Beagles often have a bit of a reputation for being unintelligent dogs. In fact, a lot of dog trainers loathe training them simply because Beagles are not the most receptive of dogs to train. It isn’t impossible to train a beagle, just a bit more difficult than with other breeds. Here, we want to answer the question ‘are Beagles hard or easy to train?’ and look at a few of the reasons why.
We aren’t just going to sop here, though. We are also going to provide you with a couple of dos and don’ts which should, hopefully, make training that dog a whole lot easier for you.
Are Beagles Hard or Easy to Train?
It depends on who you ask.
Many studies have been carried out, and these studies seem to indicate that the Beagle is one of the least intelligent breeds of dog out there. In fact, one ‘IQ test for dogs’ found that Beagles are in the bottom 10 of 160 breeds.
This means that they are probably not going to be the simplest dog in the world to train. In fact, they are pretty hard and they require a lot of repetition in order to learn even the simplest of tasks.
That being said, they do excel in certain areas e.g. if you are teaching your dog how to fetch or to act as a guard dog, they will be great here. It really plays into their natural instincts.
What Makes Beagles Difficult to Train?
Beagles are dogs that have been bred for hunting. Even today, you will find that many, many Beagles are raised for hunting. They are great at tracking prey and retrieving kills. They still make brilliant pets, but they are very hunting-focused, and this plays into the reasons why they are such a hard breed to train.
Because they are a hunting dog, Beagles are a breed that was ‘designed’ to latch onto even the faintest of smells and the smallest of sounds. This means that they are easily distracted.
If you are training your dog and something else catches their attention, then it becomes difficult to train them. Because of this, most people can never train their dogs for more than a few minutes at a time.
This is a behavior that is pretty tough to train out of them too. This is because the fact that they can latch onto these sounds and scents is what makes a Beagle a Beagle. It is part of their nature. You may be able to control it to some extent, but it will always be a breed that gets easily distracted.
If you were out there on a hunt with the Beagle, the Beagle would be in control. They are the ones that are following scents and sounds.You would just follow them in the hope that they would lead you to whatever they were tracking.
This means that Beagles were never really bred with the idea of being ‘under control’ in mind. This is a dog that was bred to be an independent thinker, and you will notice that a lot when you are training. The Beagle loves to let you know that they are the ones that are in control and that you should be listening to them.
Thankfully, this is a trait that can be trained out of them. It is not going to be an easy trait to eliminate, but you will get there eventually through a lot of intense training.
Tons Of Energy
Dogs are easier to train when they are a bit tired. The problem with Beagles is that they do not get that tired. This is a dog that was bred to run for miles and miles. They have almost infinite stamina.
This means that your dog will likely be bouncing around a lot when you are trying to train them. They won’t listen to you. They just want to burn off all of that excess energy.
For this reason, a lot of people will combine their training with physical exercise e.g. fetching, tracking objects, etc.
This is something that you can work into your dog’s training. A food-driven Beagle is great. It means that you can reward them whenever they do something good.
The problem is that they are always on the hunt for more food. As a result, a lot of people find it difficult to move onto training that doesn’t involve the Beagle eating something. It is an annoying problem to have because if you don’t have food handy, your dog is probably not going to be listening to you.
If you are trying to train them and there is food close by, then they are probably going to be going for that rather than listening to you too.
How Long Does it Take to Train a Beagle?
This is akin to asking how long a piece of string is. There isn’t really a set amount of time that it would take to train a Beagle. Some may take weeks to nail even the most basic of commands, while others can take months. If you are potty training, then you can expect it to take a few weeks for most Beagles.
You have to remember that with dogs, training isn’t really something that should ever be stopping. This is especially true with the Beagle because you are constantly going to be battling against their natural instincts to be independent. This means that you may be doing a bit of training every week for their whole lives. Although we promise you, it is going to be a lot easier as time goes on. This is because you are (mostly) just going to be topping up their training.
Tips for Training a Beagle
For the most part, training a Beagle isn’t going to be that much different from training any other dog. However, we do have a few ‘Beagle-centric’ tips for you here. By following these tips, you can really play into the dog’s natural behaviors. It will certainly make your life a lot easier.
