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” .
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.
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.