Shelagh asked in a comment how I chose what breed to get, so I thought I'd elaborate a little on this!
I have been quite obsessed with beagles for about a year now. I started with not really knowing much about dog breeds, and did a lot of research online to find the one that fit our lifestyle the most. I think that's the first thing: find a breed that matches your lifestyle. There are some helpful quizzes online that can help you, like this one.
The first thing I considered was size. We wanted a dog under 25 pounds because we both prefer smaller dogs, and we wanted to make sure that we wouldn't have any problems getting an apartment. (Many apartment complexes require that dogs be under 25 or 40 pounds.) However, a lot of small dogs are yappy dogs, and I knew that would drive me crazy. Another important criteria was the dog had to be good with cats. Those two things knocked out most terriers.
Other things that weren't as important, but still a consideration: the amount of grooming needed, how much energy they had, were they good with traveling and camping, were they good with children, were they friendly. We weren't necessarily looking for a guard dog: we wanted a dog that we didn't have to lock up whenever guests came over. I wanted to force myself off the couch so I looked for a breed that wasn't quite so sedentary, but yet would be okay with daily walks.
Another consideration for me was how much I liked the breed's looks. Was it cute? Was the breed healthy, or was it prone to a lot of complicated and expensive medical problems? I think I generalized here, since I know that all senior dogs will probably have a medical problem somewhere along the line. A great resource was this site, which had a lot of details about different breeds.
I actually made a large spreadsheet, starting with all dogs under 25 lbs, taking away all dogs not recommended for apartment life, and then rating the other criteria. I eventually narrowed it down to 15 different breeds, but the beagle had already won my heart at this point!
Here is what the Dog Breed Info Center site says about beagles:
The Beagle is a gentle, sweet, lively and curious dog that just loves everyone! A happy little tail-wagger!
This is SO true!! Jera's tail never stopped wagging. Even when they were taking blood right before she was spayed, her little tail was working overtime! I really liked having a dog that was so happy all the time - it put me in the right mindset, even when I was frustrated with her. A friendly dog was a big positive in my book, even though I didn't really think about it at the time. I love being able to share my pets with people who stop by to visit.
Sociable, brave and intelligent. Calm and loving. Excellent with children and generally good with other dogs, but should not be trusted with non-canine pets, unless they are socialized with cats and other household animals when they are young.
This is one reason why we looked for a puppy, though as we were looking at rescue groups the question of cats didn't seem to be an issue. I think it would be more of a concern if the beagle had been trained to hunt, rather than be a pet all its life. We wanted a dog that would be good with children, since we will most likely have children while we still have the dog. And of course, a loving dog is always a plus. :-)
Beagles have minds of their own. They are determined and watchful and require patient, firm training. This breed doesn't like being left alone. Consider buying two if you will be gone a lot.
These are downsides to a beagle. With the training, Jera did pretty good. We didn't work with her as much as we should have, but we got "sit" and "drop it" and "leave it" down pretty well. She was also learning "roll over" which was adorable to watch. House-training was another story. Jera was horrible, but Zoey is already months ahead of Jera when we first got her! I think the difference is getting a dog from a family vs. a pet store. I read once that beagles are more difficult to housetrain than other breeds because their noses are so extremely sensitive, that they can smell previous accidents even after you've cleaned them. Jera did much better after we rented a heavy-duty carpet cleaner from Home Depot and went over the carpets twice.
A Beagle has a loud baying cry that was a delight to hunting horsemen, but can be disturbing to family and neighbors. Beagles have a tendency to follow their own noses. They may take off on their own exploration if let off their leash in an unfenced area.
I would rather have a dog with an occasional bay than a yappy bark! Jera was SO quiet (except for the whining!). Sometimes her cries turned to howls, but that was mostly when we first got her and trying to crate-train her. So far, Zoey has been pretty quiet, but she still has a puppy voice. I really hope she's not a barker! Beagles are also runners. Jera would bolt anytime she could (hence... why we don't have her anymore). Zoey so far has not been like that at all. I am enjoying having a dog who follows me around! I'm not sure if this is just a puppy thing, or if Zoey will follow us, so we'll see. I'm okay with keeping the dog on a leash. It's a bit annoying when we're camping, but most campsites require you leave your dog on a leash at all times so it's okay.
So pretty much, I love beagles. They aren't perfect, but they are perfect for us. I can't wait to get a house with a yard so she can run to her heart's content, but right now I think we have a pretty good system worked out with our daily walks and visiting the dog park 4 times a week. I really love going to the dog park, and I can't wait until Zoey is big enough to take her too!!
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