How (Not) To Train A Beagle

Please click on the photos to enlarge them. – PB

Please do not get a beagle if you don’t believe that dogs have real feelings. Beagles are truly sensitive and they most certainly get their feelings hurt. They mope when over-corrected and when treated with severe discipline, their hearts break. You cannot “break” a beagle, nor should you ever try to. Humiliating them, spraying them in the face with water, shocking them, abusing them for barking, or in any other way applying cruel measures to their normal behavior will destroy their spirits. Those of us who love beagles beg you to consider carefully before bringing one of these brown-eyed darlings home. They are the cutest dogs in the world, among the smartest (hey, just because we don’t know what it’s like to millions of scent receptors doesn’t mean beagles are dumb — it means WE are dumb for expecting them to listen when they have an interesting smell up their snouts!), and incredibly loyal.

There is a reason that this breed is used for almost all of the laboratory experiments done on dogs. It is because they are so sweet, cheerful, trusting and responsive to human attention, they do not become aggressive even when kept under the horrible conditions in labs, and tortured in the name of science or product safety. Beagle people support The Beagle Freedom Project, a group that will figure prominently in the story I am about to tell. But before I tell you that story (which really is about training, I promise), let me tell you about my own beagle, Maxfield.

Max was one of the lucky ones. He was raised from a puppy by a family that loved him a lot and provided him with everything he needed. Unfortunately, they had to surrender him to the shelter when they faced a housing transition and could not take him with them to their new home. Although he had known great love and was treated very well and with lots of affection by the great folks at the Scituate Animal Shelter in Massachusetts, Max’s heart was broken. He was nervous, skinny, and skittish, with stressed-out bloodshot eyes and an air of deep insecurity.

Max Comes Home 030

When my then boyfriend and I filled out an application to adopt Max, the shelter director really grilled us. Did we have a fenced in yard? Beagles can climb chain link fence. Beagles can — and will — dig to escape enclosures. Did I own my own home? Beagles can be destructive! Beagles can chew through floors! My eyes got bigger and bigger and I looked at Greg like, “Do we WANT this dog? Are you nuts?” Greg stood stoically while the director continued on. Are we prepared to love a dog who barks, who “counter-surfs” for food and steals every bit he can get his paws on? Beagles are stubborn, they’re willful, and “you’re going to need an obedience trainer.” She asked us to sign up for obedience training right then and there! Greg and I looked at each other and at Max, the small, smooth guy who was sitting at our feet pressed against Greg’s leg in a position we dubbed “The Max Melt-In.” We politely declined the obedience training and took our beagle home. The shelter required a one week foster period to make sure the adoption would work out.

Given all the warnings we had received, we were very nervous about our new beagle addition to the family. We expected him to howl and bay a lot.

He never howled and bayed. He just cried and cried when we put him in his crate at night.

We expected him to chew everything.

He never chewed anything but the pads we put in his crate.

We never let him off leash because we had been sternly instructed to NEVER do that. EVER, as beagles are scent hounds and if we let a beagle off the leash, he would immediately run off and get lost or killed.

He didn’t get let off leash for over a year.

Eventually I tried traning Max with treats, and to my great delight he proved responsive to training. Food, my friends. I never leave the house with him without snacks on hand. I use a special whistle and a hand signal to alert him that I have a snack for him. He runs right to me.

Of course I am taking a risk, the way any dog guardian takes a risk in letting her dog off leash. Some beagles cannot be trained this way. You have to get to know your own dog.

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Eventually, although we had been told by everyone in the dog world that dogs LOVE crates and that Max would grow to LOVE his crate, we had to listen to him and respect his sincere, insistent crying message that he did not LOVE his crate and felt very hurt that we were making him sleep in a crate, and so we had a long talk about it. We told him that he could sleep with us but that we were worried that he was going to destroy everything in the house if we didnt’ crate him when we left.

He was so much happier sleeping with us. That’s all he wanted.DSC02188

Please don’t get a beagle if you’re not prepared to cheerfully lose many the typical dog-person arguments. Beagles will persist. You have to love their persistence and give them a chance to be who they are or they’ll become hurt, bewildered and miserable, and probably act out.

Beagles are obsessed with food. They’re never NOT going to be obsessed with food. As I said, they have more scent receptors than the other breeds, so if your childhood golden retriever was notorious for occasionally snitching the roast beef off the counter, prepare to guard all of your food all the time with a beagle.  You’ll get used to it, and to commanding DOWN or OFF a thousand times a day. If you can’t love an animal who will watch you eat with huge, pleading eyes, pre-clean the dishes while they’re stacked in the washer, tremble and moan when there’s a chicken roasting (the first time Max did this I thought he was having a seizure), and counter-surf, please do not adopt a beagle.

