While you can train Beagles, they are a little hard to train.
For Beagles, every day is a play day. Beagles love to play 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
But training your Beagle to obey some basic commands is essential for developing a healthy relationship with your dog, and keeping your Beagle safe around traffic, around other dogs, and in new settings and situations.
So while beagles are hard to train, with a little effort, it can be done.
Let’s begin with the most important rule to remember when you are training your Beagle.
Reward, Don’t Punish When Training Your Beagle
The key thing every Beagle owner needs to know about training is that getting your dog to behave in desirable ways has to be based on rewards, not punishment.
Dogs don’t understand punishment.
There’s nothing in the basic makeup of a Beagle, for example, that suggests that going to the bathroom on the carpet is bad but going to the bathroom on a pee pad is OK.
Your favorite teddy bear is just as acceptable to your Beagle as a plaything as a leather chew toy.
And if you punish your Beagle after the fact for doing things that come naturally to Beagles, the only reaction will be hurt, fear, and anxiety.
Dogs are forgiving creatures, but they will avoid situations that cause them pain.
They perform behaviors that yield rewards.
So, how do Beagle owners need to approach training?
- Avoid punishments. If you were to deliver the same punishment, the same way, within 5 seconds or less, after every performance of an undesirable act, your Beagle would probably figure out that what they were doing resulted in their punishment. But if you wait 5 minutes, or 5 hours, or 5 days, your Beagle will not remember the offending act. Your dog will just be perplexed that you are being mean to them.
- Don’t try to bribe your Beagle. On the other hand, don’t dangle a treat in front of your dog to induce them to do something you want them to do. You want to keep the guessing “Am I doing it right?” in the hopes they might get a treat, not asking “When is my human going to feed me?.” You will get more obedience from your Beagle when you reward good behavior most of the time, not all the time, and put the need to perform on your dog, not on yourself.
- Reward your Beagle appropriately for good behavior. Which rewards work best really depends on your dog.
Beagles respond to treats, toys, friendly touching, kind words, and playtime.
The reward that works the best may depend on the behavior you are teaching.
You also don’t want to give the same reward for good behavior every time. Keep your Beagle wondering which good thing comes next for good behavior.
Mix up the rewards to keep your dog focused on being obedient.
It’s especially important not to rely too much on food treats. You don’t want your Beagle to see you as a treat dispenser.
With Beagles, food rewards are basic to successfully teaching every command. You just don’t want them to be the only way you can reward good behavior.
Choosing the Right Treats
Recognizing that Beagles are stubborn and the best way to get their attention will usually be with food, it is important to make a distinction between slow-eating treats and fast-eating treats.
Fast-eating treats are things your dog can eat in one or, at most, two bites. They give your Beagle a fast reward, but they don’t distract from the training task at hand.
Fast-eating treats are small and soft and come in a bag with lots of other treats.
This makes them very convenient as rewards during a long training session when you are training the same command over and over.
Your dog may like crunchy treats better than soft treats, but if they break up into delicious, delectable crumbs that your Beagle has to search for, they will slow down the training.
Slow-eating treats last a long time, minutes to even hours. They are useful for training your Beagle to sit quietly, enjoying his crate, passing the time without frantic play.
Slow-eating treats include raw (never cooked!) beef bones, rawhide treats, bully sticks, and KONG toys.
Keep in mind that you don’t want to interrupt your dog’s enjoyment of her treat, so use slower-eating treats at the end of a training session.
Choosing the Right Training Method for Beagles
There may be as many methods of training Beagles as there are people who train Beagles.
Experts disagree on the “best” training method, other than the general agreement that punishment isn’t a productive way to train a dog.
No single method is more effective than any other, but the “relationship method,” mentioned last, is the easiest to apply to dogs of different breeds.
What really matters is that you and your dog bond in the process of their obedience training.
Dominance training for Beagles
This training method is based on an outdated theory that Beagles and other dogs act in ways that keep them in good standing with their packs, the same way their wolf ancestors did.
This method requires you to maintain your status as the “alpha dog” who is always obeyed without question.
While the theoretical foundations of this method have been called into question, it is still popular and many Beagle owners use it with good results.
Positive reinforcement for Beagles
This method is based on the idea that dogs will repeat behaviors that bring them rewards in the form of treats, toys, or touch.
The important thing to remember about this method is that your dog has to receive the same reward every time the desired behavior is performed, so everyone in your household has to participate in training the same way.
Operant conditioning for Beagles
Operant conditioning just means associating pleasant conditions with behaviors you consider desirable and unpleasant conditions (but not a punishment) with behaviors you consider undesirable.
For example, if you give your Beagle a treat when he obeys your command to sit down, you are using operant conditioning to reinforce good behavior.
