History of the Beagle
The beagle is one of the older breeds of dogs in the UK, with accounts of a small hunting hound of similar appearance and behavioural traits dating to the time of King Canute. During the reigns of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I there were also wirehaired beagles, some of which were small enough to be carried in the pocket of a hunting jacket. A smooth coated, medium sized breed, beagles were originally used for hunting hare with followers on foot and today they are arguably the most popular of the hounds, both in the show ring and as family companions. As scent hounds, beagles still retain their natural hunting instinct: there is no better sight than a working pack of beagles, noses down, tails up and in full cry as they concentrate on the chase. Even pet beagles still retain these powerful hunting instincts and once they pick up a scent their loyalties lie with their noses rather than their owners. It is often said that the man with the lead in his hand and no dog in sight owns a beagle
What is a beagle?
Beagles are medium sized hounds, standing between 13 and 16 inches high at the shoulder, and are normally sociable, mischievous, healthy and delightful members of an active family. They enjoy company and dislike being left on their own. A household where the family is out from morning to evening is totally unsuitable for a beagle. He may be on the small side but a bored beagle can do a prodigious amount of damage in a short space of time to furniture, doors, curtains and personal possessions.
Beagles can dig, jump and squeeze through small spaces so they need a home with a garden that is fenced off properly. They need to be exercised for at least an hour each day and part of that time should, if possible, be free running in a safe area away from traffic or livestock. Remember: beagles were bred to hunt. This behaviour is instinctive and will show up on walks.
The beagle is full of fun, enthusiastic and always ready for any sort of activity. They are easy to feed, have an appetite for all sorts of disgusting things and will welcome the opportunity to raid rubbish bins!
If you are sure that a beagle will suit your life style and you have the right environment to ensure a happy and contented life for a hound, then you have a choice of either buying a puppy from a breeder or adopting an older hound through Beagle Welfare, the breed rescue charity.
Whilst being an ideal sized family pet, beagles are extremely agile. A hound determined to escape will scale a five foot high fence or dig underneath. Are you prepared to alter your fencing to prevent this? Beagles can jump on work surfaces whilst searching for food. They open cupboards and fridges and get into waste bins. Are you prepared to purchase locks for your cupboards and fridge? Can you tolerate leaving food unattended on a table and finding it gone the moment your back is turned? Beagles have no conscience where food is concerned and have been known to snatch food from children’s hands. Beagles can be possessive about food and reluctant to give up their stolen goodies. Their possessiveness can be extended to unlikely objects such as a sock, a pair of pants or a child’s toy.
Beagles do not like to be left alone for long periods of time. If left, they may howl or become destructive and a lot of serious damage can be done to your home in an astonishingly short space of time. If you do go out to work then it may be better to consider taking on two dogs, but don’t lose sight of the fact that it could mean double trouble.
Beagles can take as much exercise as you are prepared to give them and it is likely you will have had enough long before they do! Be prepared for some pulling on the lead, for although they are short they are extremely sturdy and will need some training to get them to walk nicely on the lead. Like most hounds, noses come first, and this is definitely the case when taking a beagle for a walk. When off the lead they have a tendency to put their noses to the ground and follow any scent. Rabbit, hare, fox and even deer – it really doesn’t matter to the determined beagle! Hearing becomes selective and he will certainly be deaf to your pleas to come back. This can be a major problem when you are on a time limit and your beagle is just a speck on the horizon.
As a side note it is important to mention that some beagles, if not most, love to eat or roll in all manner of disgusting organic matter. Please bear in mind the bathing that this could involve.
Buying a Beagle Puppy
ALWAYS buy a puppy from a reputable breeder where you will see the puppies with their mother and sometimes even the father.
NEVER obtain a puppy from a pet shop, puppy dealer, a puppy superstore or from the internet without viewing the puppy first.
Before You Take Your Beagle Home
Ensure that your garden is completely escape proof and be aware that a beagle can get caught in wrought iron gates and some types of paling fence. Take extra care if you have a puppy and a garden pond. Make sure that there are no electric cables or trailing leads: they may be chewed, with potentially fatal results.
Discuss as a family the rules and boundaries you will set. Agree such things as whether he will be allowed on the sofa, what you will do when he jumps up at visitors, which rooms he will be allowed in, where he will sleep and what you will do if he steals something.
Make sure you have a strong collar and lead. As of April 2016, it will be the law that your beagle must be microchipped and have an identification disk on its collar stating your surname, address and telephone number. A small soft collar and lightweight nylon lead are suitable for a puppy.
Taking Your Beagle Home
Your beagle will need its own water and feeding bowls – metal ones are safest for a puppy as they enjoy chewing the plastic variety! The breeder should supply you with some of the food your puppy is used to eating– but if not, make sure you have a supply of the correct food for him. A sudden change in diet for a young puppy will probably lead to a very upset stomach and your puppy will have enough to cope with already with getting used to his new home.
