Beagles are wonderful companion dogs for all the right reasons. They’re friendly, curious, loyal, and of course, loving. But before bringing one home, you may wonder whether they’re easy to train and how they respond to obedience.
Compared to other dog breeds, Beagles are relatively difficult to train. This is because they can get easily distracted due to their inquisitive nature, stubbornness, and sharp sense of smell. With many odors distracting them all the time, it can be difficult for them to focus on the task at hand. But with some patience, you can still train your Beagle like any other dog.
In our guide, we’ll first review why Beagles can be so difficult to train. And from interviews with owners, we can also give advice on how to properly train your Beagle. Use this guide to train your Beagle into a more obedient dog!
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The Beagles’ Motivation for Training
The notion that Beagles are relatively difficult with obedience training isn’t some idea we made up. In fact, there’s “evidence” suggesting that these dogs can be (but not always) more difficult to train. And yes, there are reasons for it.
The list of smartest dog breeds was developed by a pHD and canine psychologist, named Stanley Coren. And while dog intelligence can be fairly subjective, thus extremely difficult to measure, Coren evaluated one specific component of dog IQ.
The smartest dog breeds list was based on “obedience & working intelligence.” That is, based on how fast a dog learns new commands and the success rate that the dog will obey the known command on the first attempt.
Beagle owners are not creative enough to find what motivates their dog. Beagles need a lure, whether it’s a treat or a fun motivator they individually like (throwing a ball).– Bailey’s Dad (Beagle Owner)
So, how did Beagles perform? Well, not as great as we’d expect. Out of 138 dog breeds that qualified, Beagles came in 131st place. That’s not to say they’re unintelligent dogs, but rather they struggle with obedience training.
The reason for the Beagle’s low score is motivation. The truth is, not all dog breeds are motivated by the same things. For example, the top-performing Border Collie is a certified workaholic. A Border Collie will learn commands for the sake of working.
Not all individual dogs within a breed have the same motivators. It’s up to you, the owner, to figure out whether that’s a delicious treat or playing with a favorite toy. If you can do this, training a Beagle will be that much easier!
4 Reasons Why Beagles Are Difficult to Train
Beagles have been bred as hunting dogs and are extremely skilled in finding and flushing out prey. But it isn’t necessarily a good thing. Because of these hunting instincts, Beagles possess traits that make them a bit more difficult to train.
These hunting qualities are great on the field, but makes it hard for them to stay still and focused when taking obedience lessons. Here are the top reasons why Beagles require more patience and consistency during training.
Here are the 4 main reasons why training your Beagle may be more difficult than you think.
1. The Beagle will follow their nose
Did you know Beagles have an incredible sense of smell? According to Dog Time, Beagles have the third best noses in the dogdom. In fact, Beagles have 225 scent receptors, which makes their sense of smell up to 10,000 times better than a human’s.
If your Beagle picks up on an interesting scent, there’s a good chance that’s all they’ll focus on until the source is found. Training them, or even getting their attention when he’s following a scent may prove to be fairly difficult.
Can you imagine picking up so many strong scents everywhere you go? I’m guessing it’d be easy to get distracted. And, that’s what the Beagle has to go through every day. So don’t be too hard on them if one wanders off during training!
2. The Beagle’s curiosity can be a major distraction
There’s no denying that Beagles are curious dogs. This inquisitive nature stems from their sharp sense of smell. Being able to smell hundreds of scents is one thing, but combined with a curiosity can make training much harder.
Difficulties with obedience training is not the only downside of having a curious personality. Beagles will naturally roam. They are hounds, after all. However, extra care and supervision is needed to keep them from wandering off and getting lost.
One day he took off and hasn’t been trustworthy off-leash since. I don’t mean running through the yard, I mean thru town! You may have an exception, but most Beagles need to be leashed.– Tucker (Beagle Owner)
If your Beagle spends time in the backyard, it’s important you make sure the enclosure is fully secured. And when you take your dog outside for walks, you’ll need to always have a leash on him. All it takes is one scent that leads to a squirrel – and they’re off!
3. Beagles are energetic dogs
Believe it or not, Beagles are active dogs. In fact, the American Kennel Club calls them 1 of the 15 most active dog breeds ever! And sure, not all active dog breeds are difficult to train, including the top ranked Border Collie.
