Soft, sweet, constantly sniffing around for something good to eat…that’s a beagle! This popular hound dog is good-natured, healthy, and great with kids. Whether you have one or not, you may have heard about the beagle’s legendary ability to find and eat anything that smells good (to them at least). Or, you at least know about Snoopy from Peanuts.
Learn more about beagle dogs, from their hunting hound roots to their family dog potential in this in-depth breed profile, and we’ll help you decide whether a beagle dog is the right breed for you.
- Origin: England
- Weight: 20-30 pounds
- Lifespan: 10-15 years
- Breed group: hound
- Activity level:
- Barking/howling level:
- Good with dogs: yes
- Good with kids: yes
- Good with cats:
- Easy to groom:
- Easy to train:
Beagle dogs are similar in appearance to foxhounds. They’re smaller but with the same soft floppy ears, strong jaw, short hair, and (usually) tricolor coat.
Most beagles are tricolor, with white and black and light brown patches. However, some are two colors (like the lemon beagle), with patches of tan, white, lemon, red, and more. Rarer colorings include ticking and mottling, such as with the blue tick beagle, giving the dog a unique speckled look.
As far as grooming, most beagle parents will find that this dog is easy to care for. Like other dogs with a double coat, beagles shed their undercoat once or twice per year (or year-round in temperate climates), but for a beagle’s short coat, weekly brushing as maintenance should be enough.
You may have heard of the “beagle smell”, and although beagle owners tend to get used to it, people who are new to beagles might find it a strong scent. Bathing helps, but won’t cure it completely. We think it’s a small price to pay for the friendship of such a lovely dog.
Beagle dogs are famously gentle and good-tempered, and while they can be cautious around strangers, they tend to warm up to them quickly (which makes for a poor guard dog). Beagles are also excitable, which means that they’re prone to howling and barking when something seems amiss (which makes for a good watchdog).
A defining feature of a hound-type dog, and of the beagle, is the impulse to follow one’s nose. When it comes to an interesting scent, a beagle will be single-minded, and you’ll definitely need a leash, and a strong arm, to get them back.
A note on scent hounds: beagles, like other smell-obsessed dogs, will find and eat things you would rather them not eat. Areas you should consider beagle-proofing include the pantry, the bathroom and kitchen trash cans, the diaper pail, the cat’s litter box, your dirty clothes basket…you get the idea.
Another interesting beagle fact is that when they do catch a good scent, they’ll sometimes vocalize in a specific way known as baying, which originally helped direct hunters to the location of prey.
Beagles are high energy dogs built for long hunting expeditions. This means that whether you live in an apartment or on a farm, a beagle will need daily exercise, preferably in the form of long walks.
To rein in the beagle’s insatiable appetite for finding the good smell, it’s a good idea to secure the exits. You might want to look around your yard to see if there are any ways your dog could sneak out after a tantalizing scent and block up those escape routes.
Do you already have a full house? Beagle dogs are reliably gentle with kids, so they make great family dogs. They also get along with other family pets, including cats (remember the litter box?).
The ideal beagle owner will be active, and ready to meet their pet’s daily exercise needs. They’ll also have plenty of time for their pet. Beagles are prone to separation anxiety, and sometimes destroy things when you leave for too long. Crate training can help, and so can plenty of good attention when you can be around.
Beagles are smart, stubborn, food-motivated, and easily distracted by smells. This means that training is best done in quiet, distraction-free environments, and with consistency. Keeping your training sessions short will help your beagle focus, and positive reinforcement with praise and treats will motivate good behavior. Pro tip: train on an empty stomach to keep your beagle’s attention.
Beagles have medium-length coats, which don’t require as much grooming as dogs with longer hair. Because beagles are natural scent investigators, you may find that yours gets into smelly things more often. A bath with gentle shampoo will do the trick, but it’s important not to bathe your beagle too often, as this could result in dry, itchy skin.
Establish a twice-weekly brushing routine. Using a natural-bristle brush, work along their coat in circular motions. This will loosen dead hair and encourage their skin to produce healthy natural oils. Like any breed, the benefits of hiring a professional groomer a few times per year are that they’ll trim nails, express their anal glands and clean ears.
Beagles are a relatively healthy dog breed, but they do experience some health problems more often than others. These include epilepsy (which can be treated with medication), hypothyroidism, eye conditions such as “cherry eye,” disk diseases, dwarfism, immune-mediated polygenic arthritis, and cerebellar cortical degeneration.
For general beagle health, keep an eye on their ears, which are more prone to ear infections due to their size and floppiness. Ask your vet for recommendations on ear cleaning products and techniques.
Beagle dogs descend from the hunting hounds of England, whose excellent sense of smell was used to catch scents and run down injured prey, particularly stags.
The word beagle, thought to come from the French word begueule, was used to refer to smaller varieties of these hounds. Miniature forms of beagle, known as pocket beagles, were popular among English royalty, such as Elizabeth I.
The first official beagles were recognized by breeders in the 19th century and used for stag hunting, rabbit hunting, and drag hunting. The breed eventually came to the United States to work and become the lovable family dogs we’re familiar with today.
Getting a beagle is simple, but it’s important to be prepared. If you’re buying a beagle puppy, you’ll spend plenty of time teaching basic obedience, socializing the puppy to other people and dogs, and teaching important skills like sleeping through the night and going to the bathroom outside.
Finding a beagle puppy or adult dog can be as easy as an internet search, but be careful of puppy mills and internet scams. There are many ways to find a reputable breeder, and it’s good to ask around, visit before committing to payment, and trust your gut.
Another way to find a beagle is to adopt a rescue. Unlike puppies, rescues often come spayed and neutered, and with all their shots. Many beagle rescues are surrendered by individual owners, and these dogs are likely to know basic commands and be socialized. If not, that doesn’t mean you can’t work with them. Contact a trusted dog trainer for more information on how to teach a dog who hasn’t experienced much structure, or how to help a dog who has been traumatized to feel safe and welcome.
To find breeders who have to meet stringent requirements, use the American Kennel Club (AKC) search tool to find a reputable beagle breeder near you. When you visit, be sure to ask about any health issues in the dog’s bloodline, and discuss any genetic tests you might want to run.
Are you batting for team beagle? We’ve got more for you, from gifts for beagle fans in your life (or for you) to the most popular beagle names, and more: