Friendly, cheerful, charismatic, and loyal, the Beagle makes a wonderful companion dog, as it was bred to hunt rabbit and deer in packs and likes to be surrounded by others. Due to their sweet nature and their attractive looks, the Beagle is one of the most popular canines and the most popular of all Hound Dogs in the United States; of the 193 breeds that are registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Beagle ranks 5th.
The origination of the Beagle has long been debated. Many historians believe that the ancestors of this breed hailed from Ancient Greece. Records show that during the 5th century BC, dogs of a similar size were used to hunt in packs. There is no formal name linked to these early pack hunting dogs. During the 8th century BC, documents show that St Hubert Hounds, a newer breed of scent hound, was created and also used for hunting. From the St Hubert Hound, the Talbot Hound was created.
During the 11th century, the Talbot Hound was brought to England by William the Conqueror and was used for hunting. While this breed were effective tracking dogs, they were slow and were unable to fulfill their purpose: hunting. In an effort to develop a faster scent hound, it’s believed that hunters bred the Talbot Hound with Greyhounds. This new breed was referred to as the Southern Hound, which is believed to be the closest ancestor of the modern Beagle.
The first canines that were known as Beagles were small hounds that were used for hunting. It’s estimated that they were only 9 inches tall and were small enough to fit in hunters’ pockets; hence, the were referred to as Pocket Beagles. By the middle part of the 1700s, the popularity of hunting increased, and larger dogs were a more popular choice to assist with tracking, and the Pocket Beagle became extinct. Two new hound dog breeds were created to assist hunters: the North Country Beagle and the Southern Hound, which were crossbred with the Stag Hound to create a larger hunting companion, and the Foxhound was created. Eventually, the standard Beagle was developed. There were four varieties of the standard Beagle, which included the dwarf, fox, medium, and rough-coated Beagles. These dogs had a powerful sense of smell and were used to assist hunters on foot.
Following the Civil War, Beagles were brought to the United States, where they were used to hunt rabbits. In 1885, the first Beagle was registered with the AKC. These scent hounds were not only used for hunting, but they also became popular pets. In the 21st century, the popularity of this breed continues. While they are predominately companion animals, many hunters still rely on the powerful noises and loud howls of these dogs to assist with finding small game.
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Characteristics of the Beagles
Next we’ll go over the appearance and temperament of beagles.
The AKC recognizes two varieties of the Beagle: those that stand below 13 inches tall and those that stand between 13 and 15 inches tall. The under 13 inches variety weighs less than 20 pounds, while the taller variety weighs between 20 and 30 pounds. Both varieties have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years, which is relatively long for a canine.
Despite a difference in height, both varieties of this breed have a muscular build and have a distinct look. Their faces are largely considered “cute”, as they have famous “puppy dog” eyes, which are brown or hazel in color and have a friendly, yet longing expression. Long, floppy ears frame the face, and the head is broad. Their coats are short and dense, making them resistant to water and cold. Colors vary and can include lemon, white and red, black and tan, or tricolor. Tricolored Beagles can feature a combination of three colors, which can include black, tan, and white, or brown, tan, and white. Their tails are straight and usually, the tip is white in color. This white tipped tail is a characteristic that was developed by hunters so that they could easily spot their canines while hunting in tall grass and densely wooded areas.
The Beagle is a playful, friendly, clever, and inquisitive dog. They are affectionate and love being around people, as well as other animals; hence the reason why they make such great companions. They also tend be highly exuberant, especially when they are young, and enjoy playing with plush dog toys or engaging in search and find activities, thanks to their strong sense of smell and keen intellect. Due to these qualities, Beagles can easily master puzzle toys for dogs. It is also because of their cleverness and powerful noses that they are still used as hunting dogs and assist with search and rescue missions, as well as detective work; they are even used to help pest control operators locate various types of pests, such as bed bugs and vermin. Their calm, amiable disposition, the Beagle is also well-suited as a service dog and a companion for the sick and elderly.
