Every Beagle needs basic training (see Chapter Schooling Your Beagle), but some Beagles need more than the basics. These little hounds need special help to overcome special issues that trouble them — and probably trouble you, too. But you don’t have to live with your Beagle’s behavioral problems. This chapter helps you to deal with the problems that most often get in the way of your Beagle getting a good-conduct medal. If you can’t solve the problem yourself, the chapter explains how to find an expert who can help you.
Solving Common Snoopy-dog Problems
Huh? You talkin’ to me?
No, I’m not saying that your Beagle is likely to imitate Robert De Niro’s character in the classic film Taxi Driver. Unlike the melancholy Travis Bickle, the Beagle is a merry little dog who is tremendously curious about the world around her. She loves investigating new smells and sights, and is a master at living in the moment. We humans could all stand to learn from the Beagle’s ability to embrace the present.
– Bribe shamelessly. The way to a Beagle’s heart often passes through her stomach, so use that route to your advantage. Figure out which foods or treats your Snoopy-dog loves more than any others, and offer those tidbits as incentives for her to do what you ask.
– Stay positive. Never, ever ask your Beagle to do something that has a negative consequence. For example, don’t ask her to come, and then scold her for an earlier transgression. (Think about it: Would you want to go to someone who yells at you when you get there?)
– Avoid failure. Don’t ask your Beagle to do something she’s likely to fail at. If, for example, she’s having a great time playing at the dog park but it’s time to go home, don’t expect her to come when you call her. Go to her.
– Be the shizzle. The best way to get your Beagle to pay attention to you is to be the shizzle in her life: the most interesting, fun-loving owner that you can possibly be. Take her with you on outings, play with her when you can, and give her tasty treats when appropriate. Let her know that she’s important to you, and you’ll become important to her.
Putting the (play) bite on you
– Make like a dog. If your Beagle plays too roughly with another dog, that dog will let her know by yelping in pain. Try doing the same thing with your Beagle: If she’s using her teeth on your skin, yelp or squeal the way a puppy does. Another option: Say “Ouch!!!” in a harsh-sounding, loud voice. Either way, chances are your Beagle will look up in surprise — which means that she’s no longer mouthing you.
– Walk away. Some dogs persist in their play biting. If your Beagle is one such dog, end the game and walk away (if she’s a puppy, put her in her crate). The consistent loss of your company due to nipping may soon persuade her to find other ways to keep you around for playtime.
– Give alternatives. Help your rowdy little hound find other ays besides roughhousing with you to release some of the pent-up energy that can result in rough play. Toss a ball for her to fetch, do some obedience moves with her, or take her for a nice, long walk that gets her good and tired. If she’s old enough, take her to a dog park to play with other pooches.
– Teach her to stop. A variation of the Off command, which I explain in Chapter Schooling Your Beagle, can help you teach your Beagle to keep her teeth off your person. Get out a few tasty treats, and hold one treat in your hand. Tell your Beagle “take it” and give her the treat. Now put another treat in your hand, close your fist, and say “off.” Do this sequence a few times, and practice daily. Soon, you should be able to tell your Beagle “off” when she places her teeth on you.
The advice here is for juvenile and adult Beagles who engage in play-biting. If your Beagle’s biting is not all in fun — in other words, if she’s being aggressive — you need to read the following section.
Knocking that chip off her shoulder
– Protect others. Until or unless you find out what’s causing your dog’s aggressive behavior and are able to reverse that behavior, you must protect other people from her. If you walk with her in public, make sure she wears a muzzle and a leash. (Don’t walk your muzzled dog in very hot weather, and don’t run with her at all.) At home, confine her to her crate if you have guests, especially if those guests are children.
– Protect the dog. All dogs need protection from clueless humans, but the aggressive dog needs even more safeguarding. Never leave any children alone with the dog. Do not allow children to tease the dog in any fashion, and teach your own children to refrain from running around and screaming when the dog is nearby.