However, the high-energy and activeness can make it more difficult for dogs that possess all the other qualities that we’ve discussed in Beagles. The VCA suggests that disobedient dogs probably just need more exercise to calm down and focus.
We suggest that Beagles get at least an hour of moderate exercise per day. In addition to all the other benefits of exercise, doing this helps control behavioral problems in Beagles. If you don’t have to deal with destructive behavior, training will inevitably become easier.
4. Beagles may be too independent or stubborn to listen at times
Beagles are also more independent when compared to other dogs. They’re less interested than other dogs in pleasing their owners. And according to owners, some will even ignore calls or threats to seek adventure elsewhere.
If that’s not enough for you, Beagles are notoriously stubborn dogs as well. A popular argument is that Beagles were bred to be independent thinkers. But no matter how you look at it, both these qualities will only make it harder for training.
I know beagles are naturally stubborn dogs. My Kody just won’t listen to me. The only thing he really listens to is “go eat,” and he does that with no problem.– Nae83 (Beagle Owner)
This isn’t to say Beagles aren’t loving or loyal, because they really are. It’s just that they won’t do your bidding just because you say so. They have a mind of their own. Some may have their own “personal goal” and are motivated by that goal.
For example, if there’s a scent that’s extra alluring, they may make it their goal to find the source at all cost. In this case, they likely won’t have any desire to continue with training. This is the stubbornness of the Beagle.
How to Train a Beagle
Just because Beagles are difficult to train doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Here are some steps you can take to make training your Beagle easier. Just remember, the key to success is patience, consistency and firmness with your Beagle.
Establish the “Alpha of the Pack
The first thing you need to do when training any dog is to establish yourself as an alpha. Since Beagles are trained to hunt in packs, they are used to having an alpha in the pack.
Here are some ways you can establish yourself as the “alpha” in the pack:
- Eat before your Beagle eats – In many packs in the animal kingdom, the dominant members eat first.
- Be firm and assertive – When you want your Beagle to do or stop doing something, speak to him calmly, but firmly.
- Set boundaries – Make sure that there are places that your Beagle isn’t allowed. This could be on top of furniture or in bedrooms. This will show your Beagle that you have established territories.
Teach Basic Commands
The basic commands are essential with all domesticated dogs. If you want to teach your Beagle basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “come,” here’s what you can do:
- Sit. Gently push your Beagle’s rump to the floor while saying sit. When he sits, give him a treat.
- Stay. Once your Beagle learns how to sit, say “stay” as you back away from him. Every time he gets up to follow you, tell him to “sit” and “stay” again. When your Beagle successfully stays in one place for more than ten seconds, reward him with a treat.
- Come. Hold a treat and call your Beagle towards you. When he comes, praise him and give him the treat.
Train Your Beagle to Stop Howling
Beagles are notorious howlers. They have the instincts to howl when they see anything that resembles prey. They’ll also howl when they’re feeling lonely or are in pain. Here’s how to teach your Beagle not to howl:
1. Identify the source of the howling. Gently massage your Beagle or take them into the vet to ensure they’re not howling because they’re in pain. If they’re not howling due to pain, then identify what the trigger for the howling is.
Common triggers include seeing another dog and hearing a doorbell; also, Beagles may howl when they’ve been left alone for a long time.
2. Teach your Beagle the “hush command.” Place a howling trigger in front of your Beagle and, when he starts to howl, say “hush” while looking them in the eye. After the pup quiets down, praise them and give them a treat.
3. If you realize that your Beagle is howling for attention or because he wants a treat, ignore the howling. Every time your pup begins howling, simply turn away or leave the room. Your Beagle will soon stop howling so much.
House Breaking a Beagle
All dog owners need to toilet train their pets. Here’s how you can house train your Beagle and dissuade them from using your home as the bathroom:
1. Take them outside often. Make sure you’re taking your Beagle to only one designated place to relieve himself. Use a chosen command word each time you take them to this place to indicate that you want them to go.
2. Pet and reward them with a treat when they do their business outdoors. It’s important to ensure that this treat is only used for toilet training; otherwise, it’ll make it harder to associate the outdoors with going to the bathroom.
