Beagle Reboot


Because, you know…everyone loses their brains now and then. Even earnest little dogs.

Once upon a time, the dogs were widely cross-training as a matter of course. But then I moved, and my energy and attention was severely, shall we say, challenged. So we focused on agility, which is our foundation joy.

And then in the latter part of last year, I introduced tracking to ConneryBeagle.

Mind you, what I know about tracking is basically…well…


But to my mind, training is about understanding the animal, understanding the goals, and breaking things down into manageable bits that conveys the latter to the former. So 95% of my work has always been a “well, let’s see what we can do!” kind of thing.

So I bought some books, read some articles, and started training. Picked a few brains…started asking around for local folks who are active in the sport–because tracking, it turns out, just isn’t a sport one can truly pursue to title without some group involvement.

ConneryBeagle thinks tracking is way cool, by the way. It puts his brain in a neat space, and makes him content with himself. (It also makes him really thirsty.) So we worked our little tracks up into zigzags and moderate distance…and then I got distracted with new house construction an hour from the old, and then we prepared to move AGAIN, and then I also gave up, for the nonce, on getting in with a tracking group.

In other words, Connery didn’t track for a good 8 months.

Until two weeks ago! That’s when we made contact with the right people, and found the opportunity to move forward with the training. That’s when we started a big agility trial gap for the summer. That’s when I started laying some refresher tracks here around home.

And that’s when ConneryBeagle proved that he had lost none of the skills, but had completely lost track of intent. (Oh, punny me!) From moments of brilliance in tracking, he switched to aimless wandering.

It took me a while to catch on. It doesn’t, as some might think, have anything to do with “he’s just not doing it” or “he’s being bad” or even, “he’s failing.” To be frank, I’ve never found that to be the answer to any of my training challenges. Especially not with a dog as inherently honest as a Beagle.

No, with dogs, there’s generally a reason, even if we don’t understand it. That’s OUR challenge, as trainers–to react on that basis. Not to blame the dog. Not even when he’s abandoning a track he’s just brilliantly navigated to that point.

For Connery? This time, he’s mixed tracking behavior with article indication behavior.

When we practice with articles, he’s in “find” mode, which involves quartering the yard, air-scenting, and sitting beside the article. He loves this game! He’s good at it, too–and we’ve been playing it, on and off, all along.

So when we started back into tracking work again after all this time, all his reinforcement was on “find” mode. When he ran into a puzzling moment in tracking, he simply switched gears. How clever is THAT?

So Connery and I are doing a tracking reboot, and he’s enjoying this very much. It means BEAGLE SUCCESS! BEAGLE COOKIES! BEAGLE SONG OF SELF!

Who knows. By the time we join up with the new group on Saturday, maybe we won’t…completely…embarrass ourselves. But hey, maybe we will! That’s okay. Bring it on!


A really fun Connery pic--he's braced and collected behind to control the teeter tip, while at the same time striking out boldy in front. It's like catching a dressage horse in both levade and extension! (photo by Bruce McClelland)

About Doranna

My books are SF/F, mystery, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense. My dogs are Beagles, my home is the Southwest, and the horse wants a cookie!
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20 Responses to Beagle Reboot

  1. How I wish I lived close enough to see Connery in the flesh & play with him a little bit. He is the cutest thing! I was just talking to some friends the other day about Strider, and how he’s one of the two Best Dogs (the other being Chooch) I’ve known in my entire life. Whenever I consider getting a dog (Rich and Nimbus, my little gray cat, would kill me, so not yet), I think about Strider.

    • Doranna says:

      Oh, you would like Connery! He’s a bit of a clown, very honest and earnest. Not as self-sufficient as Strider, though.

      Strider…one of a kind. *fond sigh*

      Movie night with Strider and Chooch!

  2. Peggy says:

    Just like children going back to school after vacation.

    • Doranna says:

      In this case, the length of three vacations… Poor guy, he filled in some non-existant dots!

  3. Judith says:

    Connery looks adorable! He has a purposeful walk.

    • Doranna says:

      Awww, thanks!

      He actually runs up that teeter, gears down at the tipping point long enough to control it, then strikes out again. That’s the fun thing about this picture…Bruce caught the moment of transition.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I was thinking…the moment of transition from, saying piaffe to extended trot. Perfect picture.

    If only we could convince people who work with people to have the attitude of good animal trainers…

    • Doranna says:

      Yep, that would do it for an analogy, too! I picked levade because of the angles involved, but in many ways yours works better.

      If only we could convince people to simply be *considerate* of people…

  5. Robert says:

    to be “considerate” of people. what a concept. It takes very little effort and the rewards are great. I am continually amazed what a well timed kind word and smile can accomplish.
    Love that photo of ConneryBeagle, if I could get that kind of focus and determination I might actually get something done.

  6. Doranna says:

    Robert–Oh, gosh. Isn’t THAT the truth!

  7. Patty says:

    Finding the tracking very interesting! Can’t wait to hear more!

  8. Doranna says:

    Patty–Bwah ha ha! Could be humbling…

  9. Melissa Keith says:

    Hi Doranna,
    I enjoyed this post very much. I’m a cat person but if I were to get a dog it would be a Beagle. I love Beagles. And horses. My husband and I want get a home with some land in upstate NY where we can have horses. He has to retire from the Navy first. lol!
    Connery is a great name and he’s adorable!

    • Doranna says:

      Hi, Mel! Oh, Beagles are fun! And actually the most cat-like dogs I’ve come across, although I doubt they’re usually seen that way. They have an insatiable curiosity and a willingness to follow through on it.

      I hope you have that chance to get some land and horses! SI!

  10. Margaret says:

    OMG Connery is so adorable !! I Love Beagles 🙂

    • Doranna says:

      Margaret–of course you’ve made my dogmom’s heart all puffy with pride. Thank you for saying nice things about Connery! Re FaceBook, I’m pretty sure I feel a bloggy exhortation coming on… (SI!)

  11. Julie Swaney says:

    Connery is beautiful!! Maybe I should say he is handsome because he is male.
    I think all dogs are smart, it just take the person understanding them. I have chihuahuas and I listen to what they have to say. “SL”

    • Doranna says:

      Julie, I couldn’t agree more. Dogs can do a lot more than we give them credit for, if we listen to their learning needs. SI!

  12. Ginger says:

    SI! How cute. I have two very smart outside dogs. I’ve trained them to do various things, but I’ve never thought of teaching them to track. It sounds like a hard thing to do. You must be very proud of Connery. He is adorable.

    • Doranna says:

      Hi, Ginger!

      I’m just about bursting with pride, it’s true! The tracking is…*interesting* to train, if you don’t really know what you’re doing. Heh. It’s full of finesse that isn’t as intuitive to me as other training endeavors!

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