The Beagle is a small breed of scent hound; beagles possess a very keen sense of smell and excellent tracking abilities. In fact, beagles are often trained by airports as detection dogs to sniff out prohibited materials. Beagles are also popular as pets due to their intelligence, size, good temperament, and few inherited health problems.
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Small, beagle-type hounds may have been present in England as early as the 10th century. In fact, the Beagle was used generically to describe small hounds during medieval times. However, these dogs were not the same as the modern breed.
Queen Elizabeth the 1st had a pack of dogs known Pocket Beagles; these dogs stood 8 to 9 inches at the shoulder. The dogs were small enough to fit in a saddlebag and rode along with the Queen on royal hunts. Queen Elizabeth also called them her singing beagles and “entertained” her royal guests by allowing her dogs to “play” on the dinner table.
The modern Beagle breed is believed to have been established in 1830 by Reverend Phillip Honeywood of Essex, England. However, the lineage of Reverend Honeywood’s dogs was not recorded, but it’s thought they were a mix of Southern Hounds, North Country Beagles, and Harriers were a significant part of the Beagle’s bloodline. The Reverend’s Beagles stood about 10 inches tall at the shoulder and were pure white in color.
By the 1840s, a standard beagle breed began to develop, and by 1890 the Beagle Club drew up the first breed standards. In 1891 the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles formed, and along with the Beagle Club, both groups furthered the breed, as well as worked to produce a standard beagle type.
Beagle-type hounds were imported into the United States as early as the 1840s. However, it wasn’t until the 1870s that a quality, standard form of Beagle was bred by General Richard Rowett of Illinois. It’s believed that General Rowett’s dogs formed the basis for the first American breed standard, and the Beagle was accepted into the American Kennel Club in 1885. Since then, the breed has gained popularity worldwide, both as a working dog and as a family pet.
Beagles are even-tempered with a gentle disposition. They are generally friendly, and usually not an aggressive breed, but this can vary on the individual dog. Beagles are very good with children and often get along well with other dogs and even cats. However, small animals, such as hamsters, rabbits, and pet rats may trigger their hunting instinct, to the detriment of the small pet.
Beagles like people, although they may be wary of strangers at first. However, they are easy to win over, which can make them poor guard dogs. But they will bark and howl when strangers come near their home, alerting their owners of potential danger.
Beagles are intelligent; however, they were bred for a long chase, and their single-mindedness can make them hard to train. Likewise, they can be hard to call back if off-leash and are easily distracted by picking up and following scents. While they are eager to please and respond to food-reward training, they are easily distracted and become bored quickly.
In 1985 Ben and Lynette Hart studied several breeds for excitability. The Beagle received the highest excitability rating, along with Miniature Schnauzers and several small terrier breeds, such as Yorkies. Beagles are also prone to separation anxiety and may howl when left alone; if you can’t live with an excitable dog, the Beagle may not be right for you.
Beagles are not very demanding with their exercise needs, but they do have a lot of stamina, and they don’t tire quickly. However, they don’t need to exercise until they’re exhausted before they’ll calm down and rest.
Beagles should be taken for a brisk walk or a run at least once a day. This breed is prone to weight gain, and regular exercise will help keep them trim and healthy.
Grooming and Care
Beagles are classified as a “low shedders,” although there are times when shedding can be more substantial. Shedding can be more onerous for dogs living in areas with extreme seasonal changes, such as cold, snowy winters, and hot summers. Female Beagles may also shed heavily after going into heat or after giving birth.
Your Beagle will need a bath every 2-3 weeks, choose a pet shampoo with a neutral pH and natural ingredients like aloe and oatmeal and aloe, to keep your dog’s skin and fur healthy.
Regular brushing with quality, natural bristle brush will not only remove dead hair, but it will also stimulate healthy blood flow to the skin. You may also use a grooming mitt. Your Beagle will need a proper brushing once or twice a week.
Your dog will need its nails trimmed every 5-6 weeks. You may need to bring your dog to the vet or a groomer if they are very resistant to nail cutting. If your dog tolerates it, you can also trim your dog’s nails yourself with a special clipper. However, before you attempt to clip a dog’s nails, be sure you know what you’re doing; a dog’s nails have a quick, and if cut too short, it will be painful, and the nail will bleed. You could also try a grinding wheel specially designed for dogs.
Finally, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your dog’s ears; the Beagle’s long drooping ears are prone to infection. You’ll want to gently clean your dog’s ears with a Q-tip and pluck out any excess hair.
Who is This Dog For?
Beagles generally love kids and love to play. They are a happy and energetic breed who loves to play with both you, your kids, and any other dogs you may have. A Beagle will keep your kids active outside for hours at a time. However, a Beagle is not likely to listen when off-leash, so all play needs to happen in a fenced yard.
Beagles are friendly, happy dogs, and can be an excellent addition to the family. However, they can be difficult to not only obedience train but to house train. Beagles can be slow to understand that they need to go outside, and likewise, their powerful sense of smell makes completely removing accidents from the carpet difficult. But Beagles can be trained to do nearly anything, it just takes more patience than other breeds.
Overall, a Beagle is an excellent addition to a family with small children and has a fenced backyard. While Beagles can be good apartment pets, they are prone to separation anxiety and can howl loudly when left alone.
Known Health Issues
Beagles are generally healthy dogs, with a lifespan of 12-15 years. However, there are a few common health problems with this breed.
A beagle’s large floppy ears are cute but need to be cleaned regularly. Large floppy ears can trap dirt, and foster the growth of bacteria, leading to ear infections.
Two common Beagle eye conditions are corneal dystrophy and glaucoma. Retinal atrophy is also common.
“Cherry eye” is a prolapse of third eyelid’s gland. Likewise, distichiasis is when the eyelashes grow into the eye. Sometimes both of these conditions can exist together but can be corrected with surgery.
Two genetic problems can affect a Beagle’s spine:
Multiple epiphyseal dysplasias can cause damage to the hind legs, causing the dog pain and discomfort.
Intervertebral disc disease this can happen when the intervertebral discs become damaged, placing pressure on the vertebrae. This causes extreme pain and sometimes paralysis.
Beagle Pain Syndrome, or steroid-responsive meningitis. This is an auto-immune genetic disease affecting the dog’s nerves with inflammation.
Beagles are prone to epilepsy, which will need to be controlled with medication.
Last but not least, Beagles have insatiable appetites. They will not stop eating. If you own a Beagle, you must control its portions, and only feed your dog a high-quality diet. Feeding a Beagle several small meals per day may be a better plan than feeding one big meal once a day. Obesity can lead to diabetes, circulatory problems, heart disease, liver disease, and other ailments.
Apart from a few potential health issues, Beagles are a versatile, natural addition to your family. Let us know about your Beagle in the comment section below. Also, if you have any questions or comments, please let us know.