As in the training of any hunting dog, nothing helps a beagle become an effective chaser of rabbits more than opportunities to chase rabbits alongside veteran hunting dogs.

"Every beagle has his own characteristics," said Burlington's Chris Kidd, "but what makes them become rabbit dogs is taking them hunting with older, more-experienced dogs."

Kidd said it usually takes two hunting seasons to train a dog to concentrate on bunnies and not chase other wild game, particularly whitetail deer.

"You need to put your dogs in places where there are lots rabbits," he said.

Before taking younger dogs on hunts, Kidd puts them in training pens with older dogs to teach them how to trail rabbits. The pens might contain an acre or two of land that's fenced to keep predators out and rabbits in. Dog owners often use box traps to snare live rabbits, then place them in the pens.

When his beagle puppies become 3 to 4 months old, Kidd turns them loose inside a rabbit pen with older dogs.

If young dogs learn quickly, Kidd said he often has them hunting in the wild when they're only 7 months old.

"Once they learn what to do, it's like a light switch turns on," he said.