Rehabbing the Delinquent Beagle

Love Dog
In This Chapter
  • Dealing with behavioral problems
  • Finding expert help

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

No dog, not even your beloved Beagle, is perfect. Every little hound (heck, every member of the canine kingdom) presents her own unique set of pluses and minuses: areas where she excels and areas where she needs a little extra help. Here are some ideas on how to deal with some of the behavioral challenges that your pooch is most likely to present.

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.

However, that ability does have a downside: Your little hound may be so interested in whatever she’s doing at the moment that she fails to focus on you. Such inattention could pose a real challenge if you’re trying to train her or otherwise need for her to focus on you.
The solution is to become so interesting to your Beagle that she will want to focus on you before she pays attention to anything else. The following tips will help you achieve that goal:

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

Dogs tend to play with their teeth. If a dog’s playmate is another dog, this oral style of frolicking usually doesn’t present a problem. Because they both have fur that covers their skin, and because wellsocialized dogs inhibit their bites, such oral gestures generally don’t hurt the two canine players. But if one of the players is a human being, everything changes. That’s because bare human skin is far more tender than fur-covered dog skin, so what feels like gentle mouthing to another dog feels like a painful bite to a thin-skinned human.
But you don’t have to tolerate having your Beagle put the bite on you, even if she means no harm. Try these strategies to end those toothy tactics:

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.

Warning!

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

Most Beagles are happy-go-lucky, all’s-right-with-the-world kinds of dogs. But some unfortunate pooches, for one reason or another, have massive chips on their shoulders. They growl or bite people without apparent provocation — and they’re not playing. They’re belligerent and aggressive.
A person who lives with such a dog has a big problem, even with a little dog such as a Beagle. Aggressive dogs are not only dangerous to the people they come in contact with but also are financial liabilities — just try getting homeowner’s insurance renewed if your dog’s been deemed aggressive in a court of law.
Can the aggressive dog be saved? Maybe. If your Beagle is belligerent, follow this advice:

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

Who would have thought that a 13- to 15-inch dog could jump to well more than double that height? If you have a Beagle, you know the answer to that question: The little hound can morph into a canine pogo stick if the spirit moves her.
Generally, though, the spirit moves the Beagle to become airborne for one reason: She wants attention. By shooting herself upward she usually gets that attention, even if it comes in the form of, “Ouch! What are you doing to my sweater?! Don’t jump on me! Get down!!” Your bouncy Beagle doesn’t really care that you don’t like what she’s doing. She just wants a reaction — especially if she doesn’t get a lot of attention in the first place. Consequently, yelling at her does nothing to stop her pogo stick behavior.
And yes, you can knee her in the chest, or grab her paws so she can’t get back on all fours. However, these maneuvers call for incredibly good physical coordination on your part and, more importantly, jeopardize your Beagle’s safety. A knee that lands in the chest too hard or an awkward grab of the paw can result in bruises, sprains, or even broken bones.
A better way to bring the bouncy Beagle back down to earth is to simply refuse to pay attention to her behavior. The next time she performs a doggy liftoff, walk away from her, or at least turn your back. Say nothing. Pay no attention to her at all until she’s planted her four legs back on the floor and keeps them there. Then, praise her, pet her, and give her a treat. Do this consistently whenever she jumps up on you — and instruct others in your household to do the same. Pretty soon she’ll realize that the way to get attention from you is to keep four on the floor.

Loving you waaaay too much

Most Beagles are reasonably independent, but a few fail to function well without their people. These sad individuals not only hate solitude but often go bonkers if left alone. They may destroy your stuff, have bathroom accidents, howl, cry, or otherwise wreak havoc when you’re not around. Experts call this problem separation anxiety, and it can be a tough challenge for Beagle and human alike.
However, tough doesn’t mean insurmountable. If prolonged solitude drives your Beagle crazy, try taking these tactics:

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

Does your Beagle run behind your legs whenever you encounter other people or pooches during your walks? Does she hide in a corner when you have guests? Does she shrink from being petted? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’ve got a bashful Beagle: a shy little gal who needs lots of love and attention and some help to build her confidence. Here are some ways to do just that:

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.

Need more help? Check out Help for Your Shy Dog: Turning Your Terrified Dog into a Terrific Pet by Deborah Wood (Howell Book House).

Shushing the barking Beagle

Beagles can be rather vocal individuals. They like to bark and, in true hound fashion, they like to howl. Such vocalizing will make you rather unpopular with your neighbors unless you can keep the barking to a manageable level, if not a minimum. Here’s how to limit your hound’s bow-wowing:

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.

What’s most important to her is finding the source of that scent. She spends her life being led around by her nose.
In addition to a consuming interest in fragrant phenomena, the Beagle also is a fairly independent member of the canine kingdom. Of course she loves you — but for her, loving you and adhering to your agenda are not necessarily one and the same. She’s got her own priorities, and those priorities can easily take her beyond your borders, unless you prevent her from doing so. Here’s how:

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

Does your Snoopy-dog get a little too snappish when she takes the treat you offer her? If so, you can teach her better manners. Here’s how:
1. Hold the treat between your thumb and index finger.
Make sure that the treat is big enough for your Beagle to grab without also grabbing your fingers.
2. Offer your Beagle the treat, saying “Take it nice” as you do so.
3. If she snaps or grabs at the treat, pull it back quickly and tell her “Oh, nooooooo!” in a scandalized, what-are-youthinking tone of voice.
4. Wait a couple of seconds, and then repeat Step 2; if she still snaps, repeat Step 3.

5. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 until your Beagle takes the treat politely.

Picking Experts’ Brains

Not every Beagle responds to owner teaching or even to group obedience classes. If your Beagle is one of those dogs, don’t despair: Specialized help is available. Here are some options to help the Beagle with special behavioral challenges.

Getting private lessons

Some dogs don’t do well in group class settings. My own canine companion is one such animal. In any class I’ve taken her to, Allie performs beautifully and learns quickly — but she becomes very impatient with sitting quietly and having to wait her turn to strut her stuff. Consequently, she becomes very disruptive. She barks incessantly and tries to play with the other canine students. Needless to say, neither she nor I have been very popular with the other students or the instructors in classes we’ve taken.
In such cases — or if you simply can’t mesh your schedule with that of a class — private instruction from a trainer could be the answer. A trainer comes to your home, works with you and your dog both indoors and out, and gives your dog concentrated one-on-one attention. The dog learns much more quickly than in a group class.
There’s a downside to private lessons, of course: the price. In my area, a series of six or seven private sessions costs about $500, where a seven-session group class costs about $175. (I live in an expensive area; your mileage may vary.) But if your dog isn’t likely to learn much in a group class, getting private lessons may be a good investment.
To find a trainer who does private sessions, check out the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Web site at www.apdt.com. Call a couple of the trainers you find on the site’s searchable database and ask if they do private lessons. Have them come meet your dog, ask the questions suggested in Chapter Schooling Your Beagle, and take things from there.

Trying day training

Maybe you’re really busy — so busy that you can’t find the time to take your Beagle to class, schedule private lessons, or even teach her basic good manners on your own. If that’s your situation, day training may be just the ticket for you and your little hound.
Essentially, day training means that you take your Beagle to a doggy day care or training facility and leave her there for the day. She’ll get plenty of play time with other pooches, but she’ll also get several one-on-one lessons from a professional trainer. When you pick your Beagle up in the evening, she’ll be tired from an active day, but she also will have learned some new moves to add to her knowledge of good doggy manners.
However, you can’t expect day training to work unless you’re willing to do at least a little work with your dog, too. Any good trainer will do two things to ensure that your Beagle applies her new knowledge at home. First, when you pick up your Beagle, the trainer will show you what she and your dog did during the day. Second, she’ll give you some written instructions on how to practice with your dog at home.
Realize, too, that day training doesn’t come cheap. In my area, a program that includes a week at a doggy day care, six hours of private instruction, and a homework manual costs about $700. That said, day training can be a great investment for a busy owner who nevertheless wants a well-mannered Beagle — if the owner is willing to practice at home.
To find a day trainer, call a few local trainers and/or some local doggy day care facilities.

Finding a Beagle shrink

Some Beagles have behavioral problems that are beyond the ability of even the most knowledgeable trainer to fix. These challenges include severe separation anxiety and unprovoked aggressiveness.
But just as we can consult psychologists and psychiatrists to help us grapple with our mental health issues, Beagles (and their people) can use the services of animal behaviorists to help them improve their emotional well-being. Two types of behaviorists are especially well equipped to help your little hound overcome any issues she may have: an applied animal behaviorist and a veterinary behaviorist.
The applied animal behaviorist has at least a master’s degree in behavioral science with an emphasis on animal behavior; many have doctoral degrees in these disciplines. They are highly qualified to diagnose and treat complex animal behavior problems; however, unless a certified applied animal behaviorist is also a veterinarian, he cannot prescribe medications. Your own vet can refer you to a certified applied animal behaviorist, or you can contact one yourself. To find an applied animal behaviorist, log onto the Animal Behavior Society (ABS) Web site at www.animalbehavior.org/ABSAppliedBehavior/caab-directory.
The veterinary behaviorist is a veterinarian who has taken postgraduate coursework in animal behavior, completed a two- or three-year residency program with another veterinary behaviorist, completed an animal behavior research project, and passed an examination. Those who complete such requirements receive certification from the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB).
The veterinary behaviorist is particularly helpful if your dog’s problem has a physical cause; for example a seizure problem that may be prompting a dog to engage in very aggressive behavior. This type of behaviorist can conduct a medical exam to determine whether physical factors are causing a behavior problem, and can prescribe medications when appropriate. Generally, your veterinarian must refer you to a veterinary behaviorist. A list is available at www.veterinarybehaviorists.org/about_us/services.

Warning!

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.

Reading your Beagle’s mind

Many people wish that they could just understand their Snoopydogs a little better. They wonder what’s going on in their Beagles’ noggins, and are sure that a little bit of insight could help them have better relationships with their canine companions. These devoted owners may consider consulting an animal communicator (sometimes called a pet psychic).
Animal communicators claim to use mental telepathy to understand what an animal is thinking, which they then communicate to the owner. Many say that they don’t need to meet the animal in person, but can get all the information they need from an interview with the owner and a photo of the animal. The interview usually takes place over the phone, although in-person interviews are not uncommon.
Animal communication and mental telepathy have plenty of detractors. Many scientists believe that the practice is just so much hokum. However, plenty of owners believe otherwise. A long-time animal communicator, Penelope Smith, has compiled a directory of others in the profession for her Web site. Those listed in the directory must provide testimonials from past clients, pay an annual listing fee, and agree to abide by a code of ethics that Smith has developed. You can find the listing at www.animaltalk.net/consultlist.htm.
by Susan McCullough

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