The beagle is a medium-sized, low-maintenance, handsome hound that typically gets along well with people and other dogs. Classified by the American Kennel Club as a member of the hound group, they are becoming more and more popular as pets.
Did you know that, according to AKC statistics, the beagle is the eighth-most popular dog breed worldwide? But would this breed make the ideal canine companion for you and your family?
In this article, we take a closer look at the beagle to find out more about the origins of the breed, their personality and character, and potential health issues that sometimes affect these dogs.
Beagles originated in the U.K. where they were used by sporting landowners to hunt hare and deer. History shows that a type of scenthound, which was very similar to the modern beagle was around as far back as the 1400s. They are sometimes mistaken for other breeds, like the foxhound which makes them easy to compare.
The name “beagle” is thought to have come from the French word, meaning “loud mouth.” If you take on one of these pups, you’ll soon find out that these dogs are well-named! When they catches a pleasing scent, he will bay and howl loud and long!
Beagles were brought to the U.S. early in the 20th century, where they quickly found favor with families. Did you know that the cartoon character, Snoopy, is the most famous of the breed? They are also becoming more popular as mixed breeds, and people are mixing them with other purebred pups like the corgi.
And even President Lyndon B. Johnson and his First Lady owned a beagle during their tenure in the White House. So, if you welcome this breed into your family, you’ll be in good company!
Today, most beagles are kept as family pets, but they also work as scent detection dogs in many airports, searching for drugs, illegal food items, and weapons.
In the U.K., Ireland, and New Zealand, hunting with packs of beagles, or harriers, still takes place. In the U.K., it has been illegal to hunt a live animal with dogs, and all U.K. hunts now follow a pre-laid trail instead.
Beagling traditionally takes place during the fall and winter from September through March, usually on a Saturday afternoon and on one afternoon during the week. In the U.K, there are currently 55 packs of working beagles.
This breed is typically a robust, healthy breed that can live to age 12 or more. However, some health problems can affect beagles, including:
- Hip dysplasia
- Anterior cruciate ligament tears
- Heart conditions
- Diabetes (usually associated with obese dogs)
When you buy a puppy, always ask the breeder to show you valid veterinary screening certificates for the pup’s parents and grandparents. A clear screening result going back two generations means that your puppy should not inherit any of the aforementioned congenital health problems.
Also, never by a puppy that’s being marketed as a rare “pocket beagle.” Dwarfism is a genetic abnormality that can cause the dog to have physical deformities such as crooked legs and a shortened neck, which may predispose the dog to chronic arthritis.
Healthy beagles can be prone to ear infections because of their long, floppy ears. When you groom your dog, always check your pet’s ears for signs of problems such as a foul smell that could indicate infection. Also, be alert to your beagle scratching his ears or shaking his head, both of which could indicate a problem that requires immediate veterinary attention.
Exercise & Intelligence
Beagles were bred to be working, hunting dogs. So, although these pups are small, they do need plenty of exercise to keep them happy and to prevent them from becoming overweight. Ideally, you will have two long walks every day, and he should have access to a fenced yard where he can play off-leash.
The beagle is by nature an explorer and hunter. Once this pup latches onto a scent, he’ll follow it wherever it takes him. So, your yard must be securely fenced to prevent them from going AWOL! You should know that chain link won’t keep your beagle in; he can climb over it! Also, you’ll need to sink wire into the ground along your fence lines to preventfrom digging his way out underneath the boundary!
If you’re a keen gardener, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your beagle when he’s playing outside in your backyard. They enjoy digging, and your beautiful lawn could fall victim to your pet’s scrabbling claws!
Unfortunately, this breed can be challenging to train, and that makes this breed unsuitable for a novice owner.
If you plan on taking your beagle for a walk in unfenced, off-leash areas, be prepared to spend a lot of hours training your puppy to come to call; beagles have a reputation for developing selective deafness once they’re on the scent of something interesting!
Your puppy should be taken to obedience training and socialization classes, as soon as he is old enough. Even so, you must be prepared for your dog to throw in a few unscheduled absences when he gets the chance! If you plan to train using a harness, start at an early age because these pups love to pull.
Size & Living Conditions
There are two sizes of beagles: 15-inch and 13-inch in height to the shoulder. The smaller variety weighs from 22 to 30 pounds, while the larger type can weigh up to 35 pounds.
This breed in particular are pack dogs that form a close bond with their human family, including children. For that reason, these pups are not suited to life in your backyard or in an outdoor kennel. Beagles need to live indoors with you as part of your family.
Beagles are highly driven when it comes to food!
You can use this behavioral quirk to your advantage by using treats as a training reward. However, you’ll also need to keep anything edible well out of reach, as your greedy chowhound will happily gobble up your dinner or empty your kitchen trash can without thinking twice!
Beagles do very well on regular dry dog food unless an individual has a specific health problem and your vet has prescribed a special diet for your pup. As we’ve mentioned, they are very food-driven, and that makes it easy to overfeed your apparently starving dog!
Be careful not to overfeed your pup, as excess weight could leave him vulnerable to joint problems and diabetes.
