Popular family pets, beagles have a reputation for being somewhat naughty. When they aren't getting into trouble, beagles are inquisitive, energetic and happy-go-lucky dogs. Ample exercise, consistent training and adequate supervision help keep beagles on their best behavior.
Energetic and Playful
While their size might make you think beagles make good apartment dwellers, they actually require a lot more exercise than a daily walk around the block. This is not to say that apartment dwelling is off-limits to beagles, but it does mean a little extra work for their humans. Since they have so much energy to burn, beagles thrive when given ongoing opportunities for physical and mental exertion. Multiple vigorous, long walks each day combined with a certain degree of mental stimulation is the best way to satisfy beagles' energetic and playful nature.
Since beagles were bred to be hunting dogs, following interesting scent trails is easily among their favorite activities -- but that can get them into trouble when off-leash in an unfenced area. The allure of pursuing a fascinating scent is so intense for beagles that it often leads them to become selectively deaf -- simply unresponsive to human direction when they're in scenting mode. For their own safety, beagles should stay on leashes or in securely fenced areas at all times. Their innate hunting instincts can be a problem for those beagles who share living space with pets like rabbits or hamsters. Beagles will naturally view small animals as prey, so early socialization and extra caution for a lifetime are warranted.
Beagles, particularly bored and under-exercised beagles, are prone to excessive barking or howling. While howling behavior serves the beagle well on hunting trips where he needs to stay in auditory contact with his human hunting partners, it quickly becomes a nuisance in city living. Beagles who are properly exercised and mentally stimulated are less likely to engage in excessive barking or howling. Early training using positive reinforcement to encourage quiet behavior in beagles can be helpful -- but in certain extreme cases, it may be necessary to enlist the assistance of commercial training products like bark collars and other devices.
Despite their intelligence and natural inclination to please their masters, beagles have noted independent streaks that earned them a reputation for being stubborn and somewhat challenging to train. Early and consistent training methods, using food rewards and ample positive reinforcement, can help beagles lean more toward obedience than stubbornness. Patience and consistency are crucial to the potential for success in training beagles.
The only thing that can probably distract a beagle from hot pursuit of something living is the opportunity to chow down on something prepared. Beagles are notorious chowhounds whose powerful noses track down and uncover hidden snacks -- many of them disgusting. Beagles should not be allowed access to trash cans, tabletops, counters or other food storage areas.
A bored beagle is destined to run into trouble at some point. Playing scent games, setting up backyard obstacle courses or making regular trips to the local dog park can help keep beagles mentally and physically stimulated enough to stay out of trouble.
Kristina Barroso is a full-time teacher who has been freelance writing since 1991. She published her first book, a break-up survival guide, in 2007 and specializes in a variety of topics including, but not limited to, relationships and issues in education. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Florida International University.