Beagles - tiny, stubborn, determined and loving. Yes! But if you have been wondering why you are unable to train your beagle puppy, it is worth knowing that they have an extremely brilliant sense of smell and were originally bred to be hunting dogs. With this knowledge, we can explore so many options to make the mental stimulation games interesting for them, that it may really solve half your training problems and you and your puppy will both end up having a great time!
Beagles were originally bred for hunting rabbits and over the centuries have now been shown to detect cancer with 97% accuracy. Overtime, because of their size and their low-maintenance grooming, they have become a popular breed to have as a four-legged family member. What is common between then and now is their extremely powerful sense of smell. Once you do get that Beagle home, you will realize that all those “training” tools you learnt are of no use with them. And this is mostly thanks to their nose. Here’s an interesting fact to get a sense of their olfaction strength – humans have 5 million olfactory receptors and in comparison, Beagles have 225 million olfactory receptors. And that is why we will never be able to understand the full extent of their powerful sense of smell.
Let us get the history out of the way first, shall we? Most dog breeds we see today, from Golden Retrievers to German Shepherds to Beagles have all been bred to satisfy a specific purpose. Beagles, who belong to a class of dogs called scent hounds, were bred to be hunting animals. What do hunters do? Find their prey; be focused on the prey; be determined to catch it and finally; use all of their strength; ability and tactics to catch it. While catching and killing was mostly left to the humans, the rest was the responsibility of the Beagles. And so you will see all of those particular traits in beagles. Their olfactory senses are extremely powerful and aid in finding the prey. In addition to their nose, their ears also pick up scents that help them follow the trail of their target. Their body is small and fast to help them move quickly and not lose the trail. If we look back at traditional hunting, we see that it went on for hours and these scent hounds used their nose and determination to lead their human hunters to the prey.
Although Beagles were bred for hunting, they did not lose their “jobs” once the hunting became a thing of the past. If you are an international traveller entering the United States, you are likely to see some trained Beagles walking around near the luggage conveyor belt and sniffing baggage. These beagles are trained to catch your luggage if you are carrying prohibited fruits, vegetables, plants and meat, and God forbid narcotics. There are also recent studies of Beagles being able to detect the cancer cells with an accuracy of as high as 97%. They have also become a very popular breed of dogs being brought home as a companion animal. They are small, have less grooming requirements and to top it off, they are very loving and docile in nature. All these traits have made them common in urban settings, especially in apartments.
The Other Side – the Grim side!
The above examples of how Beagles were used to aid humans still don't tread on the side of cruelty. But around 1950s, Beagles started being used in laboratories for animal testing. Though the number of Beagles used for laboratory testing has been on the decline, it is still being practiced in many places. Toxicity tests of a variety of products like pharmaceutical drugs, industrial chemicals, pesticides and household products are carried out on these voiceless docile dogs to study the effects. They became the right choice of breed for the same reasons for which today they are a popular pet breed – small size and docile temperament. They are kept in cages, possibly for all their lives without knowing any life beyond these cages.
Over the recent years, some of these laboratories released the beagles for rehabilitation and rehoming and some organizations take up the task of ensuring these beagles come out of their old lives into a much better life filled with love and freedom. Here in Bangalore, India, we have the Freagles of India who tirelessly work in the release, rehabilitation and rehoming of the laboratory released beagles. This is just one of many stories where humans have gone a bit too far in breeding and using animals for human advancement or needs. And just like there are those humans, we have the humans of Freagles of India whose motto is “Freedom, Sunshine, Love” and as long as we have such humans, we can still fight and have hope of a better life for these loving animals!