The Beagle is a scent hound and a great family pet. They are known for being affectionate and having loud voices.
Illustration courtesy of the Swedish Kennel Club
Beagles at a glance
The Beagle dog breed has been popular in the United States ever since being recognized by the AKC in 1885, and has won two Best in Shows at Westminster in the past two decades (2008 and 2015). They are a relatively healthy breed, although they suffer from hereditary eye disorders and their long, low ears (which help them track scents by directing odors towards their nose) are prone to infection.
The Beagle is known for having an affectionate, energetic, and clever temperament, making them a wonderful family pet. However, the Beagle dog is also one of the most vocal canines, and their loud baying, barking, and howling means they may not be the ideal pet for everyone.
Whether you’ve just welcomed a Beagle into your home or you’re thinking of adding one to your family, you’ve come to the right place. We have the information you need to properly train and care for your pup. You’ll also find information about the genetic health risks Embark tests for that are most relevant to this breed.
Although scent hounds have been bred for thousands of years, the modern Beagle was developed in Great Britain in the 1830s. One of the forebears of modern Beagles is the pocket Beagles popularized in Elizabethan England as a small scent hound that could be carried in a saddlebag. Like other scent hounds, Beagles have an incredible sense of smell with far more olfactory receptors and even more than most other dog breeds. They are used not just as hunting companions, but also by police and customs—they are often used at airports for scent detection.
“Beagles need consistent creative non-repetitive training and do not do well alone,” says National Beagle Club of America’s Health and Genetics Committee Chairperson Darlene Stewart. “They are pack animals. They are food-driven, social-seeking mischievous hounds with amazing problem-solving skills. Many owners would describe a Beagle as determined, selectively stubborn, deceivingly smart and always having an agenda for their actions. When learning new things, always make them think that what you want them to do was their idea.”
Compact, sturdy, and solid, the Beagle resembles a smaller Foxhound. The AKC breed standard recognizes two Beagle size varieties: those standing under 13 inches at the shoulder and those between 13 and 15 inches.
Beagles have a close, hard coat of medium length that comes in any true hound shade. Most often they have a tricolor pattern of black, tan, and white. Other Beagle colors and patterns include red and white, lemon, and blue.
Beagles’ ears are one of their most distinctive and endearing features. Set moderately low on a broad head, their long ears will nearly reach the end of their nose when drawn out. Their ears actually help track smells. When swept across the ground, the ears stir up scents toward their nose.
Playtime is crucial for most dogs, but especially Beagles. Beagles need at least an hour of exercise daily and it should be supervised. A Beagle can become destructive if left alone for long periods of time. They’re high-energy dogs who need at least an hour of daily exercise. Their natural instinct to hunt and chase means walks should be taken on a leash.
“Beagles are escape artists, so an exercise area must have a fence at least 5 feet tall that extends underground to prevent tunneling,” the AKC reported. “Walks must always be taken on a leash, because as a scenthound with a very strong hunting instinct, a Beagle will not be able to resist the urge to run off in pursuit of a compelling scent.” There are so many ways to play! You can take your Beagle for a run or hike and play fetch, tug-of-war, or frisbee.
Positive reinforcement training and socialization from an early age are essential for this breed. Since Beagles are highly food motivated, treats will help in training.
Due to their background, Beagles are known for following their nose and being driven by food.
Some Beagles can be prone to becoming overweight due to a high food drive, so watch your dog’s caloric intake and weight level. A balanced diet is vital to your dog’s growth and health, according to the ASPCA, and portion control is key. It’s okay to give your dog commercial pet foods, just be sure to read the label and ensure that what you’re buying is based on your dog’s caloric needs
Don’t forget that a dog’s diet changes as they grow. A puppy should have a different diet than an adult dog or senior dog, and senior dogs should have a different diet than adult dogs.
Beagles have a smooth double coat that gets heavier during the winter. Spring is shedding season, but this breed will shed moderately year-round. Brushing them weekly using a rubber grooming mitt or tool will remove loose hairs. The long ears of a Beagle need to be kept clean as they are susceptible to infection, especially if your Beagle loves water.
Their long ears need to be kept clean as well. If your Beagle loves water, these long ears increase their chance of developing an ear infection. Talk to your veterinarian about regular ear maintenance and the signs to look out for in case an ear infection does occur. You should also trim your Beagle’s nails regularly and think about dental care.
Health and aging in Beagles
The Beagle has an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years of age.
An Embark Dog DNA Test looks at the following health conditions in Beagles:
Do you own a Beagle or do you think your dog might be part Beagle? Learn more about your dog with an Embark dog DNA test, the most accurate on the market.
Beagles on Embark
Explore some Embark dogs that share Beagle ancestry.