He’s not counter-surfing yet, but he’s thinking about it.

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I belong to a Facebook group called I Love Beagles (I know), and we regularly hear about beagles being rejected by — to put it bluntly — unkind and stupid humans. Recently, in early February of 2015, a member of our community found a Craiglist ad by a woman who said she was giving away her beagle because she was incorrigible.

First of all, please — no matter what — please don’t ever give away a dog on Craigslist. They will mostly likely meet a terrible, torturous fate. Please for the love of God, find a local shelter and leave them there. Even if they’re euthanized the dog won’t suffer in a lab or be used as bait in a fight dog. Beagles are mostly submissive and get stolen for these two purposes. The best thing you can do is get in touch with a regional beagle rescue organization or a no-kill shelter, of course.

Anyway, the Beagle Freedom Project lined up a transport rescue to get this dog out of Kentucky and to an adoptive family in New York. That’s what crazy dog people do, and please don’t get righteous about this and say that you wish we would do this for human children. God gives people different passions. I hope you will ardently pursue yours while not condemning other people for doing what you consider to be lesser acts at equal costs.

A woman named Deri Ross Pryor agreed to be the first foster placement for Chloe, whose owner wanted to dump her for being aggressive, barking constantly, threatening to children, and generally impossible to endure.

I’ll let Chloe report what she experienced with this beagle, who is pictured below immediately following her rescue:


Chloe barks at things like most dogs do: cars that go by, strangers, etc. Her bark is not excessive or aggressive, just a bark. And it’s a sweet, delicate little bark. Not like the sound cannons that are my two beagles. She also said she growls at her son when he runs around. I had her outside last night and the kids across the street where running and whooping and hollering, and all Chloe did was sit and watch. Not a sound. I think this was a case of her being scared and abused, and reacting to not knowing she was loved. So the woman put a bark collar on her, screamed at her when she barks, and sprayed her in the face with a water bottle. So the dog would pee on the floor. Duh. The few times she has barked, I very calmly redirected her, and she immediately stopped, no fuss, no muss, no pee. Nothing wrong with this dog. It was all operator error.

Beagles are misunderstood and abused by people who don’t have the patience or sensitivity to treat them appropriately. This idiot child of God had been abusing this animal, who naturally responded with nervous, traumatized behavior. The two were not meant to be togehter. That woman was not meant to care for any animal, in my unhumble opinion.

Beagles are not water animals. Don’t expect your beagle to want to surf with you. He may like kayaking, though – you’ll have to ask.

Beagles need a lot of attention. They are pack animals and very social. Please do not get a beagle and crate him for 10 hours a day unless you want a very unhappy dog.

Of course no dog should be crated for ten hours a day no matter what the breed.

If you’re wondering about Max and his Crying Crate, here’s what happened.

First we let him sleep with us. He was very happy about that, and quickly earned one of his many nicknames, “Smack Dab” for his innocent insistence that he settle down for the night smack dab in the middle of the bed. He still does this fairly frequently and I still have to physically move his little body to his own space on the bed. Did I tell you beagles are persistent?

Then we stopped crating him when we left the house, as we would always come home to find him crying and covered with pee no matter how short a time we had been away, or how often we walked him.

We first kept him confined to the kitchen by a baby gate and left him a dog bed to sleep in.

He did fine.

He never broke through the baby gate or seemed to want to, although he did occasionally bust through the baby gate that blocked off the mud room and his cat sister’s litter box and food.

He IS a beagle, after all. You can’t blame him.

Eventually I just let him be alone in the house when I left.

That was all he wanted.


He has never destroyed anything.

He has taken clean laundry out of the basket and strewn it about in creative arrangements.

He has removed all the cushions and pillows from all the couches and chairs in the house and made elaborate cushion forts.

He has dragged his toys around on the floor.

He has chewed a little bit of cardboard from the recycling bin. That is all.

Another thing: he likes to eat his own poop. Gross! It’s a beagle thing. Nothing at all works to deter it. If you don’t want to pick up every one of your dog’s doodies immediately after he makes it, you may want to reconsider getting a beagle. You may or may not get a poop eater.

Also: he still gets very nervous about getting in a car. That will probably never go away, even after seven happy years in a forever home.

I hate to leave you with that, so let me share a happy ending:  Deri Ross Pryor is going to take Chloe into her beagle pack and be her new guardian. I wish both of them a wonderful life with all the love in the world.

Beagles are special, and it takes a special person to cherish them. We may be a little bit crazy but that’s how we like it.

