CARING FOR YOUR BEAGLE
Housing. Beagles are scent hounds. They love to run and hunt. Unless you have a fenced yard, you cannot expect to turn them loose without them running a scent of some sort – that means they can get away from you. So, first thing you need to decide before purchasing a Beagle, is, are you committed to fencing in your yard OR taking your Beagle for long daily walks in the woods with you. Utilizing an E-Collar with tracking mechanism is the best way to have fun with your dog.
Beagles are hardy dogs, however, just like any other living thing, they need housing . You can keep them in the house and potty train them but you will need a fenced yard to turn them loose in. Or you can set up a kennel for them outside. Their house should be small enough that it will contain their body heat (too big and they can’t stay warm). Their kennel doesn’t need to be super huge, however, they should have enough room to have a ‘potty’ corner and still have some room to play as well.
Keeping Beagles outside requires a bit of extra care. You should check their houses daily and make sure the bedding is not damp or wet – if it is, it needs to be changed to dry. Some people use straw, grassy hay, or wood chips – whatever you choose, be sure it is quality – with no bugs, mites or other infestations and make sure it is dry. This is the only way your dog can stay warm. You need to double their food in the winter time if they stay outside. Just like Humans, dogs shiver when there are cold, which expends a lot of extra energy, and if you are running rabbits with your dogs, that’s even more calories they are burning. Plan on feeding extra in the winter.
Parasites. Dogs can have up to 7 different types of worms, and one type of wormer does not kill all worms. The prudent thing to do is have your dog’s fecal tested to see which kind they have, and worm for that type of worm. Heartworm medicines kill several types of worms but not all of them. If you are not educated about worming, make sure you check with your vet before administering worm medicine – especially to puppies as pups have different kinds of worms and can’t take some worm medicines.
A dog that has parasites will show certain signs – like a dull, rough coat, sometimes a pot-belly, they won’t be as active as they could be, and will generally not look their best. A dog that is free of worms and fed a well-balanced, healthy diet, will have a shiny, smooth coat, will be energetic and happy. Good, nutritious food is important too – do your research on what type of dog food you feed – a lot of fillers in the food doesn’t do your dog any good and causes more poop clean up. The same healthy diet for humans applies to dogs – some meat, some veggies, some carbs, and vitamins and minerals.
Trimming Nails. Beagle’s toe nails are important to keep trimmed for several reasons. A dog’s nails will grow out and with it, the quick (blood supply) grows out with it. If you keep them maintained and short, the quick stays short. Thus, you have fewer injuries to the foot when the dog is working in the woods. Using nail trimmers on the tips and then following up with a Dremel tool to round and smooth works well – do this once a month and your dog’s nails will be good to go. Another reason to keep the nails short is when putting your dog on the ‘Bench’ to show good conformation – if your dog’s nails are too long, the toes spread apart, and for a Beagle, the judge wants to see tight, cat-like feet on your Beagle. And last, toenails that are too long force the bones to be out of alignment and can cause arthritis and other injuries. Here is a great research article on the feet of canines – NO FOOT – NO DOG!
Poop. Yes, Beagles poop. The more dogs you have, the more poop you have to clean up. Why is it important to clean up poop? First, poop carries parasites, and dogs love to ingest poop, or step in it and then lick their paws, so they ingest more parasites. Second, dogs that lay in poop or step in it and get it on them in their houses can have skin irritations from the poop. It is very unhealthy. So, get in the habit of cleaning up poop every day if you can. A bucket and a scoop works well, and then you can bury the poop. Some kennels even have elaborate septic systems just for their dogs – with cement kennels that can be bleached and washed out into a pvc tube that carries the waste into a septic-tank underground where it degrades naturally. Whichever you choose, make sure to have a plan for poop!
Vaccinations. Every puppy must go through a series of puppy vaccinations, so check with your vet about what is required in your area. However, when taking your dog around other dogs, it is very wise to have your dog healthy and vaccinated, including a bordatella (kennel cough) nasal vaccination, along with regular annual shots. In addition, warding off fleas, ticks and lice (yes, canine lice can be a big issue in some kennels) is as easy as putting medicines like Frontline, Vectra, Biospot or something similar on your dogs before taking them around other dogs.
