The beautiful Beagle is a very popular member of the hound group.
Beagles are of course ‘pack hounds’ and therefore share some of the characteristics of this interesting sub-set of dogs
Life with a beagle is unlikely to be a very quiet one. Like most pack hounds, beagles like to ‘sing’. Noise is par for the course with a beagle, but there are steps you can take to reduce it.
History and role of the breed
The traditional role of the Beagle is well known. Bred for generations to work and hunt in packs, they are perhaps most commonly associated with fox hunting with horses, or hare coarsing on foot.
Beagles love to use their noses, and they are very good at it. Even if you are not interested in working your Beagle, this inquisitive pup will really benefit from some scent work training.
Beagles as a breed get huge enjoyment from following a trail or seeking out hidden items. They can make fantastic search and rescue dogs or contraband sniffer dogs for this reason.
Described by the breed standard as a sturdily, compact dog with a hound appearance, the Beagle is very much of his group type. With long ears and a proud head, and a long proudly held tail.
They have short coats which are normally tri-coloured, with a mixture of tan, black and white. But they can come in a range of other colours, including blue, white and tan, pied or mottled.
Although they are generally fit dogs in terms of their composition, and if healthy can have a good lifespan of around 13 years, the Beagle Association have noted six areas for concern.
Like many breeds of dog, Beagles are prone to suffer from hip dysplasia. This is where the hip joint is not properly formed, so that the femur does not rest properly in the socket. You can dramatically reduce the chances of your puppy suffering from this condition by making sure both of your puppy’s parents have good hip scores.
Canine Epilepsy is seen in all breeds of dog to some extent, but is more prevalent in some than others. It is something to be aware of if you are considering purchasing a Beagle puppy as they are one of the more prone breeds.
Musladin-Lueke Syndrome (MSL) Otherwise known rather inappropriately as Chinese Beagle Syndrome, this nasty disorder is characterised by deformities of the feet and face in Beagles, although not all affected pups will have these noticeable signs. It can result in problems walking and potentially in seizures later on in life.
Steroid Responsive Meningitis (SRM) is a disease seen in a few breeds of dog, including Beagles, Tollers and Springer Spaniels. An immune response triggers and inflammation of bloody vessels supplying the brain and spinal cord. It can cause pain in the head and neck, lethargy and a fever.
Factor VII deficiency is a scary condition which can affect Beagles is known as Factor VII Deficiency. In a nut shell, this condition is characterised by clotting problems. Cases range from mild to severe, with increased clotting times seen when Beagles undergo surgery. Your dog will only be affected if it receives the mutated gene from both parents. It is a recessive gene, so they can be a carrier without showing any symptoms.
Neonatal Cerebellar Cortical Degeneration (NCCD) is a more recently observed worrying disease, which has been identified as a problem for Beagles is NCCD. This is a genetic disease that impacts a puppy’s development from birth. It is sadly not treatable, and puppies seen to be affected will normally be euthanised.
Fortunately, there are now DNA tests available for MSL, SRM, Factor VII Deficiency and NCCD. These will allow breeders to make the right decision and not breed from a parent who could pass on one of these terrible conditions to their pups.
Make sure that your breeder have carried out appropriate health tests before you decide whether to commit to one of their puppies. Most breeders will only test for NCCD and MLS, so it’s up to you to decide whether you are happy to run the risk of Factor VII Deficiency becoming a problem for your Beagle. Due to the early signs of NCCD, you are unlikely to suffer the consequences of this unless you intend to breed from your pup when it is an adult.
Understanding the potential health conditions that could affect your puppy is an important part of the responsibility of choosing your new friend.
If you are considering taking on a Beagle, I highly recommend taking a look at this website: Beagle Health.
Beagles in general have really lovely temperaments. This is largely down to their breeding, as they were selected for group work. They are fantastically friendly to other dogs and human alike. They are by nature very social creatures, and love to be around you.
If you have ever been to a County Show you will probably have seen the local hunt’s Beagles in a pen, happily welcoming visitors of all ages with wagging tails and relaxed expressions.
The downside of their social natures is that they don’t like to be left alone. So if you are thinking of getting a dog but work full time, having a dog sitter pop in for an hour at lunchtime will probably not be sufficient to keep them happy and not destructive at home.
They also require plenty of exercise as they are a fit and energetic breed. Taking them out for a good long walk or a few sprints is a necessity.
Beagles are hounds and as such bred to be rather interested in other animals. Fortunately, they are also highly food motivated. Positive reinforcement training with treats from a young age is therefore essential. You must make sure that your dog’s recall is proofed at each stage, building up slowly the levels of distractions you expect them to come back to you in the presence of.
They are very friendly dogs who as we have seen love company, but they do have the classic hound howl down to a fine art. If you have close neighbours or live in a quiet residential area, then this could cause issues for you at some point and is something to take into serious consideration before getting your puppy.
There are ways to reduce howling in hound breeds, but it takes time and absolute dedication to avoiding and not rewarding the noise from the word go.
If you are concerned that you wouldn’t be able to follow through with this, then a Beagle might not be the best dog for you. If you are up for the challenge however, and are prepared to get your family to also fall in line, then you will have a wonderful, charming, companion to share your home with.
Although active and noisy dogs, Beagles don’t require much in the way of special care. There main needs include plenty of exercise and a good proportion of your company, or that of another family dog.
They are fairly small in size and have a neat short coat length. You will not have to groom them too frequently, unless they are moulting or have rolled in something grubby! However, it is still a good idea to get them used to the brush from an early age so that they are used to it.
Above all else, a Beagle needs companionship in a loving home. Preferably that doesn’t have neighbours who mind the odd howl or two!
Beagles are fabulous dogs for the right families, provided their parents were adequately health tested before breeding.
If you are active, keen to learn about positive reinforcement training and dedicate yourself to never rewarding their inevitable noise, then a Beagle could be the perfect puppy for you.