ALL DOG BREED PROFILES

Beagle

Beagle dog
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Beagles are known for being small and hardy dogs that are capable of thriving in many kinds of environments. They are also known for being quite active, and need a lot of exercise to be satisfied. One of the smaller hound breeds, they were bred to give chase to rabbits and hares, so they have an incredibly high prey drive. This can make them somewhat stubborn, as they’re more prone to pay attention to scents than your commands.

However, with some creativity and patience, your beagle will learn to adjust his temperament and provide you with the attention you’re asking for. This is evident by the fact that their excellent sense of smell has earned many beagles the job as sniffer dogs at airports for contraband.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHighest
Exercise NeedsHigh

Dog Breed Group: Hounds
Height: Roughly 1 foot
Weight: About 18 to 30 pounds
Life Span: 10 to 15 years

Where many people are attracted to the soft, caring look of the beagle, its inquisitive and food-driven nature can take many of them aback. Although they appear and are friendly, their determined nature can be a little more than some people can handle. For their size, beagles are not very yappy dogs, but they are hounds, meaning that they do bay on occasion, especially in the early mornings. This can be especially troubling if you’re not a morning person or an early riser.

Despite this, however, you won’t meet a friendlier dog. Hounds tend to be pack dogs, which means that they thrive in socialization. They believe that every human and animal that they meet in the home is their friend. This makes it easy to introduce a new dog into your home if you already have a beagle, as long as patience is still exercised in the introduction.

The most important aspect of the beagle is their sense of smell. You’ll always find a beagle with his nose to the ground, taking in all of the intricate smells that he can find. Because of this, they make excellent hunting dogs for small game, and many of them are put to the rest in a variety of sniffing trials all over the United States. Spilling anything on the floor in your home can lead to your beagle sniffing one spot for hours, and forget about trying to hide food. He’ll be able to sniff it out in a jiffy.

Due to their size, friendly temperament and a lack of a tendency to bark often, they do very well in apartment living. Training is required to prevent them from baying during certain hours of the day, and they will need long walks several times a day in order to prevent boredom from setting in. Without it, they can become quite destructive within the home.

Main Highlights
  • Beagles do require mental stimulation, so leaving them alone for long periods of time can make it difficult for your beagle to not find things to do on his own. If left inside, he may resort to destroying your personal effects. Leaving him outside in a yard can result digging, excessive howling, and trying to escape. Be sure to provide him with plenty of exercise and toys that will stimulate his brain while you’re not at home.
  • Due to the beagle’s stubborn nature, house training can be a bit of a problem. If possible, crate training can definitely make the process a lot easier, as it gives the beagle a structure to work with.
  • It is best to keep your beagle on a leash when you are venturing outside and you don’t have a fence. They are scent dogs, so they are led by their noses. This means that once they can get whiff of an interesting smell, they don’t pay attention to anything else. This can lead to them wandering off and ignoring your recalls.
  • Food is another thing that beagles take extremely seriously. If feeding isn’t carefully monitored, a beagle will keep eating until his bowl is empty. This usually leads to beagles becoming overweight, which can lead to health problems. They’re also extremely protective over their food, so small children should be taught to be careful around your beagle’s food bowl and to not tease him with food. Garbage cans should be secured in order to avoid your beagle nosing around in them and creating a mess (or getting into toxic foods), and cupboards should be childproofed to prevent him from getting inside.
  • If you’re looking for a good guard dog, the beagle is not your breed of choice. They’re extremely friendly to anyone they meet, so they’re not going to warn you of any strangers. They will, however, bay and howl excessively, so it’s important to keep this under consideration when getting a beagle, as you may have to spend a lot of time controlling this behaviour.
Breed History

It’s difficult to tell where the first beagles came from, as the majority of modern dogs weren’t developed until the 19th Century. However, ancient documents from the Roman period have described Beagle-like dogs, and were used by the Romans to hunt small game. Talbot hounds, an extinct breed of dog that was brought to England by William the Conqueror, is believed to be the closest ancestor to the beagle and the foxhound.

The beagle was a popular choice of hunting dog until fox hunting became the rave in the 1700s. Because beagles were ill-suited for larger game, the foxhound took centre stage. However, they continued to be used by farmers across the United Kingdom to catch rabbits and hare, thereby keeping the breed alive.

It wasn’t until the 1800s that a man named Reverend Honeywood decided to establish a pack of beagles in Essex, which is believed to be the ancestors of what is considered the modern beagle. They were bred to be more attractive and better hunters, and were even imported to America to help improve the look of their native dogs.

Size

According to the American Kennel Club, there are two recognized varieties of the beagle. There is the 13-inch, where the dog doesn’t get much larger than thirteen inches at the shoulder, and the 15-inch, where the dog can stand anywhere between thirteen to fifteen inches at the shoulder. Depending on this height difference, a beagle can weigh anywhere from 18 to 30 pounds.

