How to Train Your Beagle Dog to Be Off-Leash

Hard
1-2 Months
General

Introduction

Beagles are both scenting hounds and hunting dogs. What that means, is that your beagle is highly motivated and incredibly good at locating scent and then hunting whatever made that scent. Beagles are also intelligent, high-energy dogs. As a result, it can be difficult to control Beagles when they are off-leash. They are fast, figure out how to get away, and are very interested in picking up a scent and running. A Beagle, even when contained in a fenced-in enclosure, tends to be a bit of an escape artist. If there is a chink in the fence he will find it and be after whatever is on the other side, a squirrel, rabbit, cat, something that passed by four hours ago and left a scent trail! 

Beagles have a reputation for being stubborn and difficult to train. However, understanding that Beagles have a highly developed sense of smell, which makes them highly distractible, and that they were developed to use that smell and gifted with high energy to run after whatever made it, may help you understand how to direct your Beagle's talents, rather than punish him or lose patience with your Beagle for “being stubborn” .

Defining Tasks

Because Beagles are so distractible due to their extraordinary scenting capabilities, you will need to do a lot of foundation work with your Beagle, developing a strong relationship and basic obedience commands such as 'sit', 'stay', 'down', and 'come'. It is important to establish commands and on and off-leash behavior with your Beagle as young as possible. 

Although some people opt for the solution of not allowing their Beagle off-leash or out of an enclosed area, accidents do happen; gates can be left open, leashes dropped. It is always important to have off-leash control of your dog so that you can keep him safe. Also, because Beagles are such high-energy dogs, they require a lot of exercise. Your Beagle can run a lot faster and further than you can, so providing off-leash exercise may be important to physically stimulate your dog. 

Some people use their Beagles for scenting and hunting. If this is the case, good off-leash control will be essential to allow your Beagle to work and keep him safe.  You will want your Beagle to respond to a command of 'come' or a whistle and return to you when directed. Other off-leash behaviors that are beneficial are 'sit-stay' and 'down-stay' to prevent your Beagle from running into danger or chasing other pets.

Getting Started

Although Beagles are usually good around other dogs, they are not usually so good around other small pets. When working with your dog off-lead, be aware that your Beagle may be motivated to chase cats and other small pets and take precautions for other pets' safety. Remember, you will need to pay constant attention to your Beagle when he is off-lead as anything from a squirrel to an errant scent can cause him to take off at breakneck speed and requires correction to keep him safe. Beagles tend to be food, play, and socially motivated, so using treats or a toy to reinforce off-leash behavior and then moving to providing praise and affection usually works well. You will want to start establishing off-leash behavior with your Beagle on a leash or in a safe enclosed area. Remember, Beagles are very good at escaping so make sure enclosed areas are just that! Many Beagles trainers use a whistle to provide a good recall signal, as it is loud, distracting, different from background noise and sends a clear message to the dog.

The Reliable Recall Method

Effective
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Step
1
Set up
If your dog is not responding to your current recall command, switch to another command to start fresh. For example use “over here” instead of “come”, or use a whistle that creates a loud noise that carries some distance and is very noticeable. Start with your dog in an enclosed area with few distractions. Only a short distance away, hold a smelly high-value treat so your dog can smell it and signal him to come.
Step
2
Reward and practice
When your dog comes when called, provide the high value treat. Gradually increase distance and distractions and practice recall.
Step
3
Switch rewards
Once your dog is coming to you for treats, switch to a toy and playtime. When your dog is reliably coming to your dog for playtime, switch to praise and affection.
Step
4
Avoid negative consequence
Never follow up the 'come to me' command with anything unpleasant. Avoid immediately putting your dog on a leash or ending playtime after he has come to you. Instead, wait a bit then reattach his leash and leave the park or play area.
Step
5
Never repeat command
Do not repeat the 'come to me' command. If your dog does not respond, go get him or distract him and when he looks at you, lie down. Your dog will usually come investigate. Or, get his attention and then run the other way and your dog will probably follow you. Do not chase your dog, as this creates a fun game for him (and you probably can't catch him anyway).
Recommend training method?

The Long Lead Method

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Step
1
Use 15 ft lead
Put your dog on a very long lead, start with 15 feet in length.
Step
2
Guide with lead
Teach your Beagle to come and guide with the lead if he is distracted and does not obey.Do not repeat the command. Provide a treat when your dog comes. Repeat to establish.
Step
3
Increase length
Increase the length of the lead gradually until you are working with a lead line 40 -50 feet in length. Continue to practice 'come' and reward and reinforce behavior.
Step
4
Switch rewards
Switch from treats as a reward for coming to using a toy and eventually, praise and affection.
Step
5
Remove lead
Start practicing off-leash in a safe enclosed area. Continue to command 'come', 'down-stay' or 'sit-stay' to control your dog and provide praise and affection. When recall is well established you can move to open areas, off leash.
Recommend training method?