Beagles come in a range of attractive colors, including:
- Tri-color (black, tan, and white)
- Lemon and white
- Brown and white
- Orange and white
- Chocolate tri-color
- Red and white
- Tan and white
Although the beagle has a short, sleek coat, the breed does shed continually.
Your dog will need brushing every couple of days with a slicker brush to get rid of dead and loose hair, which will keep your home, car, and clothes a fur-free zone.
This breed does tend to suffer from the all-pervading doggy smell that some breeds have, and they also enjoy rolling in disgusting things they find when out and about. That means you will need to bathe your dog regularly to keep your pet and your home smelling fragrant.
Be sure to clean your dog’s ears clean by using a solution that your vet recommends. Use a cotton ball to wipe out the ear. Don’t go deeper into your beagle’s ear than the first knuckle of your finger, and never use cotton swabs inside the ear. Cotton swabs can push any muck further down into the ear, and you could cause permanent damage if you push the swab in too far.
You’ll need to trim your beagle’s nails every couple of weeks to keep him comfortable and protect your floor from damage. Not all dogs enjoy a manicure, so you might prefer to leave this job to a professional groomer or your local vet clinic.
So, would this breed make a good pet for you? Let’s find out!
- If you’re looking for a friendly, chilled-out dog that doesn’t require much grooming and enjoys an active lifestyle, a beagle could be the perfect choice for you
- As a hunting dog with a strong prey-drive, a beagle will not be a suitable houseguest if you have small pets such as cats or rabbits
- Beagles can become destructive if they get bored due to lack of exercise or too few play sessions.
- The stubborn, independent-minded beagle can be slow to housetrain
- Although your beagle needs and enjoys plenty of exercise, you will need to keep him leashed in unfenced areas where he could disappear
- If you have near neighbors or you live in a condo or apartment, you’ll need to be around during the day to control your beagles baying and howling
- Although most beagles have stable temperaments and are pretty laid-back, some can be neurotic or fearful
Take a close look at both your puppy’s parents, and if you’re adopting an adult, be sure that the shelter has tested his temperament
- Beagles love their food and will follow their noses when it comes to finding some free grub! That means you’ll need to make sure that your trash cans are inaccessible to your four-legged, foraging chowhound
Does a beagle sound like the kind of guy you could cope with? If so, you’ll need to know where to buy your perfect beagle puppy.
Getting a Puppy
Always buy your beagle puppy from a licensed, reputable breeder. A good breeder will use breeding stock that is healthy and has been screened for any genetic abnormalities by a registered vet. That means the puppy you buy should be free from any inherited health problems.
When you go to choose a puppy, always ask the breeder to show you the pup’s parents and siblings. The parents should be friendly and well-socialized, and the puppies should be lively and inquisitive. Choose a nosy, curious puppy who wants to say “hi!” Don’t go for the shy pup that’s hiding in the corner.
You can find a list of beagle breeders on the American Kennel Club’s website.
You may have read about so-called puppy mills. Puppy mills exist for one purpose only, and that’s to make a lot of money very quickly.
Puppy mills are a commercial enterprise where breeding dogs and their puppies are kept in overcrowded and usually unsanitary conditions. Many of these puppies are unhealthy, unvaccinated, and some even die within a few days of arriving in their new home.
Unwary would-be dog owners are attracted to puppy mills because the prices charged for puppies are much lower than you would pay for a pup from a registered breeder. Unscrupulous breeders make their money by selling quantity, rather than quality. Also, you should know that some pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills.
So, always buy your beagle puppy from a licensed, reputable breeder. If the breeder is reluctant to show you around his kennels or the price of the puppy seems very cheap, walk away.
All over the U.S., there are lots of rescue centers and shelters that have hundreds of unwanted beagles, waiting for a forever home. Most of these dogs are adults, but you will find some puppies too.
Check out websites such as Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com. Here, you can search online in your local area or region. These sites allow you to enter specific requests such as housetrained, good with kids, etc. AnimalShelter.org is another site that can put you in touch with rescue groups in your region. Or try contacting beagles-on-the-web.com for information on beagle-specific rescue shelters across the U.S.
Beagle rescue groups are usually very upfront about any temperamental quirks or health problems that each of their dogs has, so you know what you’re getting. Many of these groups allow would-be owners to foster before you commit to ownership in a sort of “try before you buy” arrangement. That way, you can see whether a the breed would make a suitable canine companion for you and your family.
If you are looking for a family-oriented dog that enjoys an active lifestyle, a beagle could be the perfect pup for you.
Although the beagle’s grooming requirements are minimal, you’ll need to have plenty of time to devote to training your pup, as this breed can be obstinate and strong-willed. If you love hiking and spending time in the Great Outdoors with your dog, your beagle will thrive! That said, you’ll need to keep him leashed, as if he picks up the scent of something exciting and tasty, you won’t see your pet for dust!
Always buy a beagle puppy from a licensed breeder and never from a puppy mill. And don’t forget, there are hundreds of homeless beagles in rescue centers and shelters that would love a second chance and a forever home.