Published on June 22, 2011
- Height: two size varieties -- up to 13 inches at the shoulder and 13 inches to 15 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 20 to 35 pounds
Beagles are scenthounds, meaning they live to use their nose. They’re a comfortable size to tote around in your car, simple to groom, and their exercise needs are easily met with a long, meandering walk that gives them plenty of time to sniff. With a compact size, easy-care coat and happy nature, the Beagle has long had a place as one of the most popular breeds for families. Beagles are also used as scent detection dogs at U.S. airports, where their friendliness allows them to search for weapons, drugs, and illegal food items without making passengers nervous the way a larger “police dog” might. The breed was developed in England to hunt rabbits, and Beagles are still happiest when following their noses. For that reason, they belong to a category of dogs known as scenthounds.
Don’t let the small size or undeniable charm of the Beagle fool you: these dogs are still born to hunt. They’ve been described as “a nose with four legs,” and they love following a scent trail. The minute they smell something interesting they’re likely to follow their noses rather than their owners’ requests.
There are some things you should be aware of before you bring a Beagle home. The most important thing to know is that Beagles are ruled by their nose. A Beagle will follow an interesting scent wherever it leads him, across busy streets and miles from home, so a fenced yard is essential to keep him safe.
A related bit of information is that Beagles love to eat. Love it! And they are creative about finding and accessing food. Experienced owners put food, trash cans and anything else that might appear or smell edible to a Beagle well out of reach. On the plus side, that love of food comes in handy for training Beagles. They’ll do just about anything for a treat.
Beagles come in two sizes: 13-inch and 15-inch. The smaller variety includes Beagles who are no taller than 13 inches at the shoulder and weigh 22 to 30 pounds, while the larger variety includes Beagles who are taller than 13 inches but not more than 15 inches and weigh up to 35 pounds.
All Beagles sport a short, clean coat that’s usually some combination of black, white and tan. Their small to medium size is a plus for families – they’re the perfect shape for a child to hug – but the Beagle has no idea that he’s anything but a full-sized hound, and he has the loud bay of a full-sized hound to prove it!
Beagles are pack animals, becoming very attached to their human “pack,” and are well-suited to a variety of active families. They are a great choice for families with children. Singles and couples who love the outdoors also match up well with this breed, and his size and even temperament make the Beagle a great companion for active seniors who love to walk but don’t mind going at a slow pace to allow the Beagle to sniff to his heart’s content.
With adequate exercise and opportunities to work their sniffers, these versatile companions can handle anything from a small city apartment to a vast ranch. They’re not suited for life in the backyard or a doghouse, but need to live indoors as a member of the family.
If you give him opportunities to use his nose, whether that means letting him spend a lot of time sniffing on walks, taking him hunting, or training him for nose work or tracking, a Beagle will be a wonderful companion. The best thing about a Beagle is that he will always make you laugh — even when he’s being naughty.
Other Quick Facts
- Beagles come in two sizes; both sizes of Beagles can be born in a single litter. If you want to be sure you get one of a certain size, wait to purchase a puppy until he is about nine months old.
- Beagles bred for hunting are more likely to be noisy and active than Beagles bred for the show ring.
- You might not think so when you are trying to train him, but the Beagle is very smart in the sense that he is a good problem-solver. He might not respond instantly to your commands, but he will quickly figure out how to overcome any obstacles that are preventing him from getting something he wants.
- Beagles need daily exercise and mental stimulation in the form of sniffing. Without it they can become bored and destructive. Provide them with the attention, training and activity they need or suffer the consequences.
- Shyness and aggression are not common Beagle characteristics. Do not choose a puppy who shows signs of these behaviors.
The History of Beagles
The Beagle originated in England. His heritage stretches back to the packs of hunting hounds kept by landed gentry to hunt deer and hare. Beagle-like scenthounds were known as far back as 1475, when the word “Beagle” was first used to describe this type of hunting dog. It’s a matter of debate whether the name comes from a Celtic word meaning “small” or a French word meaning “open mouth” or “loud mouth.” Given the Beagle’s propensity for baying when he catches an interesting scent on the wind, the latter theory seems most likely.