The Touch Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Use smelly treat
Start in a small enclosed area, or indoors. Smear some peanut butter or cream cheese on your fingers.
Step
2
Command 'touch'
Sit your dog down a few feet in front of you, and say “touch”, your dog will smell the treat and come over to lick it off.
Step
3
Increase distance
Increase the distance and repeat until your dog is coming over whenever you say "touch" and licking your fingers.
Step
4
Vary treat
Once 'touch' is established, stop using peanut butter and replace with a less messy treat. Say “touch” and when your dog comes over and touches your fingers, provide the treat. Repeat and increase distance until well established.
Step
5
Practice outdoors
Now start taking your dog out in larger outdoor areas and provide the 'touch' command, reinforce with treats. You can now use this command to get your off-leash Beagle to return and touch your fingers.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Laurie Haggart

Published: 12/14/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Jaffa
Beagle
9 Months
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Question
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Jaffa
Beagle
9 Months

I have a 9 month old beagle that I can not let off his leash because he won’t come back to me. His recall in the back garden is good it is also good when he is on his leash When he is on walks but I am afraid to let him off. Do you have any advice or tips on how to train him to come back to me once he is let off his leash?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
841 Dog owners recommended

Hello Amelia, Check out the article linked below and the sections specifically on using a long leash for teaching come and the Premack principle. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
FLICKA
Beagle Pit
1 Year
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Question
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FLICKA
Beagle Pit
1 Year

When she was 6 months she was very good at recall but now I can’t let her of the lead over wise she runs of after a car or down a road.
Do beagle go through a faze when they are naughty?
How can u get her better with recall ?
How do I stop her chasing cars and small animals such as squirrels ?

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
227 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Yes, most dogs will go through a phase around 9 months to a year where it seems they lost all of their previously known commands. While it's normal, I know it can be very frustrating. You can practice her recall in distracting environments, with treats. So she learns to respond to you in those environments again. Also, teaching her leave it is good for those items you want her to leave alone and not go after. Here are the steps for "leave it" Teaching a dog 'leave it' Teaching “leave it” is not difficult. Begin the lessons inside your home or in an area with very few distractions. Here are the steps for teaching “leave it”: Make sure you have two different types of treats. One type can be fairly boring to the dog, but the other type should be a high-value treat that he finds pretty delicious. You will also want to make sure that the treats are broken up into pea-sized pieces so it won’t take him too long to eat them. Put one type of treat in each hand. If you like to train with a clicker as your marker, you can also hold a clicker in the same hand that holds the high-value treat. Then, place both of your hands behind your back. Make a fist with the hand that is holding the treat of lower value and present your fist to your dog, letting him sniff. Say “leave it” and wait until he finishes sniffing your fist. As soon as your dog is done sniffing, you can either click with the clicker or say “yes.” Then offer him the higher-value treat in your other hand. Repeat until your dog immediately stops sniffing your hand when you say “leave it.” When you say “leave it” and he stops sniffing right away, leash your dog and then toss a low-value treat outside of his reach. Wait until he stops sniffing and pulling toward the treat. As soon as he does, either say “yes” or click and then give him a high-value treat from your hand. Practice this exercise a number of times. Over time, by practicing “leave it,” your dog should stop pulling as soon as you give the cue. When rewarding him with a treat, make sure that it is something good, not plain old kibble. By doing so, you are teaching him that asking him to leave some food doesn’t mean he won’t get anything, but that in fact he might get something even more delicious. When your dog is reliably responding to the cue, you can teach him that “leave it” can apply to other things as well, not just food on the floor. Repeat the exercise with five different items that are fairly boring to your dog. After using five different “boring” items, start using slightly more exciting items. You know your dog, so you alone know what items he would consider more interesting, but don’t jump to high-value items right away. To increase his chances of success at learning the cue, you want to work up to high-value items gradually. If Kleenex or a piece of plastic, for instance, would attract your dog on a walk, don’t start with those. Choose the items based on your ultimate goal: Anytime you say “leave it,” you want to be confident that your dog will indeed leave whatever you are asking him to leave. . The reward he receives when he leaves an item can change as well. If your dog has a favorite toy, squeak it and play for a moment when he comes running to you after leaving the other item of interest. Most dogs love interacting with us, so a moment of praise or play with a toy can be just as effective as a treat. Keep it fun Even though you’re practicing “leave it” as a way to keep your dog safe, you want him to see it as a fun game you play. When your dog is proficient at the game in your home, start practicing in a variety of locations with more distractions.

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