There would be very few people who aren’t familiar with Snoopy, the newspaper writing Beagle owned by Charlie Brown. Beagles are also well known as drug detection dogs, or customs dogs at international airports. They have an excellent sense of smell, and they can be trained to detect even the smallest amounts of contraband.
These amiable little dogs are quite an old European breed, with records as far back as 2000 years ago describing Beagle-like dogs.
Our modern Beagle was developed in the 1830’s by Reverend Honeywell. He combined the best features of several existing hound breeds, including the Talbot Hound and the North Country Beagle, to create a small white dog that was an excellent hunter.
The Beagle was taken to the United States in the 1840’s but the original dogs were a bit of a mixed bag when it came to appearances. Their owners weren’t too concerned with how they looked, as long as they could hunt. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1884, and the breed standard was developed in 1890 to specifically describe the dog we know today. Interestingly, the Beagle has often been more popular in North America than in their homeland of Great Britain.
A small compact breed with soft pleading eyes and floppy ears, the Beagle has a very endearing appearance. The most common coat color is the tricolor – white with patches of black and tan. However, Beagles are also available in a two tone variety. These dogs are predominantly white, with patches of black, brown, red or lemon. Their coat is short and hard.
The legs of the Beagle are short in proportion to their body. This is thought to make it easier for them to track scents along the ground. They grow to 16 inches in height at the shoulder and ideally, they should weigh up to 35lbs. This may vary, because their doe like eyes and love of food can make it hard for their owner to resist giving them just a few extra treats!
The Beagle is very even tempered and gentle, and they are often described as “amiable”. Because they don’t have an aggressive bone in their body, they are wonderful companions for children. In fact, they are known as the “eternal puppy”, because they never grow up and are always interested in a game.
They have been bred to be part of a hunting pack, so they can find it hard to be on their own. They may howl and develop separation anxiety when you’re not home. If you aren’t able to be with them as much as they’d like, you may want to consider having a second dog for company. Two dogs aren’t necessarily twice as much work as one dog, but the extra mouth to feed and the additional veterinary expenses have to fit in with your family budget.
These little dogs are very smart, but they aren’t held in high regard in obedience circles. They are determined, and when they have picked up a scent they are very difficult to call back. The scents on the ground distract them from what they are supposed to be doing, and many Beagle trainers despair of keeping their dog’s attention long enough to complete a training session.
Beagles will let you know when you have people approaching your home; their baying noise is very distinctive. However, because of their friendly, easy-going nature, they are not a good guard dog.
Beagles are generally a healthy dog and they have very few genetic health problems. They may develop glaucoma, which is an painful increase in pressure in the eye. They may also be prone to epilepsy, cherry eye and heart disease. However, these aren’t significant problems in the breed, and the breed in general is very sound.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Beagle’s floppy ears may not get much air circulation, which can predispose them to painful ear infections.
Make sure you keep an eye on your Beagle’s weight. These dogs love their food, and will eat anything that’s available to them. This means that they tend to put on weight easily. Obesity in dogs can lead to heart disease, diabetes and arthritis, so watch your dog’s waistline and adjust his dinner menu accordingly.
Beagles are known to “reverse sneeze”. They will snort repeatedly and loudly, without stopping, for several minutes. This causes no harm to your Beagle, but it is a bit scary the first time you see it happen.
The Beagle is a very low maintenance breed and, if you can meet their need for socialization and companionship, they are the perfect dog for the busy family. If you’re at work for long hours, or you are often away for long periods of time, the Beagle may not be the right breed for you. Your dog will not be happy, and they may become destructive. Their howling may also disturb your neighbors.
Beagle owners suggest that you make sure your fence is jump-proof and dig-proof, as Beagles can be escape artists. They’ll do just about anything to be able to follow an interesting scent!
These dogs don’t shed a lot of hair, and their short coat is easy to maintain. An occasional bath and a regular brushing to remove any loose or dead hair will keep your Beagle looking good. They don’t need a lot of exercise; a good walk once a day is enough to keep them happy. This can also help prevent weight gain.
You may need to clean your Beagle’s ears on a regular basis, to remove excess wax and to prevent bacteria and fungi causing infections in their ear canals. This isn’t difficult, you just need a reputable ear cleanser and some cotton balls. Never use a Q Tip or similar in a dog’s ear as it can damage their inner ear and ear drum.
The Beagle is a friendly, companionable dog that is an ideal pet for families. They are low maintenance, they’re a nice size for children to manage, and they are not aggressive. The only thing that may frustrate a potential owner is that they get distracted easily when you are trying to teach them something.
If the Beagle fits your lifestyle, then you can expect to enjoy the company of your four legged family member for up to 13 years.