Everyone loves a Beagle. They tug on the heartstrings, have an abundance of personality, and Snoopy was modeled after them. They also present some training challenges. That hound nose can carry them far and wide, and tends to cause some selective hearing. That selective hearing certainly does not stop them from being vocal, and the Beagle bay is iconic. Beagles also tend to be pretty big chow hounds, which can help with motivating for training, but can also lead them to counter surf and trash raiding. All of these traits are instinctive in the breed due to their heritage, and as annoying as they can be, they can all be managed through training. The key is to pair reliable obedience training with good outlets for their natural drives and making sure that they are getting the chance to use all of their mental energy.
Scent Distractions and Sniffing
This is one of the biggest challenges with training a Beagle: the super nose. Originally bred as scent hounds to hunt rabbits, beagles retain a very strong sense of smell and a dedication to follow a trail when they locate one. A reliable recall is extremely important with this breed, because that propensity to follow scent trails can lead them into potentially dangerous situations. Starting this training from an early age will prevent bad habits from forming and will teach the puppy from the beginning that her owner is very fun and should be relevant to her. However, even if you missed this window as a puppy, you can still teach a reliable recall command. When teaching the recall, there are some important aspects to keep in mind. Consequences should exist for both good and bad choices, and good recalls should be very heavily rewarded and have high value when introducing them to your dog. It's also important that you actually be able to catch a dog that you recall, so I like to teach the dog to stay in my "bubble", do a sit, or do a collar grab after they come back to me. Lastly, do not make the mistake of always recalling your dog out of a stay or in sterile environments. The time when you are really going to need it is when the dog is under heavy distraction, so practice in those environments when you have control over the distraction.
Another thing that frequently shows up in Beagles is a propensity to dig. This nuisance behavior can lead to a dirty dog and a torn up backyard. As with other behaviors, it's always easier to prevent it from the get go. Make sure that your puppy gets plenty of mental and physical stimulation so that boredom doesn't lead them to create their own little "jobs". If you do catch your puppy digging, interrupt them and redirect them to a different activity, like playing fetch or doing some obedience training. With an older dog, a bit more work is required to break an established digging habit. If your dog only digs in certain places, you can try placing something over them, or chicken wire under the hole, to discourage the digging. If you decide to try this, make sure that you keep the dog's habit is truly broken before removing the management. Digging requires diligence on the part of the owner. Consistency and clarity about the fact that digging is unacceptable behavior will make the process of correcting digging go much faster.
Barking and Baying
The Beagle bay is an iconic sound. I find it to be quite endearing, but it can become a nuisance when the dog gets into the habit of constantly vocalizing. When selecting breeds like the Beagle, people should keep in mind that the dog will have a stronger than average tendency to vocalize. While you should be ready to accept some barking and baying, you should not tolerate excessive levels of it. There are several strategies that you can use to fix excessive vocalization, and the best training plans incorporate several of these strategies. When deciding on a plan to work on this issue, determine the cause of your dog's behavior. Excessive excitement, noise sensitivity, separation anxiety, and boredom can all lead to excessive barking, but a different strategy has to be implemented to deal with each type of root problem.
Sam is the owner and head trainer at Kentucky Dog Training LLC. She set up this blog to share success stories, training tips, the progression of dogs in our training programs, and other thoughts on dogs and training.