We are officially into field trial season in the world of AKC beagles. Field trials are a great opportunity to get out and talk about beagles with other people that actually care what I am saying. What I mean by that, is my wife would rather schedule an optional, unnecessary root canal than endure another discussion about beagles chasing rabbits. I brought up the topic of conditioning dogs, and she immediately grabbed her cell phone and responded to an urgent phone call. -It's mom," she said. She got in the car and sped down the driveway to respond to a crisis. A minute later the phone at the house rang. It was her mother. -Isn't she talking to you now?" I asked.
"No, I haven't talked to her since the day before yesterday."
"Oh," I said, "all her cell phone."
Field trials are a great place to discuss dogs with like-minded individuals. As we start to enter the busiest part of the field trial season, I thought that I would suggest some ways to help your hounds along.
Hygiene. There is nothing I worry about more than hygiene at the trials. At SPO (small pack option) trials, there will be packs of 4-9 hounds throughout the day, and of course each pack has to identify all hounds so that the judges can keep track of the beagles and determine what hounds are scoring and what hounds are faulty. This is done with colored collars. Red, white, blue, green, yellow, orange, black, pink, and silver. The judges, in theory, never know the dog's name or the owner, and assign scores to a collar color in each pack. Those colors correspond to an entry number. Those attending the trials know this. It is worth the investment to buy your own set of collars. Sure, I know that every club has their own collars, and we are more than welcome to use them, but we all know that health care varies from one hound owner to the next. I don't want to have a beagle contract a communicable disease by wearing a collar that was just removed from an infected dog. Also, I can put my cell phone number on the collars and then I get the phone call if a dog should go missing at a club. Most club-owned SPO collars do not list a phone number.
Kennels are another good place to catch a virus. Trials tend to be 2 or 4 days, depending upon the club. There is no way to know what dog stayed in the kennel before your hound was placed inside to await evaluation by the judges. I always use tie out stakes or chain gangs, and keep my beagles close to the truck. I put them back into the truck box at times as well. I have seen dogs escape club kennels that were not maintained, and I have seen incidents with wasps where a nest was in the kennel that no one noticed.
It gets hot out there, and I am also not a big fan of communal watering bowls. I keep water on the truck at all times. Lion Country Supply makes a water tube that works great for this purpose. It is also worth getting specially made dog box fans that are intended to latch on to your truck dog box and blow air over the dogs. These are great for cooling dogs after they compete or as extra assurance if you are in slow traffic and worry about air flow through your dog box.
Sometimes we are gone overnight for a trial, and I take Purina ProPlan with me. You don't have to be on the field trial circuit long to realize that an open bag of dog food can be problematic in a moving truck. I like the heavy duty dog food bag made by Mud River. It closes securely and can fit into any space you have available-It contorts. I have used all sorts of screw top containers, and they certainly prevent spillage, but the Mud River bag can tuck into any corner.
If you want to be extra nice to your hounds (I do) put cedar in the dog box for those long drives, though young dogs that chew things do not get cedar in their box. I bought cedar bedding from a pet store that claimed it was for dogs, but chips and dust were inside. It should have been sold to hamster owners. I could see saw dust blowing around through my rear view mirror as air whooshed through the ventilation holes in the back of my dog box and out the doors. Lion Country Supply sells long ribbons of cedar, and this works perfectly.
Cedar does help a bit with fleas, but I prefer to be extra cautious with my dogs. Tick borne diseases are a real threat, and I have been using the Seresto collars. They last 8 months. I did have one come off my dog, but I think that was because I did not fit it properly. Flea and tick spray is also available for the dogs, as well as various topical medicines that are placed on the dog's withers each month. Lastly, Sawyer's has a permethrin based pesticide that is perfect for putting on your own clothes as you compete in field trials this year.
I have had a couple good weekends at the trials and a few more that were disappointing, at least in terms of the results. I had fun at all of them. I came home from a trial recently, and I was thrilled that all three of my dogs had placed that day. The trial was on a Saturday, and it was a 2 hour drive to get there.
"The dogs did well, did I wake you when I left?" I asked my wife.
"Yeah," she said.
"At least you didn't talk about training dogs while you were getting dressed to go. You thought I was sleeping."
I have noticed that my wife seems to be taking more naps. Especially when I am talking about dogs. Oh well, there are lots of other people at the trials to talk dogs next weekend.
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