Beagles are the smallest hounds, originally bred to hunt rabbits. With their long ears and pleading eyes, they’re beyond cute. But what makes the Beagle dog breed so popular is their easy-going nature, funny personality and their friendly manner, to people and to other dogs.
Fans describe them as “merry,” and they’ve been pleasing their pet parents for more than five centuries. Beware those powerful noses, though—Beagles are escape artists and will follow a scent anywhere, baying in their distinctive way.
There are actually two kinds of Beagles: pocket Beagles or miniature Beagles and standard Beagles. Both are sturdy and solid, with a Beagle life span averaging up to 15 years.
- Breed Group: Hounds
- Height: Pocket Beagles or miniature Beagles are up to 13 inches tall, and standard-size Beagles are 13-15 inches tall.
- Weight: Under 20 pounds for pocket Beagles; 20-30 pounds for standard Beagles
- Life Span: 10-15 years
- Coat: Short and dense double coats
- Color: Most commonly tricolor (white, tan and black), but colorations also include blue tick Beagles and lemon Beagles
Beagle History: A Skilled Rabbit Hunter
Legend has it that Beagles were in England even before the Romans arrived in the first century. By the 15th century, hunters kept packs of hounds that included larger dogs who could keep up with horses and smaller ones, like Beagles, that hunters could follow on foot as they tracked rabbits. Queen Elizabeth I kept a pack of miniature Beagles that she carried in saddlebags or in her pockets. (Maybe that’s how pocket Beagles first got their names!)
The Beagle dog breed first came to the United States after the Civil War and quickly became a hit with rabbit hunters. Thanks to their keen sense of smell, Beagles still are used for hunting; but they’ve become popular house pets, too. Beagles now rank sixth in popularity in the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) yearly list. (They were No. 5, but they got supplanted in 2017 by the Bulldog.)
Because they were bred as pack dogs, Beagles love to romp with other canine companions. They enjoy playing with their humans, too, so you’ll want to give your Beagle plenty of time to chase balls (or you), go for leashed walks or run around your (fenced) yard.
If you are craving a Beagle puppy, do yourself a favor and go to a reputable breeder. (You can find them on the AKC’s website.) You’re usually getting a puppy that’s been screened for health issues and temperament. For that, a Beagle price can range from $350-$1,500, with an average of about $500-$850. Perspective pet parents can also adopt from beagle rescue groups, or keep an eye out for the breed at their local animal shelter.
What Does a Beagle Look Like?
What do Beagles look like? Well, think of them as miniature Foxhounds. They sport a long head a long, straight muzzle and low-set, long ears that almost touch the tip of their nose when you draw them out. Their eyes can be brown or hazel and often have a gentle expression to them. Beagles typically are muscular with sturdy, powerful bodies and smooth, dense double coats.
Those coats come in many colors and combinations, but the most common Beagle colors is the classic tricolor Beagle: white, tan and black. Other varieties include blue tick Beagles with black, tan and bluetick (or freckled) coats and lemon Beagles with a light tan and white coat. Some come in brown and white, black and tan, and even blue, white and tan, which looks like a classic tri but the black fades into a silvery sheen so it looks bluish. Interestingly enough, all these coat colors are recognized by the AKC.
The most notable thing about Beagles is the various sounds they make. Yes, they bark, but they also howl or bay when they’re chasing something (they’re hunting dogs, after all) or warning you that someone’s at the door.
Beagle Temperament: Bold and Cheerful
This active breed is known for good looks, incredible stamina and a voice like no other. The Beagle personality is marked by a bold and cheerful disposition and, thanks to their background, a knack for nosing out interesting scents to the point of being obsessive about them.
Beagles are avid working dogs that combine intense drive and cuddly good looks into an adorable package.
These curious dogs take in their environment through their nose, and they’re often found scenting as if magnetized to the ground. This natural tendency to sniff can make it challenging to keep a Beagle’s attention, and if a scent is too tempting to resist, many Beagles are prone to take off without a backward glance. For this reason, it’s suggested that Beagles only be off leash in fenced areas.
Because of their friendly attitude Beagles are good family dogs. They’re cheerful and clever and can be a fantastic match for families that are able to meet their exercise needs. Beagles are generally very good with kids who understand how to interact with and handle dogs.
