Choosing Your Beagle Soul Mate

Love Dog
In This Chapter
  • 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.

Picking the Beagle who will be your canine companion is much more than falling for the first endearing face you see. This chapter explains what you need to know to select the Snoopy-dog who’s right for you, your family, and your way of living.

Narrowing Your Choices

The beauty of Beagles is that you have so many options to consider. Do you want a boy Beagle or a girl Beagle? Do you want a dog who wins ribbons in dog shows, a dog who can hunt, or a dog who’s simply your wonderful best friend? Does raising a cute little puppy appeal to you, or would you rather skip the puppy stuff and welcome home an adult dog? And if having one Beagle is great, is having two Beagles even better? This section doesn’t answer any of those questions for you, but it gives you the info you need to answer them for yourself.

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.)

So if male and female Beagles have similar temperaments, should you favor one gender over the other for any reason? The answer to that question depends on your individual situation and personal preferences. Here are some gender differences to consider:

– 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.

Tip

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.

Tip

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?

Just because they’re the same breed doesn’t mean that all Beagles are the same — not by a long shot. The task a Beagle was bred to perform has a very significant impact on that dog’s temperament, personality, and suitability for your lifestyle.
The field dog is a Beagle who’s been bred to hunt rabbits. As such, she’s likely to be much more energetic and require much more exercise than the dog who’s been bred for the show ring or for life as a pampered pet. She also probably will be much more vocal — a trait that will not endear you to your neighbors. A Beagle bred for hunting won’t be happy in your average pet-loving household, and you probably won’t be happy with her, either.
The show dog is a Beagle who comes exceptionally close to meeting the breed standard, which is the National Beagle Club of America’s blueprint for a perfect Beagle. (See Chapter The Incredible, Lovable Beagle for more info on the breed standard and the ideal Beagle.) For that reason, she’s likely to be far more expensive than a Beagle who doesn’t epitomize the standard quite as well. Moreover, the breeder may want to retain some ownership of the dog as well in order to show her, or he may require you to sign a contract specifying that you will show her. If the breeder opts to show the dog, she’ll probably spend quite a few weekends away from you to compete in shows. If you opt to show the dog, the two of you will be spending more than a few weekends going to dog shows. And even though the show dog can make a lovely pet, just because she’s a gorgeous example of a Beagle has absolutely no effect on what sort of pet she’ll be.
The pet is a wonderful Beagle who, for one reason or another, just isn’t suited to the show ring. The reason may be as simple as a breeder expecting a puppy to grow over 15 inches in height — which disqualifies a Beagle from being shown. Other problems or faults such as ears set too high on the head or eyes deemed too small could end a Beagle’s show career before it even starts, but these traits would have absolutely no effect on whether that dog would make a marvelous pet for you.

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.

Without question, Beagle puppies are extremely cute and cuddly. And a lot can be said for raising a dog from near-infancy. For one thing, you can control what kind of adult a puppy becomes. You can teach that puppy what you want her to know, and you can make sure that she doesn’t develop any bad habits. You can start her training at the best possible time — in puppyhood — and you can make sure that her earliest experiences in life are all positive and happy.
However, raising a puppy is a lot of work. You’ll have to contend with the whole business of housetraining, for one thing. Despite what I tell you in Chapter Housetraining Your Beagle to help make the whole process as painless as possible, you nevertheless will have to get up during the night to give your Beagle baby a bathroom break — at least for the first couple of weeks after you bring your dog home. And for at least a few months, you or someone else need to be around during the day to give your puppy potty time at least every couple of hours — and possibly even more often. Puppies also need regular meals and constant vigilance to prevent bathroom accidents and to keep them from destroying your house and otherwise getting into mischief.
Adult Beagles, on the other hand, don’t need such close monitoring — at least not when it comes to bathroom matters. They also generally have a pretty good idea as to how they should behave in a human household, so they’re less likely to make your house look like a rock star’s hotel room than the juvenile Beagle is. However, depending on where your adult Beagle lived before she met you, she may come with some emotional baggage or at least some bad habits that require time and patient remedial training to redo — or undo.

Tip

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

More than few prospective owners consider getting two Beagles at a time. They may think that the two dogs can keep each other company and out of mischief. Or, they may feel unable to choose between two adorable Beagle puppies and decide to get both. But even though two Beagles, such as those in the color section, may mean double the cuteness, they won’t necessarily double your pleasure. Here’s why:

– 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.

Tip

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

Finding the puppy of your dreams is a two-part process. The first task is to find a reputable breeder, which I describe in Chapter Gonna Find Me a Beagle. After you’ve found a breeder who has puppies available, the second task begins: picking your puppy.
Selecting one puppy isn’t easy when you’ve got a bunch of wiggly little darlings crawling all over the place and breathing their sweet, milky puppy breath on you. How do you decide which puppy is right for you? Heck, how do you know if any of these puppies are right for you?
Start by answering the second question first. A good way to determine whether this litter is one for you to look at is to meet Mama Beagle. A dam who’s clean, healthy-looking, and friendly is likely to produce puppies who are as healthy and friendly as she is.
Then watch the puppies as they play together. Pay close attention to their movements; make sure that they walk and run without difficulty. A puppy who limps or appears to lack energy may have health problems you probably don’t want to take on.

