Top Beagler’s keys to breeding success

Pete Proctor considers Sunshine Crybaby the pinnacle of success for his beagle breeding program. (Picture by Pat Robertson)

The old saying that you can’t argue with success certainly holds true for Pete Proctor and his Sunshine Kennels in Vale, N.C. A member of the National Brace Beagling Hall of Fame and the National Brace Beagling Breeders Hall of Fame, Proctor primarily competes in female classes in American Kennel Club licensed and sanctioned field trials. He has bred and earned championships on well over 100 female beagles and has produced more than two dozen male champions, most finished by other beaglers.

Because of his breeding success, he has been called on to write multiple articles on breeding, puppy raising and training for Today’s Breeder, a magazine published by Purina for dog breeders and canine enthusiasts. In an article titled “Breeding for Champions” Proctor says the best chance for success in the field is to raise and train your own puppies.

“Your odds are even better if your bitches come from a long line of bitches that are good mothers and possess the right running traits. If you do not already have this bitch line, you should concentrate on buying one or more from someone else’s line. Most successful brace beaglers today already have an established bitchline and are working hard to keep it.”

Pair them up right

Being a good mother and being able to whelp and raise healthy puppies is essential to a successful breeding program, Proctor said. They must also exhibit the desired running traits and should be bred to stud dogs that also exhibit those traits, he added. Most breeders looking to produce a high quality litter of puppies out of their female will choose a high profile stud dog to breed to. But that is not always the track that Proctor follows. Instead of choosing an individual stud dog, he often chooses a family or line of outstanding dogs.

“I do not necessarily breed to the best stud available. Instead, I pick a stud dog that can improve the traits I need for my bitch,” he said. “For instance, if my bitch needs a keener nose and does not excel at carrying the line, then I am likely to choose the best available stud whose family have keen noses and excel at carrying a smooth straight line. Notice that I pick families more than I pick individuals. And I try to pick the best available stud from the family.”

Proctor did not develop his principles of breeding overnight. It was a long process, spanning many years. He grew up rabbit hunting with his Dad and was always looking to improve the performance of their pack of beagles.

“One Saturday afternoon a bunch of us were running our gun dog packs together and discussing what we liked and did not like in our dogs,” he recalled. “One of the participants said it sounded like he might like field trials. And he gave Proctor the name of a prominent beagle field trailer named J.W. Kidd of Huntersville. Kidd took Proctor out to watch some of his dogs run and introduced him to beagle field trials.

Sunshine Crybaby

“My Dad died shortly after that and my interest in rabbit hunting went away,” he said. He found a replacement in beagle field trials and his journey into prominence in the sport began. He did not enter many of his own dogs in field trials and did not do much breeding the first few years of his interest in the sport. He mostly ran dogs for Kidd and a couple of other prominent field trailers and used the experience to study the sport.

Pete Proctor works Field Champion Sunshine Crybaby on the trail of a fleeing rabbit. (Picture by Pat Robertson)

“It was a learning process. I did not stand in the gallery and chat with other beaglers. I watched the runs and compared how the dogs performed,” he said. He then applied those lessons to developing his own breeding program.

Today his program includes as many as 10 generations of producing females. The culmination of his program resides in one of his current field champions, Sunshine Crybaby.

“She has raised every pup she ever had without too much assistance. And she has produced nine field champions, with another that could have finished already, but the owner’s wife has been sick and he has not run her in trials. Looking at all aspects — performance, producing ability and being a good mother, she is the best,” he said.

Using those same principles as guides, Proctor said he believes they apply across all phases of beagle field trial competitions — both gun dogs and braces.

Taking that a step further, using performance, productivity and breeding to enhance desired traits while improving areas that are lacking can provide a framework for a breeding program in any competitive field dog sport or hunting program, no matter the breed.

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