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You can read Max’s own beagley perspective on all of this at his own Facebook page,


22 Replies to “How (Not) To Train A Beagle”

  1. Truly just one of the best articles I’ve ever ever ever read about beagles. i myself am a beagle lover, owner, mommy to a very special little girl, Olive. It does take a special person to have a Beagle, but my oh my, greatest joy ever. and i’m SO happy you listened to your gut and your little guys cries (pertaining to the crate). They are a special breed, and I’ve found they certainly don’t fit the typical “mold” that majority of breeds do. they are a rare and sensitive kind and should be treated as such! I just adored your eloquent article, and wanted to share that with you!

  2. Your article is so very true..I belong to a rescue group in Las Vegas and I have fostered many dogs, we are foster failures twice we now have 5 beagles the last one I talked the guy into giving him to me. The dog was 49 lbs, ate people food, had nails longer than mine, had a very nasty ear infections and is blind. He is now losing weight, his ears are cleaned up and loves his green beans and food. I wish they could all bay as well as my male does( the others sound like seals being clubbed) but it’s music to our ears. I love our fur babies and can not imagine not having ever having one. Most people don’t research the breed( and that goes for any dog) if they did they’d understand how great this breed is for a family dog. I support beagle freedom project and the wonderful things they do for the breed. Lastly thank you for getting and understanding what a lovable dog you have..he will bring you many years of joy!

  3. We cherish Beagles here in this household, and they are for want of a sacred place a sacred animal to us. Well almost. I am choked for tears reading this piece. And joy that you understand the beagle, like we think we do. Our Watson is to your Max. Because of a knee surgery we do not like him on the bed any longer, for fear he will jump off and hurt his little legs. But he doesn’t complain, and shares his bed with his roomie sisters and bros. Love The Beagle. Our wife Pam is starting a rescue for beagles ( as soon as we hope July, and maybe we will have a story or two to tell. Thanks for a good read.

  4. Thank you SOOOOO much for this article/reading on Beagles.
    I got Charlie from the shelter not knowing what he was … finally
    decided he was Jack Russel/Beagle mix (he jumped straight up onto the stove one evening). After reading your article,: He’s mainly BEAGLE!!!! : counter surfing, pillow/cushion rearranging, snuggling and RUNNING OFF if I don’t have him leashed….a whole new experience for me as I’ve always had other breeds/larger dogs who
    I had no trouble training…but they weren’t scent hounds … Thanks for the helpful techniques … this ol’ lady (81 but goin’ strong) is looking forward to working better with Charlie …. he also gets car sick so I got him a ‘snuggle wrap’ and am going to start out with short trips … any other suggestions for this? MAHALO/THANKS!

  5. I, too, rescued a beautiful beagle. I adore him. Every day I am bowled over by his curiosity and intelligence and love of life. I’ve never crated, he hogs my bed, follows me everywhere, sleeps with his head on my lap. He’s stubborn and confident. I love that. I don’t want a slave or a super dependent dog. I have neighbors who think I’m irresponsible because I don’t tie him up when we go outside. He’s 6, I’ve had him for 3 years, and we’re still working on his obedience, but every day is our adventure together. Me and Beasley to the end. :}

  6. I never realized that there were so many people with an “anti-Beagle bias” or who just don’t like beagles. That’s crazy! Admittedly I haven’t met that many beagles, but the few that I have never seemed like they were bad or troublemakers or anything like that… they all seemed like perfectly good dogs to me. I’ve always wanted one myself, but never gotten one. [ GET ONE!!! LOL – PB]

  7. I’m so excited for your beagle rescue! Please let me know how it’s going!
    As for the staying off the bed, how in the world did you get him to give it up? Max cries ALL NIGHT if he doesn’t get to sleep with me! I think if he dog siblings he would handle it better.

  8. Thank you, Dawn. And thanks for saving that chonky beagle boy from neglect. I laughed at “seals being clubbed.” Isn’t it a glorious racket?

  9. Thank you! We’ve been fortunate to live with beagles for the last 20 years. It’s a very great blessing to be loved by a beagle.

  10. We recently adopted a beagle mix from a rescue in PA. I felt like you wrote this article about our Chaos (yes, we named our new puppy Chaos… lol). Crate training… yeah, not going to happen. The stress and anxiety that this guy experienced on the 2 occasions we crated him were enough to tell me it wasn’t worth it. I know that the 2nd time we came home after crating it took me 10 minutes to calm him down and get him to stop crying. And there was POOP EVERYWHERE in his crate. He sleeps with my son, on the couch. He is 15weeks old and still occasionally has accidents, but my son is not as diligent with the potty training as he should be (he’s 15, he’s responsible enough). But overall he goes on pee pads during the day and loves the treats he gets when he goes outside…. no treats for pee pad potty. He would do anything to steal our food. And loves all his friends at puppy playtime. He regularly plays with a Great Dane, Cane Corso, German Shepherd and Golden Retriever pup. He has no idea that he’s not as big as they are. Thank you for the insight. It definitely helps understand him a bit more. He is 10000% the most loving and sweet boy in the world. He seriously loves EVERYONE.

