If you’re in the market for a new hunting companion, you might consider a trip to the local shelter. You could find a diamond in the rough, as a friend of mine did—a beagle that became one of the best hunting dogs he ever owned. The key to success is examining each dog to determine which will work best for you.
Pound hounds don’t come with a pedigree, but you should do your best to determine the breed of any dog you’re considering. Some dogs might have abilities that are outside the breed’s intended purpose, but selecting a dog with the most suitable background is a step in the right direction.
Dr. Mark Hayes of the Mount Orab (Ohio) Veterinary Clinic suggests that all shelter dogs be examined for aggressive behavior toward people or other animals before they’re considered for adoption. A dog with a good temperament has a better chance of responding to training. A field dog needs to learn basic obedience commands, and this requires a willing temperament.
“Be sure to check a dog for any sign of infectious disease before adopting,” says Hayes. A runny nose, cough, or fever can spread to other pets. Some dogs have limiting physical ailments, and older dogs will likely not be able to work as long as younger ones.
This factor is difficult to evaluate at the shelter, but it is the most influential in determining whether the dog will hunt. The good news is that if you select a dog that has hunting instinct, you’ll spend more time refining that instinct and less time training. Spending time in the field helps, especially with other well-trained dogs. My friend’s beagle fell in with a group of trained hounds and quickly learned to hunt with no encouragement from her owner. A dog with the right instincts will be self-motivated to find game.