- Exploring options when choosing a Beagle
- Knowing what to look for in a Beagle puppy
- Evaluating an adult Beagle
- Learning about contracts and other important documents
You’re ready. You’ve determined that yes, the Beagle is the breed for you. You’ve figured out where the best place to find your dream Beagle is: reputable breeder, animal shelter, or breed rescue group. Now comes the trickiest part: choosing your Beagle.
Narrowing Your Choices
Male or female?
Most experts agree that little difference in temperament exists between male and female Beagles. Both are friendly to people and other dogs. Both would follow their noses to the ends of the earth if they were given the chance. Both are capable of being bossy or of being meek. Both are known to engage in that inimitable Beagle-song otherwise known as howling. And both should be altered in some fashion — spaying for females, neutering for males — unless you plan to breed them. (Chapter Managing Your Beagle’s Day-to-Day Health provides more info on breeding.)
– If you already have a dog and want to add a Beagle to your ousehold pack, your best bet is to choose a Beagle of the opposite gender. In other words, if your first dog is male, your Beagle should be a female — and vice versa. Opposite-sex dogs tend to get along better with each other than same-sex dogs do, even if the same-sex dogs are neutered or spayed — although there are plenty of exceptions to that principle.
– The male Beagle is probably less likely to keep his private parts private than his sister is. Males will lick their genitals and will hump inappropriate objects, such as the table leg or your leg, with little or no fanfare. Females are much less likely to engage in such behavior — although girl dogs have been known to hump other dogs and even humans to show that they (the humpers) are in charge.
– Males and females deal with bathroom issues differently. The adolescent and adult male Beagle lifts his leg and pees on nearby vertical surfaces, and at times, targets a specific surface and subjects that surface to repeated anointings. This behavior, which experts call marking, can ruin the surface that bears the brunt of the dog’s attention. By contrast, females squat daintily to pee and rarely engage in marking.
Neutering your male Beagle before he reaches adulthood is likely to put an end to marking, or at least diminish it considerably. Neutering may also enable your Beagle guy to be more discreet in dealing with his remaining private parts than is the case with the typical intact male.
– Adult female Beagles are ready for love approximately twice a year unless they are spayed. These events, or heat cycles, signal that your dog is ready for mating. The scent of her discharge will lure male dogs from all over creation — or at least from all over your neighborhood — to your doorstep, ready to service your Beagle girl. To prevent an unplanned pregnancy, you need to confine your Beagle when her heat cycle occurs. Better yet, if you don’t plan to breed your Beagle, have her spayed before she reaches adulthood.
Spaying your female Beagle not only prevents unwanted litters of puppies but also virtually eliminates the chance that your dog will get mammary (breast) cancer if done before her first heat cycle.
Field dog, show dog, or pet?
Puppy or adult?
Deciding whether to get a juvenile Snoopy-dog or an adult Beagle isn’t necessarily a clear-cut matter. The right decision depends on your personal preferences and also on how much time you can spend taking care of your dog.
For many people, the puppy-or-adult decision depends on whether someone can be home during the day to care for a youngster. If you’re away from home for more than a couple of hours each day, and no one else is around to give a puppy the constant attention she needs, do that puppy a favor: Get an adult dog instead.
Double your pleasure, double your fun? Maybe not
– If one puppy is a lot of work, two puppies are a lot more work. Trying to keep track of one frisky puppy is tiring enough; monitoring two Beagle mischief-makers may be a short trip to utter exhaustion, if not a complete nervous breakdown.
– A solitary puppy will bond with her human, but two puppies who enter a household at the same time are more likely to bond with each other than with any human beings in their household. You, the owner, end up getting double the puppy care with much less of a payoff in the form of a cute, cuddly little puppy worshipping the ground you walk on. The two puppies you work your tail off raising are more likely to be interested in each other than in you.
– Adopting two adult Beagles also means double the work of adopting one — and that’s assuming the two dogs get along.
In short, bringing two Beagles into your household at the same time probably isn’t a good idea, unless you’re a very experienced dog owner. If you absolutely must have two Snoopy-dogs, wait a few months before you acquire dog number two. Then you’ll have time to get to know your first dog and give her the one-on-one attention that gets any new dog — puppy or adult — off to the best possible start.
Selecting a Puppy
Should you meet Dad?