3. In their first few weeks, all puppies are likely to mess up indoors. Don’t scold the pup, but instead, show the puppy the spot they have had an accident, while saying “no” loudly and firmly. It’s important to do this immediately after the accident.
4. Keep a close watch over your Beagle puppy. Every time he shows signs of needing to relieve themselves, put him on a leash and take him outside. Every time the dog does its business outside, reward them with praise and treats – positive reinforcement!
Other Beagle Training Tips
Aside from specific training regimens, there are a few other general guidelines you should keep in mind when training your Beagle.
Start Training Early On
Beagle puppies are known for being difficult to train because they lose their focus easily. But, you should start training your Beagle when they are a puppy as they will retain what they learn better.
Have you ever heard the saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” There’s definitely some merit to it. However, you don’t want to train your Beagle too early or too late. Basic commands can be taught as early as 7 to 8 weeks of age.
At the same time, starting your obedience training after 6 months of age can be a poor time to start. During this period, puppies will have already begun solidifying behaviors and patterns for adulthood. So if possible, start earlier!
Never Use Physical Force
Beagles don’t respond well to harsh obedience techniques like spanking or hitting. They’ll feel fear, but won’t be able to concentrate on what you’re trying to teach them. This could also hurt your relationship with the dog. Who wants a dog that fears them?
Often times, a fearful Beagle can develop aggressive behaviors. When dogs are scared or cornered, their survival instincts kick in and they try to “scare off” the perceived threat. It’s why the small dogs tend to show aggression.
Instead, accompany your training with lots of praise – that is, positive reinforcement. Every time your Beagle does something right, hug them, pet them, and give them a treat. Beagles respond much better to this than with fear.
Give Them Plenty of Exercise
Your Beagle needs plenty of exercise each day. If possible, take them to an open space and throw balls and sticks to allow them to expend energy while using their chasing and tracking skills. You can even take your Beagle for a swim!
It’s best to try training your Beagle after they’ve had their walk and runs. Otherwise, your Beagle may have too much energy to pay attention to. Again, it’s one of the best ways to get them to calm down and focus.
Try Clicker Training
Clicker training is the method of pressing a “clicker” (available at most retail or online pet stores) every time your dog does something correctly.
The first few times you use the clicker, accompany it with a treat and/or praise. Your dog will soon learn to associate the sound of the clicker with something positive. If you’re looking for a clicker, we recommend this.
The PetSafe Clicker is one of the best on the market, and both dog trainers and owners will agree. They’re the number one manufacturer in the USA. Plus, it’s cheap enough for you to try – even if your Beagle ends up not responding well to it.
Some trainers have found that clicker training works particularly well with stubborn breeds, such as the Beagle. These stubborn dogs respond well to positive reinforcement, which is what the clicker will become.
If All Else Fails, Hire Professional Trainers
If you’ve tried everything but are still struggling with obedience training your Beagle, you may want to consider a professional trainer. It’s okay to call in for help sometimes.
Most areas have obedience schools where you can take in puppies to learn commands. These schools will also help owners build trusting relationships with their dogs. And if you can, look for schools or trainers who use clicker training.
Is Training Beagles Hard?
In comparison with other dog breeds, Beagles are more difficult to train. They have a reputation for being both stubborn and restless, which interferes with the training process.
This is because Beagles have been bred as tracking dogs and have lots of energy. Their high energy levels make it much harder for them to stay still and pay attention to “boring” obedience training.
But again, it’s not impossible to train your Beagle! Start training your Beagle young and be firm and patient. Remember to always use positive reinforcement when training your Beagle, whether it be for housebreaking or obedience.
It’s important to establish a trusting but dominant relationship with your Beagle so that they follow your instructions. Taking your Beagle to an obedience school can help with this. But if you put in the time and energy, you can be successful at training your Beagle.
Do you have a Beagle? Was it hard training your dog? Let us know in the comments section below!
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Saturday 3rd of October 2020
Can attest to the intelligence of beagles - our guy is really inquisitive and always looking for different ways to have fun. He taught himself to pick up an AFL football (Australian rules) in his mouth and run with it, makes quite a site with a ball bigger than his head trotting around the park!