A member of the Hound Group, the Beagle is a small to medium sized dog whose appearance is similar to the Foxhound only smaller. Their legs are shorter and they have long soft ears. Their sense of smell is extremely keen and are developed primarily for tracking and game. Their tracking instinct is an attribute for employment as detection dogs for prohibited agricultural imports or foods in quarantine.
Beagles are very intelligent and are very popular as pets due to their size, even temper and lack of inherited health problems.
Although beagle-type dogs have been around for over 2,000 years, the modern breed was developed in Great Britain in the 1830s from several breeds of hounds including the Talbot Hound.
These little dogs were depicted in literature and paintings in Elizabethan times and more recently in film, television and comic books. “Snoopy” of comic strip “Peanuts” has been promoted as “the world’s most famous beagle”.
As stated earlier, the Beagle resembles the Foxhound only smaller. Their head is broader and their muzzle shorter. They are between 13 to 16 inches (33 to 41 cm) in height and weigh between 18 and 35 lbs (8.2 and 16 kg). Females are slightly smaller on average.
Their eyes are large, usually hazel or brown, with a mild hound-like pleading look. Their large ears are long, soft and set low, turning towards the cheeks slightly and rounded at the tips.
The tail does not curl over the back but instead is upright when active. Their bodies are muscular with a medium length, with a smooth hard coat. While their front legs are straight and carried under the body, their back legs are muscular and well bent.
The Beagle has a very even and gentle disposition. In breed standards they are described as “merry”. They are amiable and generally neither aggressive or timid. They are social and enjoy company even though, initially, they may be standoffish with strangers. They can be easily won over.
Beagles are very intelligent little dogs, but do to breeding for the long chase, they are single-minded and determined, which makes them difficult to train. When walked, they should remain on a leash as they are easily distracted by scent and can take off after whatever it is they smell. They are generally obedient, alert and respond to food reward training very well. They are eager to please and easily bored or distracted.
These dogs are great with children but are also pack animals and therefore can be prone to Separation Anxiety. Although not all Beagles howl, most will bark when confronted with a stranger situation. They are not demanding in regard to exercise. Although they have a high stamina and do not tire easily from exercise, they do not need to be worked to exhaustion before they will rest. Exercise should be regular to ward off weight gain which this breed is prone to.
Their longevity is 10 to 13 years which is common for dogs of their size. They can be prone epilepsy to but this can be controlled with medication. Hypothyroidism and a number of types of dwarfism can occur.
Hip dysplasia is common in the larger breeds of hounds such as the Harriers but rarely with Beagles.
Weight gain can be a problem in older or sedentary dogs which can lead to heart and joint problems.
Beagles may exhibit a behavior known as reverse sneezing. They sound as if they are choking or gasping for breath, actually they are drawing air in through the mouth and nose. The exact cause of this behavior is not known nor does it hurt the dog.
Beagles are great family dogs and great tempered pets. They work well in apartment life as well as homes.