You may be wondering what it’s like to own a Beagle? Having a Beagle can be an enjoyable and life-changing experience. Beagles are loyal, loving dogs with an even temperament. Compact size with short hair, many view the Beagle as low maintenance. Add in that Beagles are generally good with children and other dogs, and on first thought this all adds up to a great mix of qualities for the perfect family dog. However, under the cute, compact exterior lies a dog with specific behaviours and needs that need special consideration.
For hundreds of years, Beagles, bred for hunting and used in large packs, using their powerful noses to track small game. They would spend their time hunting and at rest with other Beagles and Hounds. Nowadays, most Beagles are family pets. However, they still have those hunter instincts, a nose to sniff out trouble and boundless energy. They prefer to live in a ‘pack’, whether with dogs or people or a mix of both, never giving up the opportunity to follow their noses whenever they get the chance.
To ensure that you and your Beagle enjoy a happy and fulfilled life, you need to know as much about this merry hound as possible.
So, what’s it like to own a Beagle? Here are our top 11 considerations before you embark on this remarkable journey with your new Beagle buddy.
- Beagles need daily physical and mental exercise
- Beagles hate being home alone
- Beagles are great escapists
- All Beagles love food
- Beagles love to roll in anything smelly
- Most Beagles eat really quickly
- Bored Beagles can be noisy hounds
- Beagles can be unreliable off the lead
- Bored Beagles can be destructive!
- Beagles can be a challenge to train
- Beagles love the beach
1. Beagles need daily physical and mental exercise
To avoid becoming bored and frustrated a Beagle must have plenty of opportunities to stretch his legs and stimulate his senses. Without daily exercise and stimulation, you will find your Beagle quickly becomes bored and frustrated. A frustrated Beagle is much more likely to howl, bark, be destructive and look to escape as he searches for things to do to stimulate himself.
Your Beagle will love learning new tricks, especially (usually only) if treats are involved. Keep his mind stimulated with regular training sessions; it may surprise you how tired your Beagle becomes after 15-30 minutes of simple training!
Walk your hound twice-daily, a minimum of 30-60 minutes each time will ensure your Beagle has the opportunity to burn off at least some of that energy and curiosity.
Beagles are not always the easiest to train to be off-leash. Even with recall training, a Beagle can be unreliable with recall, so be sure you only let your dog off the lead when it safe to do so. Even though Bonnie (our youngest Beagle) has good recall, we would never allow her off-leash around sheep as she goes crazy for those pesky clouds with legs.
2. Beagles hate being home alone
Beagles are pack animals. Bred for hundreds of years to live, work and rest as part of a large pack. People with multiple Beagles will tell you; Beagles love nothing more than to curl up with their furry friends after a long walk.
Our two Beagles will often find the smallest, comfiest place to curl up together after a long walk or for their mid-morning nap. Our Beagles are most content when they are close to each other as they snooze away. If one is not in the mood for a cuddle, the other will come to sit with my wife or me, always wanting to be close to someone. It makes them feel safe and secure, being close to their other pack members.
Even with regular exercise, a Beagle still needs that social interaction that a pack gives them, human or dog; it doesn’t matter to them. Spending hours on end is going to make your dog unhappy, so think very carefully about rehoming a Beagle if you spend all day at work.
We wrote an article on how much exercise a Beagle needs, you can read it here.
3. Beagles are great escapists.
Beagles are wilful hounds with a keen sense of smell. Their willfulness, along with the strong desire to follow whatever scent they have picked up often gets them into trouble. You must ensure your yard or garden is Beagle’ proof’. A garden that was not secure would mean the Beagle able to go on a merry adventure. While that might sound harmless fun, it could be dangerous to the Beagle as they follow their nose over the road, rail, and wherever else they fancy. You might not see your Beagle again for some time.
Part of my volunteer work for Beagle Welfare would require home checks for people who were looking to adopt a Beagle from the charity. As part of the home check, I would asses the garden or yard. The space needed to be entirely secure, with tall solid fences, with no chance of a Beagle getting under or over and no shared access being the absolute bare minimum.
Failing to meet these standards would see the application fail until the issues resolved. A Beagles safety should be the top of your priority too.