  11. Just come across this, best article ever about a Beagle! We are in the UK, have Odie 6yrs old since he was 6 months. He sleeps tucked in behind my knees every night, under the duvet. We have a cat and two kids, we love him dearly. Yes he runs off in the bushes sometimes! He stole someone’s biscuits 🍪 at the beach yesterday *embarrassing* 😊. Loving, sweet, affectionate, grateful. And he’s a great running 🏃‍♀️buddy. Thank you for writing this, I will follow Max’s Facebook page 🐶❤️.

  12. My daughter has a beautiful Beagle named Odie. He is the loveliest friendly little chap and is loved very much by his family I.e. 2 adults and 2 active boys, Boris and Lonny.
    My daughter walks him every day OFF the lead but always has a few treats for when he runs off.
    He sleeps with them all at times and never does all these awful things that are said about Beagles……maybe that’s because they love and understand him.
    He has stayed with me on occasion and gets on really well with my cat nd any other visiting dog.
    Darling Odie gives the family so much pleasure.
    Hooray for Beagles.

  13. We had a male beagle for 15 years, Champ. Unlike many mentioned here, he adored his crate, it was his little place and he went into it on his own whenever he was tired or felt threatened (July 4 fireworks for example). But, he was truly obsessed with food, and at times he got out of our fenced yard by climbing over, digging under, and even once chewing through a board fence. We finally lined the bottom of the chain link with bricks and blocks, and tied the bottom down to concrete blocks so he could not lift it and slip under. It was worth all the work, he was a special dog and brought us so much joy. He got along with every one of the non-beagle dogs we had during his life, as well as every human he ever met. I would get another beagle in a heartbeat if we did not already have two other dogs.

  14. You make a lot of good points about Beagles, and how to raise them. I agree that a lot of displeased Beagle owners are not raising their Beagle properly.

    I have to disagree with you on tolerating counter surfing though. There’s a fine line between letting your Beagle be a Beagle, and letting your Beagle do whatever he wants. I’ve found that positive reinforcement training works most of the time, except when it comes to counter surfing. My Beagle has dramatically decreased his attempts to steal food off the counter when I started giving him punishments such as a time-out or a bop on the head.

    Not just Beagles, but dogs in general, will go as far as they can get away with, and it’s your job as the owner to set ground rules and stick to them. This sometimes means tough love and discipline.

  15. i “inherited” an intact Male 1yo beagle. absolutely adorable. tragically the most incredibly stupid animal. in the field, he’s amazing. in the house, car or anywhere else, he’s a urinating, defecating nightmare on 4 legs. he’s ruined my car. he’s ruined my bed. he’s ruined my carpet. fortunately for him, I’m a nonviolent person. but I’d be lying if i said i even like him. i admit i hate him. can’t wait til he dies or runs off. [He sounds like a real challenge. I hope you can manage to be kind to him until he dies. He’s obviously a defective animal and can’t help himself. I hope also that you find some sweetness and companionship with him. He can’t be ALL bad! – PB]

  16. this article has given me SO much insight. my boyfriend rescued a beagle about a year ago. we named him Pasto. he was skinny, covered in mud and mites, and scared of everything. he was about a year old and spent that year tied to a dog house. he’d bark at everything and everyone that came into our apartment. he wasn’t aggressive in the slightest, but we had to crate him when bringing in food or guests because he would scream and jump on everything. he would still scream and pace in his cage, he would climb the rungs and stay on two feet and howl the entire time we ate. he doesn’t do that anymore – he’s come a long way. he still has a habit of jumping up on people, but most don’t mind thanks to those big floppy ears. and while we eat he just sits and stares quietly – not a bother. he is a very very determined dog and until i read this i thought we were doing something wrong and worried whether we were training him well enough. He still jumps all over me when i handle food and drink and scarfs his food literally as i pour it. he is obsessed with chewing the caps off water bottles and crawling under our bed. the only time he screams is when he sees other dogs and sometimes small children. he is sometimes aggressive with other dogs and it makes me wonder what life was like for him tied up to that dog house.

  17. Hehehe…what a great article. So much I didn’t know about “the natural beagle”. I’ve always had hound type mutts, I didn’t figured this one would be soooo different. All the things she does, begging, middle of the bed, (first dog I’ve ever let on my bed, figures…) etc. So funny. She has lately somehow become very scared of something and won’t go outside. If you have any thoughts on how to direct my search, please let me know. Otherwise thanks for this great, and informative, laugh.

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