Keeping Beagle Dogs Healthy: 5 Issues to Watch
While Beagles tend to be very healthy overall, there are some ailments that may affect them. By recognizing these potential health problems as soon as possible, you can seek treatment earlier.
Also called glandular hypertropy, cherry eye in dogs derives from the visual appearance of the problem and occurs when the tear duct of the third eyelid pops out. This uncomfortable condition can cause problems with tears and the eye itself and should be addressed by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Treatment is surgery.
This seizure disorder is commonly seen in Beagles and might be genetic in nature. Medication is available to reduce seizures, but there is no cure for this condition.
Allergies and Skin Infections:
Skin allergies and infections due to fleas, environmental allergens like pollen, or food sensitivities do occur in Beagles. They can cause hair loss, red and itchy skin and excessive scratching. Learn more about dog allergies.
Intervertebral Disc Disease:
IVDD for short, this disease often is seen in Beagles and other short-legged breeds. It occurs when an intervertebral disc in the spine bulges or ruptures, causing pain and loss of function. This condition may require emergency treatment.
Common in smaller dogs, a luxating patella means the kneecap (patella) has popped out of place. This leads to limping, pain and arthritis. Non-surgical and surgical treatments are available depending on your pet’s needs.
Caring for Your Beagle Dog
Beagles are social dogs, and they love being with their people. In fact, they need as much time at home with you as they do getting fresh air out in a fenced yard.
Many potential pet parents wonder, “Do Beagles shed?” Fortunately, you can keep shedding at a minimum with occasional brushing of the Beagle’s easy-to-care-for haircoat. One grooming concern your Beagle might experience involves the anal gland. Anal glands are scent glands located in the anus. If you notice your Beagle scooting or licking excessively back there, then it could be an anal gland problem that needs attention from your veterinarian.
When it comes to nutrition, how much you feed your Beagle is as important as what you feed your dog. Obesity is a common problem with adult Beagles and can take years off their life. Obesity also can predispose Beagles to other diseases, such as diabetes, arthritis and high blood pressure.
An easy way to tell that your Beagle is at a healthy weight is when you can feel their ribs with your hands but not see them. Use the feeding chart on the back of your dog’s food label as a guide to how much to feed your Beagle. You also can talk with your veterinarian about how much your Beagle should eat, as well as their current and ideal weight.
The best dog food for Beagles is a complete and balanced diet. Beagles can be fed dry food, canned food or a combination of dry and canned food. Royal Canin Beagle adult dry food is a breed-specific food for Beagles, and there are many other complete and balanced diets, like American Journey adult dog food, that are not breed specific yet provide adequate nutrition.
If you choose to cook at home for your dog or feed raw dog food, consult with a veterinary nutritionist to formulate a complete and balanced diet.
The Beagle is a higher-stamina breed that requires more than just a walk around the block to meet their exercise needs. These smart, lively dogs require daily exercise, both physical and mental. Experts recommend that adult Beagle dogs get 30-45 minutes of exercise daily, whether it is walking, jogging or playing fetch with a fetch dog toy, like the Chuckit! Ultra Ring fetch toy.
You may have heard that Beagles don’t really like water, and that’s generally true. However, some will take to water and swim, which is a great low-impact exercise. Chewing is also an important behavior that can be supported by giving your Beagle safe and healthy options, like a Nylabone DuraChew Textures Ring Dog Toy, to chew.
Training Your Beagle
There’s no question that Beagles are smart dogs, but they can be obstinate. When it comes to figuring out how to train a Beagle, the first goal is finding a way to keep them interested. Like all dogs, Beagles thrive when trained using dog-friendly positive-reinforcement methods. Using small, high-value treats can help to encourage focus on the trainer and not on scents on the ground.
Once Beagles discover an interesting aroma they’re likely to take off, so only do off-leash work in fenced areas. Take special care during leash-walking training, as Beagles might ignore you in favor of the smells on the ground and end up pulling to reach their destination instead of walking politely.
Beagles are known for the frequency and volume of their distinct voices, so avoid accidentally encouraging barking in puppyhood. This breed always will use vocalizations to communicate, so understand that no matter how much training you do, there’s a chance that your Beagle will remain chatty.
The Beagle dog breed is a friendly, curious canine that can make a great family pet. As long as you’re able to keep up with their demand for exercise and activity, and meet the time commitment that comes with training, a Beagle could potentially be a great match for you and your family. After all, it’s hard to resist these charming, clever pups!