Beagles are some of the most popular dogs in the United States and have long been a tradition in homes in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and other countries around the world. The popularity of the Beagle is largely due to the breed's ability to adjust to a wide variety of different living conditions, which is not true of all the dogs in the hound group.
Beagles, unlike many of the hounds, can be a great city dog and will very easily adjust to living in an apartment and other smaller living spaces. Unlike most of the group the Beagle is also very active indoors, meaning they are willing to play and move about in the house a fair amount. Since they are a relatively smaller medium sized dog they a great combination of a small space and family dog.
The exercise requirements for the average Beagle are also not as demanding as for that of many of the other hounds, particularly the sight hounds. The Beagle does need to have one or two longer, brisk walks a day if they are in a confined space, but they can manage with one walk a day if they have a larger fenced yard to run and play in throughout the day. Most Beagles are highly active as puppies but tend to become somewhat calmer as they mature. They also will easily become very sedate if overfed and not exercised properly, resulting in muscular, skeletal and digestive problems developing over time. Obese Beagles, like any other breed, will have a shorter lifespan, have increased risk of heart problems and respiratory problems as well as other weight related diseases.
A Beagle is a wonderful family dog and when raised with kids they have a real sense of play and adventure that is a perfect match. They are very patient with children and will tolerate all kinds of situations with kids, including playing with the kid's friends. Not at all a territorial or possessive type of dog when socialized and obedience trained the Beagle is well known as a kid's pet. Poorly socialized and untrained Beagles, like any dog, can be more prone to snapping and growling at kids, however this is not a normal behavior seen within the breed.
Most Beagles are highly social dogs since they have been bred as pack hunters since the early 1500's. As such they are willing to get along with almost any other dog, but they will not be highly submissive and will stand their ground with other aggressive types of dogs. Most Beagles tend to be somewhat aloof around other dogs for a brief period of time until they understand that the other dog is not a threat. At that time they turn to play and interacting with the other dog.
Beagles can adjust to being single pets but they often do much better and tend to have less problematic behaviors when left alone if they have a companion. Their pack tendencies are very strong and they are calmer with at least one other dog in the house when left alone. Beagles that are raised with cats or kittens will accept the cat as part of the pack and will get along with it very well, providing the cat is dog friendly. Despite their rather playful and friendly behavior Beagles are not a good match for households with other small rodent types of pets, particularly rabbits, hamsters and ferrets. These types of pets are just too similar to the natural game that the Beagle has been developed to hunt to be a safe match.
For those considering a Beagle as a pet there are a few other considerations that should be addressed before deciding if this is the right breed for you. The first is that the Beagle, as a scent hunter, will naturally track without any training. This means that they will follow scent trails while in and outside of the yard. While inside the yard this isn't a problem, but outside it is a real safety risk for the dog. Always have the Beagle on a leash or lead when not in a controlled setting as they are known for taking off and ignoring their owners.
The Beagle also has a very unique vocalization that is similar to a bay and a yodel combined. This sound has been developed through breeding to allow the hunters on horseback or foot to be able to follow the pack of Beagles as they chased rabbits across the countryside. Unfortunately not everyone enjoys the hunting cry of the Beagle and many people in cities find that they have very upset neighbors over time. Beagles that are left alone outside or indoors often turn to barking to keep themselves entertained and busy while alone. This often causes huge problems for the owners and dog and is one of the major reasons this breed is often surrendered to shelters and rescues. Noisy dogs can cost the owner penalties in fines and may even cause the dog to be removed from the home under some city ordinances and laws.
Exercising and training the Beagle is very important. Owners may also want to consider a companion pet as mentioned above, or may want to look for doggy day cares or even someone to spend time with the dog during the day. Not all Beagles have this problem and lots of exercise prior to being left alone combined with toys to play with and a yard to explore will often help correct the problem. Privacy fences that prevent the Beagle from seeing out onto the roadway or sidewalk may also help cut down on barking.
Beagles are very affectionate and love to be around the family. While in the house they do need to be involved in what is going on and are exuberant in their efforts to get to the center of the activity. A long lived dog, the Beagle can easily live to 15 plus years, making them a terrific family companion and generally all round great breed of dog.