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Beagle

The Beagle is a happy and outgoing scenthound dog breed which is small, hardy and active. It is among the top 5 most popular dog breeds in the US, because of its irresistible cuteness, and fun-loving temperament.

Still, the dogs from this breed can be quite stubborn and may require more patience and more creative training techniques than other breeds when it comes to housetraining and obedience training.

But nevertheless, the Beagle is a superb companion dog to have, even for first-time dog owners and has a relatively long life expectancy of 12-15 years, so it will bring joy to you and your family for long.

Here is everything you need to know about this amazing dog breed.

Highlights

Temperament: happy, snooping, friendly

Height at the shoulder: up to 13 inches, or 13-15 inches

Weight: under 20 lbs., or 20-30 lbs.

Life expectancy: 10-15 years

Breed Group: Hound group

About the breed

This compact and merry dog was originally developed for tracking small game including rabbits and hare and is one of the most amazing scent hounds in the world. This means that it will be at its happiest when it stumbles upon and tracks an intriguing scent.

Today, the dogs from this breed are still used for hunting around the world but are also among the most popular companion and family pets as well.

This is absolutely understandable given their amazingly soft and pleading looks and expressions, and their outgoing personalities.

Being pack animals, Beagles are very friendly with all other dogs and with people.

Their small size and cuteness have made them perfect for use as service dogs at airports trained to sniff out contraband foods and goods. In fact, they have been used in over 20 US Airports, for finding contraband entering the country, without intimidating the passengers who are normally scared by dogs.

The Beagle has been found to have over 220 million receptors in its nose, which is a staggering amount as compared to the 5 million scent receptors we humans have.

Dave Barry, the famous humorist once called the Beagle “a nose with feet” and this description is not only hilarious but is absolutely spot on.

They are active participants in field trials organized by the National Beagle Club’s Institute Farm, and in similar events held in other countries around the world.

Due to their small size, and their gentle demeanor, Beagles can easily adapt to all kinds of families, and are also suitable for apartment living.

But keep in mind that even though they are not yappy, they can be pretty loud. They have several distinctive vocalizations including a bark, a half-baying howl and a baying howl, which if left without control can cause serious problems with next-door neighbors.

Also, if you are gone for long hours every day, or travel a lot, the Beagle may not be the best dog breed for you because these pups can suffer from separation anxiety and can become pretty destructive and loud when left alone or when they have not been exercised sufficiently.

Otherwise, these happy-go-lucky and extremely cute dogs are fun and loyal companions no matter whether you want them as family dogs or as hunting partners.

There are two varieties of Beagles recognized by the American Kennel Club. One is the smaller type which reaches a height at the shoulder of up to 13 inches, and a weight of up to 20 lbs. and the other which is 13-15 inches tall, and weighs 20-30 lbs.

Both of the types are compact and yet sturdy and well-built for their sizes. They are usually in red, yellow, tan, brown, blue, black, bluetick, redtick, fawn, and white colors or tri-colored. In fact, the AKC recognizes 25 color combinations, and six possible markings including – ticked, brown, black, spotted, white and tan.

They have absolutely adorable faces, large hazel or brown pleading eyes, and hound ears which are set low on their broadheads.

No matter their color, Beagles usually have white tips on their tales which makes it easier for hunters to spot them when on the field.

These smart and curious hounds require daily exercise and a lot of playtime if you want them to stay healthy, happy and well.

Beagles are generally very loving and gentle dogs, but as other hounds, they can have an independent and stubborn streak which can make obedience and housetraining quite challenging.

Also, being excellent scenthounds, their nose is their most important organ and asset, and they can often simply wander off if they smell an interesting scent.

They also tend to be overeaters and will eat as much food as they are given, which means that you will need to monitor their portion size closely and keep the dog and human food, as well as the trash safely secured at all times.

Beagles are definitely not great watchdogs, because of the friendly nature.

Overall, the dogs from this hound dog breed are highly adaptable, loyal, great with children, and with other dogs, and require very little maintenance when it comes to grooming.

Personality

Beagles are gentle, funny and sweet pups which will often make you laugh, especially if you have trained and socialized them properly. They are highly social animals but can be a tad stubborn and mischievous, which too are traits which make them so charming.

They like to spend time with their humans and will happily participate in all family activities. That said, Beagles do not like to be left alone for long, and can resort to excessive barking and howling, as well as to destructive behavior and digging when left alone for long hours.

