Beagles are very unique little characters. Do not even consider adding a beagle to your family based on looks alone. Behind that sweet face is a very stubborn and single-minded scent-hound! Do your research - talk to vets, talk to beagle owners, read books, talk to us.
Why a Beagle Isn't for Everyone:
Beagles have been bred for hundreds and hundreds of years to follow their noses, so now... they do! And it gets them into lots of trouble.
Beagles absolutely need to live in a house with a securely fenced yard. When a beagle catches a scent, their nose will hit the ground and they will go off to follow it. All other senses will be turned off, and no matter how loud you yell "COME", a beagle will not listen and will not come back. It's not that they don't love you and want to run away, or that they are being purposefully disobedient... they are just following their nose. That's the job of a beagle. We humans, as their guardians, need to make sure that they are safely contained so that their noses don't get them into a dangerous situation.
Beagles can't go on walks or hikes off-leash. For the same reasons as above, they always need to be attached to their human when they are outside of their fenced yard. They are not the type of dog that can go hiking or camping with you and just 'hang out' by the campsite. You need to have them on a leash at all times.
Beagles are difficult to train. This is often said, but not entirely true. They can learn to understand what you're telling them, they just don't always decide to listen - especially when there is food involved! "Leave it" is not a well-loved command with beagles :-) They can be quite stubborn.
Beagles will scavenge for food. If you leave food on a table, or a garbage can within reach... expect to have it inspected (and torn up/eaten) by your beagle. It's that nose again!
Beagles can be howlers. They have a very distinctive singing voice and use it when they are excited. If there is a knock at the door or a bird in the yard... you will hear ARROOOOOOO!
Beagles are not good outside dogs. They are very social and people-oriented. They are not happy in the yard by themselves. Beagles need to be part of the family and allowed to live with you in the house. They like to be on your lap when you watch TV and in your room (preferably in your bed!) when you sleep. They aren't happy in the background.
Top reasons for surrendering a beagle:
"The beagle keeps running away". You need to have a securely fenced yard.
"The neighbors in the next apartment have complained that he howls during the day". Beagles don't do well in apartments or condos for just this reason.
"The beagle isn't happy in the yard and the garage." Don't get a beagle unless you want an indoor dog. They want to be with you.
"Wow, I didn't think it would be this much work". Treat this decision as seriously as deciding to have a child. You will need to change your family's schedule, 'dog-proof' the house, and provide lots of love and attention. It's a big decision that should not be made on a whim.
"The kids aren't taking care of it, and I don't have time." Don't adopt a dog unless YOU want one and are willing to take on the responsibility. Beagles live to be about 15 years old, and that's a long time to commit to! You'll be taking care of the dog even after your kids are off to college.
"This dog is not trainable - it never comes when I call." That's a beagle!
So after reading all of that... why would anyone want a beagle?
Beagles are wonderful family dogs. They are loving and affectionate, they are great with kids, and they are real cuddlers. There is nothing better than having a beagle jump up on your lap, give you a kiss, and curl up for a nap under your arm.
Beagles do not need a lot of grooming, do not shed a ton, and although they will bark if there is something to bark at, they are not a 'yappy' breed.
Beagles are very people-oriented. They are the type of dog that wants to be with you and will follow you around from room to room. They want to be part of your family and will give you lots of love.
In my experience, people either love beagles or hate them. You have to understand their distinct characteristics and accept them... not try to change them. Any one who gets a beagle expecting to be able to train it not to wander away from an un-fenced yard or not to follow it's nose is going to be very disappointed and frustrated. And chances are, that beagle will be looking for another home within 6 months.
If you can live with the points listed above, you have a house with a fenced yard and lots of love and time to dedicate to a dog, then a beagle can be the perfect family member for you.