You cannot run before you can walk. This means that you need to start simple with your dog’s training. You shouldn’t be overwhelming them. For this reason, a lot of people will focus on just one type of training with their Beagle before they move onto something else.
Your training should begin with potty training. Beagles are easy to potty train, so this shouldn’t be that difficult.
You can then move onto these tricks:
- Lay down
Once your Beagle has learned those tricks, you should have a bit of control over its behavior. This is important when you are out walking with your dog off their leash because you need to let them know that you are the one that is in control.
Use Food For Training
One of the things about Beagles is that they are incredibly food-focused. They will do anything for food. This means that you have something that you can easily work into your Beagle’s training.
During the early days of their training, you should be very food-centric. This means that your dog’s training rewards should be some tasty food that they really love. It is much easier to encourage good behaviors in a Beagle if they know that they are going to be getting a tasty snack out of it. As their training progresses, you can gradually lower the amount of food that you give them as a reward. Eventually, they will do whatever you need without the food reward. Of course, slip them some food every so often. It helps to keep them trained.
Keep Those Training Sessions Short
As we said before, Beagles are not necessarily unintelligent dogs. They are dogs that get easily distracted. This means that when you are training them, you shouldn’t be training them for more than 10-minutes to 15-minutes at a time.
As soon as you notice that your dog’s concentration starts to dwindle, then you should stop your training session. If your Beagle is not paying attention then anything that you try to teach them is going to be going in one ear and out of the other i.e. they are not going to be remembering a thing.
When your dog is younger, their training sessions may even be far less than 15-minutes. We have known some people to train their dogs for under 5-minutes. You will, eventually, find a balance that is going to be right for your animal. Stick to it and gradually increase the length of their training sessions over time.
Always Training The Dog When They Are On A Leash
Because your dog is prone to bolt away at the slightest of sounds, it is important that you train them while they are on their leash. This way you are able to keep them under your control for as long as possible.
If your dog does try to run away, do something to distract them back onto the training. Do not reward them, but do not punish them. If your dog is well trained, then something as simple as calling their name should be enough to regain their focus.
However, if your dog seems far too distracted, then just give up on training for a while. Don’t let them off the leash, though. You will be rewarding bad behavior if you do that, and that is the last thing you want. Once you start to reward bad behavior, your dog will be pulling away whenever they want to escape their behavior.
Use ‘Catching Behavior’ Teaching
This is a technique that a lot of Beagle owners use when they are training their dogs. Because you may not be able to train them for long periods of time, you have to ‘catch behaviors’ and reward them. This means that you will be keeping an eye out on your dog at all times.
One example that people tend to give is barking. If your dog, for instance, lets out a bark then you can say “speak” afterward and give them a treat. Your dog should be able to tie the action of barking to their treat and the command that you gave them.
The same thing could apply if you are teaching them to sit or lay down. You can catch both of these behaviors rather easily and provide them with a little bit of a reward.
This is a slower training method. It is more a substitute for proper training when your Beagle doesn’t really seem to be taking in anything that you are teaching them.
Play Into The Dog’s Natural Instincts
The Beagle is a hunting dog. As a result, a lot of people will teach the dog in a way that is similar to how they would hunt. Now, you aren’t going to be teaching them how to sit, lay down, etc. via this method, but it is a good way to teach your dog to listen to you.
For example, you can play a game of hide and seek with your dog. You may also want to hide their toys and encourage them to find them. Once they do, they will get a tasty treat at the end of it.
This is very much a fun game to play for both you and your dog, and it will teach them retrieval techniques.
When you start playing these sorts of tracking games with your Beagle, you will realize that you have a very intelligent dog, but not in the conventional way.
Repetition Is The Key
Even if you find that your dog has nailed whatever you are trying to teach them, you will need to be constantly reinforcing their training. Repetition is important when it comes to any dog, but it is even more important when it comes to Beagles. They can be quite forgetful animals, after all.
Every so often, you should be practicing the command that you know that your dog already knows. This will help to really drill in the dog’s training. As we said before, it is likely that you are going to be training the dog for the rest of your life, and their forgetful nature is the main reason for this.
