Beagles are among the most popular dog breeds, and for good reason. They are a smaller breed, and with those big, brown eyes and their floppy ears, they are super-cute. Young beagles exude enthusiasm and joie de vivre, and their older peers, while not as energetic, are equally shameless in their pursuit of attention and cuddling.
A greeting from a beagle is an experience not to be missed. They’ll approach you with huge smiles on their faces, eyes shining, with their tails wagging rapidly, and then if you are lucky, they’ll make a beagle sound. Beagles make a range of sounds to express themselves. They yodel, croon, groan, creak, howl, yip and straight-out sing when they are happy. Most beagle owners are familiar with a half-dozen or more beagle sounds.
Beagles are bred for hunting, and even as companion animals, they use their magnificently oversized noses to explore every inch of their world. Their noses are geniuses, works of engineering and architecture that hint at the existence of a divine entity. Beagles’ noses can find the smallest speck of food on the floor. They’ll never forget the dog treat that skittered across the floor and ended up under a heavy piece of furniture, and they will never stop trying until the food is gone. Even if you drag them away, at some point, they’ll always come back to it.
This brings me to what you really need to know about beagles, in case you are considering one:
- Beagles are petty criminals. They will take food from your very plate if you are foolish enough to step away from the the table, look away from the table, or even blink. Some of them are criminal geniuses, but most of them simply enter a zen-like state where all there is him and his nose. As I write this, somewhere a beagle will is stealing food from a child without the child realizing.
- Beagles are great with other dogs, especially their own kind. There can be some squabbling over food or attention, but in general, beagles and beagle mixes “get” each other and will often work together towards a goal.
- Beagles are great with children. Unless the child is extremely rough, or the beagle has been traumatized, a beagle sees a child as a good thing. From a beagle’s point of view, a child is a small, slow, sticky, clumsy human who is a constant source of food, whether it’s dropped on the floor, shared from a bowl, or licked off the child’s face. For the beagle, living with this walking buffet is worth the occasional indignity of a pulled tail.
- Beagles are larger than life. They bark loudly and more often than most other dogs. They weigh much more than you’d think. If you put a beagle and a terrier of the same size next to each other, you may be surprised to learn that the beagle weighs twice as much as the terrier. They are physically dense dogs. Even their expressions are exaggerated. For example, NO dog can beat the beagle in the handlebar ear/head tilt category.
- Beagles keep it real. This is a breed that eats a lot, relieves itself a lot, and has startlingly oversized genitalia. In other words, your beagle is a real animal, not a toy dog, and you aren’t going to be able to forget it.
- Beagles have cast-iron stomachs. Beagles have done things like consume entire pot roasts, hoover up dozens of cicadas, and plunder boxes of Christmas cookies, and this doesn’t even include all of the non-food they’ll end up eating. They’ll try things they’ve found on the side of the road, or even things that were at one point food-adjacent. Also: Beagles can have some lethal gas because of their eclectic food tastes. I’ve found that giving them a high-ginger ginger snap (I use Trader Joe’s triple ginger snaps) at each meal helps significantly.
- Beagles are fearless adventurers. Beagles follow their noses, and their noses dream of far-away breakfast sandwiches, children’s birthday parties, and cookouts in the street over. Beagles can escape almost anything if they put their mind to it, so it is imperative that you have a fenced yard and that you put safeguards in place so that your beagle can’t make a break for it when the door opens. (The only time this doesn’t apply is if the person at the door is delivering a pizza. On that occasion, your beagle will not make a break for it.)
- Beagles are really messy. They destroy things in the pursuit of treats. They shred blankets in an effort to make their beds super-soft. They roll in the vilest, most disgusting things imaginable — things you have never smelled before, things you can’t identify, but that you will remember for the rest of your life after you’ve had to clean them off your beagle.
Beagle Owners and Why They Are Awesome
So, what kind of people own beagles? In my experience, they tend to:
- Have amazing senses of humor — Beagles are incredibly funny dogs because they get into so many greed- and curiosity-fueled predicaments. If you have a beagle, she will make you laugh every day. EVERY day, even as you want to throttle her.
- Not take themselves too seriously — Beagles have a way of making their human look foolish. For example, one of our fosters’ beagles got loose from the bedroom and came to the cocktail party downstairs wearing his owner’s dirty bra on his head (beagles love laundry).
- Be open to new experiences — Beagles will do things that will make you meet a variety of people: police officers, emergency room vets, all of the children in your neighborhood, people who are cooking out, people who own specialized cleaning services, repair people, etc.
- Focus on the simple joys of life — Beagle owners understand that truly, nothing is permanent. Their beagle reminds them of this every day, as they knock over an expensive piece of furniture to get at a superannuated oyster cracker. Beagle owners have learned to laugh at their beagle’s croon of joy at their treat, even as they wonder if they will ever be able to repair the Shaker curio cabinet they inherited from their grandmother.
LEVEL OF OWNER EXPERIENCE NEEDED: WARY BEGINNER. As long as you are prepared for a little chaos, some scammage, and a few lost sandwiches, a beagle is a great starter dog.
So there you have it — an introduction to why the beagle is such a great dog, and why their owners are pretty fantastic, too. There is so much more I could write about them, but I’ll save it for another column, perhaps one on the legendary Party Beagle.