Maybe. But then again, maybe not.
Meeting the mother of any Beagle litter you’re looking at is a good idea, but the same is not necessarily true of meeting the father, or sire. If Daddy Beagle’s on the breeder’s premises because the breeder owns him, chances are that sire and dam may be related rather closely to each other. Breedings of closely related dogs, even if they appear healthy, may result in puppies who have congenital conditions or other less-than-desirable qualities.
On the other hand, if the sire belongs to another breeder and is just staying with your breeder temporarily, go ahead and give him a look. Getting acquainted with Papa Beagle can give you that much more information on what sorts of dogs his puppies will grow up to be.
The puppy who’s confident enough to approach you and who behaves in a friendly fashion when she’s there will probably keep that good temperament into adulthood. In other words, the puppy who chooses you may be your best bet.
– Bright, clear eyes: The puppy should have clear, bright eyes like the youngsters featured in the color section of this book. Discharge from the eye or cloudiness in the eye itself may signal the presence of an infection or other eye problem. The pup also should be able to follow a moving object with her eyes. (If she can’t, she may be blind.)
– Dry, odor-free ears: The smell of baking bread is lovely when it comes from a kitchen, but not when it comes from a Beagle’s ears. A yeasty odor in the ear area probably means the pup has a yeast infection; other odors also indicate infection is present. Check the pup’s hearing, too; just clap your hands to see whether the pup responds to the sound. If she doesn’t, she may have a hearing problem.
– Clean skin and full coat: The pup should have no dirt or scabs on her skin or bald spots on her coat. Also check for fleas; if you see little dark specks hop around the coat, the pup is carrying these unwanted critters and probably hasn’t gotten the care she should have.
If your breeder wants to select a puppy for you instead of allowing you to choose a pup, don’t fret. Many breeders prefer to control the puppy selection process. Such breeders believe that they know their puppies better than anyone else and that they’re in the best position to match puppies with people. If your breeder is part of this camp, share your preferences with her — for example, whether you want a male or female Beagle pup — but then trust her to make a good choice for you and your family.
– Healthy stools: I know it sounds gross, but take a peek into the puppies’ living area to see what their poop looks like. The stools should be firm and formed, not runny.
– Sound temperament: Use the time that you spend with the puppy to try to get a feel for her personality — and whether that personality meshes with yours. Is she a little firecracker, or is she content to cuddle quietly? Does she roll over onto to her back for a tummy scratch, or does she fight efforts to put her in that position? The quiet cuddler who submits to belly rubs is likely to be easier to live with and train than the fractious firecracker. On the other hand, the firecracker pup may be better suited for life in a busy, active family than that low-key little cuddler.
Be wary of the shy little darling who won’t come to you at all. Beagles shouldn’t be timid — and a dog of any breed who’s that reticent may turn out to be a dog who bites out of fear.
Selecting an Adult Beagle
Most adult Beagles come from animal shelters and rescue groups — and many of these dogs find themselves in these settings because their original owners couldn’t or wouldn’t take proper care of them. Consequently, these dogs may have a couple of physical problems or behavioral issues. But with the help of shelter or rescue personnel, your veterinarian, and/or a professional dog trainer, you and your adult Beagle can overcome these challenges and live happily ever after.
A family affair
Here’s how to max the odds that everyone will live happily ever after with your Beagle — and vice versa:
– Her ears smell yeasty. Your vet can prescribe antibiotics to knock out the infection causing the yeasty odor, and he can show you how to clean the ears to keep the infection from coming back.
– Her coat and skin aren’t perfect. A trip to the vet to deal with minor skin rashes, combined with an optimum diet (as described in Chapters Welcoming Your Beagle Home and Beginning a Beautiful Friendship), can turn a not-so-great-looking Beagle exterior into a picture of perfect hound health.
– She’s coughing. Dogs confined with a lot of other dogs are more vulnerable to bordetella, also known as kennel cough. This condition is treatable — and after you treat the disease, you can keep it from coming back by having your vet give the dog a shot designed for just that purpose.
– Her temperament’s not perfect. Experiences of abandonment, neglect, and even abuse can cause an otherwise healthy dog to be anxious, hyperactive, or a little shy, but don’t rule out such a dog automatically. The stress of being in a noisy shelter can affect a dog’s temperament, too. Time spent in a loving home coupled with consistent, patient training can go a long way toward helping a shelter or rescue Beagle’s true personality to emerge.
