Party Beagles Dance Like No One’s Looking

It wasn’t long after starting a rescue that we realized that there were certain categories of dogs that would be challenges to place: pit bulls (because of the humans, not because of the dogs), traumatized dogs, dogs with health problems, and old dogs. But after we thought we had the categories figured out, new ones emerged. The insanely loud dogs. The escape artists. And finally, a dog so specific that we had to make up a category for them: the party beagle.

Beagle with party hate
Damey the party beagle

A party beagle is exactly what it sounds like: a beagle who loves to have a good time, and who doesn’t care who knows it. Like all beagles, party beagles are greedy, vocal and self-interested; however, the party beagle takes these things and turns them into the stuff of legend.

We found ourselves with party beagles of all ages, colors and sizes. (Well, actually, party beagles are always oversize, but they are smaller when they are young.) We found that these dogs evolved over their lifetimes, still remaining true to their inner selves.

Snoopy the party beagle
Snoopy was the first party beagle we ever encountered. When we got him, he was living in a Volkswagen Bus in a towing yard where he lived on the double cheeseburgers the drivers would bring him. We got him into a foster home, put him on a sensible diet and took him to the vet for shots, neutering, and treatment for numerous small health problems. Despite this, he forgave us.


Stage one: Oliver Twist, or Learning the Trade — At puppyhood, (we have found that there is typically only one per litter), the PB is often a bit bigger and sturdier than his or her siblings, but not freakishly so. His eating habits will often be the first tip-off that you are dealing with a party beagle. Rarely first to the table, PBP (party beagle puppy) learns rapidly to identify the optimal location — for example, if a party beagle’s sibling is a sloppy eater, he will take care to place himself so he can catch any stray food. (If a PB of any age comes last to the table, it is because he has found an alternative food source and is reluctant to abandon it, even for a regular scheduled meal.) Finally, look for a puppy with sleepy eyes and a slightly dazed expression — if he always seems to be around when an opportunity presents itself, that is also a tip-off that you might be dealing with a PBP.

Beagle puppy
This is George, a party beagle puppy (PBP). You’ll notice that, in addition to his excessive cuteness, George has the slightly dazed expression and cartoonish appearance that causes people to repeatedly underestimate the PBP. Although technically, yes, butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, that’s because any PBP worth his salt would swallow the stick whole.

Stage two: Bluto, or Welcome to the Animal House — The PB is at his most athletic and most conspicuous during this phase. He is likely to jump into trash bins and food bags, completely disappearing from sight. His rejoicing in such findings prompts involuntary croons of joy as he gobbles down his ill-gotten gains. His enthusiasm for social gatherings will often cause the party beagle to take his act on the road — it is not uncommon for party beagles to escape the confines of their home to visit a nearby barbecue or child’s birthday party. If the party is at home, the party beagle will figure out a way to get in on the action. On one occasion, a party beagle escaped a bedroom and came downstairs with a brassiere on his head (they also have a lifelong love of laundry, which smells so much like the humans they love). Not suprisingly, it is in adolescence that it becomes clear that the party beagle is likely to be a source of embarrassment to his owners for the rest of his life.

Beagle in a bag of food
This picture could be of any party beagle, really, but in fact, it’s a picture of George, then in his “Bluto” phase. Experienced party beagle watchers will note that George’s body language is not at all furtive or stressed — he’s “in the moment” where there is no good or bad, only food. (By the time dogs reach the Falstaff phase, they are permanently in this moment.)

Stage three: Falstaff, or The Poetic Party Beagle — At this phase, a party beagle has developed an almost otherworldly ability to put himself exactly where he needs to be to get what he wants, while expending minimal effort. Often quite plump at this stage, the PB will nonetheless prove himself capable of athleticism beyond anyone’s imagination — for example, we have known of one PB who managed to open up a small Tupperware hidden underneath a car seat. Big deal, you say, well did we mention that the PB in question just had surgery? And was wearing an Elizabethan collar? And was extremely fat? And that the car was a hatchback? And that he did it in fewer than two minutes, without detection? And that there was another dog in the car? (At this point, you probably realize why the Falstaffian party beagle is often described in hushed tones.) The party beagle physically is likely to have assorted scars, bumps, lumps, scuffs and fraying from small incidents involving getting to something he wants. Yet, despite this somewhat tattered exterior, there is a nobility to the PB in his prime — he has elevated the practice of happy self-indulgence to the level of art, and he has gained a sort of philosophical wisdom. This is not to say he has completely mellowed. He is still likely to croon with excessive happiness but it is more likely to be at your return or at seeing a friend than at the excitement of finding a french fry on a walk. It is at this stage, too, that the PB will truly reveal himself to be an expert in the art of fine bedding, and you will find that he will claim the best and the softest areas in the house for his own, and will often do elaborate circling and plumping and scratching to make sure that his bed is fluffed “just so.”

