Beagles aren’t Border Collies

Bawh!Duh, right?

ConneryBeagle: Yes!  BAWH!

Or not so much, because not everyone seems to know that when it comes to training.

Maybe that’s why when I think coaches/trainers/clinicians, my first priority is to find someone who knows this particular duh and keeps it in mind.

I mean, yes–for me, I need someone who thinks and speaks constructively, who understands my goals and offers me tools to reach them.  I need someone with a good eye who can discern whatever Stupid Handler Trick I might be pulling this time.  Who doesn’t?

But the reason I habitually train at home is that I also want someone who supports my dogs for who they are.  And I really hate how long it took me to realize that not everyone groks the hound learning process (or has an awareness that they don’t).

All dogs are individuals, of course.  They’re not all typical (or stereotypical) of their breed; they all need to be treated as individuals within their breeds.  But breed matters.  Anyone who says it doesn’t, doesn’t Get It.

Dart Beagle

Dart Beagle is still figuring out how to use his body...

Beagles (hounds in general) are bred to be independent on the hunt.  They’re bred to make their own decisions and they’re bred to persist with those decisions–come hell or high water, terrible terrain or long hours or descending weather.  Humans may interpret their resulting behaviors as stubborn or hard to train, but context is everything.  (And any human who interprets these resulting behaviors to indicate that a little hound is stupid had best take a second look at their interactions with any such little hound and see who’s trained who…)

ConneryBeagle: BAWH HA HA!

Beagles are linear thinkers.  They’re generally robust and square-built (this affects both jumping and weaves), and they like their rules of behavior written clearly in black and white.  They even have visual idiosyncrasies–many of them don’t tend to “see” an obstacle that isn’t moving relative to their own position.  Woe unto me if I do a front cross that brings ConneryBeagle into direct line with the weaves, because I’ve 1) interfered with his line-of-sight to the next obstacle and then 2) lined him up with a hard-to-see obstacle in a way that it isn’t moving relative to his own position.

ConneryBeagle: You should NOT DO THAT.

So why would I want to work with a coach who instead of accepting that (or knowing it to start with), focuses on “fixing it” instead of building awareness and alternate strategies?

In the Beagle world, it’s important to transfer motivation away from self-rewarding hunt behaviors to our interactions before asking for performance work.  And in Connery’s world, a performance choice is valid until he’s told that it’s not.  He won’t make a different choice simply because there’s no reward at the end–in that case, he thinks I’m the one missing the boat (see above, “bred to persist with those decisions”).  But he understands immediately if I stop him in the middle of that behavior and show him what I want instead.

ConneryBeagle:  Why didn’t you SAY SO in the first place?

And by all means, I know to avoid basing performance criteria on props that are faded–stride regulators and pool noodles and touch pads and hoops and….

They are incredibly literal dogs.  (And yes, all of my contact training is based on physical elements of the equipment that never change!)

ConneryBeagle: Things should BE WHAT THEY ARE.


More wrong thinking?  Looking at the green dog who goes out sniffing in the ring and thinking, “I need to stop that.” Yiii!  Sniffing is a highly self-rewarding default behavior, and it’s the first thing a Beagle will do when stressed.  Want him to stress even more?  Go ahead–make a big deal of it, and see where it gets you.  Support the dog, focus on the positive stuff, and the sniffing will fade.

ConneryBeagle: BAWH!  Respect the SNIFF!

A good coach knows that I celebrate my dogs for what they are and I respect them for what they are, and I don’t try to make them fit into the training mold that serves other breeds with their other breed habits–and neither should they.

ConneryBeagle: BAWHSOME!

Just this week I learned that Connery is among the top title earners for breed champion Beagles (it’s hard to pin that down, because there’s no single resource, but at the moment it looks like the top two).  And this is a dog who’s been through life-changing attacks by giant breeds, who’s been chronically ill from his first year onward (yes, all the proceeds from HEART OF DOG still go toward his medical expenses, which are profound even in a good year), and who spent most of the last 18 months dealing with a complicated mystery ailment that took him out of the fun for far too many months.  That’s what I call positive reinforcement for his handler!  ;>

So there you are:  That’s the deal-breaker for me when it comes to a coach or clinician.  Celebrate the dog; work with the dog’s foundation characteristics in synergy, not in conflict.  Don’t just say that you do…have the experience and depth of understanding to do it.