If you’re having trouble evaluating a shelter dog’s temperament, ask shelter personnel if you can take her to a quiet room or out into a fenced courtyard. A little bit of one-on-one time away from the noise of the shelter kennel may be just what a shelter Beagle needs to show you what a sweetheart she really can be.
Of course, some problems you may encounter with an adult Beagle should result in an automatic thumbs-down, no matter how much you otherwise like the dog. Deal-breaking problems include these:
– A Beagle who growls at you for no apparent reason: Aggressiveness in a dog is a problem you do not want to have to deal with.
– A dog who cringes in the corner of her crate or kennel: The very shy dog may turn out to be a fear-biter.
– A dog who bites: The adult Beagle who literally puts teeth in her interaction with you should not get any additional interaction opportunities — not with you or your family, anyway.
Buyer or adoption contract
– Terms of sale: The contract should state whether the puppy is a companion animal or a show dog. If the latter is the case, the contract should state whether the breeder retains partial ownership of the puppy (often the case with show dogs). If the breeder is selling the puppy as a pet, the contract should state when the dog needs to be spayed or neutered.
– Financials: The contract should state what the breeder is charging for the dog and how that money is to be paid (by cash or check? All at once or in installments?). This provision should also specify the terms of any deposits, such as a deposit for altering a dog or completing basic obedience training.
– Health guarantees: At minimum, a contract should let the buyer return a dog for a refund if the animal gets sick shortly after the sale or becomes ill because of a hereditary defect. A better contract permits the exchange of a sick puppy for a healthy one or lets the owner keep the sick dog but be reimbursed by the breeder for reasonable costs.
– Return provisions: The best breeders agree to take a puppy back at any time after the sale, even if several years have passed. They understand that sometimes life deals a hand that just doesn’t allow a person to keep a pooch, even if that pooch is a much-loved Beagle. Breeders also understand that sometimes people bring their new puppies home and find that puppy care is more than they can handle. For that reason, a fair contract allows a person to return a puppy for any reason within a few days after purchase and get a refund.
– Require that the owner has a fenced yard: This condition especially applies for Beagles, who are known to follow their noses to the ends of the earth, unless confined properly.
– Forbid keeping the dog outdoors: Such provisions result from the Beagle being a very social individual who spends most of her time with her family and in her family’s house, not banished to the backyard to live on her own.
– Prohibit tie-outs: Shelters and rescue groups understand that tying a dog to a post or pole outdoors not only endangers the animal but can result in aggressive behavior.
A reputable Beagle breeder should provide you with papers to register your puppy with the American Kennel Club. You’re not required to register your puppy — but you can’t compete with her in AKC sports such agility or obedience unless you do.
Make sure that you get your AKC papers before you leave your breeder’s premises with your new puppy – or your Beagle can’t enter any AKC events.
Try to feed your new Beagle the same food she’s been eating at the breeder, shelter, or foster-care provider, at least for a couple of weeks or so. Consistency in feeding helps keep her tummy from getting upset during the exciting and sometimes stressful transition from her previous living environment to her new home. Some breeders will even give you a small sample of the food they’ve been feeding your puppy; ask your breeder if she can give you a couple of meals worth of your puppy’s current chow. If you plan to switch from the dog’s current diet to another food regimen, Chapter Feeding Your Beagle explains how to do so.
Homeward Bound? Maybe Not
– The puppy is too young. Good breeders don’t let puppies go to permanent homes until they’re 8 weeks old. A puppy needs those first weeks to wean herself, learn to eat solid food, and learn how to interact politely with other dogs.
– The shelter needs to check your home. Many shelters hold off on finalizing adoptions because they want to see the adopter’s home first and make sure that it’s a good place for a Beagle to live. Normally, such delays are only a matter of days. When your home passes muster, your new dog can come home.
– The dog needs to be fixed. Cash-strapped animal shelters (which most seem to be) often delay spaying or neutering a Beagle until that dog has an adoption pending and the would-be adopter has paid a fee for the procedure. After the surgery is completed and the dog has had a few days to recover, the adoption proceeds and the Beagle goes to her new home.
by Susan McCullough