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Shyness in Beagles

by Tom Holloman :: Featured: January, 2004

Over the past 15 years I've seen some things that really bother me in the Beagle world. The most disturbing would have to be the shy hound. I'm sure you've all seen this to some extent. That hound that you just can't catch in the field, or that hides any time your around the Kennels; even hides in the dog house at feeding time. Now I ask you, is this the type of hound we need to better the breed? I personally don't think so. Is this something to overlook because "Hey he runs the hair off a rabbit."? I think not.

I have spent a lot of time working with dogs, talking to breeders and reading everything I could get my hands on that dealt with dog temperament. I even helped my Grandfather every summer for nearly 20 years in his Airedale kennels. Now I'm no expert, and will never clam to know all there is to know about this or any subject concerning Beagle/dog behavior. But, I do have some things I'd like to pass on.

It has been my experience that a lot of the shyness comes from the way a pup is raised. Now some lines are more prone to produce shyness than others, and the mother has a lot to do with this. The first big thing I look at before breeding a female is her disposition. How does she act around people? Under stress? Things like that. Second, her blood line. Is this line known to produce shyness. This may sound like simple things to look at, but they must be to successfully raise a litter of good sound hounds. I also look at the same in the male.

Now I have seen pups that were out of shy parents come out ok but only a few from a whole litter, and the time spent working with the few good ones was considerable. I have also seen otherwise fine hounds made shy from lack of human contact. I recently raised a litter of 3 pups to 4 months of age. I kept one, and the other 2 went to a friend. I have a play pen I set up in the yard or in the barn in bad weather. And these pups were in it almost daily from 5 weeks of age, until it wouldn't hold them. After that I took them for walks in the yard daily as a group and individually. They were very happy and friendly hounds. Now the sad part my friend picked up his 2 and took them home. Well, his Reserve unit got activated and he was gone for the next 3 months. His wife was left to feed and tend the hounds. Well she works a full time job and has a lot of other thing to do. So, as you may have guessed, they were feed and watered daily ,but not given any other attention. During all this I continued to take mine on walks through the field and around the yard. Taught him to down, come when called, and I let him explore the farm. I supervised and called him back in occasionally.

Now this is where it get interesting: It came time to take them to the starting pen. Well, guess what... my male happy as ever and broke to lead was no problem at all. But when we tried to work with the other 2 it was like trying to lead a 50 pound catfish. When we turned them loose they would stay at least 25 feet away for anyone. This is obviously from lack of attention. This is a rare case and I know most of you spend a lot of time with your dogs. But, it can happen before you know it.

Here are a few of the things I have found over the years:

While I do like wire bottom elevated pens for the ease in cleaning and and all around health of the Hound, they can be the cause of some problems. I have seen this happen way too many times. Pups raised in a wire bottom and not fooled with much, and not let out on the ground,can become very shy when put on the ground around people. Think about it like this: the only time they ever see you its only half of you and only to be given feed, shots and wormer. Then, all of a sudden, they're on the ground and there is a giant twice the size of anything they've ever seen. Scary isn't it? Pups are a lot like kids in many ways and the first 6 months of there life's can mean a lot. Their minds, like a sponge, soaking up everything they are exposed to.

Some hounds can overcome shyness, but few ever completely do. So, please, be responsible breeders and stay away from hounds known to produce shyness -- the betterment of the breed depends on it.

In the past I've seen a few of the better known breeders looking for the fast buck and or fame; breeding and promoting shy hounds. The one case I know of personally has been some years ago and today he has nothing to show for it. Yes, the man made some good money selling these pups and in stud fees, but now he has nothing to show for it -- not even a solid hunting dog from his lines. His partner was a trend breeder and bred to any and all well known Field Champion hounds with little thought to the temperament of the hounds. He still has some good hounds, but nothing that will produce / re-produce solid , complete rabbit dogs.

I'm not looking for any fame or selling pups or dogs, just concerned with the welfare of the breed. I'm sure I've left out some things that some of you may do to prevent this; these are just some of the things I have seen cause this problem and some other things I've done to prevent it in my kennel.

I truly hope this article helps someone avoid the frustrations I have had.

Good luck and Happy Hunting.

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