Breed Group: Hound
Temperament and Behavior
Little cousin of and similar in many respects to the Harrier, Beagles are one of the most good-humored of all the hounds. They are gentle, sweet, lively, and love everyone. The breed makes a wonderful companion, bonding with everyone in the family. They are an excellent child’s dog, very tolerant of younger children and always ready to rough-house with older kids. The only time not friendly with children is when they are eating. Beagles take their food very seriously and children must be taught not to approach or tease a dog while it is engaged with food. They are dependably outgoing and loving with people they know but may be reserved with strangers. But they easily adjust to new situations and accept new people once introduced. To be happy, Beagles require both companionship and plenty of exercise. A fenced yard of reasonable size will take care of most of their exercise needs. A brisk daily walk (always on a lead) takes care of the rest. Off-lead they require a fenced yard or their acute sense of smell can lead them into traffic or in search of wild game. But yard lovers beware, these dogs love to dig. Once their exercise needs are met they are calm inside. As a result of being bred as pack hunters, Beagles are generally good with other dogs, but should not be trusted with small, non-canine pets. They typically accept the household cat if raised with it, but ever the watchdog, they will bark at (or chase) the neighbor’s cat or any other trespassing critters either wildlife or strangers. However, they are not usually nuisance barkers unless left alone for long periods of time when, out of boredom, they may howl.
Physical CharacteristicsBeagles have a smooth lying, medium length coat. Their coats come in typical hound color including tri-color, black and tan, red and white, orange and white, or lemon and white. Average shedders, females shed their coats after each season. Males shed theirs once a year, generally when the weather grows warm in the spring. A weekly brushing and the occasional bath are all that they require. They can live outdoors in temperate climates as long as they are given warm shelter and bedding. Beagles do not have a doggy odor. Regular ear cleaning should eliminate most problems that result from poor air circulation. There are two height classes for Beagles, 13-15 inches and under 13 inches. Dogs in the under 13-inch class typically weigh less than 20 pounds and the dogs in the 13 to 15-inch category range from 20 to 30 pounds.
Trainer's NotesBeagles are not regarded as highly trainable. Their scenthound nose tells them what they smell is more important that what they hear. So, a Beagle is not always listening for requests from their owner and even when heard, commands can be ignored in favor of an interesting smell. An obedience class will allow a Beagle to master basic commands including come, sit, lay down and heal. Learning to walk on a leash is a challenging lesson. They are usually more interested in what the ground smells like than walking alongside their owner. Food training works well. Some are difficult to housetrain. Beagles require minimal socialization– just enough to keep them from being timid. If there are children in the home, early socialization is suggested. Beagles are a good dog for a novice owner who understands their idiosyncrasies as well as a charming companion for a more experienced dog owner.
HealthThere may be more known about Beagle problems than any other breed. Hypothyroidism, Glaucoma, Hip Dysplasia, Intervertebral Disc Disease Epilepsy, and Demodicosis, are their most common issues. Other health conditions include Prolapse of the Gald of the Third Eyelid, Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, Distichiasis, Cleft Lip/Cleft Palate, Umbilical Hernia, Ectopic Cilia, Luxating Patella, Brachyury, Imperforate Lacrimal Punetum, Beagle Dwarfism, and Undescended Testicles in males. A healthy Beagle should live 10 to 15 years.
PopularityThere are about 40,000 Beagles registered with the AKC most years making them the 5th most popular breed.
Breed HistoryWith ancestry dating back to 200 A.D., the Beagle was originally bred to hunt small game by scent with the hunter following on foot. There are accounts of packs of hounds in England before the times of the Romans. These dogs are thought to be the basis of both sight and scent hounds. The early development of the breed took place primarily in Great Britain where packs of Beagles are still used today for hunting hare. They are widely prized for their courage, stamina, and companionship.
Additional InformationThe charm of the Beagle continues to entrance, thus propelling the breed ranking into the top ten. Potential owners who do not educate themselves prior to committing to Beagle ownership or are unwilling to devote the effort necessary to train their dog are the leading reasons why most Beagles are surrendered to shelters. Unfortunately, every year thousands of these wonderful dogs are euthanized because their adoption rate is so low. This could easily be avoided with patience, time, and positive motivation when training. Beagles, with their single-mindedness in responding to scent, are frequently branded as being stubborn. This character trait combined with their desire to do things on their terms together with their inquisitive nature does make them difficult to train. But if potential owners are prepared for this challenge their reward can be a loving, loyal, social dog that provides many years of companionship. Grover Cleveland, Lyndon B. Johnson, Barry Manilow, and Roger Staubach all owned Beagles. But, perhaps the best known Beagle of all time, Snoopy, was modeled after “Spike” owned by Charles Schultz. For more information about the Beagle, you can seek out the National Beagle Club of America.