They may be small in size, but they are smart, and their strong tracking instincts make them excellent escape artists. This means that if you have a backyard, you should ensure that it is fenced very securely without a way out through digging, getting through holes, or jumping.

They require a lot of attention, and even though they love and tolerate kids of all ages, it is not a good idea to get a Beagle if you have very young children which you need to tend to 24/7.

Also, they are exceptional scenthounds which means that they can easily run off following an interesting scent when left off the leash without being taught to properly respond to your recall command.

Nevertheless, they are a suitable dog breed for newbie dog owners because they do love people and are eager to please. Still, their training and socializing should start as early as possible, and you should prepare yourself for consistent, firm and time-consuming training sessions, especially when the puppy is young.

Socializing the dog by meeting it with other dogs, people and taking it to see different places and hear different sounds is essential if you want to end up with a well-rounded dog which is not fearful or nervous later on.

Nutrition

The recommended amount of food per day for the average adult Beagle is from ¾ to 1 ½ cups of high-quality dog food per day. You should divide the food into two portions – one for the morning meal and the other one for the evening.

Of course, the exact amount of food you feed your dog depends on its age, its weight, its activity level, its metabolism and on the type of food you choose.

The more active the dog – the more calories it will need. Also, the higher quality and more digestible the dog food – the smaller quantities will be required to provide your pup with the nutrients it needs to stay healthy, well and fit.

Be warned that Beagles can smell just about anything which makes them excellent food thieves. They will track down and steal food whenever they get the chance, so make sure that you secure the dog and your food safely, and keep the garbage stacked away from the pup.

Overeating can cause gaining excess weight and becoming overweight which can lead to serious health problems and can shorten the life of your four-legged companion.

Keep an eye on the weight of your pup, and if necessary, readjust its portions, the food type, and the exercise it gets to help keep it in perfect shape.

Because of the cute pleading expression and the proneness to mischief and naughty behavior Beagle owners are often tempted to overdo it with the doggie treats. Make sure the treats you give your dog do not exceed 20% of its daily caloric intake and refrain from giving it your table scraps and fatty human food.

Always feed your dog age-appropriate food, be it home-made or commercial. Also, check out which human foods are safe for dogs, and which ones are unhealthy or even poisonous to canines.

Grooming

Beagles have dense and smooth, water-resistant double coats which require minimal maintenance. You should brush the coat of your dog with a hound glove or a medium bristle brush at least once a week to remove the dead hairs.

They do shed, but their hairs are so short that it is not as noticeable. Their coats usually become thicker in the winter, and then they shed in the spring.

In general, Beagles are clean dogs which do not require frequent bathing unless they have gotten themselves in a mess.

Because they have hound drop ears, they are prone to infections, which is why you should check your dog’s ears at least once a week. Look for redness, a bad odor or other signs that the pup may have an ear infection. You can gently clean the inside of the ears with dog ear cleaner on a cotton ball, but do not attempt to place anything it the pup’s ear canal.

Don’t allow for water or oils to enter the dog’s ears, and if you notice that it is shaking its head excessively or scratching its ears, make sure you inspect them for wax buildup and other problems.

If you notice signs of infection go to the vet for professional cleaning and treatment.

You will also need to brush your Beagle’s teeth at least three times a week to remove any bacteria and tartar and prevent tooth decay, gum problems, and bad breath.

If your pup doesn’t wear its nails down naturally, you will have to trim them on a regular basis as well, but make sure you ask your groomer or vet for guidance on how to do it safely because canines have blood vessels in their toenails.

In order to make life easier on yourself and on your dog, get your Beagle accustomed to the weekly grooming procedure by rewarding it for standing still and tolerating the brushing, trimming and inspections.

Also, as you are grooming your dog, make sure you inspect it for any sores, rashes, redness, bumps and other skin problems. Check out its eyes and nose for an irregular discharge.

If you notice anything out of the ordinary speak to your vet, because the earlier you identify a potential health problem, the easier its treatment will be.

Exercise

A properly and safely fenced backyard is perfect for a Beagle, even though it is an adaptable dog and can live in an apartment given that you provide it with the walks and exercise it needs on a daily basis.

Still, even if you have an outdoor space, do not attempt to leave your dog outdoors alone for long, because it prefers to have company and may resort to digging, howling, barking and to other bothersome and destructive behavior.

