by Teresa Bridgman
I have lived with Beagles both as outside hunting companions and as house pets. Years ago Beagles were considered exclusively "hunting dogs" and believed to make poor family pets. In more recent times this myth has been dispelled by many of those in the hunting community.
If you are considering bringing a Beagle into your home as a member of your family, please do your "Beagle research" first.
First: Beagles are indeed wonderful dogs. Those of us who have spent our lives with Beagles will confirm this, but Beagles are a breed unto themselves. They are NOT "wash and wear" dogs. They need time and understanding. Beagles need direction and training. Be sure you are ready to commit your time to this training.
Second: Beagles can be vocal. Are your neighbors ready for the sound of that wonderful Beagle music? Are you? I have had many Beagles come through rescue that are rather "quiet" considering they are Beagles, but one can't count on it. The "tonguing" Beagles do is part of their personality and spirit. They wouldn't be Beagles without it! You must allow your Beagle free rein of their voice at appropriate times. Can they be trained to use their voices ONLY at appropriate times? Certainly, but again, you must be committed to their training.
Third: Beagles are good with children. Generally that's true, but only generally. Many breeds are good with children, but that doesn't mean EVERY member of the breed will accept and tolerate them. Beagles, like any other breed, need to be socialized with both adults and children. What that means is you must take the responsibility of making sure your Beagle interacts with human adults, human children and even with other dogs. If you don't, then you should expect them to be intolerant of these situations. Again, this is up to you as the authority figure. While we're on the subject of children, you need to do some training with your children as well. Children usually love dogs, but don't "naturally" understand how to interact with them. When I hear stories about how the dog snapped at a child, and how this incident occurred as the child was reaching for the bone in the dog's mouth, I just have to shake my head. When I hear that a dog is being removed from the home because it growls at a child that has poked it eyes, pulled its ears and tail, and hit the dog regularly, I admit I'm frustrated. While I understand that the owner can no longer trust the dog, I also understand how it got to this point and it WASN'T the dog's fault.
Fourth: Beagles are a nose on four legs. Understand right up front: Beagles are going to follow their noses no matter where it takes them. If you are considering keeping a Beagle as a pet and live in an area that has public roads near your home, you can not allow a Beagle outside without being on lead or in a securely fenced area. This means you may have to take your Beagle out on lead in all kinds of weather (snow, rain, sleet), or, if you have a fenced area, be prepared to keep an eye on your Beagle. Many Beagles will do almost anything to follow a scent, including digging, jumping and climbing. I know a family whose Beagle will climb a tree when he's after a squirrel. Chances are this situation is never going to change so be prepared for many years of walks.
The above are just a few things a potential Beagle family should consider. There are others and I highly suggest you do your homework before deciding a Beagle is the right housepet for you. I also suggest that you be absolutely sure you will take the time and effort involved in training a Beagle- or any other dog you consider. That said, I can not foresee a time in my life when my home will ever be without Beagles. I have found them to be the best companion dog I could ever ask for. They are loving, caring, funny, tireless, headstrong, single-minded, devoted and all-around wonderful members of my family and my life.
Here's a short story from one of the families that recently adopted a Beagle from our rescue: Having been in their home for two weeks and sleeping soundly through the night, snuggled up next to their 8-year-old son, they were delighted with the newest member of the family. Then, one night, the Beagle began howling at 2:00 AM. Both husband and wife woke up and lay waiting, hoping that the Beagle would go back to sleep the household finish the night in relative peace. This was not to be. On and on he howled. Finally, they went into their son's room, convinced that their newest bundle of joy needed to go outside (and a bit miffed that this was occurring in the middle of the night). They opened the door and called the dog. He didn't respond. The Beagle sat on the bed next to their still-sleeping son and refused to move. They walked into the room, turned on a light and, while whispering a few words not to be repeated here, finally looked down at their son. His face was flushed and his breathing seemed labored. They woke the boy, took his temperature and found that it was 103 degrees. Immediately, they called the pediatrician. The Beagle never left their son's side during the whole episode and they are still very grateful to him for alerting them to their son's dangerously high fever.