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.
As the puppies play, give yourself time to distinguish one from the other. Eventually, you’ll either find that one particular puppy appeals to you or that you appeal to one particular puppy (as in, she’ll come over to say hello).

Tip

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.

Either way, as you cuddle the little darling, check for the following:

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.

Breeder’s choice

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.

Warning!

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

Choosing an adult Beagle is similar to selecting a puppy — to a point. You want to look for the same traits in a full-grown Beagle as in a pup: healthy eyes, ears, and skin; sound temperament; good movement; and a full coat. But unlike with a puppy from a reputable breeder, you don’t necessarily want to reject an adult Beagle who doesn’t look or act quite as healthy as the well-bred puppy.

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:

Ban surprises. Giving a Beagle puppy or adult dog as a holiday, birthday, or Valentine’s Day surprise gift is not a good idea. The commotion of the holiday practically guarantees that the new dog won’t get off to a good start, and the recipient may be unprepared to care for a dog.

Make a promise. Instead of giving a Beagle as a gift, create a gift certificate or I.O.U. promising to choose a dog together after a birthday or holiday passes. Meanwhile, present the recipient with a collar and leash — and to give him a really good head start on raising a Beagle, give him this book!

Bring your partner, spouse, and children with you to the breeder, shelter, or rescue foster-care provider. Allow everyone to look at the puppies or dogs, to handle them (children should be carefully supervised, however), and to weigh in on which dogs they like — and don’t like.

Include your other pets. Ask your breeder, shelter professional, or rescue group member whether you can introduce your current pet to your possible future pet before you make a final purchase or adoption decision.

Make it unanimous. If one family member doesn’t like the puppy or dog the others have chosen, don’t overrule that lone veto. Make sure that the Beagle you take home is the puppy or dog that everyone in your family wants.

Don’t reject the adult Beagle because of the following:

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.

Tip

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.

Warning!

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.

Pushing Papers

After much deliberation, you and other members of your family have chosen a Beagle of your very own. (Or perhaps she chose you!) Either way, now that you’ve made your choice, you need to seal the deal. At the very least, the breeder, animal shelter, or rescue group will give you a purchase or adoption contract to sign and probably also some written instructions on how to care for your new family member. Here’s the scoop on what you’ll get and why.

Buyer or adoption contract

Once you agree to buy or adopt a Beagle, you need to formalize the transaction with a written contract. Such documents protect the puppy or adult dog by clarifying the rights and responsibilities of the buyer or adopter, and the breeder, shelter, or rescue group. The document should address the following issues:

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.

Shelter and rescue adoption contracts are quite similar to breeders’ contracts, except that they don’t contain any provisions for showing the dog. That’s because shelter and rescue dogs are all spayed and neutered — if not by the shelter or rescue group, then by the adopter as a condition of the adoption — which means they aren’t eligible for dog shows. Adoption contracts may also contain more provisions than breeders’ contracts as to how the adopter is expected to care for the Beagle. Adoption contracts commonly:

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.

AKC papers

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.

If you’re buying a show-quality Beagle, you’ll apply for a full registration for your puppy. This registration certifies that your Beagle is a purebred dog, lets her trip the ring fantastic, and permits her offspring to be registered with the AKC. If your Beagle isn’t destined for the show ring, you’ll apply for a limited registration. A dog with this registration is also a certifiably purebred dog but can’t enter dog shows. The offspring are ineligible for AKC registration. However, a Beagle with a limited registration can enter AKC sports.
Either way, the breeder will fill out parts of the form (called the blue slip) dealing with your pup’s breed, birth date, names of the parents, the breeder’s name and address, and the AKC registration number for your puppy’s litter. She’ll give the forms to you to complete, sign, and send (along with a fee) to the AKC. The AKC then transfers ownership of the puppy to you and sends you a certificate with your puppy’s new AKC number.

Remember

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.

The breeder also should give you a copy of your puppy’s pedigree, which is a chart that depicts your Beagle’s family tree. The pedigree includes the names of your puppy’s sire and dam, their sires and dams, and offspring from the previous three to five generations. If you plan to breed your Beagle, such info is essential; if breeding’s not on your agenda, the info is still fun to have.

Health clearances

Your breeder should give you copies of any health clearances given to your puppy’s sire and dam, such as approved hips and elbows from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) (or a PennHIP clearance, see Chapter Gonna Find Me a Beagle) and the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF). Keep these clearances with your puppy’s health records.
And speaking of health records, your breeder should give you information as to whether and when your puppy received any immunizations and which diseases she’s been immunized against. You also need to know about any treatment for worms or other parasites your pup may have received. A shelter or rescue group should provide similar info about an adult Beagle.

Care instructions

The breeder, shelter, or rescue group should provide you with basic information on how to care for your new Beagle. The info should include a description of when to feed your Beagle and what the dog’s been eating up until now.

Tip

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.

If your Beagle has recently been spayed or neutered, the shelter or rescue group should provide instructions on how to care for the incision and let you know about any other care she needs.

Homeward Bound? Maybe Not

Just because you’ve signed a contract and paid some money doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to take your new Beagle home right away. Here are some reasons why you may need to delay your gratification:

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

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