When you are outside with your dog, you should keep it on a leash, or let it roam only in securely confined areas. The reason is that it is constantly searching for interesting scents and has a curious nature, so it will wander away to follow a smell any time it gets the chance to do so.

Make sure that your pup is microchipped and has ID tags on it at all times because Beagles often get lost.

Young and adult Beagles are full of energy and will happily accompany you on your long walks, hikes, runs or for other outdoor activities. Of course, hunting and chasing rabbits and other small animals is their favorite thing in the world, so if you can provide your dog with an opportunity to hunt it will be happier than ever. This, naturally, should be allowed only after you have trained your dog to respond to your recall commands or signals.

Once they grow older, Beagles start to prefer more sedentary lifestyles, and can even become lazy. They are prone to obesity so make sure you provide your older Beagle with the right amount of food and daily activity to help it stay fit and in shape.

Overall, a healthy Beagle needs at least one hour of walks and exercise outdoors in order to spend the excess energy it has and to feel physically and mentally motivated and happy.

Training

Beagles are smart and are eager to please, at the same time they can be quite free-thinking and stubborn, so using positive reinforcement and treats for their obedience training is a must.

Like most dogs, Beagles do not respond to harsh treatment and techniques and will instinctively stop responding if you attempt to punish them for not obeying your commands or if you mistreat them.

The obedience training, as well as the socializing of these dogs, should start as early as possible for the best results.

Puppy kindergarten and puppy training classes are a huge aid for training these pups.

They do take more time to be properly housetrained, and also to learn to respond to your commands, but if you are confident, firm and have the patience and time to teach your puppy, it will start responding to your directions.

You will need to establish yourself as a leader of the pack if you want to earn the respect of your dog.

Letting the dog lead you can bring upon serious behavioral problems later on.

These hound dogs bond with their human families very quickly. They are great playmates for older children but need to be watched when interacting with younger ones because they can be pretty rough when playing.

Also, they are “grabby” and may instinctively grab the toddler by the hand, which is a type of behavior they do for fun, but which you may want to curb in order to prevent accidents.

With fair and firm consistent handling your Beagle can become the perfectly trained, well behaved and well-rounded dog.

Any unwanted behaviors such as unnecessary barking and howling, digging or other should be curbed as early as possible.

As soon as you take your puppy home start working on commands like come, sit, stay, quiet, down, leave it and bed.

Teaching the dog to respond promptly to your recall commands is essential for this dog breed due to its strong scent and tracking instincts which can make it stray away very easily at any given time.

Also, teaching your dog to be quiet especially when you are not home is very important if you don’t want to have problems with your neighbors later on.

Some trainers recommend crate training for Beagles due to their separation anxiety and potentially destructive behavior but never crate your pup as a form of punishment. Walk it and exercise it first and let it understand that the crate is a safe place it can rest and sleep without being bothered by anybody instead. Also, never leave your dog crated for too long.

If you need to go to work or to school and spend long hours out of home, you may want to add another dog to the household or provide your Beagle with the toys and games which will keep it entertained.

Health

Even though Beagles are a healthy breed with a relatively long lifespan, they too like all other breeds are prone to certain hereditary and other diseases and health disorders.

Although not every Beagle will ever get any of these health conditions, here are the health problems which are most common among this dog breed:

Intervertebral Disk Disease

The intervertebral disks act as shock absorbers to the spinal cord and namely its vertebral column. These disks have two layers – one internal one which is jelly-like and an outer fibrous layer. Intervertebral disk disease happens when the inner layer protrudes into the spinal canal and begins pushing the spinal cord. This compression can be mild and cause back or neck pain, but it also can be severe and cause a loss of bladder or bowel control, a loss of sensation and even paralysis.

The treatment for this unpleasant condition depends on its severity, its location and the length between the actual injury and the treatment.

It may be irreversible, and surgery is not always successful. In some mild cases, confinement of the dog can help alleviate the pressure.

Hip Dysplasia

This is a genetic condition which causes the dog’s thighbone to not be able to fit properly in the hip joint. It can affect one or both rear legs. Some dogs feel pain but others do not display any comfort. In some cases, it can cause lameness.

Hip Dysplasia is diagnosed with X-Ray screening. It usually gets worse as the dog ages and develops degenerative arthritis.

