Beagles, like all hound dogs, have been bred to vocalize while on the hunt; these vocalizations helped keep the hunter aware of the dog's position and let the hunter know whether the Beagle was chasing its prey or whether the prey had been caught. People who love the breed tend to find Beagle vocalizations endearing and entertaining, while others are not so pleased by all the loud noise such a little dog can make. Beagles are not dogs that bark incessantly all day, like many toy breeds, but they are hard-wired to sound alerts; usually, these alerts were sounded when prey was sighted, but with Beagles who have never been on the hunt, many things may trigger the alert, such as dust, a car back firing, a shadow or the wind slamming a door shut. Some Beagles may start vocalizing when they're excited as well.
Beagles have essentially three types of vocalizations. They have the generic bark, which in Beagles is a bit more potent than in other dogs, given the fact that they were bred to have loud, booming voices. Then there's the howl, which was developed to be used when dogs actually caught their prey; when a hunter heard this howl, he knew to quickly catch up with the dogs so that he could get an easy shot to down the quarry. The Beagle howl is quite amazing to those who are not irritated by it; the dog throws his head back, noise pointing straight up and lets out a long, drawn out haunting "song". It is a very sad sound that is difficult to forget. Finally, there's the bay, which is a cross between a bark and a howl; while the howl can be musical in quality, the bay is usually the most annoying of the vocalizations because it is loud, harsh and throaty. The bay is the sound the dog often makes when it spots something of interest, which is often, and so it is usually the vocalization that is used with some insistence, making it even more annoying. All of these vocalizations can be carried over long distances; this was bred into the dog, as Beagles used for hunting would often disappear into areas with thick vegetation, making it hard to see and hear them. The only clue the hunter had to go on was the powerful voice of his dogs.
One of the biggest problems with the Beagle's howling and baying is that the dog will use these vocalizations when left alone. Beagles thrive on companionship and are miserable if they don't have a playmate for long periods of time. They'll also howl to entertain themselves. Owners have videotaped their dogs spending hours howling in the backyard, at the door, or out the window when they went out to work or school. It is very difficult to train a Beagle not to howl because it is such an integral part of their breeding; if you know you're going to be spending a great deal of time out of the house, where you're planning on leaving your Beagle, think long and hard before getting this little hound. If you're heart is set, then you'll need to consider the option of a dog sitter or taking your dog to a doggie day care center.