. But I honestly do not know how to burn off his energy if I do keep him leashed. Dodger is used to freedom now. I don't have a backyard big enough for agility, flyball or frisbee, Dodger makes a lousy jogging companion because his nose is always on the ground...what else can I do with him!? Right now, if I don't take him for an off-leash walk, I blow bubbles for him, take him for hour long on-leash walks, get out a hoop for jumping and play tug-of-war. But he still has an abundance of energy! I have considered training him for drafting/weight pulling to tire him out but haven't done anything yet. How did you keep your Beagles and Dachshunds fit, exercised, happy and tired!!?
Thanks for your advice!

April 11th, 2005, 03:29 PM
My beagle will be 9 this coming June. She hasn't slowed down yet! She is definitely a bundle of energy! It isn't easy tiring her out, she runs around a lot chasing all the squirrels in our backyard. She never catches the squirrels (thank goodness) because they tease her from the grapevine trellis, the garage roof or the fence. She isn't very quiet either, when she spots a squirrel she howls and barks at them giving them ample warning that she is coming! When we go on our walks, I have to make sure that I'm wearing really good shoes with good grip because I know that when we hit the park, I'll be dragged after every squirrel that happens to catch her eye.

She is extremely active and playful so in order to give her the exercise that she needs we let her run around in our fenced backyard, take her for her walks and have her run around with a long leash and play some fetch games either in the house or in our backyard.

I know that we would have lost her already if we had ever allowed her off leash.

There are clubs that you can join that would allow you to use their facilities for agility (rental fees apply I believe). There are also flyball teams that would be able to give you a lot of information on the sport.

April 11th, 2005, 06:39 PM
Lissa, Well, the Beagles liked to go for long walks and also we had a very smart cat who lived to be 20 who put them through their paces all over the house - the cat was twice as smart so they were on a constant run. Then the Dachshunds. Two were serious Alphas who had to keep control over the rest of the "in betweeners" - plus the cats. Takes a lot of mental effort to supervise benevolently. The other Dachshunds just chased each other all over the house and played with toys. The biggest exercise of all of course was planning their next meal. Amazingly, not one of the the little gourmands was ever over weight - guess it was all that worry about their next meal - and we are talking serious Italian food here - and not one dog had stomach problems either - back yes, stomach no. Now we have the American Eskimo who frankly needs to run more than the Beagle did. He likes to chase squirrels etc. but I think he thinks he is part cat - or a "bird dog". No road sense whatsoever either. Actually he does look like a 21 lb. Persian cat.