Personality and Character

Beagles are one of the most cheerful breed of dog you’ll ever meet. Because they travel in packs, they are extremely sociable, and love to make new friends. Early socialization will help to develop your beagle’s temperament from an early age.

They are quite gentle dogs and can be big jokers when they’re ready. However, they can be too clever for their own good and outthink their owners.  If left unsupervised, they’ll engage in behaviour they know they’re not supposed to. A food-oriented process of obedience training will definitely help in curtailing your beagle’s bad habits.

Health and Potential Problems

Like many pure breed dogs, beagles can be exposed to several health problems due to genetics. Many of these conditions can be taken care of quite easily, but some may progress over time and reduce the quality of your beagle’s life.

  • Intervertebral disc disease: between the vertebrae of the spine are soft, jelly-like discs that act as cushions. This disease causes the inner layer of the disc to protrude and puts pressure on the spinal cord. Minimal pressure can lead to small amounts of pain, but if left untreated, it can lead to paralysis, loss of feeling, and a lack of bowel and/or bladder control. Damage done by the disease can be irreversible, depending on what stage it is at when it’s discovered. Surgery may relieve the pressure, but it is not always successful.
  • Hip dysplasia: this inherited condition is difficult to combat, as it is completely irreversible. The only steps that can be taken are to minimize the pain that your dog is experiencing. This is where the thighbone doesn’t fit as well as it used to in the hip joint. Pain and lameness can present in one or both legs, and worsens as the dog ages.
  • Cherry eye: dogs have an inner, third eyelid that helps to keep the cornea clean and to produce antibodies to prevent infections. Beneath this inner eyelid is the tear gland. What happens in cherry eye is that the gland can protrude from under the inner eyelid. In most cases, the gland can simply be removed.
  • Glaucoma: just like humans, older dogs can become prone to glaucoma. This is where the pressure within the eye starts to get too high, and can cause damage to the delicate tissues within the eyeball, as well as the optic nerve. The pressure is caused by a buildup of fluid, due to an overabundance of fluid or the eyeball being unable to drain enough fluid sufficiently. Primary glaucoma, which is hereditary, and secondary glaucoma, which is the result of injury or tumor, both present in the same way. Your dog may appear to squint, the eye will be red, and there may be an overproduction of tears. Your dog’s eye will also appear whitish on the cornea, and the condition can lead to vision loss and blindness. Surgery can remove the eyeball completely if the damage is too extensive.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: this is a disorder of the eye can results in the loss of photoreceptors in the eye. It’s a degenerative condition that can be detected before your dog starts showing any signs or symptoms. It cannot be prevented, but many dogs continue to live full and happy lives even when they’re fully blind.
  • Distichiasis: this is a strange condition where an additional row of eyelashes starts to grow on the oil gland of the eye. This can lead to irritation and cause your dog to squint. A painless surgery can be conducted to freeze and remove these excess eyelashes.
  • Epilepsy: epilepsy is a neurological condition that can lead to unplanned seizures. When this occurs, your dog may fall over without warning and start to spasm. It looks like he’s running, with all four legs twitching uncontrollably. After an episode, he will be disoriented and may even become aggressive. It’s important that you stay calm if you notice your dog’s first seizure, and bring it to the attention of your vet as soon as possible.
  • Hyperthyroidism: the thyroid is in control of the hormones that regulate your dog’s metabolism. When the thyroid starts to malfunction, then your dog can suffer from a large number of conditions. It can cause epilepsy, obesity, loss of hair, lethargy, and other skin conditions. Despite these, however, it is an easy condition to manage and treat, through medication and diet.
  • Beagle dwarfism: the beagle is a lot smaller than normal, due to a genetic mutation. Other physical abnormalities can also present themselves, such as shortened legs, shortened neck, and crooked front legs.
  • Chinese Beagle Syndrome: this genetic syndrome is easy to detect within the first four weeks of a puppy’s life. The dog will have slanted eyes, the skull is flat, the ears are higher set on the head, and the dog will walk upright on its feet similar to a ballerina stance. It affects the connective tissues of the body, and can make a beagle appear extremely muscular. Affected dogs are also prone to seizures and heart problems.
  • Patellar Luxation: this occurs when the three parts of the patella — the femur, knee cap and tibia — do not line up properly. Lameness can occur, and the dog tends to walk with an abnormal gait. It’s present at birth, but it doesn’t typically present until much later in the dog’s life. The constant rubbing of bone against bone can lead to arthritis, which is also very painful and is a degenerative condition. There are several grades of patellar luxation, with the most severe requiring surgery to repair the damaged joints.
Care Features

When it comes to taking care of a beagle, being in control is key. Beagles have a tendency to wander off whenever a good smell wafts by, so it’s important to keep them on a lead or in a confined area of your backyard. Supervision is required so that he doesn’t try to dig his way out or scale your fence, as beagles are more creative and crafty than their owners give them credit for.