Allocate an area and bed that are the beagle’s own and are in a quieter location of the house. As far as the bed itself is concerned, the hard moulded plastic variety is easy to keep clean but for puppies it’s better to start off with a cardboard box with one side cut out as an entrance, but please avoid boxes with metal staples. You can buy a special type of warm, non-allergenic bedding called Vetbed from pet shops. It’s tough, hard-wearing and machine washable.
You might also consider buying a collapsible metal crate as the beagle’s own ‘house’. Beagles love these crates and they have a wide variety of uses. They provide a secure place to keep your hounds if doors are left open, as well as a safe haven in the car or when potentially dangerous activities are going on in the home. Be prepared for your beagle to be unsettled during its first few weeks with you. Warn your neighbours he may bark or howl when you initially leave him alone. And keep an eye on him when he is in the garden – even though you may think your garden is completely secure your beagle may still find a way out!
A Healthy and Happy beagle
As soon as you obtain your beagle puppy, contact your local veterinary surgeon to ?nd out about the vaccination programme. Until your puppy has received its ?rst full course it must not be taken out where other dogs may have been. You can still take your puppy out to get used to new sights and sounds. Wrap him or her in a blanket or towel (in case of leaks!) and carry your precious bundle safely in your arms, or go for a short journey in the car.
Beagles’ coats are easily kept clean with a quick brush through every day and a ?ne comb will help get rid of any unwanted hair during moulting. Check your beagle’s ears to make sure they are clean and free of injury: a hound’s lovely long ears can easily get damaged by brambles or barbed wire.
Some hounds grow rather long nails. Ask your vet to trim them or to show you how to do it yourself. Check your beagle’s teeth regularly. If you start soon enough, most hounds will tolerate having their teeth brushed or cleaned but take care with teeth-cleaning chews as they are high in calories.
Beagles are not normally dif?cult dogs to feed. A full-grown beagle at approximately one year will need two meals a day. Remember that clean water must always be available.
Health and Veterinary Care
The beagle is a breed that is generally healthy, and as long as they are exercised and kept to the right weight, they will stay fit. Beagles descend from a hardy working stock and today are still mainly free from most speci?c diseases. Many beagles will only visit their vet for their annual check and vaccinations, and only occasionally need other medical attention.
Two of the biggest problems with beagles are weight control and behaviour. Weight becomes an issue if the owner gives in to their greed. Behavioural problems can also be linked to this as beagles were bred originally for hunting and to think for themselves. Not everyone appreciates that to live amicably with a beagle needs an understanding of this as well as the ability to out-think your beagle! Unfortunately beagles will often steal food and also demand it. It is common for owners to think their hounds are hungry when they demand food – but they are just greedy! They learn that barking and being difficult leads to food treats to ‘shut them up’ and thus their difficult behaviour is rewarded. The breed health website discusses some of the beagle specific conditions such as steroid responsive meningitis, epilepsy and general health concerns. Visit www.beaglehealth.info for more information on these and to get lots more useful tips and advice.
Most beagles live to about 10-14 years of age.
A Rescued Beagle
If you’ve decided that a beagle is the dog for you but would prefer to have one that isn’t a puppy, you might like to consider giving a home to a rescued hound. If this is the case Beagle Welfare, a charity set up in 1979 to give help and advice on beagles, may be able to assist you.
An older person who may not wish to take on a lively young hound can often provide a wonderful home for one of Beagle Welfare’s Golden Oldies. These beagles, aged eight and older, are less demanding than a youngster and can offer much-needed companionship and many years of pleasure to hound and owner.
A rescued beagle will have been uprooted from the home it has known or may have spent a long period in kennels so it may take a while to settle in. During this time you must be prepared for your beagle to howl or scratch doors, or even be destructive when left alone. It can take up to six months for the hound to feel happy and secure in its new home.
A lot of people need to rehome their beagles because they had not anticipated just how challenging they can be. Although Beagle Welfare actively encourages former owners to tell as much as possible about the hound they are handing over, not everyone is totally honest and it may take us a while to ?nd out about those bad habits that could make a hound more dif?cult to rehome.
Visit www.beaglewelfare.org.uk for more information on adopting a beagle.
The Best Bits
Although it is incredibly important to pre-warn potential owners of how challenging caring for a beagle can be, it’s not all doom and gloom. Beagles usually have a nice nature, their temperament is good and many enjoy the company of children. They have short coats, which makes grooming easy, and any shed hairs on the furniture can be easily vacuumed up. They are intelligent and great fun with a huge sense of mischief. They love being outside and active but are equally as happy to curl up on a warm lap at the end of the day.
We wish you well in your search for the right dog for you and your family.