Developed in 16th century England as a small hound specialized to live and run in packs to hunt rabbits, the Beagle today is popular both as a hunting dog and as a friendly, lively, and cheerful family pet. Hundreds of years as a pack-oriented dog have shaped many of the behavioral traits that make the Beagle a beloved pet. Those same traits can get a Beagle in a lot of trouble if the dog's human "pack" is not fully prepared for life with a scent hound.
Two Beagle varieties are recognized by the American Kennel Club, one that tops out at 13 inches at the withers, the other between 13 and 16 inches. The coat is short and coarse. The AKC accepts any "hound color," including tri-color, white, and red. Most Beagles are tan, white, and black. Beagles packs are shown as a group, and the AKC judging standard calls for packs to be made up of individuals that are alike in size, color, and physical structure. The standard calls for all pack members to work together and obey commands cheerfully.
Because Beagles were selected for hundreds of years for the temperament and behaviors necesssary to live and hunt in packs, they naturally enjoy and desire the company of other dogs and humans. Beagles are known for their lively, friendly dispositions and for being gentle with children and unaggressive with other dogs. Beagles also tend to be friendly and trusting with strangers. The pack drive of Beagles means they not only enjoy company, but they need it. Beagles generally are not a good fit for owners who must be away much of the day, and many will develop anxieties and behavioral problems if they are left alone too much.
In the home, Beagles are generally content to take it easy, snuggling up to their owners and participating in household activities. Outdoors, according to Beagle rescue organizations such as beaglerescue.org, Beagles, no matter how loving and seemingly devoted to their human "pack," will quickly get in trouble if not kept on leash or securely inside an adequately fenced area. Bred to hunt and to follow where the nose leads, many Beagles will ignore everything but the input from their noses when they get on a scent and begin running it. The owner must actively train against this tendency. Single-track minded when on a trail, a Beagle can easily be killed in traffic or lost.
Beagles are active dogs, and may become destructive if they don't get adequate exercise. However, a daily walk is generally sufficient. Beagles tend to be easy-maintenance dogs as long as their need for company and their need to be securely contained in the house, in the yard or on-leash are met.
Some Beagles are quiet dogs, but many are not. As members of the hound group, Beagles have a distinctive penetrating howl or bay that is music to the ears of a hunter, but that is apt to cause problems with neighbors if your Beagle gives voice frequently. Some beagles will bay at any stimulus, from announcing a visitor at the door to catching an interesting scent or seeing a squirrel in the yard. If you leave your beagle alone too much, exercising the vocal chords is apt to be one of the dog's negative behavioral responses.
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