The beagle was bred in England as a pack animal to hunt rabbits, his powerful nose equipped with 225 million smell receptors. Behind his sweet face is an intelligent, energetic dog who needs an understanding, experienced pet parent. A close look at the scent hound's personality and training requirements will help you determine if the beagle is the right breed for you. Assuming it is, you'll bring him home as you would any dog, keeping his breed-specific needs in mind.
To Beagle or Not to Beagle
The beagle is a clever, social pooch who bonds closely with his human pack and other canines. An energetic breed, he is perfect for families with children or those who love the outdoors, but is unsuitable for a household of couch potatoes or workaholics. The beagle needs plenty of care and training. The puppy will need bathroom breaks and training, and lots of playtime to release his ample energy. The beagle thrives in an indoor environment, whether a city apartment or a sprawling country home. If you're expecting this small dog to yap, you'll be surprised by his loud bay, similar to that of larger hound dogs. That's an important consideration for apartment dwellers to be aware of.
Preparing the Home
The beagle seems a little mischievous; you can expect him to ignore your commands. He doesn't mean to -- he's just easily distracted and loves to play. You'll need to prepare your home for such a character. Enclose yards with a 5-foot-high fence, and always leash your beagle when venturing outside to prevent him from wandering off in search of intriguing smells. Indoors, he may have his own food and water dishes, but you'll need to make clear that human food remains off limits. Keep food out of reach to prevent accidental overeating; make sure the kitchen trash can has a secure lid. A crate is also necessary for traveling and vet visits, even if you don't plan on crating him.
Bringing the Beagle Home
Observe the beagle as he explores his new environment. This is an important stage for acclimating him to your home and set boundaries. Children should not crowd him. Close bedroom and bathroom doors at first to keep the beagle's explorations within your sight. He may run around in excitement, sniffing out interesting things to bite, scratch or dig; if he finds something he should not play with, utter a spirited "no" and place the object out of his reach. Praise good behavior and have plenty of toys and treats on hand to recapture his attention.
Every household member must be involved in keeping the new beagle physically active and mentally stimulated. Early socialization in obedience school is important for him to learn acceptable behavior with other dogs and with people. Continue lessons at home with a firm voice and a treat so he knows when to come to you or drop a toy. Use treats and a leash to teach him not to howl or charge when a visitor rings the doorbell. When walking, don't let the beagle run ahead to seek out endless smells; call his name, rewarding his return to you with a treat. Scent-oriented activities, like finding a treat in upturned cups, will utilize his abilities. The beagle's intelligence can be a double-edged sword, making training no easy task since he'll become bored after he gets the hang of any trick. Keep training to 10 minutes per lesson and change it up over time.
Grooming and Health
The beagle was bred with a short coat that repels water, making him rather easy to groom. Brush him regularly with a firm brush to remove dead hair; bathe him only when necessary with a mild shampoo. Check for signs of infection, such as dirt and odor, when cleaning his droopy ears of wax buildup every two weeks. Even with regular walks and exercise, it's important to trim your beagle's nails every few weeks. Visit the veterinarian within the first three days to verify the beagle's health and how he's handling the new environment. Note what food he eats, and bring any paperwork from the breeder. The vet will outline a vaccination and worming schedule if your beagle is a puppy. Older beagles face some common ailments, such as glaucoma, cataracts, cherry eye, allergies, epilepsy, hypothyroidism and obesity.
Pam Smith has been writing since 2005. In addition to her work for Demand Media, her articles have been published online at CBS Local. She also wrote for the Pennsylvania Center for the Book's Literary Map while earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the Pennsylvania State University. She is currently an editorial assistant for Circulation Research.