While Beagles are playful when they are younger, as they age, they tend to prefer relaxing more than playing. Older Beagles are usually quite happy to spend their time curled up in a dog bed or in the laps of their human companions; however, senior Beagles do enjoy scouting for rubber dog toys and will still engage with interactive dog toys.
Though Beagles posses a lot of desirable traits, there are some traits that this breed exhibits that many might consider undesirable. Due to their strong sense of smell and inquisitive nature, they are prone to wandering or pulling while they walk. Therefore, these dogs should not be left unattended while outside. A securely fenced-in yard is highly recommended; however, if they capture a strong scent, they have been known to dig out of a fence or drag their owners behind them as they walk. To avoid problems, closely monitor your pet when unleashed outside, and consider investing in a leash for dogs that pull. This breed also has a tendency to be stubborn. As such, housebreaking and obedience training can be a challenge. They are also quite noisy and will showcase their distinct howl, especially when lonely or when they desire something. Beagles can also be destructive, particularly when they are bored or do not receive enough exercise.
Despite their less pleasing traits, the Beagle’s positive characteristics win out, which is why this breed is the most popular Hound Dog and one of the most popular dog breeds, overall.
Caring for a Beagle
In order to ensure that a Beagle lives a happy, healthy life, it is important to have a clear understanding of his care needs, and to make sure that those needs are being met.
Beagles have a penchant for food. This highly active sporting breed has ravenous appetite; coupled with their discriminating noses, they can – and do – sniff out food to satisfy their desire to eat. As a result, Beagles are prone to obesity. To avoid the health concerns that can be associated with excessive weight, it’s important to monitor a Beagle’s caloric intake by offering a highly nutritious dog food that is comprised of healthful ingredients.
According to animal nutritionists and veterinarians, Beagles should consume between 670 and 920 calories a day; older and less active dogs should consume the lower amount, while younger, more active dogs should consume the higher amount. Because of their ferocious appetite, Beagles are not picky eaters and generally, they will accept both dry dog food and wet dog food without concern. Whichever option type is selected, offering a dog food for weight loss can help to control weight gain. Highly active Beagles, especially those that are engaged in tracking activities, do require more protein than their less active counterparts. Speak to your vet to find out if offering a high protein dog food is a good choice for your pet.
There are several dog food brands that serve as a high quality dog food for Beagles. Opt for recipes that are free of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, as well as animal byproducts. A highly nutritious recipe will feature quality sources of protein as the first ingredients, as well as a blend of real fruits and vegetables, and easily digestible carbohydrates, as opposed to gluten-based carbs, such as corn, wheat, or soy.
Establish an eating routine with your Beagle and stick to it. Meal times should be consistent and his bowl should not be left out, as “free-range” eating can contribute to obesity.
Though Beagles have a short coat, their dense fur sheds year-round, and can become particularly heavy during the spring and fall. To facilitate the shedding process, brush your Beagle on a regular basis with a soft-bristled dog brush. Brushing also helps to loosen built-up dirt and debris and releases natural oils that nourish the skin.
This breed should also be bathed on a monthly basis. Their dense coats can easily hide dirt and debris, which accumulate overtime, and eventually, will emit a strong odor. Additionally, built-up dirt and debris can aggravate the skin. When bathing your pet, choose a high quality dog shampoo that is free of perfumes and dyes, has a neutral pH, and contains natural ingredients, like aloe and oatmeal, which nourish the skin and coat. Do note that generally, Beagles are not found of water, so patience and care are needed when bathing. Shallow, lukewarm water in a secure environment is ideal for bath time.
The Beagle’s droopy ears require special attention, as they are prone to infection. To remove accumulated oils, dirt, and debris, the ears should be cleaned on a regular basis. Use a soft, clean cloth to wipe out the inside of the ears on a daily basis. Once a week, use a gentle dog ear cleaner to thoroughly cleanse the ears.