Respect the sniff!

ConneryBeagle:  BAWH!


PS! This is a DOG AGILITY BLOG EVENT!  Want to see more on the subject of agility coaches?

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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18 Responses to Beagles aren’t Border Collies

  1. Mona Karel says:

    Ah if only trainers would realize the value of independent thinking dogs. And also the influence of selection for certain breed characteristics. Salukis aren’t Golden Retrievers, even if they might be sort of the same height and have kind of the same coat. They’re visual animals, and any attempt to force them to concentrate on what is HERE at this second is doomed to failure, whether in the conformation ring or in any of the companion events. Give them time to understand what you want, and a reason to do it the way you want it done, and they can be gold. Force them, and just wait for the revenge.

    • Doranna says:

      Mona, sometime I’d love to chat more about how you motivate and engage the visual dog. I’m interested to see if it’s similar to engaging the scent hound!

      Linda, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Wow, you have quite the variety there. Awesome!

  2. Linda says:

    Great post. I train in agility with a Briard (still not a BC), a Crested and my new endeavor a Whippet. I also dabble in rally training with a Saluki. I love the diversity, I love the challenge, I love figuring out what makes them ‘tick’. We don’t have any MACH titles at my house or lots of blue ribbons but darn do we have fun! I’m blessed with trainers that are not one trick ponies only knowing how BC’s think. They really try to help with my different breeds and appreciate them for what they are. One day I hope to have a BC ..yes really, but until then … Congrats on the wonderful accomplishments with your Beagle!

  3. Mona Karel says:

    Linda would be the one to ask about motivating in Agility and Rally…she’s not giving herself near enough credit. My strength (right now) is in preparing happy, relaxed conformation dogs. Working on the other things, as I have time. HA

  4. Doranna says:

    I hear ya! :/

  5. Sue Farrell says:

    Oh my goodness—now I understand why I love beagles and get along with them so well—-people tell me I have those very same traits!!!! Probably not so good for a person, but maybe I was a beagle in an earlier life.

  6. Doranna says:

    I think maybe I was, too! I’ve always gotten along with the hounds. 8)

  7. Andrea says:

    Love it -so very very true – and Connery’s commentary is perfect!

  8. Erin says:

    Thanks, for a very insightful post! Love it…”Celebrate the dog…”

  9. Karen says:

    Great post! I ran NEA, aka “Her Beagleness” many years ago and finding an instructor who knew Beagles and how they work was downright impossible. Through trial and error I figured out what tripped her trigger, and she went on to earn her ADCH! I STILL don’t have a BC (nor will I have one) so I tend to stay away from seminars since the vast majority of the seminar givers run either BC’s or other high-drive dogs. I actually gave a seminar to other Beagle owners many years ago. We had a GREAT time working on what motivates Beagles and how to get the best out of them. What a kick it was working with 9 other people as crazy as me! 🙂

  10. Doranna says:

    Andrea–Connery isn’t opinionated, per se, but he definitely thinks he’s *right.* ;> He’s been blogging since he was a pup (ahem), so he usually has something to say.

    Erin, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    Karen–ADCH, awesome! And boy, I wish I could have been in on that seminar. It’s wonderful to trade experiences with other Beagle handlers. We have a wonderful performance list these days and it’s great to be “with” people who understand, but an in-person seminar…how cool!

    I have to admit, I never, EVER understood the general reaction to Beagles & training. To me they feel pretty straightforward…the only time I’ve gotten into trouble is when I’ve taken them out for training and then have to Fix Things. Note that I don’t say drills–I’m still missing one drill coach in particular, and found that time very valuable. But that’s entirely different from training–that was working on ME. >

  11. Marilyn says:

    Late replying — 7 days of no power thanks to Hurricane Isaac. Hounds! Oh, ghods! I have two 14.5 year old standard long haired Dachshunds, one (almost) 3.5 year old Beagle, and one 3 month old SLH Dachshund.

