In This Chapter
- Keeping your Beagle in tip-top condition
- Helping your Beagle live longer
- Improving your Beagle’s quality of life
Although no dog lives forever, Beagles can live a pretty long time: The average life expectancy for the Snoopy-dog ranges between 10 and 14 years. You can do a lot to increase the odds that your beloved Beagle will live out her full life span. In this chapter, I give you a list of ways to not only add months or even years to your Beagle’s life, but also to keep her happy and healthy through most, if not all, of that time.
Find a Great Vet
Yes, you are your Beagle’s best friend. But even you, a loving and attentive owner, can’t be everything to your dog. To live her life to the max, she also needs the care of someone who has more expertise on Beagle medicine than you probably do. That individual is your veterinarian.
Throughout your Beagle’s lifetime, your veterinarian will work with you as a partner in your dog’s care. Regular visits to your vet will help to maintain your Beagle’s good health and solve any problems that arise.
But no matter how much technical expertise a veterinarian has, you will be less likely to use his services if the two of you aren’t a good match. If you don’t have a vet already, Chapter Preparing for Your Beagle’s Arrival offers pointerson how to choose the right one for you and your beloved Beagle. Chapter Dealing with Health Issues contains valuable tips on how to work most effectively with your vet when your dog shows signs of illness.
Give Her the Skinny
Beagles have a reputation for being insatiable chowhounds. Left to their own devices, they’re likely to eat well beyond the point of stemming hunger and may turn themselves into baby blimps. A baby blimp may look cute, but looks aren’t an infallible indicator of good health. Pleasingly plump isn’t a plus for your Beagle (or for any other dog).
Carrying too much weight can shorten your Beagle’s life. A study from Nestle Purina Pet Care showed that excessive eating can cause a dog to show signs of aging earlier than would have been the case with a normal diet — enough to reduce that dog’s lifespan by two years. In addition, overweight Beagles are more likely than their slimmer counterparts to have problems with their hearts and joints because of the strain created by those extra pounds.
But if you do your part, your Beagle need not be overweight. With your vet’s help, you can determine what your Beagle’s ideal weight should be and work from there to get her to that point. If she needs to pare off some poundage, feed her the correct amount of the best, highest-quality diet you can afford to give her, and try to at least limit the amount of doggy treats and other high-calorie goodies you slip her between meals. Chapter Feeding Your Beagle
gives you the skinny on how to give your Beagle the skinny.
Keep Her Moving
Any dog trainer will tell you that “a tired dog is a good dog.” In other words, there’s a simple secret to raising your dog to become a treasured companion who lies at your feet or across your lap, waking up from her snooze only to give you a loving lick. Moreover, any dog can become such an affectionate couch potato — even the devil-may-care, lives-to-be-active Beagle.
Ironically, the secret to creating a couch potato is to keep the couch potato moving. Make sure she gets plenty of exercise, especially when she’s young. A daily session of active games, such as those described in Chapter Getting Physical: Exercising Your Beagle
, can siphon off some of the excessive energy that Beagles are notorious for. The result will be a mellower Beagle who’s more likely to take to training and will be more amenable to daily love fests. A tired Beagle also is much less likely to trash your house than a Beagle who’s rarin’ to go but has no place to go.
Of course, calming your Beagle isn’t the only benefit that regular exercise offers. Physical fitness will help keep your dog’s heart and lungs in good condition and can help to forestall arthritis. In addition, the fit Beagle is likely to be a trim Beagle, because exercise consumes some of the calories packed into the food she eats.
And don’t forget mental fitness! Combine exercise with games and training that will stimulate your Beagle’s noggin. Problem-solving toys, such as food-stuffed Kongs and Buster Cubes (which I describe in Chapter Rehabbing the Delinquent Beagle), can engage your Beagle’s interest and appetite — and keep her from turning into Destructo Dog when you’re not home to watch her.
Do Fence Her In
More than most breeds, Beagles tend to wander far away from where they’re supposed to be — and once they’re wandering, they’re less likely than most dogs to come back when they’re called. Consequently, the person who releases an unleashed Beagle into an unfenced yard does so at his peril — and at the Beagle’s peril, too. Predators, cars, and other dangers are ready to stop the merrily oblivious, scent-pursuing stray Beagle literally dead in the dog’s tracks.
For that reason, you should — no, you must! — exercise your Beagle either on leash or within a securely fenced yard. And be sure that fencing is real fencing you can see; many a Beagle has withstood the shock of an underground electronic fence in the name of pursuing a bunny, squirrel, or other critter. By the same token, avoid tying your Beagle outside without your supervision. The tie-out maneuver leaves your dog at the mercy of free-roaming animals and unscrupulous humans, not to mention the ravages of her own teeth on the leash.
Take Her to School
Chapter Schooling Your Beagle
devotes a goodly number of pages to showing you how to teach your Beagle basic good manners: to come when called, sit and lie down when told, walk nicely on leash, ask to go out, and go to a designated place when you need her to. So, why you might ask, should you also take her to obedience classes?
An obedience class gives you the benefit of real-time, face-to-face instruction with an expert: a professional dog trainer. The trainer can see any mistakes you may be making and help you refine your technique. Moreover, training amid the distractions of other puppies and people can help solidify the lessons you’re trying to teach your Beagle at home, even if those distractions make the learning curve a little bit steep at first.