4. All Beagles love food.
Beagle’s first love is food, their second is food, and their third is food. Given a chance, they will eat all day. They are greedy, opportunist hounds. If food is within their reach, be assured they will try and eat it, even if it is your hand, on a table, in a picnic hamper, a bag or anywhere else they can get! They will eat anything, including foodstuff they should stay well clear of, chocolate and grapes, to name just a couple. Be on your guard whenever food is around.
Once, we had friends over from Holland to stay with us. They had bought us a gift, some of the finest Dutch dark chocolate. Not knowing how food motivated our Beagles were (our fault for not explaining) they left the chocolate in their room, unguarded. Bracken, my eldest Beagle at the time, sniffed out the two 750g bars and ate both, wrappers too. I quickly realised what had happened and rushed her to the vets as I knew chocolate, especially quality dark chocolate, could be fatal for a dog. The vet gave her something to make her sick up everything in her stomach. She recovered just fine if a little shaken from the ordeal. As this happened out of vet working hours, it was a costly exercise for us. Moral of the story, don’t leave ANYTHING lying around when a Beagle is around!
With their insatiable appetite, it’s essential to give your Beagle a measured diet, ideally a whole, raw food diet. Limit the extra treats they get too. It’s effortless for a Beagle to become overweight, which can lead to all kinds of issues, so be kind to them and keep their weight under control.
Read our article about why Beagles eat so much here.
5. Beagles love to roll in anything smelly.
Beagles love to sniff out smelly things. It’s what they do. What’s bizarre is that they have this odd thing where they roll around in the smelly stuff they find. I have seen my Beagles roll in mud, poop, on a dead rat, dead rabbit and cow dung! Try chasing a Beagle covered in the runniest, disgusting cow dung, and I mean totally covered, around a field trying to get her back on the leash. I then had to get her in the car and home to clean her up. Great fun.
To Beagles, this is great fun. They find a scent, follow it until they find the source and then decide to ‘wrap’ themselves in the smell. This behaviour is quite normal and instinctive. Don’t punish your hound for this. Try to catch them before they do it. Once you know the telltale signs, it’s better to stop them before they get the chance. You will see them giving a spot special attention. As they initiate the roll, their head will dip. The shoulder starts to lower; this is the moment you need to sprint towards them shouting wildly, hoping your leave it commands training has worked! If not, welcome to a smelly Beagle.
This instinct is likely from your dog’s wild ancestors – the wolves – who would hide their scent, helping them sneak up on their prey. Another theory suggests that Beagles like to roll in smelly stuff as a way to take the scent back to the rest of the pack and to allow others to trackback to it.
6. Most Beagles eat really quickly.
I’ll never forget when we fed our first Beagle, Bracken. We placed her carefully measured food in her bowl and set it down on the floor. No sooner had her bowl hit the kitchen floor she was devouring her meal. In a blink of an eye, it was gone. My wife and I wondered what had just happened, had we given her enough food? It turns out Beagles generally eat quickly.
Eating their food fast is probably an intuitive thing. Beagles, bred to track and hunt, would have to compete with the rest of the pack for food, so eating quickly before someone else got in was vital to a Beagle.
It’s possible to slow down the speed at which they eat; slow feed bowls, feeding by hand or feeding whole raw meat will also slow down your hound at mealtimes.
7. Bored Beagles can be noisy hounds.
While out hunting a Beagle would continuously communicate with the rest of the pack by its distinctive bark, bay and howl, useful when tracking their prey. As most Beagles are now family pets, this constant ‘baying’ or barking is not as welcome. A Beagle that barks constantly is not much for anyone, especially your neighbours.
So why do they bark when at home? After all, they are no longer hunting? They are communicating with you or to anyone that might be listening. If your Beagle is bored, left home alone for long hours, or under-stimulated they may ‘reward’ you with constant barking. Sometimes they just bark to let you know of a bird they have seen or to alert you someone is at the front door. To a Beagle, it’s quite natural to communicate this way, so don’t punish them. Understand the reasons, is it stress, boredom or are they trying to manipulate you to do something (like feed them). Once you know the cause of the excessive barking, you can act accordingly.
