Beagles have long been in the media spotlight. From Snoopy to Shiloh, those long-eared, adorable, yodeling escape artists are as smart and savvy as they are adorable. As a member of the hound family among other skilled sniffers like the Bloodhound and Basset Hound, Beagles were bred as hunting dogs, and they are darn good at following their adorable long snouts. Pint-sized masters of merry mischief, Beagles are often found wandering their way into trouble and out of their yards. Why—and how—do Beagles escape? What can you do to prevent or deter your dog’s penchant for persistent curiosity and wandering?
The Root of the Behavior
There are many reasons why dogs break out of their backyard captivity. Some breeds, like the Beagle, are more prone to follow their nose. A stray animal, neighbor’s dog, or an intriguing scent may be all it takes to lure the dog away in pursuit of something alluring and mysterious. Some breeds are more prone to separation anxiety and may result to escape attempts in order to be with their people (or really, any people). And some breeds with higher energy require more exercise to keep happy. A dog left in a small yard may be more likely to escape in order to go for a run. Dogs bred for tracking and hunting, such as Beagles, Basset Hounds, Bloodhounds, German Shepherds, Pointers, Labs, and several others have the best noses around. It is believed that their supreme sense of smell has at least some correlation to their long noses, where their abundance of olfactory receptor cells comes in handy.
Beagles and similar breeds may have as many as two to three million scent receptors. Humans, in comparison, have around five million. What all that adds up to is a dog who is smart, curious, and a powerful tracker. It’s not unheard of for a Beagle to wander miles from home in pursuit of a particular scent. Beagles have been useful not only for hunters for many years, but are also commonly employed as inspectors in airports and other governmental capacities. Experienced Beagle scent investigators have as high as a 90 percent success detecting contraband and can recognize up to 50 different scents. In addition to their powerful noses, Beagles can also escape out of fear or anxiety, and also boredom. High energy dogs require more exercise to stay satisfied. And if your dog is left outside for long periods of time, anxiety or boredom may drive them to attempt to break out and wander.
Encouraging the Behavior
No one wants to have to search for a missing dog. With the prevalence and ease of access to microchips, lost dogs are becoming easier to return home, since the owner’s information is readily available at any vet office and most animal shelters. But that doesn’t mean that you should or want to let your dog roam free. In addition to dogs getting into things or places they shouldn’t be, not everyone appreciates strange dogs in their yard, and accidents happen. From aggressive dogs to unwary vehicles, your wanderer may come to harm. So how can you discourage or prevent your Houdini from breaking loose?
Always start by taking precautions. Ensuring your yard is fully fenced
is a great way to keep your dog safe. But even the best fences aren’t
completely escape-proof. Beagles and other nosy breeds may dig, climb, or jump
free of your fenced yard. A kennel or an enclosed dog run is also a good idea,
but also not fool-proof. The best prevention is to keep an eye on your dog and
don’t leave them alone in the yard for long. Keeping your dog entertained and
exercised will also deter bouts of wanderlust. Additionally, making sure your dog is an expert at the “sit,” “stay,”
and “come” commands is vital. And always keep your dog on a leash when you’re
out and about.
Other Solutions and Considerations
There are multiple solutions available for escape-prone dogs. From enclosed kennels or “invisible” fencing, you should be able to find a solution that works. If your dog jumps over the fence, raise the height of your fencing. For diggers, burying chicken wire beneath the fence line is a great deterrent. If you live on property without any enclosed areas (and don’t plan on fencing them) reconsider adopting scent hounds. You can’t expect a nose-driven dog to ignore their instinct, no matter how well-trained they are. Instinct may override any training they’ve picked up, and it’s not fair to get mad at your dog for being a dog. That said, additional training is never a bad idea.
Beagles are smart, adorable, and great family dogs. But if you have or plan to have one, be prepared to take plenty of precautions to prevent your persistent pup from escaping. Keeping them exercised and entertained will go a long way to keep them happy and safe while you’re gone. And giving them safe, controlled opportunities to exercise their sniffing powers will help keep them home, too.