Early Beagles looked different depending on the type of ground over which they were expected to hunt. Houndsmen who lived in the gentle countryside of southern England produced slow and ponderous dogs. Beagles from the rougher terrain of Britain’s border with Scotland were agile with lots of endurance. In the early nineteenth century, breeders worked to standardize the breed so they would have a more uniform appearance and temperament. But even today, they aren’t that different from the Beagles of 200 years ago. If one of those dogs were to come forward into the future, you would still recognize him as a Beagle, and the same is true if a modern Beagle were to be transported to the past.
Fine Beagles were imported from England to the United States, and the breed made it big in North America. Beagles have lived in the White House — Him and Her were often seen walking President Lyndon B. Johnson on the grounds of the Executive Mansion — and a comic strip dog, Snoopy, is arguably the best-known Beagle in the world. Giving Snoopy a run for his money is a Beagle named Uno, more formally known as Ch. K-Run’s Park Me in First, who in 2008 became the first Beagle to win Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club. Since then, Uno has traveled the United States with his buddy David Frei, serving as an ambassador for therapy dogs and Beagles everywhere.
The Beagle today is an easy-going dog with a strong hunting instinct. The breed standard says he can be any hound color, including tricolor, red and white, and lemon. The National Beagle Club offers information as well as breeder and rescue referral. The United Beagle Gundog Federation is the place to go if you’re interested in hunting or field trialing your Beagle.
Beagle Temperament and Personality
Beagles are happy, outgoing and loving. They are often described as having a merry temperament, but they are also known for their mischievous nature. Beagles like to have their own way, and they can be naughty, determined and stubborn in their efforts to get what they want, which is usually food.
Start training early, be patient and be consistent, and one day you will wake up to find that you live with a great dog. But even so, there are a few Beagle behaviors that you should expect to live with throughout his life. They are part and parcel of being a Beagle, and nothing you do will change them. Beagles love good smells, Beagles howl, Beagles have selective hearing, and Beagles love to eat.
Everything a Beagle does somehow leads back to his nose. His powerful sense of smell overcomes any good sense you might have tried to instill and tells the Beagle to escape from the yard or break into the dog food bag in the pantry or see what’s in the trash. When channeled properly, it’s also what makes him a great arson dog or termite detector, so it all evens out in the end. Just remember that when your Beagle’s nose is down, his “other brain” is turned off.
Beagles have what fans call a “musical” voice, but to your neighbors it’s just going to sound like really annoying noise. Beagles will sing along to sirens, “give tongue” when they are hunting, and bark when strangers come to the door, but they aren’t usually nuisance barkers unless they are bored or lonely. If you don’t live out in the country where no one else is around to hear his drawn-out “Aaaaarrrroooooh,” keep your Beagle occupied with toys, the company of another animal or, best of all, your presence so he doesn’t feel the need to serenade the neighborhood.
Beagles like to do what they want to do, not necessarily what you want them to do. They are true masters when it comes to selective hearing. If a Beagle isn’t interested in the request you’ve made — commands are futile with this breed — he will simply ignore you or wander off. That can be frustrating if you’re not prepared for it. Successfully living with a Beagle means making everything a game, one that will hold his attention.
As for eating, well, Beagles will try to eat anything. They are professional food thieves, and they will eat anything that even looks like it might be food, including things that you wouldn’t imagine would interest them. If nothing else, living with a Beagle will teach you, your spouse and your kids not to leave food of any kind within a Beagle’s nose range.
The biggest trick to training a Beagle is to make everything you do with him seem like fun. Never try to force a Beagle to do anything, and never count on a Beagle to be obedient unless you can offer treats as an incentive. This is one breed where it’s important to keep in mind that old saying about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Your Beagle’s personality will also be affected by the kind of breeder who produced him. Beagles from breeders who produce hunting dogs are more likely to be hard-charging and demanding of exercise. They are unsuited to lying around the house all day while everyone is at work or school. More laid back Beagles typically come from a breeder who shows dogs in conformation.
Any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging, food stealing and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained or unsupervised. And any dog can be a trial to live with during adolescence. In the case of the Beagle, the “teen” years can start at six months and continue until the dog is about three years old and sometimes throughout life. Some Beagles just never lose that fun-loving, happy-go-lucky puppy nature. While it makes them entertaining to live with, it also means that they need more supervision than the average adult dog. Fair warning!