8. Beagles can be unreliable off the lead.
A Beagles instinctive behaviour is to seek out scents and follow them. Even a Beagle that has had off the leash training and a good recall will still occasionally succumb to a tempting smell or to chase sheep or rabbits.
While I have had Beagles that can be let off the leash in parks and open spaces, I have had some that are just so ‘fizzy’ that being off the leash is not an option. I have never had a Beagle that is safe to be off-leash anywhere near road traffic; they have no road sense whatsoever.
We learnt the hard way that a Beagle can not always be trusted off the lead. My wife and I were out hiking. It was winter, and there was a light scattering of snow on the local peak we were hiking. Bracken was off the lead as I presumed that all the sheep that usually graze the area in the summer were lower down in the valley. I presumed wrongly. She picked up the scent of the sheep, which we couldn’t even see and set off in pursuit. I was frantic. I knew the landowner had every right to protect his herd and would shoot Bracken if he saw her bothering the sheep. I ran after her, literally falling down the hillside, shouting her name in vain. I was almost near the bottom of the hill and no sign of Bracken. Then, out of nowhere, she casually trotted around a corner, wagged her tail and sat down in front of me!
We look back and laugh at how funny this must have looked, but it was a valuable lesson we learned. If in doubt, keep your Beagle by your side on a lead, and only let them run free if you are sure it’s safe to do so.
We wrote an article about if Beagles are good off the leash, you can read it here.
9. Bored Beagles can be destructive!
Beagles are active and social dogs. If your dog is alone all day, and without the chance to exercise, with little mental stimulation, your Beagle will become bored and frustrated.
A bored and frustrated Beagle could start to become destructive. Taking his boredom out on whatever he can chew and using his space to poop or wee. When this starts to happen, some people think that the best way to resolve destructive behaviour is to crate their dog. This just makes it worse. Can you imagine being alone all day, frustrated and locked in a crate with barely enough room to turn around? Crates can be useful for Beagles, but not to be used as punishment or from keeping your dog from being destructive.
Only have a Beagle if you can provide the time and commitment to delivering a Beagle with a healthy, stimulating life. Best to be honest with yourself before bringing a Beagle home, rather than having to find a new home for your dog later down the line.
10. Beagles can be a challenge to train.
I hear it often said that Beagles are challenging to train. While it is true Beagles can be stubborn and wilful little hounds, they can also respond well to training.
You can use a Beagles love of food as a great way to ‘persuade’ your dog to do certain things your way. A bag full of tasty (healthy) treats will undoubtedly grab your Beagles attention. We use dried fish skins, which can be purchased from most pet stores, as a training aid. We always carry treats when out for a walk too, ready to reward our Beagles when they recall, stay or any other command we have taught them.
While a Beagle can be taught specific commands, they will never give you their full attention, all the time, as some other breeds might. A new scent or the site of a rabbit is often enough to persuade them to forget all of their hard-earned training. Training should be ongoing, always reminding your dog that you have tasty treats ready in exchange for their good behaviour. With a bag full of healthy treats, you can teach your Beagle to be a well-respected member of society, at least some of the time!
11. Beagles love the beach!
Finally, something we have learnt in over 11 years of Beagle companionship is that all of our Beagles loved days at the beach! Open expanses of sand, with a sea barrier, provide an excellent environment to let your Beagle run free. They love to run around, sniffing all the strange things they encounter on a beach, flirting with the water’s edge and burning off so much of that Beagle energy. After a day on the beach, your dog will sleep well and contented!
Just remember to consider other users. We find the best time for the beach is in the winter when very few tourists are around. Most dog owners have the same idea. You will often see other owners letting their dogs run free, which is an excellent opportunity for the socialisation of your Beagle. In summer, the beach will need to be quiet; else your hound may take a liking to a families picnic or a child’s ball. If in doubt, put your Beagle on the leash, safer for everyone.
Beagles are great dogs; they are loving, loyal, fun and have an excellent temperament. They are not a dog to sit at home by themselves for hours on end; they need your commitment, time and attention. Give them this, and be rewarded with great companionship and a life full of fun memories.