Responsible breeders do not breed dogs with this condition which is why it is essential to ask for health clearance issued by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for both hip and elbow dysplasia.

Hypothyroidism

This is a condition which causes the thyroid gland of the dog to produce lower amounts of hormones. It can cause a thinning of the hair, hair loss, obesity, lethargy, pyoderma, skin thickening, hyperpigmentation, and other problems. Hypothyroidism can easily be managed with hormone replacement therapy and with an appropriate diet.

Beagle dwarfism

This condition causes the dog to remain smaller than normal when it matures. It can be accompanied by other symptoms such as very short legs or others.

Chinese Beagle Syndrome

CBS is a genetic disorder which causes the dog to develop a wider skull and to have slanted eyes. It can also cause toe abnormalities and heart problems in Beagles.

Patellar Luxation

Otherwise known as Slipped Stifles, Patellar Luxation is pretty common, especially among smaller dogs. It is caused by a misalignment of the thigh bone, the calf, and the knee cap. This can cause an abnormal gait or lameness. The condition is present at birth but usually begins displaying itself at a later stage in life. The severity of the Patellar Luxation is graded in grades from I to IV. IN the more severe cases, the misalignment cannot be fixed manually and may require surgical intervention.

This condition is also hereditary, so your breeder should be able to show you clearance for the parents.

Cherry Eye

This is a condition in which the gland underneath the third eyelid of the dog becomes swollen and begins looking like a cherry in the corner of the eye. The gland may need to be removed to resolve this problem in Beagles and in other dogs.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a painful and serious condition which can affect one or both eyes of the Beagle. It is caused by high pressure in the eyeball. This liquid called aqueous humor if it doesn’t drain properly can cause damage to the optic nerve leading to pain, pressure, and blindness.

Primary glaucoma is hereditary, which is why dogs with this condition should never be bred, and why you should ask for health clearance for both parents.

Secondary glaucoma can happen after an injury or due to a tumor or an inflammation.

It usually affects one of the eyes first, and the first symptoms are squinting, and pain, as well as the eye,  becoming red and teary. The pupil does not react to light, and the front of the eye appears to be cloudy or whitish.

Glaucoma may be able to be managed through medication or through surgery in some cases.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

This is another degenerative eye disorder which can affect Beagles. It causes the loss of photoreceptors which are located in the back of the eye and can eventually cause blindness.

The good news is that dogs seem to be able to adapt very quickly to partial or complete blindness if you don’t change their settings and don’t move the furniture around.

Reputable breeders have their dogs tested for this and other eye diseases annually, and never breed dogs which test positive for any one of them.

Distichiasis

This is another condition which affects the eye of the dog. It occurs when a distichia which is an additional row of eyelashes grows on the oil gland of the eye and irritates it. If you notice your Beagle squinting or rubbing one or both of its eyes it is advisable you ask your vet for advice. This condition can be treated by freezing the additional eyelashes with liquid nitrogen and then removing them which is performed under general anesthesia.

Epilepsy

Epilepsy is quite common among many dog breeds including Beagles. In some cases, it is inherited, and in others it occurs without an apparent reason. This is a neurological condition which can cause seizures which can be mild or severe. Seizures in dogs look frightening but are actually easily manageable in most cases of canine epilepsy.

It is essential that your pup gets a timely and proper diagnosis to determine whether the seizures are caused by epilepsy or are due to a more serious condition.

Obesity

Beagles are overeaters and will track down and steal any type of food they find, even in your trash. You should carefully store all dog and human foods away from your dog, and keep a close eye on its portion size if you want to avoid your pup becoming overweight or obese.

Obesity can cause numerous serious health problems including diabetes, heart problems, metabolic problems and mobility problems which can significantly shorten your dog’s life.

History

The exact origin of the Beagle is not completely clear. All that is known is that it is an ancient breed.

Even the origin of the name of the breed is not quite certain. Some claim that it comes for the French word “begueule” which means “open throat” and is the word for the bawling sound the Beagles make when they are hunting. Others believe that it comes from the Gaelic word “Beag” which meant “little.” Other theories are that Beagle comes from the German word “begele” which means “scolding.”

Even though there are records that there were Beagle like dogs back in ancient Greece and Rome, the actual Beagle as we know it today wasn’t developed until the 19th century.

Others believe that the small pack hounds were first brought to England long before the Romans arrived back in 55 B.C.

