The Beagle is a small scent hound, developed initially for hunting, that has more recently gained recognition as a family pet. Intelligent, playful, and renowned for being incredibly gentle, this dog breed is a delight for young and old alike. But is this active pooch, with its incredibly strong sense of smell and sometimes stubborn attitude, really suitable for everyone?
A Brief History
The exact origin of the Beagle is unknown but it has existed in popular culture for centuries. The breed is believed to be the result of a cross between the Harrier and other common dog breeds. In medieval times, the term “beagle” was used as a generic description for smaller hounds, though these dogs differed considerably from the modern breed, which was developed in Great Britain around the 1830s. Popular with the royals, Edward II and Henry VII both owned miniature breeds of beagle-type dogs and Queen Elizabeth kept a pack of miniature Beagles, known as “Pocket Beagles”, which were small enough to be carried in a pocket. The miniature version is no longer popular in the UK but in the USA the breed is still found in two varieties: the Beagle and the Pocket Beagle.
The Beagle Club was established in the UK in 1890 and held its first show in 1896. Beagles continued to be popular in Britain until the outbreak of the First World War when all dog shows were suspended. During the interwar period, the breed was threatened with extinction but showed a strong revival when hostilities ceased, especially in Canada and the United States. These days, the Beagle is considered one of America's Top 10 favourite dog breeds. Beagles make great companions for hunters and are mainly appreciated for their speed and agility.
The physical characteristics of the Beagle are clearly defined in the Kennel Club breed standard.
Body: Small to medium in size, the Beagle has a well-proportioned, muscular body. Its powerful yet supple build is perfect for hunting.
Head: The head is square, slightly finer in females, with a well-defined stop. The muzzle is not snippy (pointed).
Ears: The ears are large, drooping, and rounded at the end. They are generally brown in colour. Very rarely, Beagles can have white ears.
Eyes: The eyes are fairly large with black rims. They are usually dark brown or hazel.
Tail: The tail is sturdy and moderately long. It is bushy and set high, but never carried over the back. It often ends in a white tip.
Coat: The coat is long, dense, and very weather resistant.
Colour: Beagles generally have a tricolour coat: white, black, and tan. Some individuals have a bicolour coat: lemon and white or tan and white.
Although popular amongst hunters, the Beagle is also a very good, well-rounded family pet. Like many hunting dogs, they have a tendency to run away, but they can also be very loyal if properly trained. Beagles are very intelligent dogs who adapt well to both indoor and outdoor life.
This breed is well known for its gentle and kind nature. Beagles also have a very affectionate temperament, which is one of the reasons they are excellent for families with children. Patient and never aggressive, they are very playful and love to exercise. Like all good hounds, they need to run and exercise in order to feel well balanced. Provided you socialise your Beagle correctly from an early age, they will be sociable and docile. But beware! The Beagle is also renowned for being stubborn and greedy.
Do Beagles Get Along Well with Others?
The Beagle is no watchdog, so this breed is not particularly suspicious of strangers. Traditionally developed as pack hounds, they are usually very friendly towards other dogs, as well as children, so long as they’ve had the chance to get used to their presence from a young age. With other animals, things get a bit more complicated. The Beagle is a hunting dog through and through, with a strong predatory instinct. As such, you will need to take the time to introduce your Beagle to other animals early on, so they learn not to see them as prey. Always exercise great caution with smaller exotic pets.
Is a Beagle the Right Dog for Me?
Beagles can be suitable for all types of families, so long as they are properly cared for and given the physical exercise they need. Despite their small size, Beagles have lots of energy and need much more exercise than just daily outings to do their business. The ideal master for a Beagle is athletic and enjoys hiking in the mountains and countryside, or walks on the beach. Beagles are obviously very suitable for hunters, as well. If you don’t hunt, consider taking your pooch to participate in canine activities on the weekends, so that they can really stretch their legs. Don’t adopt a Beagle if you have to be away from home a lot.
Beagle Health Issues
Beagles generally boast pretty robust health. Built for hunting, this tireless breed has an average life expectancy of between 12 and 15 years. However, they are prone to certain diseases, most notably hypothyroidism. Beagles also tend to gain weight easily, and it doesn’t help that they’re greedy! This can lead to canine obesity if you’re not careful. Finally, their floppy ears require special care to prevent ear infections and parasite infestations.
Ideal Living Conditions for a Beagle
Beagles adapt very well to most living situations, as long as they get enough exercise. This means that they’re quite capable of living in an apartment. Be careful, however: Beagles do have a tendency to bark a lot, which could cause problems with your neighbours. But whether you live in the city or the countryside, in an apartment or a house, never keep your Beagle locked up; this is a pooch who needs to run, play, and smell the outdoors to be happy.
Despite their gentleness and kind nature, training a Beagle is no walk in the park. Behind their mild, appealing expression is a strong will. This is why you should begin training your dog as soon as you welcome your puppy home. The Beagle’s strong hunting instinct sometimes drives them to run off and lose all sense of obedience if they smell something interesting. You need to be firm, without any trace of violence. Teach your pooch the basics as early as possible, focusing on positive experiences. Do not hesitate to call a professional dog trainer if the task seems too daunting and you feel like you need a little help.
Diet: What to Feed Your Beagle
Choosing the right diet for your Beagle is crucial. It plays a vital role in their health and, as such, must be able to meet all their nutritional needs. Beagles expend a lot of physical energy, so their dog food must be able to support and maintain them. A poor-quality diet will inevitably have repercussions on their health in the long term. Remember that dogs are opportunistic carnivores who need animal protein to be in perfect health. One of the golden rules of dog food is to avoid the industrial dog food found in supermarkets, as much as possible. This is because it tends to be very low in quality and made using primarily plant protein, which is incapable of meeting your Beagle's nutritional requirements.