    Shadow and Sunny are litter-sibs, and their personalities are WAY different. Shadow was willing to go along with obedience work on everything EXCEPT heeling. He saw no reason why he should stay by my side instead of scouting ahead. (And after the episode with the dog who attacked me, he became doubly so.) Sunny… well, my husband was handling her, and at the end of the class, Sunny was presented with a certificate for having successfully trained Harry to do whatever she wanted. I should note that at an off-leash park, my sister’s Husky went romping. Shadow and Sunny took up guard positions — Shadow about five paces ahead, Sunny five paces behind. They enjoyed the walk, and smelled all sorts of smells, but they were constantly on the alert, lest Those Other Dogs try to attack their people.

    Babette Beagle… oy! I was warned Beagles are stubborn by two vets. I said, “So are Dachshunds.” But it’s a different kind of stubborn. And there are things in this article that I wish I’d known three years ago (almost) when she turned up on our doorstep, cold, hungry, and abandoned. She and I would not have had nearly as many conflicts over How a Beagle Behaves in a Dachshund Household.

    What’s been truly fascinating is watching Babette with the arrival of the new puppy. At first, she was horrified. Then she began to play with him. Now she is teaching him the Beagle word for NO… and has suddenly dropped a number of the behaviors which used to get her the N word.

    We got Harper as much for Babette as for ourselves because she has profound separation anxiety and can’t handle being parted from her Dachshunds… or be left alone for any reason. (The first day I went to work when she was with us I put her in the bathroom because I wasn’t sure how the larger and stronger Dachshunds would deal with the newcomer. I came home to discover that Panicked Beagles can, indeed reach bathroom counters and shred an entire case of tissue in terror.) Like it or not, with an 11 year gap in their ages, she will lose her Shadow and her Sunny one of these days.

    Watching the difference in their play style is beyond fascinating. Babette favors quick turns and leaps. Harper is more straightforward, and now that he is closer to Babette in size, apt to use his lower center of gravity to counter her agility.

    I am thinking of re-joining the obedience club where I worked with Shadow & Sunny years ago, but hesitate because many of the instructors have German Shepherds. Neither Dachshunds nor Beagles think like German Shepherds.

  12. BlogPatty says:


  13. Merinda says:

    Wonderful post!
    I have a Cardigan Welsh Corgi in agility & herding. Although still a herding breed, they are also not like border collies or shelties (or even pembroke welsh corgis!).
    We’ve had some struggles due to the lack of instructors or seminar clinicians “celebrating the difference!”

    • Doranna says:

      Merinda–Oh, they’re definitely not like the Pemmies! And they’re a whole lot easier to demotivate than some other herding breeds…more reserved, with the potential for softness. I’m sure you know all about it! My Belle Cardi (#3 Cardi for me) didn’t attend classes after the first sessions for that reason…she couldn’t deal with other people raising their voices even when it had nothing to do with her. But she’s a very, very soft dog. 8) I would have loved to have tried her in herding, though!

      (PACH Cheysuli’s Silver Belle, CD RE MXP5 MXPS MJP6 MJPS PAX2 XFP EAC EJC CGC–#2 lifetime preferred dog at the time they grandfathered the PACH into the titles, but retired 100 points shy of PACH 2)

  14. Awesome point! My dog is a border collie x lab mix, and fluctuates between being very border collie and very labish all the time, which is frustrating as all hell. Fortunately I have a trainer who’s owned (mostly at the same time, she and her partner have like nine dogs right now) just about every type of dog out there. She herself currently shows a deaf border collie, a reactive chihuahua, and a borzoi. She started with a boxer x lab. Basically, she’s got the seen it, trained it, shown it successfully attitude that is super awesome to lean on when my dog grabs his toy, laps the training room three times and runs in his kennel.

    • Doranna says:

      Kelly–Ooh, Papillon–love those little dogs! I’m glad you enjoyed. 8)

      Mufaasa’s Mum, I can just see that scene with your dog and the toy. It’s so cool that you’ve found someone to work with. 8)

  15. Kelly & Surf says:

    Wow! So enjoyed your insight and description of the “why’s and what for’s” of the beagles behavior and motivation. Lovely read! Thanks Kelly and Papillon Surf

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