– See your vet pronto. All too often, aggressive behavior has physical causes. For example, a dog who suffers from a specific type of epilepsy can suffer from sudden, unpredictable, and uncontrollable episodes of rage. The same may be true of a dog whose production of thyroid hormone is low — even on the low side of normal. Other physical causes of aggression include pain, trauma, certain infections such as Lyme disease, food allergies, excessive protein in the diet, and long-term exposure to toxic substances such as lead. Your vet can help you determine whether a physical problem is causing your dog’s behavior problem, and he may be able to prescribe medication or another treatment to stabilize her behavior.
– Consult a trainer. Even if your dog’s aggressive behavior has a treatable physical cause, you still need to work with a highly skilled trainer to help break the animal’s habit of responding aggressively. And private lessons are essential. An aggressive dog needs one-on-one assistance from a pro to learn new behaviors, and that dog’s people need help to learn how to deal with their canine companion. Make sure, though, that the trainer uses positive methods; a trainer who uses harsh, corrective methods may worsen your dog’s problem.
– Be realistic. Sometimes, no matter how much you do to help your aggressive dog, her behavior is not reliable enough for you and others to live safely with her. In such cases, euthanasia is a humane option. Talk with your vet and your trainer if your dog doesn’t seem to be responding. In the end, though, you must be prepared to do what’s best not only for you and your dog, but also for those with whom the dog may come into contact.
Taming the bouncy Beagle
Loving you waaaay too much
– Wear her out. If possible, take your Beagle for a brisk 20-minute walk or engage in a strenuous play session with her before you head out the door. Get her panting. A hearty romp may leave her too tired to miss you (and get upset) after you’re gone.
– Keep her busy. Interactive toys like Kongs and Busta Cubes can give your little hound something so intriguing to do that she forgets to be lonesome. Both toys, which are available at most pet supply stores and superstores, allow you to stuff treats inside them and require your Beagle to ferret those treats out. The reward, of course, is to enjoy the goodies. If you stuff the treats tightly enough, your Snoopy-dog will have to work very hard to reap the tasty reward — which means she won’t be missing you.
– Change your routine. Many dogs can anticipate when their people are about to depart because those people engage in the same predeparture routines. My own dog appears from nowhere just as I’m about to leave the house because I always put on lipstick, put on my shoes, pick up my purse, and get out my keys. Fortunately, Allie doesn’t suffer from separation anxiety, but if your dog does, an unchanging departure routine can heighten that anxiety.
For that reason, you may want to prevent that anxiety-producing anticipation by varying your departure rituals. Try putting on your shoes and then going into the living room to read a book. Pick up your purse and keys, but then head into the bathroom. By breaking the chain of anxious anticipation, you can help your Beagle feel less nervous about your impending departure — simply because she won’t know that you’re leaving.
– Downplay your departures. Many dogs with separation anxiety have owners who make a big deal out of their departures. They rain hugs and kisses on their Beagles, who become so revved up emotionally that they have no way to discharge those emotions when the owner isn’t there — except to destroy the owner’s stuff. Instead, be matter-of-fact when you take your leave. A simple “Bye, I’ll be back soon” or “Be a good dog and watch the house” will do.
– Crate her. For some (but not all) dogs, spending alone time in the crate can help her feel better about being all by herself — especially if she’s got a Kong or Busta Cube to keep her busy.
– Encourage independence. Even when you’re around, give your dog something to do on her own. That stuffed Kong or Busta Cube can keep her happy and content.
– Consider day care. If you’ve got the bucks, your Beagle may be a prime candidate for doggy day care. At good doggy day cares, the canine guests get to frolic with one another for most of the day. Your stuff is safe, your Beagle is happy, and you have a mellow canine companion when you pick her up and head for home.
– Take her with you. Check and see if your workplace allows you to bring your dog to work. If the answer is yes and your Beagle is generally well behaved, your problem’s solved.
– See your vet. If you’ve tried most of the other measures and have had no luck in abating your Beagle’s anxiety, see your vet. He may be able to prescribe medications that can help your dog calm down when you depart — and if she’s even just a little calmer, she can benefit from other steps you take to detraumatize your departures.
