Is a Beagle right for you?
Beagles are delightful animals, the loves of our lives and without doubt our favorite breed, but they are not the right dog for every household. They are hounds, and as such are rough-and-tumble dogs. Ours spring from their crates to greet the day with a wrestling match, pile through the doggie door for the mornng constitutional, jump, bounce and dance for their breakfast, then head for the back patio for a snooze. Their days are divided between frenetic activity (chasing, swimming, playing) and pure sloth. They are vastly entertaining if you don't mind a certain amount of disorderly conduct. As a rule you can expect them to eat anything - many things you wouldn't think they'd even try. It's best to have nothing mouth-sized within their reach, period. And don't underestimate their reach! If you've ever had an inquisitive toddler in your house, you probably have a good idea how to 'Beagle-proof' your home. If you love fragile furnishings and delicate accessories, you'd best limit them to an 'off-limits' space. Good, sturdy toys - and plenty of them - are essential for this fun loving breed. They retain their playfulness late into life. Many love to throw their own toys or play hide and seek, some love to hide their treasures (maybe under the sofa cushions). In other words, they are very busy! You obviously can't go out leaving a Beagle loose in the house. Crate training is essential - a dog that is trained considers the crate a safe, comforting space, and you can come home secure in the knowledge that your house - and your Beagle - are safe and sound.
Beagles love company. The breed was developed to live and hunt in packs and as such craves companionship. They are very intelligent, problem solving animals and are easily bored. A Beagle left alone for significant periods of time will be miserable, and will almost certainly show his misery with nuisance barking and destructive behavior. In the absence of a pack of beagles to hang out with, they'll happily substitute you and your undivided attention. Another dog or even a cat can make all the difference when you can't play.
Beagles are affectionate, but independent. When that famous nose turns 'ON', every other sense turns 'OFF'. Your Beagle will not hear you calling, or think to look before running across the road. Remember Beagles were bred originally to follow the scent of their quarry (usually bunnies) all day if necessary, needing little or no direction from their huntsman. So be resigned to the fact that your Beagle will never, NEVER be off leash anywhere except a very securely fenced yard. Beagles are scent hounds, bred to hunt with their noses, and will follow a scent until they're nearly exhausted. Although with a great deal of perseverance, you can train a Beagle to come to you when called much of the time, they will never be 100% reliable, especially if they are following a scent. For this reason, Beagles cannot be trusted in a non-fenced yard or off a leash.
Many Beagles will happily dig up (and probably eat) anything you plant. Gardened areas must be securely fenced off and inaccessible to your Beagle. You must also very carefully inventory their yard area for toxic plants. Even full-grown trees are not immune to the Beagle's amazing gardening abilities.
While most Beagles are not yappy, they will bark at strangers or potential threats (like the neighbor's cat). A solid wooden fence is best - if he can't see all those interesting things that pass by he won't bark at them. As we pointed out earlier, lonliness and boredom are the most common cause of nuisance barking. On the other hand, I once had a boy that LOVED to bark just to hear the sound of his own voice - and I was home with him all day, along with two other Beagles, so boredom was not his excuse! The famous 'AROOOOO' howl is the way Beagles tell the pack they are 'on the trail' so don't be surprised to hear this music, especially if squirrels or other critters sometimes pass through your yard. Many Beagle lovers adore this sound but - I'm not sure all their neighbors agree!
Beagles are generally healthy, hearty animals. They need good quality dog food - NO tidbits from the table! My adult 15" girls get 1/2 cup of ProPlan adult twice a day. BE STRONG - they'll look at you with those soulful hound eyes and it's very tempting to tell yourself that he's still hungry so you should feed him more, but please understand - Beagles are ALWAYS HUNGRY!! They will eat until they are seriously ill if you let them, and an overweight dog is not truly healthy. Wondering if your dog is overweight? Look at our show pictures. These are Beagles in perfect condition. If your dog looks heavier than they do, gradually cut back on his rations. You'll also have to lock up the doggie food (and people food too) in sturdy containers and out of the Beagle's reach.
Pet Beagles need very little care. They have short, coarse hair, but they will shed. They don't need baths often unless they've found something really vile to roll in. Their long, floppy ears are prone to infections and mites, so you'll need to check them often and clean them weekly. You'll also need to keep their toenails trimmed. How often depends on how much wear they get in their daily life, but you can expect to clip or grind them about twice a month.
Mature, well-trained Beagles make excellent therapy dogs, their reputation for gentleness is well earned. They are very good with children. They are truly 'Merry little hounds', and if you are patient and can give them the companionship they crave, they will give you years of pure joy!