Beagles are brilliant dogs, mostly distracted through scents but very good in receiving behavioural training. Nonetheless, untrained beagles can be challenging to live with and a real risk to others, prone to cause legal issues through injuries or damage to things and sometimes being a danger to themselves by running into cars, getting lost or being attacked by other dogs. Furthermore, Beagles with behavioural problems can cause severe destruction in your home and be very stressful to have around.
This short article serves to provide some ideas on how to deal with such issues and to provide best practices for other Beagle owners we have used with our Dogs over the years:
One of the core issues around Beagles and other dogs is that our own behaviour gets them to believe to be the alfa within the family group and very often their bid for power usually goes undetected until it’s too late due to the way dogs process our behaviour. Therefore, obedience and house training are a must for your Beagle in order not to raise to a top position inside the family group, maintaining your relationship well-balanced and in your favour.
Make sure that you eat your meals before you feed your Beagle. In the wild lesser pack members will eat last and the scraps left by the alfa in the group. Send your Beagle to the crate or let him sit; he/she will get the message of the status within the group and avoid begging behaviour on the table.
We would also advise making sure that your Beagle is last to enter the house. In the wild, the alfa in the group will lead the pack, and therefore it should be the owner that leads the pack into the house.
Another good advice is to practice a 20-minute stay down routine every day as this will be convenient and practical in various moments such a restaurants and around other people.
Be complained with your Beagle and give commands only once and make sure that the dog follows them. If he/she does not at the first command help your Beagle into it. But make sure that when you give your dog an order that you mean it and that the dog follows it. Erratic and random behaviour with your dog will yield erratic dog behaviour in return.
Behavioural science in dogs has proven that the more a dog is alfa, less aggressive behaviour he has towards other dogs. A dog that is aggressive towards other dogs or humans is not being dominant or asserting himself as pack-leader but is either scared or insecure. Hence being a bully or violent with your dog will show him that you are insecure also, making his/her weakness even worse. There are studies around the idea of dominance in wolfs packs that even challenge the concept of violence to prove which wolf is strongest within the pack (source).
Beagles are pack animals by nature and bred to work in groups. A lot of destructive behaviour in Beagles is very often being triggered by being on his/her own for lengthy periods. As a rule of thumb Beagles should never be alone more than 3 hours per day. Therefore, it is advisable to get Beagles in pairs or to make the garden Beagle proof, if you plan to leave your Beagle outside in your absence (beware of the neighbours, Beagles do bark a lot). We had quite a lot of success by using a dog walker that would stay with the Beagle twice a day during our absence. The short walks would use up some of his energy, which he did not deploy to break things around the house.
Set up your Beagle for success by setting up a strict routine around your and his/her needs, covering walks, exercise, social bonding, training, feeding, playing and sleeping. Through constant practice, your Beagle will become predictable and will be set up for long term success. An erratic dog routine will result in unpredictable behaviour. Make also sure that your Beagle is overseen in the early stages and that he understands what he /she is allowed to chew and where the Beagle is allowed to do its toilet needs. New tasks, new contacts or even new routines must be rewarded positively to ensure ongoing success.
If you catch your Beagle being mischievous, try a loud noise such as either clapping or a loud no and remember always do this during the behaviour. When possible, even at the beginning, but never after, as the dog will not link the two actions together. If you find something that your Beagle has destroyed or done, but you missed him/her in the act, clean it up and vow to supervise your Beagle better in the future.
The use of an escape-proof crate or a dog run in the early stages of a Beagle’s life is also highly advisable in order to give the dog a secure den and a place to leave the puppy in when unsupervised. Here is some good advice around the argument (link).
Provide your Beagle with toys they find interesting to occupy their time. An occupied dog will most likely not do damage around the house. Kong toys are a good choice, and some Beagle owner have had success even with some coconut by keeping the dog occupied for hours.
Sometimes it makes sense to understand what is that triggers the bad behaviour in your Beagle and then avoid the triggering action. I.e. feeding the Beagle around new people makes him/her aggressive, therefore making sure that the Beagle is never fed around unknown individuals, or do not give your dog table scraps to prevent begging.
Most behaviours such as excessive barking or being over-excited can be corrected by more socialising. The more familiar the Beagle is to different noises and scents, the more the dog will avoid overreacting to the new sensation. Hence more exposure will make the dog less anxious and more acclimated.
Exercising your Beagle is a must as pent up energy can result in damaging behaviour such as chasing, destroying things or digging, providing more exercise will burn off energy so your dog will not misbehave and it will also reinforce the bond with the owner making obeying to commands easier.
Dog trainers can be useful when all the above is failing to institute new behaviours and give the owner the tools to manage the dog appropriately. Never forget sometimes similar owner behaviours can trigger different actions in dogs, and new best practices can make a miracle in your dog’s behaviour.
Here are some more videos around the subject of Beagle behaviour training:
Aggressive beagle behaviour
How to train your Beagle
I don’t endorse Saro Dog training, but some of his videos are really good and we have used some of the best practices ourselves.
In case al the above fails it is always good to talk to your vet about this. Sometimes thyroid or even cancer can change the dog’s behaviour in non-explanatory ways and be a symptom of something more sinister.