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April Full Circle
Posted on 04/09/2011 in Full Circle.

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Jed Nichols

As competition hunters, we are continually trying to obtain dogs that can consistently be competitive from trial to trial, and also account for their game when hunting season rolls around each year. Some hunters focus on one aspect more than the other, and justly so; to each his own. Feed what you like, but let’s not forget that when we pull into a field trial, we are knowingly there to have our dogs judged by a standard set of laid-out rules.

By now you’re probably starting to wonder where I’m going with this. Well, I’ll get to the point. In the Hunting Beagle format, we call it “rough-running” and the rule prohibiting it needs to be enforced. Actually, if you’re up on your HB rules then you know that they state in Rule 6(q) that it is to be rigidly enforced. Why rigidly? Because running rough is a fault and when a dog in the cast is running rough it is inevitably going to lead his packmates astray and hinder them from running the rabbit the right way.

We have had reports from both sides of the fence when it comes to rough running. We have had individuals tell us they have never seen a dog warned and then scratched on the second offense. We have also, however, had people tell us that they were impressed with so and so as a judge because they actually handled a situation involving a rough running dog the way the rulebook says to deal with it, instead of sloughing off and just letting the dog get away with it. The bottom line is that it’s clear cut in the rulebook, and everyone needs to be on the same page when judging and competing. We don’t see where this is a large scale issue by any means; however, there are some rough-running dogs out there and we need to make sure that they don’t slip in under the radar.

So what is rough running? If that is the question you were just asking yourself, then you may need to read this paragraph a couple of times! The textbook answer to that question can be found in the rulebook under general information,
Rule 15(b), and reads as follows:

Dogs to pursue rabbit as fast as scenting conditions allow, but must exhibit good line control. Dog(s) observed to be “running rough,” “cutting” or “slashing” on track will be scratched on second offense. Rough running is defined as attempting to run the front of the pack faster than the scenting conditions allow or without regard for the actual line. Routinely overshooting turns and leading pack mates astray. Cutting is defined as attempting to run the front by leaving the trail to head off pack mates or avoiding heavy cover and other obstacles. Slashing is defined as running in a hit or miss fashion as a result of gambling and without regard for the actual line.

Now that rough running, cutting and slashing have been laid out in definition, let’s clarify what some of the differences are between these offenses and a dog being competitive and running with controlled aggression. If a dog can run in or out front of the pack and hold the line without constantly overrunning the turns and losing the track, then it is not running rough.

When that same dog immediately pulls up to the front of the pack every time another packmate regains the line, and then overruns the turns constantly, causing unnecessary breakdowns in the forward progress of the track just to be in the front, then he is running without regard for the actual line and is guilty of rough running.

As a judge, you need to keep an eye on that dog and politely let his handler know that you are warning him the first time you catch him running rough, and if it happens a second time, again politely let the handler know that the dog is scratched.

Cutting/slashing are probably the ones that I have personally encountered the most. From my observation, it usually stems from the guilty dog not having the tools to keep up with its packmates’ track-driving ability so it faultily compensates by leaving the actual line to gain an advantage. A dog that is cutting can go about it a couple of different ways. Some will just skirt thick brush and other various obstacles along the way to help themselves gain an advantage, and others will go as far as completely gambling and try to guess where the rabbit will go, leaving the track altogether and reappearing on the track usually way out front of the pack, and most times run the track contently until the rest of the pack catches up; then do it all over again.

Slashing can be very similar to cutting, and a lot of the time the two go hand in hand. It can usually be associated with swinging wide and careless work of checks while racing and being too competitive or fast for the conditions.

The presence of the above listed faults creates unnecessary checks and losses. In less severe cases they lead to a very inefficient, stop-and-go chase. When severe, they result in total failure to circle game. You should, by no means, go out and try to scratch dogs for running rough, but you do need to be mindful of it and if you have a dog in the cast that is running rough, handle it the right way - by the book.