Good-quality dog food does not necessarily have to cost more than shop-bought dog food. Learn how to decipher product labels to understand exactly what you're feeding your dog and be sure to choose a healthy composition, without added preservatives or sweeteners. Take into account the fact that your dog's dietary needs are likely to change over time, depending on their age and health condition. A young puppy will need a different diet from an older or sick dog, for example.
If you want to avoid industrial dog food altogether, opt for a tailor-made service like Hector Kitchen. You can choose between feeding your pooch dry dog food, wet dog food, or a mixture of the two. Or, if you have the time and want to control all the ingredients you offer your Beagle, you can try feeding them homemade dog food or a BARF diet! Homemade dog food consists of making your dog's meals yourself, from a mixture of cooked meat and vegetables. The BARF diet, on the other hand, is a diet of mainly raw meat with a few cooked vegetables. Please note: You should never implement a BARF diet without first speaking to your vet. You could end up doing more harm than good.
Beagle Care and Maintenance
Beagle price: between £850 and £2400
Vaccines: between £30 to £60 for the first injection series, plus annual boosters
Dog food: from around £50 per month for high-quality dog food
Monthly budget: minimum £80 per month
Grooming your Beagle is relatively low maintenance. You only need to brush their coat once per week in normal periods. During moulting periods, in spring and autumn, you will need to up their brushing routine to three or four times a week, because they shed more hair. While brushing, take the time to inspect your dog's skin, and check that parasites haven't nested there. Clean their eyes and teeth regularly, and pay special attention to the ears, to avoid the onset of ear infections. Don't forget to trim their nails, too! Long nails can injure your dog in the long run, and prevent them from walking correctly. Finally, keep all their vaccines up to date, as well as deworming and antiparasitic treatments to combat ticks and fleas, especially if you regularly take your dog out hunting.
Thanks to their dense coat, Beagles are perfectly capable of sleeping outside - if temperatures aren’t too cold, of course! As such, your Beagle will be perfectly happy in a kennel, but be sure to choose it carefully, because your dog’s comfort depends on their shelter for the night. Your Beagle’s kennel should be perfectly adapted to their size, for example. Beagles also enjoy sleeping indoors with their owners but, again, take care when choosing the right dog bed. Avoid letting your pooch sleep in your bedroom, as you may encourage them to develop a very strong attachment to you, which ultimately leads to separation anxiety that can be difficult to manage.
Games and Physical Activities for Your Beagle
As with any good, dynamic hunting dog, the Beagle needs to be able to exercise every day for at least an hour and a half. Without this, your pooch could very quickly slip into feelings of boredom, depression, and discomfort. Be sure to provide your dog with enough playtime and attention each day to avoid this. Beagles are sometimes stubborn and may have a little trouble following orders, which makes them unsuitable for disciplines such as agility, but they excel in other canine activities, such as tracking, thanks to their keen sense of smell.
At home, make sure you have enough games and toys to occupy your pooch in your absence. The Beagle is an intelligent dog breed. Brain games, such as Kongs or puzzles, are ideal for occupying your pooch and preventing them from getting bored.
Pet Insurance: Protecting Your Beagle
As a family dog, pet insurance is not obligatory for your Beagle. However, taking out a pet insurance policy for your dog helps to cover you in the event of accident or illness. Even if your dog is not aggressive by nature, accidents can happen quickly and you would be held responsible for any damage or harm caused to a third party by your dog. Pet insurance is a great way to make sure you're not hit with any nasty surprises. Most home insurance policies offer the option to include animal liability insurance. You can also purchase third party public liability dog insurance, which provides additional protection.
On the other hand, if you use your dog for hunting, you will need to take out special insurance to protect yourself. This type of insurance is only valid during the hunting season. Additionally, pet insurance for dogs is a great way to make sure your Beagle gets the healthcare they deserve throughout their life. This dog breed is prone to certain diseases and, as vet fees are not standardised in the UK, veterinary costs can be very high. Health insurance for your Beagle works the same way as for humans: you pay a monthly premium to an insurance company and, in return, they reimburse you for any veterinary expenses.
In any case, before deciding on a particular contract, make sure to shop around for quotes and assess which best suits your circumstances. Then, take the time to read the fine print to ascertain the type of services offered, as well as the reimbursement rate, limits, and eligibility or exclusion clauses. Some insurance companies may refuse to insure dogs that are too old, too young, or already sick. So, don't wait for your Beagle to get sick or old before taking out pet insurance for them, or you may risk them not being properly taken care of. Insurance companies may also refuse to reimburse costs incurred for certain diseases, genetic or hereditary diseases in particular. Read your contract carefully before signing and don't hesitate to ask your vet for advice.
The average cost for pet insurance in the UK in 2020 worked out at £436 per year or just over £36 per month. Certain criteria, such as where you live or the age and breed of your dog, may cause prices to vary. Lifetime dog insurance is more expensive but also provides the most comprehensive cover. This usually costs closer to around £80 per month.
Beagle Size and Weight
The Beagle is a medium-sized dog, characterised by a tricolour coat and white-tipped tail. Males and females are approximately the same height and measure between 33 and 41cm at the withers. In terms of weight, the difference is also minimal: 13 to 18kg for adult males, versus 12 to 17kg for females. As there is no real difference between the sexes, your choice of pup will mainly come down to personal preference.
The Kennel Club classifies the Beagle in the Hound breed group, which consists of dogs originally used for hunting either by scent or by sight.