- Discovering the Beagle’s origins
- Building the perfect Beagle
- Appreciating the Beagle’s qualities and talents
- Performing a Beagle reality check
No question about it: If we were to rate the various dog breeds for cuteness and adorability on a scale of 1 to 10, the Beagle would probably score a 15. The dog’s huge and winsome eyes, soft and floppy ears, and snuggle-able size appeal enormously to humans of all ages.
Mommy, Where Do Beagles Come From?
What’s in the name?
The origin of the term Beagle is as mysterious as the origin of the breed itself. Some dictionaries credit the French with coining the term be’guele to denote an open mouth — perhaps a reference to the breed’s ability to howl. Other sources suggest that the breed’s name derived from the French term begle, Celtic term beag, or the Old English begele. All three terms mean small — which is appropriate, considering the breed’s small size.
Just what is the AKC, anyway?
The American Kennel Club (AKC), headquartered in New York City and Raleigh, North Carolina, records data and statistics for the 154 dog breeds — including the Beagle — that the club considers to be purebred. Among the info the club gathers are births of litters, registrations of individual dogs, and titles that dogs earn in events such as dog shows, agility trials, and competitive obedience.
But the AKC is more than just a registry. The organization also sponsors all kinds of events at which dogs earn those titles. These events include not only the three types listed above, but also such varied activities as tracking competitions, herding tests, and hunting trials. Although the AKC serves as a sponsor, the actual events are held by clubs that belong to the AKC, such as the National Beagle Club of America.
The AKC also tries to promote responsible dog breeding and ownership through education programs targeted to breeders and owners. The organization tries to spread the word on good breeding practices, but it doesn’t have any enforcement or endorsement powers. A puppy with AKC papers is simply a puppy registered with the AKC. The papers don’t guarantee a dog’s health or temperament.
The Official Beagle Blueprint
Decoding the breed standard
If you decide to read the actual breed standard approved by the National Beagle Club of America, you may encounter some puzzling terms. Here are definitions of the terms that are most likely to cause confusion:
Legs, feet, and tail
Coat and color
- Height exceeding 15 inches
- A narrow skull
- A cranium that’s too high
- Small eyes
- Protruding eyes
- Excessively short ears
- Ears set too high on the head
- Ears that rise from their point of origin before falling
- Excessive skin folding at the throat
- Straight shoulders
- Excessively deep or shallow chest
- Swayed or excessively long back
- Cow hocks
- Excessively long tail
- A tail curved forward or over the dog’s back
- Lack of feathering at the end of the tail
- Soft coat
- Thin coat
Fashion tips for the owner
The Beagle breed standard, unlike many other standards, also describes proper attire for the fashion-conscious owner. The recommended ensemble applies only to those owners who participate in formal hunts with packs of Beagles. Among the suggested clothes are green coats and white breeches or knickerbockers for men. Women should substitute white skirts for the breeches. Both sexes should accessorize their ensembles with a black velvet cap, white tie, green or black stockings, white spats, and black or dark brown shoes. Vest and gloves are optional.
Why the World Loves Beagles
– They’re adorable. Few people can resist the winsome eyes, soft muzzle, and all-around cuteness of a Beagle. Just one soulful gaze from this sweet-looking little hound is enough to render almost any dog lover totally smitten. And just one day with this happy-go-lucky little dog (the eyes may look sad, but the rest of the dog is happy, happy, happy) may well hook you for life.
– They’re low-maintenance. With a Beagle, you don’t have to worry about untangling the coat, creating a canine top-knot, or booking an appointment with the local groomer. Beagles do need bathing and brushing, as well as ear tending, puppy pedicures, and tooth care, but you can easily perform all those functions yourself — especially with the help of the tips included in Chapter Sprucing Up Your Beagle.
– They’re small. The pocket Beagle may have been a Renaissance fad, but today’s Beagle is still pretty compact. That small size makes this breed ideal for people who can’t or don’t want to deal with the logistics of caring for larger dogs. (Believe me: Getting an 80-pound canine to get into the bathtub or out of the car when that dog would rather do something else can be, um, challenging.) And if your leashed Beagle decides to make like a sled dog and pull you down the street while the two of you are walking, your size advantage can put a quick stop to such behavior. That said, Chapter Schooling Your Beagle includes pointers on teaching your Beagle good walking manners, and using brute strength isn’t one of my recommendations.
– They’re versatile. Beagles are truly multitalented individuals. As Chapter Getting Physical: Exercising Your Beagle shows, they not only can excel in the conformation ring but also in activities such as competitive obedience, agility, and flyball. Their superb noses make them natural trackers — and of course, they can write the book on hunting small game. But the Beagle’s potential doesn’t stop with these traditional dog activities. Hop on over to Chapter Ten Unique Beagle Occupations and Activities to discover how Beagles serve on the front lines of the war on terror and also are first-class detectors of hidden mold and termites.
– They’re sociable. Simply put, Beagles enjoy the company of human beings. They relish meeting and greeting just about any person. Beagles not only fit well into human families but also can employ their friendliness in another pursuit: as therapy dogs. These canine healers visit sick people in hospitals and elderly people who are confined to nursing homes. In fact, one of the best known therapy dogs of recent years was a Beagle. Her name was Dani, and she not only gave lots of canine TLC to pediatric cancer patients but also provided a lesson in courage to those patients when she was diagnosed with cancer herself. Fortunately, Dani survived her bout with the big C and continued her therapy duties. You may not want to perform therapy work with your dog, but Chapter Beginning a Beautiful Friendship offers tips for bringing out the extrovert in any Beagle.