When you loudly say “No!” when your Beagle attempts to eat the steak on your plate, loud enough that the dog finds the sound unpleasant, you are using operant conditioning to extinguish bad behavior.
Classical conditioning for Beagles
There is also an approach to training dogs known as classical conditioning.
In classical conditioning, good behavior is “caught” rather than “taught.”
Your Beagle observes things that always happen the same way.
For instance, if you always put on the same coat every time you take your Beagle for a walk, your dog will learn to be ready for walk time every time you put on your coat and head for the door.
Clicker training for Beagles
Clicker training uses the principles of operant conditioning.
Using a clicker enables you to let your dog know the exact behavior you are rewarding.
Some Beagle owners use it as their primary method of training their dogs.
Shock training for Beagles
Shock training uses an electric shock collar to stop undesirable behaviors or to keep a dog within a confined area.
It only teaches the dog what is bad behavior.
It does not teach a dog good behavior. This method seldom works out well for regular dog owners.
Relationship training for Beagles
Relationship training uses ideas from all the mainstream methods of training dogs except shock training.
It focuses on building the relationship between Beagles and their human families by controlling the environment, keeping unhealthy distractions to a minimum, and trying to understand why your Beagles act the way they do.
Relationship training takes longer than the other methods, but it builds a lasting bond between you and your Beagle.
What, When, and How Long to Train
Training your Beagle in basic commands like sit, stay, stop, and come as soon as possible will make everyone happier.
You should begin training Beagles about the age of three months, training each command in 15-minute sessions for the next three months.
The “sit” command is a great place to start. It makes controlling your Beagle easier, and you can use it to begin every training session for other commands.
Canine psychologist Dr. Stanley Coren discovered that Beagles need, on average, 80 training sessions to learn a new command, and that, even after they learn it, they will follow directions only about 25% of the time.
Beagles are hard to train but they are worth the effort
Beagles aren’t the brightest dogs, from the standpoint of doing what they are told.
But Beagles are a bundle of joy always ready to make your life happier. Training them as well as you can to keep them safe.
It isn’t just cute little Beagle puppies that need training. Beagles of all ages need constant refresher courses in how to fulfill their part of their relationship with the humans that take care of them.
You don’t speak Beagle and your Beagle doesn’t speak your language, but training enables your dog to follow your commands as the undisputed leader of its pack.
Training relieves stress for both you and your Beagle. Practicing commands like stop, drop, and sit can literally save your dog’s life.
You may need to use these commands at home, when you are taking your Beagle for a walk, or when your Beagle is around other dogs.
You can’t really predict when your dog will get out of control. You cannot lose control over your Beagle even momentarily.
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Teaching your dog basic commands makes going on a walk or spending an hour at the dog park safer. Untrained dogs don’t have as much fun outdoors because they are more anxious around other dogs. Once you have trained your Beagles, they will become more relaxed, friendly, and confident dogs.
And should your Beagle get lost or run away, a well-trained Beagle is far more likely to come back.
Frequently Asked Questions About Training Beagles
Q. Why are Beagles so hard to train?
A. Beagles were bred as a hunting breed. They naturally follow their noses in pursuit of other animals. This is a great characteristic in a dog you want to take on a fox hunt but is a major distraction in a more modern lifestyle.
Q. Is it possible to train a Beagle to be a watchdog?
A. If you are looking for a watchdog, you probably shouldn’t choose a Beagle.
Your Beagle will treat everyone she meets as a new best friend. If someone who breaks into your house brings, say, a steak, your Beagle will give in to the scent and regard the burglar’s offering as a special treat.
Q. Are Beagles suitable for life in high-rise apartments?
A. Beagles need lots of exercises. They need daily walks and trips to the dog park. And because your Beagle will follow his nose and there is a tremendous variety of odors in urban living, it will be hard to keep your dog on a leash.
Also read: Can a Beagle Live in an Apartment?
Q. Can Beagles live outdoors?
A. Beagles enjoy their time in a fenced yard, but they will tend to dig under the fence and escape unless there is a protective barrier at least a foot (25 cm) underground.
Q. Is there any single all-important secret to success when training a Beagle?
A. The key to success in training your Beagle is to establish a schedule just soon as you bring your Beagle home and stick to it. Take your Beagle on a walk at the same time every day. Have indoor playtime at the same time every day.
But offer a variety of acceptable activities to keep your Beagle busy. Consider interactive toys and food games that stimulate your Beagle’s mind.
Beagles can be surprisingly resourceful when solving food puzzles. Choose washable toys that are easy to use outside.
Give your Beagle reliable playtime and familiar toys so she will always know that playtime will come if she obeys your rules.
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