A Beagle’s feet need to be attended to, as well. Every 5 to 6 weeks, trim the nails to prevent overgrowth. If the nails become too long, they can become painful and cause a number of other problems. The pads also need to be cared for, as they can easily crack. To prevent damage, apply a dog paw wax, which will protect and moisturize the pads.
To prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar and keep your pet’s breath smelling fresh, consider brushing his teeth on a weekly basis. If your pet is resistant to brushing, dog breath freshener and dental chews can be an effective way to remove plaque and tartar buildup, prevent foul breath, and strengthen your pet’s teeth.
Exercise and Activity
Since Beagles were bred for hunting, they have a lot of energy; particularly during the puppy, adolescent, and young adult years. As such, they need to be properly exercised. Daily walks are a must for this breed. Regular walks will also help your pet maintain a healthy weight, as Beagles are prone to obesity, and lack of exercise can increase the risk of weight gain. A Beagle does need to be trained to walk properly, however, as they have a tendency to pull when they pick up a scent.
Beagles are very astute and playful. As such, they should be presented with interactive dog toys that provide mental stimulation. Regular play and access to toys prevents boredom, which can lead to destructive behavior.
Though the Beagle is very intelligent, they are tenacious, which can make training difficult. Offering positive reinforcement in the form of praise can go a long way, as can offering rewards, such as dog treats and extra play time. When offering your pet treats for training, do be mindful. Select a low calorie option, as large quantities of high calorie treats can contribute to weight gain. The earlier you start working on training, the more successful your efforts will be. Begin by teaching your pet the basic commands, such as “sit”, “stay”, and “heel”. Once your pet has mastered these basic commands, you can begin teaching him more complex commands and tricks.
Housebreaking is notoriously difficult for Beagles; however, with patience, diligence, and a proper routine, training a Beagle of any age – even older rescue dogs – is possible. Crate training is highly recommended for all breed, especially the Beagle. Select a properly sized dog crate; it should afford your pet enough room to stand and turn around, but he should not have additional space. Confine your pet to the crate when you are unable to keep a close eye on him and notice the signs that he needs to eliminate; however, do not keep your Beagle contained in his crate for prolonged periods of time, as doing so can lead to separation and anxiety.
As soon as your dog exits his crate, take him to a designated spot to relieve himself. Establishing a routine with eating will also help with housebreaking. Do not let your pet “free-range” eat; instead, set his bowl down at the same time every day and pick it up within 15 minutes. Take him to his designated bathroom spot within 10 to 15 minutes after eating and drinking. As with all forms of training, positive reinforcement goes a long way when you’re housebreaking a Beagle. Do not allow your pet to roam freely around the house until he is fully housetrained, otherwise your efforts will likely be for naught.
Beagles are genetically predisposed to several different health conditions. Regular veterinary care, proper diet, and regular exercise can help to prevent the onset of these conditions, as well as alleviate their side-effects.
Some of the most common health issues that Beagles can suffer from include:
- Beagle Pain Syndrome. Formally known as Steroid Responsive Meningitis, this condition only affects certain breeds, including the Beagle. The condition is a blend of polyarteritis and meningitis, and can cause a variety of symptoms, including fever, cervical pain, shaking, and general pain.
- Ear infections. Because of their long, floppy ears, infections are not uncommon in Beagles. Caring for them properly will help to prevent problems.
- This condition occurs as a result of a deficiency in the production of thyroid
hormones. The symptoms vary, but it often increases the risk of weight gain, intolerance of cold, joint pain, and lethargy.
- Characterized by recurrent seizures, epilepsy is a chronic condition that requires medical intervention to manage.
- Heart disease. Beagles can suffer from various types of heart disease, but pulmonic stenosis, a narrowing of the arteries, tends to be the most common. Difficulty breathing, lethargy, and fainting can be signs of this condition
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