T Nation

Hunting Dogs

For those of you with (or familiar with) dogs that hunt, I have a question. Do you mostly train your dog to hunt or is most of it instinct on the dog’s part and you simply focus the dog’s attention?
The reason I’m asking is that I recently got a Basset Hound. He has an unbelievable nose, and eventually I’d like him to go after rabbits.

I did some searches online and there doesn’t seam to be much information or many books that could teach me to teach my dog.
So I’m thinking maybe I just take him out to a field where I know there are rabbits and let him hone his natural skills.
Thoughts and pointers (pun intended and welcome) are appreciated!

Basset’s are great dogs. Don’t even think about trying to train him - they are complete individuals and will do their own thing.

Take him to a field - he’ll know what to do.

When I take my weim out even though she has no training she’ll point out a critter

[quote]Renton wrote:
Basset’s are great dogs. Don’t even think about trying to train him - they are complete individuals and will do their own thing.

Take him to a field - he’ll know what to do.[/quote]


If you are serious about hunting rabbits you will have to train him. Otherwise you will take him out to a field and he will just start chasing the first scent he finds. Whether it is a rabbit, squirrel, bird, deer, insects, something dead…

Best way is to shoot your own rabbit and use the hide to scent train him. Reward him when he hunts the rabbit pelt, nothing if he picks up other scents. Do some more research, I’m sure you will find something. If you cannot find anything specific to Bassets and rabbits, look up training for a bird dog, as a lot of the principles will be the same. The major exception is that you want your dog to chase.

[quote]kevinm1 wrote:
When I take my weim out even though she has no training she’ll point out a critter [/quote]

I envy you. My pitbull just eats them.

I got a German Short Haired Pointer. The pointing and hunting part were all natural to him. I bought him from a breeder who specialized in bird dogs. The retrieving part was learned. So was pointing toward where you shot the bird.

Interesting thing about bird dogs is they look up at the flying birds and follow them. A lot of dogs don’t.

I think a basset would be good for rabbit hunting. My dog is too fast and will be right on the ass of the rabbit until I lose him. I won’t shoot unless he has some seperation which is almost never. A basset I don’t think can run or turn that fast, giving you a chance at a shot.

Bassets are great rabbit dogs. My buddy has a beagle and a basset that are great rabbit dogs. The basset is the A-10 of bunny hunting - they are low and slow, brush busting bastards.

A good dog will have natural ability, but to get a real hunting partner, you will need to hone his natural talents. How old is he? While he is young, you should focus on obedience. Nothing worse than chasing a hound that will not “come”. Keep your lessons short and frequent. Keep it fun and focus only on the things that he does right. NOTHING BAD COMES FROM YOU.

Three 10 minute sessions a day are a lot more effective than one 30 minute session. Dogs are like kids and have short attention spans. Put him in play scenarios that teach a lesson and focus on obedience. For example, teach him to come by tossing a toy in a long hallway and then command “come” as he grabs the toy and starts to bring it back to you (he cannot go anywhere else but back to you).

Try letting him chase a bunny around the yard. This will really get his natural abilities fired up. If you do not have a fenced yard (or access to one) try dragging a dead rabbit through the grass in a big circle (wear rubber knee boots and run the string through a 4’ piece of pvc tube so that he is not tracking you) and then take the dog to the starting point (get excited and command “here, here, here”)and set him on the track.

Try to get tehm excited and then command “track” and let him go. Start with short drags and progressively increase the distance. Buy a couple bunnies and keep them in a trash bag in your freezer (if you have a chest freezer). Take them out and let them thaw the day before you are going to train.

I would also start getting him used to loud noises, as you do not want a gun-shy dog. Do not take him to a trap range or shoot a gun over a rabbit until they are used to loud noises in general. I condition my dogs to loud noises by banging a pot with a metal spoon and making a big ruckus before feeding them. After you have been banging on the pot at dinner time for awhile, use a starter pistol to shoot in the air after he has tracked the rabbit a good distance away from you.

Eventually, your dog will associate loud noises with something good. You will be able to pop a shotgun over his head and he will not even blink. Just take it slow - stupid hurts and the road back from gunshyness is long and difficult (if at all possible).

When he gets a bit older and is tracking the dead rabbit relatively reliably, I would suggest that you try and find someone that has a beagle or basset and see if they will let your dog (just one - not a pack) run with theirs. Be careful though, as putting a young dog in a group of high octane dogs can be a bit of a trying experinece for a young pup. However, it can be a lot of fun. Few thing better than hearing the howl of beagles and bassets through the timber as they take chase after a rabbit.

Not sure how familiar you are with rabbit hunting, but we usually kick a rabbit up and get the dogs on the track and then spread out and wait for the rabbit to circle back. You should not have any concern of shooting the dog, as the bunny is usually way ahead of the dogs.

Good luck. I am envious! Have fun and enjoy the experience. Few thing better than watching the dog that you have trained put it all together. Even better when people brag on your hound. PM me if you need some rabbit recipes. :slight_smile:


The plan for “starting your beagle on rabbits” at the above link appears to be pretty good.

My pit/lab will chase chipmonks to the ends of the earth, no training necessary. She’s getting good with mushroms too.

[quote]VanderLaan wrote:
lots of good stuff


Thanks for that awesome post. My Basset is just at a year old and I’m working like crazy at “normal” discipline stuff. I’ve never trained a hunting dog, or been much of a hunter for that matter, but it seams like a great thing to do. He’s got such a great nose it would be a waste if he wasn’t able to do what he was made to do. Plus there’s nothing wrong with eating a rabbit every now and then either!