A class also can put you in touch with other dog people — maybe even Beagle people! — who have the same interest that you do: raising a well-trained, mannerly dog. Being able to network and brainstorm training solutions with other people can help both you and your dog to live more happily together.
Finally, a well-trained dog inevitably leads a happier life than the untrained pooch because people love to spend time with a wellbehaved canine. And because just about every pooch loves to spend time with people, the Beagle who knows how to behave is happier — because she gets to spend more time with people than her unschooled counterpart.
Chapter Schooling Your Beagle
gives you pointers on what to look for in a trainer, as well as tips on how to find one.
Keep Her Pretty
A Beagle doesn’t have a high-maintenance coat — which is one reason why a lot of people like this breed — but that doesn’t mean these dogs don’t need grooming. Grooming your Beagle not only keeps her pretty but also gives you quiet time together, which helps to build and strengthen the bond between the two of you. Another plus to grooming: The hands-on nature of the job helps you spot potential problems, such as lumps, cuts, and skin problems. Finally, certain tasks such as tooth brushing and ear cleaning help prevent other health threats such as tooth decay and ear infections.
Chapter Sprucing Up Your Beagle
gives you all the information you need to keep your Beagle beautiful: how to give her a bath, brush her coat, clean her ears, brush her teeth, and give her a painless pedicure, among other tasks.
The old maxim, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is as true for Beagles as it is for people. Dog-care experts such as veterinarians and trainers can do a lot to keep your dog healthy and happy — but they’ll be able to do even more if you are on alert for signs of trouble between visits or classes. As you play with, train, and care for your Beagle, keep your eyes peeled for possible health and behavior problems.
On the health front, make sure your Beagle gets an annual wellness checkup until she’s 8 or 9; at that point, switch to twice-yearly exams. These checkups give your vet a chance to catch possible problems early enough to up the odds of effective treatment.
At home, keep a written record of your Beagle’s health exams and other procedures. Record when she had her last checkup, and note on your calendar when you need to book her next exam. A separate notebook for this purpose can be very helpful, especially if you include copies of any results of lab tests your vet performs. Such reports, kept close at hand, can give you more information to share with your vet as you both work to maintain optimal health for your Snoopy-dog.
Trust Your Instincts
No one knows your Beagle better than you do — not your vet, your petsitter, your dog’s trainer, or anyone else. Sure, they’re experts in their fields and they’ve worked with oodles of dogs, but their knowledge is only general. They don’t know your very special Beagle’s individual health quirks and behavioral idiosyncrasies. And why should they? They don’t live with your dog day in and day out, so they can’t possibly have the knowledge you have.
That’s why, if your Beagle’s behavior suddenly changes, or she shows other signs of not feeling up to par, you should act on your knowledge. Call your veterinarian or dog trainer and work with them to determine what might be wrong.
And never, ever be afraid to contact your vet or other pet professional because you think you may be making a mountain out of a molehill. Your love-driven instincts are the best tools a pet pro hasfor discovering problems early — and the earlier those problems are found, the more likely they are to be resolved.
If you think something’s amiss with your Beagle, go with your gut. Depending on what you’re observing, put in a call to your vet or other pet pro — or, at the very least, watch your four-legged friend even more closely than you usually do.
Have a Sense of Humor
Beagles are merry little dogs. They’re full of curiosity and take an unabashed joy in living. For those who live with Beagles, these characteristics are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the Beagle’s happy-go-lucky nature makes her an engaging companion; on the other hand, the breed’s curiosity (especially when it comes to unusual scents) can get your dog into trouble early and often. The Beagle’s ability to make mischief is legendary.
As the owner of a mischief-making dog, I’ve learned that without a sense of humor, a dog’s misguided adventures and antics can be an unbearable trial to the humans in her life. They can cause you to feel less love for her and may even prompt you to question whether you want to keep your dog. On the other hand, an ability to laugh at the mayhem your Beagle creates can go a long way toward keeping your relationship on track and keeping the two of you together.
Of course, it always helps to know that someone has gone through the same travails — or worse — than you and your Beagle have. If your sense of humor about your Beagle’s behavior is lagging, try reading What the Dog Did: Tales of a Formerly Reluctant Dog Owner by Emily Yoffe (Bloomsbury USA, 2005). Reading about how Yoffe and her family coped with their Beagle’s antics, and grew to love her nevertheless, will give you a new perspective on your own beloved Snoopy-dog.
Love, Love, Love
There’s no such thing as loving a dog too much. After all, that’s why you got her in the first place, right? So why hold back? Let yourself love your Beagle, even if you feel silly at first.
Go on: Get down on the floor and coo sweet nothings into the ears of your four-legged friend. Develop silly little sayings or songs just for her. Consider lightening up on some of your prohibitions such as not letting your Beagle sleep in your bedroom. Take her places: the park, the beach, the woods, the local doggy festival. In short, make your Beagle a full part of your life.
Knowing that one is loved helps anyone to live a higher-quality life, which is just as true for your Beagle as it is for you. You’ll never regret making all this extra effort to please your Beagle. In giving all this love to her, you’re creating a lifetime of loving memories for both of you.
by Susan McCullough