What Should You Avoid Doing When Training a Beagle?
So, now you have a couple of tips for training a Beagle, what sort of things should you be avoiding?
Training Them For Long Periods Of Time
Beagles have one of the shortest attention spans of all dogs. This means that you don’t want to be training them for too long. Even the smallest sound or smell can distract them.
At the most, you shouldn’t be pushing your dog between 10-15 minutes of training time. We know that this may not seem like a lot but, we promise you, once you have been training your Beagle for a few minutes, you will realize that this length of time is an absolute eternity! If you go beyond 15-minutes then the dog isn’t really going to be absorbing any information.
Training Regularly Outside
The most distracting things are going to be outside. This means that unless the training 100% requires it, then try to keep the majority of your dog’s training indoors. There will still be a few distractions for your Beagle, but they should be minimal. Once you have learned how to control your dog inside, then you will be able to control them outdoors too.
Even when you do train outdoors, try to keep them on the leash, at least until you can trust them not to bolt the second they hear a rustling in the grass.
Punishing Them During Training
This is not just a mistake that people make with Beagles, but all dogs.
If a dog does something wrong, then do not punish them. Ignore the mistake. Training, particularly with dogs, should be reward-based.
This whole ‘not punishing’ thing is incredibly important if you are potty training your dog. If your dog has an accident indoors and you are punishing them, you are essentially telling them “you should not use the bathroom” and the dog will start to hold it in. It isn’t a good experience for the dog. Most of the time, you won’t actually catch them in the act. This means that you are punishing them, but your dog doesn’t have a clue what you are actually punishing them for which, of course, isn’t going to be a good thing.
The same as if you punish them for barking or being aggressive. You are really saying “yes, being aggressive is correct in this situation”. The dog doesn’t know what you are saying. In those situations, it would actually be better if you came up with ways to distract your dog. It will work out a lot better.
Starting Too Quickly
It is important that you do not jump into complicated training until your dog has mastered the basics. This means being able to sit, lay, heel, etc. You cannot train a Beagle to do complicated things unless you have absolutely mastered the basics. You need to have some sort of control over them. Once they have learned the basic commands, they know that you are going to be the one in charge. This makes everything else a little bit easier.
You probably shouldn’t be training a dog below the age of 8-weeks either (for potty training). Any younger than that, and they won’t retain any information that you teach them.
Are Beagles Hard To House Train?
Beagles shouldn’t be that difficult to house train. It can be more difficult when the dog is younger due to its lack of focus. However, this is something that will tend to apply to most breeds of dog so it isn’t a major issue when it comes to Beagles.
Are Beagles Hard To Potty Train?
Beagles shouldn’t be more difficult to potty train than other dogs. This means that you can expect your Beagle to be fully potty trained within 2-8 weeks if you do things properly.
Are Beagles Intelligent?
Beagles are intelligent. However, this does not necessarily mean that they are easy to train. This is because Beagles are a breed that was developed for hunting. This means that they have a different type of intelligence from other dogs. They can track animals for miles, and they can get distracted by sights and sounds no other dog will pick up on. However, they do not quite have the intelligence for tricks, which can make them more difficult to train.
Are Male or Female Beagles Easier to Train?
Males will tend to pick up brand new tricks easier. However, it is harder to hold the attention of a male. As a result, a lot of people believe that female Beagles are easier to train. At the end of the day, it is likely going to come down to the personality of the dog. However, across the board, females can be trained for longer bursts of time before they lose focus.
What Age is Best to Train Beagles?
Ideally, you would start to train your Beagle as soon as possible. There is nothing wrong with doing a small amount of basic training when they are 8-weeks old. Training should be in full swing by the time they are 5 to 6-months old. This is when dogs have the strongest ability to retain information. You can, however, train a dog whenever you wish. You really can teach an old dog new tricks!
Beagles are not easy dogs to train. While they are intelligent, they have the wrong sort of intelligence for training. Thankfully, with a bit of perseverance and the right techniques, most Beagles can be trained. You may not be able to teach them the same sort of tricks you could with much smarter dogs, but you should be able to teach them enough that they can deal with basic commands.