Beagle under quilts
This is Killer, a senior party beagle illustrating his love of linens.


It’s probably pretty clear why party beagles are difficult to place successfully. However, that’s not to say that they don’t have their followers: they do, and they tend to be wonderful people who love to laugh (they better) and who have a philosophical bent.


Party beagles seem a lot like regular beagles. How exactly are they different?

First of all, it is the levels of the escapades. Party beagles will often do things that transcend comprehension, like the party beagle who trained the bird he lived with to feed him birdseed. Second, there is an innocence to the party beagle that most beagles, with their crafty self-interest, don’t show. They lack the real-world edge most beagles have. If being a beagle were a religion, party beagles would be the monks who had dedicated their lives to the pursuit of pure beagle truth, truly transcending the boundaries of space and time in the process.

Are all party beagles male?

For some reason, I have met only male party beagles, although I suspect that one of the female beagles we only had for a brief time was a party beagle. I don’t doubt they exist, it might just be that they don’t come into rescue as often.

Are party beagles intelligent?

I think they are geniuses in getting food and following their noses, but most party beagles come across as not-too-bright, but supremely lucky.

Do party beagles have any negative characteristics?

Besides the mass destruction they can wreak? Not really. Unlike “regular” beagles, party beagles don’t tend to clash with their fellow dogs (although their fellow dogs might resent them at first, they learn to accept that this dog is just different somehow, and not a threat). They also aren’t as calculating as other beagles. You’ll never see that flinty, sharp look you’ll sometimes catch from a beagle in pursuit of a goal. The party beagle is always dreamy and seems strangely detached even as he pursues his goals.

Beagle in bed
A knave without malice. The original party beagle, Snoopy, makes himself very comfortable.

Anything else you can tell us about party beagles?

Party beagles are really great with shy or traumatized dogs. They are non-threatening, and lead by example. If, like me, you feel like the best dog is one who will look out for his own interests (asking for affection, making himself comfortable, seizing opportunities), then the party dog is the perfect teacher. You don’t need to worry that your shy dog is going to be pulling off capers, but it’s wonderful to see a dog that was afraid to approach you a few weeks before come up to you with the clear expectation that you will give them good things. They also will cuddle willingly with frightened dogs, which can also help to build confidence.

Where can I get a party beagle?

My best guess would be to go to a beagle rescue and tell them what you are looking for. They might not use the term party beagle, but they’ll know what you want. Also, sometimes party beagles will be considered to be mixed breeds, most often a basset/beagle mix, sometimes called bagels.

Do I want a party beagle?

Why would you not?

Beagle sleeping
Damian the Party Beagle at the Bluto stage. Note the complete abandon on his face while he is sleeping. Party beagle dream research shows that approximately 75% of party beagle dreams are about stealing or finding sandwiches. The other 25% are about people giving them sandwiches.

Note: This is an update of an article I wrote years ago for the benefit of our rescue’s adopters.

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9 thoughts on “Party Beagles Dance Like No One’s Looking”

  1. Oh my goodness. This made my day.

    My husband’s friend has a beagle and he is beyond ridiculous. Whenever we dog-sit for him, I find myself laughing at him half of the time. Now I understand what he truly is–a party beagle. Thanks for this! I didn’t realize it was a thing. :)

  2. You know, I’d been thinking that party beagles sounded a lot like basset hounds. And then you said that they are sometimes bagels, and I felt vindicated! (maybe I mean validated?)

    I’m not a beagle person, but I would totally be OK with a party beagle if one fell into my lap :)

    1. They probably would fall in your lap, too, Rachel, in the course of attempting to get to something.

      Bagels are awesome dogs — they aren’t as heavy-boned as bassets, but they are larger and sturdier than beagles. They have the shamelessness and greed of both breeds, the ambition of a beagle, and the charisma of bassets.

      1. I’ve always been convinced that Hubs and mine first dog was a bagel…slightly longer legs, slightly shorter ears, etc. We would take her to the dog park and if someone else started petting her, she’d happily go off with them. I’m fairly sure she would have climbed in their car if they let her!

        Also, the only time she got into food, she ignored the popcorn and other goodies and went for the box of evaporated milk :)

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