Many beagle owners have questions about whether or not it is safe to let their beagle off the leash. In this article, we will answer all your questions and provide you with tips on how to train your beagle and answer the question can beagles be let off the lead.
Beagles are not 100% safe off-leash. Even with training as scent hounds, bred as hunting dogs, their inherent, keen sense of smell, coupled with their inquisitive nature, is likely to see them ignore your commands and get them into risky situations. Always better to be safe and use a sturdy harness and leash unless you are confident you are in a safe enclosed area.
Hiking, cycling, or regular walks with the family, beagles love nothing more than being by your side and being part of your life. Let’s explore if it’s safe to let beagles off the leash while participating in your favorite activities.
An active beagle is a happy beagle.
Beagles have been around for hundreds of years, primarily bred to use as scent hounds to track small game.
A hunt would consist of the beagle following and not stopping until they found the source of the scent, a rabbit, hare, fox, or any small game bird. The scent trail could go for miles and miles.
They were not on leashes; they could go wherever their nose would take them — left, right, back, up the hill, down the stream, through the pond. You get the idea. They were encouraged to follow the scents of animals wherever that took them.
Can I let my beagle off the lead?
Modern-day beagles are more likely to be found in a loving home than part of a large hunting pack. However, beagles still have the same instinct to follow their noses, only now, given a chance, they will follow whatever scents they want.
You will probably be disappointed if you expect your beagle to trot merrily by your side while you participate in the 5k park run on a Saturday morning, you may end up chasing your beagle as he follows an enticing scent through the bushes, streams, and lesser know areas of your park!
So, yes, you can ket your beagle off-leash, though we highly recommend testing this in a safe enclosed area like a dog park so that if they do not come back, they can only go as far as the enclosed area.
Is it hard to train beagles?
Beagles have a reputation for being stubborn dogs with high energy levels, two ingredients that can make it hard to train a beagle, but not impossible.
Training a Beagle is nearly always done by using treats and a rewards-based process, he does what you want, and his prize is a treat. Beagles love food, so rewarding them with treats is the best way to get them to learn new things.
With that in mind, it’s always good to carry a pocket full of tasty treats to keep your beagle focussed on you (until he finds something more fun to do).
Without training, your beagle is likely to be overrun by his instincts, ignoring your recall and instruction, which could take him and you into difficult situations.
Read our article about are beagles hard to train.
Can you train a beagle not to run away?
While it is still instinctive for a beagle to follow his nose, it doesn’t mean they can’t be trained to be off the leash in some scenarios. We would always recommend doing some basic training with your beagle.
Training your beagle not only helps to establish some good habits but it also helps keep your dog stimulated.
Basic training might include teaching him to leave something alone, stay in position, walk to heel and follow on command. All these commands are handy for when you want to let your dog off the leash.
So with some basic training in place, it may be tempting to jump straight in and let him off the leash. However, it’s a good idea to start small and build up.
How do you train your beagle to be off-leash?
Before we try our dogs off the lead, we try them on a long line. A long line is a long leash, usually around 50ft, that we just let dangle on the floor. Then, ensuring we are in a safe area, we let the long line out until the dog has enough leash to roam more freely.
We then see how he responds to the environment. Does his recall training work? Is he distracted easily? Is he relentlessly searching for scents? Does he try to bolt for the hills? If he stays within the confines of the long line, without looking like he’s trying to break free and responds to your recall, then that’s the first step passed.
After a while, we decided to find a safe place where we were able to try our Beagle off the leash. Large enclosed, open areas are ideal. You would need to be a long way from any roads, rail tracks, or sheep (more on sheep later) if he decides he likes his newfound freedom. Keep your dog treats handy and reinforce his recall commands while walking around the area.
The beagle breed is scent hounds and will nearly always have their noses to the ground, following and sniffing out interesting scents.
When walking your beagle, this nose-down instinct can mean your beagle pulling on the leash, which can be uncomfortable for you and your beagle.
With some simple training, you can help reduce the amount your beagle pulls on the lease.
Make it fun for your beagle with lots of training treats to reward your pet.
How to train your beagle not to pull on the leash? Follow these simple steps.
Walk with one hand on the leash and the other holding a treat.
When your dog pulls, stop walking until they are calm again. Then start to move forward.
Reward them for not pulling by giving them a treat and letting them know you are happy. Dogs respond much better to positive reinforcement than shouting and being angry with them when they don’t do what you require of them.
Over time, your dog will start to understand that a slack leash means they get a treat while a tight leash means you stop your walk.
A beagle will always want to follow its instinct, but with the simple treat/reward training method, you can soon gain more control over your beagle when out walking.
Can a beagle have a good recall?
Try him off the leash for a short while each time, for a few minutes. When he returns on recall, make sure to lavish him with praise and give him a treat. When you place him back on his leash, treat him again. Make him realize that being back on the leash is also fun and rewarding, your beagle will soon understand the game!
Over time, as you both become more and more confident, you might progress to running or other activities off the leash.
How do I stop my beagle from hunting?
Your beagle may have a strong instinct to hunt or track animals, after all, it’s what beagles were bred to do, follow a scent!
You can’t suppress a beagle’s instincts, but you can take measures to ensure that its hunting instinct does not put your dog at risk.
What are some things that I can do to keep my beagle from hunting?
Your dog needs an outlet for its energy, and keeping your beagle in the house for long periods will only make them more likely to want to chase down rabbits or other animals when out walking.
There are various activities you may want to try with your pet, such as:
- Playing games of fetch or tug-of-war
- Giving them mental stimulation with dog puzzles or kongs
- Command training helps tire out a dog too
If you have spent much time training your beagle, then they will be aware that you are always carrying food, which will help suppress their desire to run off after animals.
Are beagles good for long walks?
Beagles are great for long walks! Beagles would have spent all day on a hunt, so a good long walk is nothing they can’t handle.
In our experience, though, it comes down to the individual dog. We had an old beagle that would walk all day, yet Baylee, our current dog, who is six years old, gets really tired after around 5 miles.
Beware of traffic and other risks.
Always keep your dog on a lead around busy roads and streets. Seeing something interesting across the road would be all it takes for our furry family member to dash across the street. A loose dog around roads is potentially deadly for our pooch and creates dangerous situations for other road users.
Even with regular training, beagles’ instincts remain. They will always be looking for smells or exciting things to explore. Yes, they might understand recall and other commands, but if something is exciting and worth exploring, and they want to go check it out, they are likely to do so.
Not all beagles are equal.
Some of our beagles have been great off the lead. Happily trotting along with us, never straying too far away (for a beagle), more interested in the treats in our pockets than animal scents. Even if they stray a bit too far, they give a glance over their shoulder to see that we are keeping up, never wanting to lose sight of the pack.
We have also had beagles that can never be off the leash. The mere hint of a sheep smell in the air would have them off in pursuit. Every smell sniffed as if their life depended on it; no amount of fishy treats could break the spell.
A quick word on sheep. All of the beagles we have had the pleasure of living with have gone wild for sheep. Even when on a lead, any site of sheep starts baying, pulling, and going crazy. If you live around sheep, I would undoubtedly say keep your beagle on a leash at all times.
To summarise, some beagles can be off the leash with training and in the right environment. Expecting your beagle to walk to heel and respond to every command when off the lead will likely leave you disappointed.
With regular training and plenty of common sense, you can enjoy walks and other activities without needing a leash, just never near roads or in the vicinity of sheep.