– They’re kid-friendly. Some breeds do better with children than others — and the Beagle is among those canines that can be wonderful companions for kids. The Beagle is small enough to be able to romp with children without knocking them over, but large and sturdy enough to interact with sometimesclumsy kids with relative safety. Still, to minimize the likelihood of either kid or canine getting hurt when getting together, Chapter Beginning a Beautiful Friendship provides information on how to help Beagles and children live happily ever after.
A place just for Beagles
Unlike many American breed clubs, the National Beagle Club (NBC) of America has its very own farm: a 508-acre tract called The Institute Farm in Aldie, Virginia, which is south of Washington, DC.
Five members of the club formed a corporation dubbed The Institute Corporation for the express purpose of buying the land and administering the property for the NBC. In 1916, the group bought the land — although the name of the seller remains an open question. Records indicate that the corporation bought the land from the estate of one Isabella Skinner Turner. However, one of the corporation’s founders said that the land had been part of the estate of a gentleman who’d planned to use the tract for a hunt club. The gentleman, whose name is not known, sailed to England to buy a pack of hounds. To his great misfortune and that of the hounds, they sailed back to America on the RMS Titanic and perished when that ship struck an iceberg and sank in April 1912. Historians speculate that the gentleman had contracted to buy the property but had not completed the purchase before he and his hounds met their deaths.
Today, The Institute Farm serves not only as the site for NBC-sponsored events to test Beagles’ hunting prowess (called field trials by show folk) and specialty shows, but it also has hosted seminars and events for other dog-related organizations. Among the non-Beagle events held at the farm in recent years has been a seminar for a “Bloodhound Training School” for law enforcement officers who work with Bloodhounds in search-and-rescue.
. . . But Nobody’s Perfect
– They are vocal. All dogs bark, but the Beagle adds a little something extra to his vocal repertoire: the howl. A Snoopydog who lifts his head in Beagle-song will certainly get the attention of the people around him — and, if he lives in an apartment, will almost certainly draw the ire of his human neighbors. Chapter Rehabbing the Delinquent Beagle addresses ways to alleviate a clash between a vocal Beagle and human sanity.
– They may have bathroom issues. The Beagle has a reputation for being more difficult to housetrain than other breeds. Some experts theorize that Beagle bathroom issues arise because the dog’s nose is so sensitive that he can smell the tiniest vestige of left-behind accidents. Patience, consistency, and a commitment to total cleanup of bathroom indiscretions are the keys to teaching your Beagle proper potty protocol. Chapter Housetraining Your Beagle gives you the scoop on how to housetrain your four-legged friend.
– They follow their noses. Humorist Dave Barry makes his living by being funny — but when he described the Beagle as a nose with four legs, he wasn’t kidding. A dog with a nose sensitive enough to detect one piece of contraband fruit in a pile of luggage is likely to be far more tuned in to the world of smells than a human being would be. Such is the case with the Beagle, who — like the hound that he is — lives to follow the scent. This devotion to odor can get the Beagle into trouble — such as going through the garbage can indoors, wandering off the owner’s property outdoors and not looking back, and attempting to eat anything and everything, whether an item is meant to be eaten or not — if his owner isn’t vigilant. Chapter Preparing for Your Beagle’s Arrivaldescribes ways that owners can make their homes impervious to Beagle explorations, and Chapter Schooling Your Beagle lists steps owners can take to keep their odor-driven companions from wandering away from hearth and home.
– They won’t help your hay fever. No one can guarantee that any breed of dog will never trigger allergic reactions in people. However, some curly-coated dogs such as the Standard Poodle or Portuguese Water Dogs are less likely than most breeds to prompt the people in their lives to sneeze, sniffle, or suffer from watery eyes. On the other hand, the relatively short, straight hairs on the Beagle’s coat could make an allergy-prone person’s life a living hell — particularly during seasons when the dog sheds. And it’s not just the hair that can trigger allergy attacks: The Beagle’s love of the outdoors means he’s likely to carry other allergens, such as dirt, grass, and leaves, into your home.
_ They have their own agendas. Beagles are very intelligent dogs, but they’re not necessarily as eager to please their people as some other breeds such as Shetland Sheepdogs or Golden Retrievers are. The apparent result may be a dog who seems difficult to school in basic canine good manners, much less teach advanced maneuvers to. Chapter Beginning a Beautiful Friendshipoutlines ways to build the bond between you and your Beagle from your very first days together, and Chapters Schooling Your Beagle and Rehabbing the Delinquent Beagle outline strategies for countering any stubbornness you encounter when you try to train your four-legged friend.
These less-than-sterling qualities should give you pause if you’re still debating whether to add a Beagle to your life. That said, none of these apparent deficiencies has to mean that the Beagle makes a bad pet. No dog is perfect — but a Beagle could well be your dream dog despite any physical and behavioral challenges he might pose. The keys to success are knowing what you’re getting into and having the patience to raise and train your new friend to be the best, not the worst, he can be.
by Susan McCullough