Conditioning for the Trial
So now you know how to care for your Beagle. You have trained it from a pup or sent it for training and are sure that it won’t run anything but a rabbit (deer and other game can get you disqualified at a trial). So you need to condition your dog by taking it out to the woods and letting it run rabbits or just exercise for an hour or more each day, steadily increasing the time it goes out every day. Remember, a pup under a year old cannot go as long or as hard as an adult dog – their bones do not solidify completely until they are around 12 months (one year) old, and you can do significant damage by overworking them, or if they sustain any accidental injuries to their bones. Keeping a Beagle fit takes some work- feed it too much and they will become fat. Feeding too little and running them every day causes them to be emaciated, thin, and may make them less competitive because they are weak from not enough calories. If you can feel your dog’s ribs and feel no fat in between them, you need to feed more calories – preferably from carbohydrates (not just high protein). We all know what a fit Beagle looks like – it’s the dog that comes in looking muscled and makes everyone go, “wow” that dog looks great!
Ready to Trial!
So what is involved in a Trial? Well, here we can speak to the NKC ARHA trials. The ARHA-NKC is the fastest growing registry and field trial association for rabbit hounds in America. With 170 Clubs Nationwide, the ARHA-NKC sanctions field trials for Beagles. All beagles are eligible for registry with the ARHA-NKC. Field trials are divided into divisions which feature all the different running styles of rabbit hounds.
- Fast tracking hounds compete in Little Pack and Big Pack.
- Medium speed hounds compete in Progressive Pack.
- Tighter line-control, slow hounds that bark on each foot fall compete in Gundog Pack and Gundog Brace.
- Bench competitions are also held and judged on the hound’s conformation to the breed standard.
Complete Rules can be found on the ARHA website at www.arha.com.
If you are not sure what style your Beagle is, please contact of one of the Mentors on this site and they can help you figure out which trials to try, or you could even go to any trial listed, as a spectator, just to watch how it works.
Getting there early is important, most hunts cut registration off at 7:00 AM or earlier, so you need to be there well before that to get your hound measured and get your paperwork filled out when you get there – you will need your dog’s registration papers.
You need to be a member of at least one of the clubs listed – usually a fee of around $15 per year – this is something you can do when you get there.
Each trail entry is usually $15 for regular hunts, or $20 for the BIG FIVE hunts. Bench entries are usually $10.
Once you get to the clubhouse in the morning, they will get everyone registered and then draw by number casts, usually of 5 dogs each. Opens (have not won a trial) / Champs / Grand Champs.
Most trials will include the Bench classes. The Bench class is based completely on the dogs’ conformation based on Beagle Standards. Straight legs, length of tail and ears, no over- or under-bites, paws nice and tight, body should be square and proportional . The way a hound is put together is very important in its longevity as well as how efficient it travels. Even if a dog has phenomenal hunt ability, if it has conformation flaws, think twice about breeding as it will pass the bad traits along with the good traits on to its offspring. There are so many Beagles in Michigan currently, that breeding should be well thought out and planned for only the most exceptional hunting dogs with perfect conformation.
After the Bench and as daylight approaches, the judges will take out as many casts as they can at one time. The casts go to different locations, usually private land, sometimes State land, and the hounds are turned loose for an hour. The judge will work the dogs and stay with them and mark points as he goes. You, as a handler or spectator, will follow, well behind, as to not disrupt the dogs or tracks, and wait for instruction from the judge. When the time is up, the judge calls the hunt, you pick up your dogs and scoring will be announced. Once all the casts for each group (opens, for example) have returned to the clubhouse, the winner of each cast goes out for a final cast to determine the overall winner. You are responsible for tracking your dog’s points from trial to trial and submitting paperwork when they reach enough points for Champion and Grand Champion. Again, please visit the ARHA website for the most current, complete rules for each division. Be sure to check there frequently as the rules do change from time to time.