Helping the bashful Beagle
– Expose her. Take your bashful Beagle out and about, and let her see what the world has to offer. Sit on an urban park bench with her, and together watch the world go by. Watch a kids’ soccer game. Walk her everywhere: in your neighborhood, the local shopping center, a park. The more novel sights and sounds you expose her to, the better. Chapter Beginning a Beautiful Friendship offers lots of tips for giving your Beagle a positive introduction to the joys of the world around her.
– Talk to strangers. Bring some treats with you on your jaunts, and get some approachable strangers to give those goodies to your shy Snoopy-dog. True story: Years ago I asked a local mail carrier to give my very shy dog (not a Beagle) some treats that I supplied to help Cory be less wary of strangers. The mail carrier was happy to oblige, and would offer treats to my bashful boy whenever he saw him. Within a few weeks, Cory would start dragging me down the street whenever he saw that letter carrier — and for the rest of his life he would exhibit unmistakable excitement whenever he saw a U.S. Postal Service truck.
– Teach her something new. The dog who lacks confidence often develops amazing self-assurance when she learns a sport or new skill. Consider taking your dog to an agility or flyball class, or take her swimming. Teach her some tricks, too: Dog Tricks For Dummies by Sarah Hodgson (Wiley) will give you some ideas for nifty new moves that you can teach your Beagle.
– Take it slow. Don’t push your bashful Beagle to do more than she’s ready for, and keep your socialization sessions short.
The key here is to keep everything happy and positive, so your Beagle can build her confidence at her own pace.
– Don’t coddle. If your dog starts cringing or otherwise exhibits fear or shyness, do not pick her up and start crooning, “It’s okay, baaaayyyybeeeee.” By doing so you reward her shy behavior — exactly what you don’t want to do.
Shushing the barking Beagle
– Wear her out. A dog who’s gotten plenty of exercise is less likely to have the energy to mouth off than the dog who does nothing but lie around the house.
– Keep her entertained. If your little hound’s concerts start while you’re away from home, give her something else to do instead. A treat-filled Kong toy or Busta cube can provide lots of tasty entertainment for your solitary Snoopy-dog, and she won’t need to bark to amuse herself.
– Ignore her. Yes, it’s tempting to respond to your loud-mouth Beagle by getting a little bit loud yourself — but yelling at your dog to quiet down usually has the opposite effect. Instead, walk away. Ignore her. Withdraw the attention that she seeks.
– Ask why. Sometimes dogs have a good reason for barking. For example, an intruder is nearby (the fact that said intruder is a squirrel scampering across your patio is totally irrelevant to your Beagle) or something else is amiss. Try to find out why your Bowser is barking. If the reason is understandable, thank her, give her a treat — and then give her something else to do.
Keeping the wanderer home
The Beagle is not a natural homebody. Like many hounds, her idea of heaven on earth is to sniff something intriguing and follow that scent to its source. If that source is beyond your property line — well, from your dog’s standpoint, that’s the way it (and she) goes.
– Fence her in. Either invest in secure fencing for your yard, or resolve to never, ever let your Beagle off leash unless she’s in an area that’s surrounded by secure fencing. Actually, do both!
– Check her collar. If your Beagle wears a buckle collar, check every few weeks to make sure that the hole for the buckle pin hasn’t gotten so large that the pin comes loose. And no matter what sort of collar your Beagle wears, check periodically to make sure that the collar isn’t so loose that your dog can slip her head through it and head for the hills.
– Practice recalls. Coming when called is particularly difficult for a Beagle, but practice never hurts. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that your command to come would keep your Beagle from going on the lam. See Chapter Schooling Your Beagle for instructions on how to teach your Beagle to come when she’s called.
Teaching treat-taking manners
Picking Experts’ Brains
Getting private lessons
Trying day training
Finding a Beagle shrink
Anyone can say call himself an animal behaviorist — but applied animal behaviorists and veterinary behaviorists have the credentials to prove their expertise. If you’re considering the services of a behaviorist, check to see whether he’s on either the ABS or ACVB lists. If he’s not — well, then for all you know, he’s just hanging out his shingle, nothing more.