It is believed that William the Conqueror brought the now extinct Talbot hounds to England in 1066 during the Norman Conquest. They are believed to be the ancestors of today’s Beagles and Foxhounds.

What is clear is that in the 1500s, all distinguished gentlemen in England had packs of large hounds for deer hunting, and small pack hounds for hares.

During the reign of King Edward II (1307-1327) and that of King Henry VII (1485-1509), dogs which looked like extremely small Beagles (also referred to as Glove Beagles) were incredibly popular. They were small enough to be held in the palm of the hand. There are also records about another type of dogs called the Singing Beagles from those times.

Images of dogs which resemble today’s Beagles have been found in painting and literature from the times of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

In fact Elizabeth I was particularly fond of this breed as was known to keep packs of these small dogs which measured a height of only up to 9 inches during her reign from 1533 to 1603.

During the centuries other breeds were added to mix of the Talbot Hounds imported by William the Conqueror.

In the 15th century, the Beagles were favorite hunting dogs not only in England but in Italy, France, and Greece as well.

They were popular because they were foot hounds which didn’t require horses, but could be used for hunting by foot.

In the 1700s, the Beagle fell out of favor as fox hunting grew in popularity in England among the aristocracy. The Foxhound became a more popular choice then. Thanks to the farmers in England, Wales, and Ireland who continued to hunt hare, the breed was continued.

In 1830, Reverend Phillip Honeywood developed his own pack of Beagles in the town of Essex in England, which are the dogs forming the foundation stock of today’s Beagle breed. Although there were two other packs of these dogs, the ones bred by Honeywood were considered to have the best hunting skills of all.

At the same time, Thomas Johnson began breeding and refining the Beagle breed by producing even more skilled hunters which were also more attractive dogs.

Back then there were two types of Beagles – smooth and rough-coated ones. The latter does not exist anymore today.

In 1887 there were 18 packs of Beagles which helped the breed survive, and in 1890 The Beagle Club was established in the United Kingdom. In the next year, the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles was established, and together they helped ensure that the breed is continued and prospers.

The Beagle was first imported to the USA after the Civil War, and they gained immediate popularity among rabbit hunters. The American Kennel Club registered the first Beagle in the country under the name Blunder in 1885. The American Kennel Club was actually founded in the same year as the first Beagle Specialty Club in the US in 1884, so the Beagle was among the first dog breeds to be registered by it.

When the Beagles first came to the US they were about 15-17 inches tall at the shoulder as they were meant for fox hunting at that time. In the USA, they were further bred to be smaller and more suitable for rabbit hunting.

There are “Beaglers” in North America who continue to fancy and swear on the incredible nose, voices, and enthusiasm for rabbit hunting these dogs have.

Patch Beagles which are mostly white with a large tri-colored spot were developed in the 1880s by Willet Randall in New York.

In 1916k the members of the National Beagle Club purchased 508 acres in Virginia’s Western Loudoun County to be used for holding field trials. The men who invested in this project formed a corporation named Institute Corporate and then leased it to the Institute Foundation which maintains the property. It is still used for field trials and for many activities organized by the National Beagle Club of America.

For years, the Beagle has been among the top preferred dog breeds in the USA and around the world. It is still used for hunting, but it has gained huge popularity as a family dog as well.

Through the years, there have been many famous Beagles in the world of cinema, in books, in cartoons and owned by celebrities, including Snoopy who along with the rest of the Peanuts gang appeared in comic strips by Charles M. Schultz.

Barry Manilow had a Beagle named bagel who was featured on the album cover of his triple-platinum album “Tryin’ To Get The Feeling. One of Bagel’s puppies went on to star in the Donnie and Marie Show.

Gromit from the popular duo Wallace and Gromit is also a Beagle and has a degree from Dogwarts University majoring in Engineering.

The Beagle Shiloh is the main character of the book and film called Shiloh from the 1990s.

Brains is another famous animated Beagle which starred alongside Inspector Gadget.

President Lyndon Johnson also owned a Beagle couple named Him and Her during his presidential mandate.

Odie, from Garfield, is yet another animated Beagle known for his long and flapping tongue.

The Beagle Boys which wore red shirts and first appeared as a gang of thieves trying to rob Scrooge McDuck are part of the famous Disney family as well.

Overall, we must agree that Beagles – famous or not are great companions, fun and loving pets and will keep you smiling and happy for long.

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