In hopes that I can give my readers some insight into dog breeds’ personalities, I am featuring different breeds each week. I will give a little history about the breed, i.e., what they were bred to do, talk about their personalities, and provide advice on the lifestyle needs of the breed. Remember, as I always say, every dog is an individual. Some dogs will exactly fit the breed characteristics while others may be nothing like it.

When you think of Beagles, either Snoopy the cartoon character comes to mind or you envision packs of them on the hunt, gleefully running after an animal as they howl and bark. Both images are accurate: Snoopy is always looking to get his food bowl filled and Beagles are hunting dogs. But they are so much more.

Beagles belong to the hound group, bred to hunt with an exceptional sense of smell and ability to track the scent. The direct origins of today’s Beagle are uncertain but hounds have been traced back to the Romans and Greeks around 400 BC.  It is speculated that Beagles were derived from the now-extinct Talbot hound, popular in 11th century England. Beagles began to get popular with royalty for hunting in the 13th century but they were much smaller than the dogs we know today. Some were called Glove Beagles and others called Pocket Beagles, obviously implying that the dogs were small enough to fit in pockets or in your hand. By the 1700’s the Foxhound became the favored dog to use for hunting instead of the Beagle. Possibly bred with the Foxhound, Beagles became much larger and started to be bred as the now-known Beagle in the 1800s in England. The Beagle came to the United States in the mid-late 1800s and were recognized as an American Kennel Club breed in 1884.

Having been mostly used by hunters, the introduction of Snoopy in the Peanuts comic strip in the 1960s caused the popularity of Beagles to soar as family pets. They are a small-to-medium sized dog and, because they were bred as hunting partners, are very social and friendly dogs. Beagles have a happy personality with a smiling, inviting face. They love people and can be quite loyal to their families. They especially gravitate to children and have a very playful nature. They love other dogs, due to the fact that they were bred to hunt in packs with other dogs. They may chase cats, believing that they are prey.

Beagles are motivated by two things: smells and food. The food motivation makes them easy to train – they indeed will work for food! However, the motivation to smell makes the Beagle a dog that requires careful containment. They will follow their noses and run away, tracking the scent regardless of where it takes them. Many a Beagle ends up at the animal shelter because they got lost. Consequently, a fenced yard is mandatory if you want a Beagle. Even with a fence, Beagles can be escape artists. Be sure that your fence is secure.

They love to track scents, and giving them the freedom to do so without the possibility of running away is necessary. Never allow a Beagle to be off-leash in an open area. You cannot possibility run after and catch a Beagle on the track of a scent! Consider enrolling your Beagle in a fun tracking class. Look to your local dog training club for ideas.

Beagles love to eat and if they don’t get enough exercise, have the tendency to gain lots of weight. A daily routine of exercise and play is a requirement, as well as watching how many treats they get. With their expressive eyes, Beagles can easily convince you that they are always hungry!

Keep in mind that Beagles are hunting dogs with an inbred trait to bark and bay loudly when they spot the prey. Beagles are barkers and not recommended for homes where neighbors will complain about barking dogs. Can you train a Beagle not to bark? It’s possible but don’t count on it. It’s as natural to them as breathing.

Like all dogs, early socialization to people, children, other animals, and places is important. So is early obedience training. Beagles are hounds, and hounds are known to have a stubborn streak. Start training as early as possible.

Sadly, Beagles are an exploited breed. Still used by hunters, some hunters are known to kill or turn out any dog who will not hunt to their specifications. In addition, Beagles are used in scientific laboratories for experiments.  As you can imagine, there are many Beagle rescue groups hoping to save as many as possible. If you are looking to get a Beagle, please go to your local shelter or find a rescue group on Petfinder.com.

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