Be sure to have your beagle microchipped in the unfortunate event that he does escape, and that he is wearing his identification tags. Electronic fences are not recommended, as beagles are willing to risk the pain of the shock in order to indulge their noses.

Obedience training is also the key, especially if there is food involved. Patience and a gentle hand is required as beagles can «turn off» if they’re treated too harshly. Teaching them to walk well on a leash and to curtail their baying habits can produce a happy and healthy dog, who will be a wonderful addition to the family.

Exercise is an essential part of a beagle’s daily life, since they were bred to hunt and chase down small prey. This high metabolism keeps him active, and he demands the amount of food necessary to keep up with these energy levels. As a beagle matures, however, this metabolism tends to drop, but he may still eat the same amount, making him prone to obesity.

Feeding Schedule

Many beagle owners tend to overfeed, leading to obesity in most dogs.  They don’t need more than 1.5 cups of high quality food over the course of the day, but this can be altered slightly according to the metabolism, age, and activity levels of your dog. The quality of food also makes a difference, as it will provide your dog with more nourishment than cheap dog food.

Be aware that beagles are very food-driven, and will go to any lengths to get more food into their bellies. This includes raiding cupboards and knocking over garbage cans to get to what’s inside. Sometimes he can find food that he’s not supposed to have, and this can end up making him very sick. Take the appropriate measures to dog-proof your cupboards and your garbage cans to prevent him from getting inside.

Coat, Color and Grooming

Beagles are known to come in a wide variety of colors, but the most common coloration is with a black saddle, white legs, chest and belly, with tan on the rest of the body and a white tip on the tail so hunters can notice them. However, they can also have an Irish spotting pattern on the face, legs, tail and neck, which certainly adds a different look to the breed.

They have a smooth and dense double-coat that is quite waterproof, allowing them to trek through water if they need to after their prey. In order to keep their coat in its best condition, a medium-bristle brush or a nubbed rubber mitt should be used to loosen and remove any dead hair that is present. They are prone to shedding, but not in huge quantities. They don’t require baths very frequently.

Due to the shape and the hanging of their ears, beagles can be prone to ear problems. Their ears should be checked at least every two weeks to remove any waxy buildup and treat for any infections that may have presented themselves. Always keep your beagle’s ears as dry as possible, especially during bathing.

His nails should be trimmed on a regular basis if he’s not wearing them down himself. They can be trimmed at least twice a month, and if left to grow too long, are at risk of being torn out when he goes for a run through the brush. Beagles tend to be very sensitive with their feet, so exercise caution and provide positive reinforcement when trimming his nails.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

Beagles can be quite compatible with people and other animals in the home. They are very good with children, and are extremely gentle. They can be a little energetic during play, so supervision is a must.

They sense a majority of the world through their mouths, so they tend to grab a lot of things, hands included, in order to play. This can be trained out of them, however, and make playtime fun for everyone. They thrive with interaction and don’t like to be left alone at all. Having another dog in the home or a cat that they’re familiar with can certainly prevent problems from occurring.

Beagles are not for everyone, but by knowing what you’ll be getting into, you can make an informed decision as to whether getting one would be right for you and your home. If you’re looking for a playful, energetic dog with a gentle disposition, then the beagle is definitely for you. Just be prepared to keep him physically and mentally engaged throughout the day and keeping your food locked away, and you’ll wonder what you ever did without a beagle in your life.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Leny Brown

    I’m a proud owner of an adorable beagle and what the article said is all true! I’ve never seen such insanely friendly dogs — he loves my cats and he’s always sniffing and playing about. My dog started out as a bit of the ‘silent type’, but he seemes to be trying out barking lately. Is this just a phase or what?

    • John Walton

      This is why Beagles are terrible watch dogs because they are very friendly. However, if you have another fur baby that takes care of the house, then getting a Beagle will always be a great decision.

  • CyndyPrinceton

    My sister and her husband decided to get a beagle from a trusted breeder. But it turned out my sister is pregnant. Is it wise for them to still continue with their plan to get a beagle? How are beagles around pregnant women? Are beagles to be trusted with small children? Any advice will be welcome!

    • John Walton

      Beagles are okay, but I discourage it to be around very young children because these cute fur babies can snap and bite especially when the play becomes too rough.

  • Angela Pickles

    Why do beagles eat so much? We have a Beagle and he seemed hungry all the time! He can eat a lot and still feel hungry to knock off trash cans while scavenging for food. Am I feeding him too little? He eats 3 cups of dry dog food a day. Is being ravenous part of their DNA? I was thinking if I should feed him more? For added info, she’s not active and prefers taking naps all the time. o_O

    • John Walton

      Beagles can be voracious eaters, Angela. But we also must control the portion ourselves because as long as they see food, they’ll be highly likely to eat it.

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