by Mary Grace Mauney
ast night a cute little beagle named Miss P walked away with the title of “Best in Show” at 139th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Immediately afterwards, American dog breeders and pet stores found themselves being swept away by a tidal wave of what is being called “Beaglemania” as a result of Miss P’s popularity. Everyone wants a Miss P of their own now! It’s not hard to see why either; beagles are intelligent, friendly, compact, and, above all, cute.
However, as with any pet, they’re not something that should be gotten on a whim just because they’re the “in” thing and have a sweet face. All dog breeds are different, and have different needs, temperaments, and, yes, downsides. Many people who hop on breed fads are unprepared for this, and it’s the dogs who ultimately pay the price. For instance, after the hit Disney film “101 Dalmatians” came out, a similar craze for Dalmatians became the hot the new thing. Six months later, animal shelters were filled with unwanted Dalmatians whose owners had discovered that, unlike in the movie, real Dalmatians can be temperamental, constantly shed, need room to exercise, and are not the best dog for children.
So, what are some reasons that you might NOT want a beagle?
First and foremost, a beagle is a hunting dog. Even if the particular beagle you buy is meant to be a pet, he still has generations of breeding in his blood pushing him to be a hunter and a tracker. They are scent hounds, and if they smell something, they are hardwired to go after it, to the exclusion of all else. So if you want a dog that you can play Frisbee with in the park, or keep in the yard without a fence, the beagle is NOT the dog for you---it will be off like a shot the first time it smells a squirrel! They’re also famous for their “selective deafness” when it comes to times like these, so no amount of calling them back is likely to work, even if they’re trained. Baying and howling are also natural beagle behaviors that are very, very difficult to control; when my family had a beagle pup, they got his vocal cords snipped, but they just grew back—twice!—and he kept howling. Eventually, noise ordinance laws required that we get rid of him. Luckily, we were able to find someone who lived in the country and kept a pack of beagles for hunting purposes, so he went to a good home where he could do what he loved, but not every beagle is so lucky.
Further issues that beagle owners may encounter is that they are brilliant escape artists, harder to housebreak and train than most dogs, and are much more independent-minded than your stereotypical eager-to-please pooch. They also shed a good deal, and some people think they have a stronger odor than most dogs. They also need a lot of exercise and diet control, as they are prone to obesity but love love LOVE to eat! Some beagle bloodlines also carry temperament problems such as aggression or neuroses, so be sure to research the family of your beagle if you can before making the final decision.
If you can deal with all that and still want a beagle, be sure that you are not purchasing them from a puppy mill. It should go without saying that puppy mills are terrible places and should not be supported in any way, shape, or form. This includes not purchasing your beagle from a pet store or other pet retailer that purchases their dogs from puppy mills; unless you are adopting from a shelter, do NOT buy a beagle if you don’t know where it came from! A reputable breeder is your best bet for the best beagle, though shelters and rescues, unpredictable as the results may be, are also good places to find your next best friend. There are breed-specific rescues in every state, so strongly consider finding a beagle rescue organization in yours. Unlike shelters and pounds, rescues and fosters are very familiar with their dogs, and will be able to tell you all about the kind of beagle that you’re getting. Most rescues have the dogs living with them in foster care, so they know all their quirks and habits, and have tested their compatibility with children, animals, etc. If you cannot find a beagle rescue near you, ask other breed-specific rescues in your area about it; many rescues are part of larger networks, and will work together to transport dogs across state lines.
I love beagles. They are one of my favorite dog breeds. But I myself am not cut out to own one. I do not have the energy to exercise them, train them, or deal with all the problems they can cause because of their compulsion to follow their nose. Plus, I live in an apartment. That’s why I don’t own a beagle: because I love them, and I know that I would not be the best owner, would not provide the best home, would not be able to give them the care that they need and deserve. As an animal lover, I refuse to keep any pet that I cannot properly provide for 100% in every way, so I urge you, if you are a beagle-lover or an iguana-lover or a chinchilla-lover or a horse-lover or whatever, to take the same vow. Remember, put your pets first---even if it means choosing not to have one!