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.
The perfect Beagle doesn’t spring fully formed from the whelping box. He’s a product of his background and breeding. Whether you want a Beagle as a companion, show dog, hunting dog or all three in one, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
What You Need to Know About Beagle Health
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines. Here’s a brief rundown on what you should know.
Beagles are generally healthy, but certain health problems can affect them if breeders aren’t careful about performing health checks. They include hip dysplasia, a genetic malformation of the hip socket and certain types of heart conditions. Despite good breeding, Beagles may experience tears of the anterior cruciate ligament, which can require surgical repair, and intervertebral disc disease, a spinal problem that can make movement painful and may require surgical repair.
Seizure disorders, hypothyroidism, diabetes, cataracts and allergies may also be seen in the breed. Less common breed-related conditions include deafness, heart disease and dwarfism. Avoid breeders who try to sell you a puppy with dwarfism by marketing him as a “rare pocket Beagle.” Dwarf Beagles often have physical deformities such as a shortened neck, crooked legs or a broader skull and are often more prone to chronic arthritis.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it is impossible to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for common defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
Before individual Beagles can be included in the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) database, the National Beagle Club requires them to have a hip certification from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania (PennHIP) and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF), and test results from the University of California at Davis Veterinary Genetics Lab must be registered with the OFA.
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease, but all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents. If the breeder tells you she doesn’t need to do those tests because she’s never had problems in her lines and her dogs have been “vet checked,” then you should go find a breeder who is more rigorous about genetic testing.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Not every Beagle visit to the vet is for a genetic problem. The Beagle’s long, floppy ears are prone to chronic ear infections. Left untreated, such infections can cause permanent damage to the ear canal and even destroy your dog’s hearing. Checking ears often and seeing the veterinarian at the first whiff of a problem combined with good follow-through will keep a Beagle’s ears from being an expensive and painful problem.
Other potential concerns are hunting injuries. A Beagle who puts a foot wrong in a hole can break a leg. And Beagles who escape from the yard in search of that smell-good scent run the risk of being hit by a car. Nor is it uncommon for a Beagle to see the veterinarian because he has eaten something he shouldn’t have. Beagles who pig out on fatty foods or scraps they find in the trash frequently end up hospitalized with a case of “garbage can” enteritis or, more seriously, pancreatitis.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from two of the most common health problems: obesity (which makes other health issues worse) and eating inappropriate objects. Keeping a Beagle at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life, and close supervision of what he’s chewing on can save you big bucks at the veterinary hospital. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Basics of Beagle Grooming
Beagles are easy-care dogs who don’t need a lot of fancy grooming. A good going-over with a hound mitt once or twice a week removes dead hairs and helps keep them from migrating to clothing and furniture. And that’s the bad news: Beagles shed year-round. The good news: unless your Beagle rolls in something stinky, which is a strong possibility, he shouldn’t need a bath more than three or four times a year.
Keep your Beagle’s droopy ears clean with a solution recommended by your veterinarian. Don’t use cotton swabs inside the ear; they can push gunk further down into it. Wipe out the ear with a cotton ball, never going deeper than the first knuckle of your finger.
Trim his nails regularly, usually every couple of weeks. They should never be so long that you hear them clicking on the floor.
Finding a Beagle
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Choosing a Beagle Breeder
Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as is possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than in making big bucks. Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run. For more information about the breed or to find a list of breeders, visit the website of the National Beagle Club.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Beagle puppy varies depending on his place of origin, whether he is male or female, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. Beagles are popular in the South and Midwest, so prices tend to be lower in those areas, usually ranging from $300 to $500. They are usually less common on the East and West Coasts, so prices can be higher, from $600 to $800. You should expect the puppies to have been raised in a clean environment, from parents with health clearances and show or field championships to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies have been temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Beagle might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult Beagle may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
Adopting a Dog from a Beagle Rescue or Shelter
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Beagle in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Beagles available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Beagle. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Beagle rescues in your area. Most people who love Beagles love all Beagles. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The National Beagle Club’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Beagle rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Beagle home with you to see what the experience is like.
Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
- What is his energy level?
- How is he around other animals?
- How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
- What is his personality like?
- What is his age?
- Is he housetrained?
- Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
- Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Beagle, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Beagle to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.