Sunday, July 7, 2013

You know your dog is a beagle if... The beagle nose!

From the front of their black nose to the white tip of their tail, beagles are nothing if not eclectic dogs. They're silly, playful, brilliant, conniving, loud and loveable.

Whether you are a new beagle parent, or a seasoned beagle pro, there are some fun things about beagles that you may (or may not) realize.

So with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, I'm starting a new series:

This week, we are talking the nose!

You know your dog is a beagle if...

1) Their head is made for smellin'.  The big black nose. The floppy ears. That mouth. Put it together and you have the beagle super power. (My problem is Lulu often uses her super power for evil, not good)

Plus, beagles have some 225 million olfactory cells. Few dog breeds have that many scent receptors, even though they have tens of millions more than us people. There's a great article in Psychology Today on it.  And they can store a smell like we store movies on a DVR.

Combine those cells with the additional attributes, and you have a lean, mean sniffing machine.

2) The nose almost never stops.
When do you see the nose stop? When they're eating or sleeping. And sometimes not even then. They are constantly sensing something in the air.

Or on the ground!

3) The Force is with them. Tell me you've never had something similar happen. I step out of the door to walk Lulu, and I have to go right back in because she immediately starts howling. But you see NOTHING OUTSIDE.

So if Lulu smells something and starts howling, it's because she immediately senses the presence of something she has sniffed before, and it's something she wants to draw attention to.

With Lulu, normally it's a dog. And I won't be able to see the dog, and Lulu probably didn't see the dog either, but she knows it passed this way. She can also tell be sniffing the ground.

4) Tracking a scent is more important than peeing (even though she REALLY had to do it a moment ago). Ever seen "Up!"? You know the scene where Dug is talking to the humans, and then all of a sudden he goes "Squirrel!"? Beagles are great at getting distracted, and that distraction is often about a scent they feel they need to track.

But they are also stubborn, and the two can be a bad combination. A beagle on the scent trail will sometimes tune out everything else -- including their handler. A beagle left outside to their own device will follow a scent to its logical conclusion -- which can be miles from its starting point.But another, more enticing scent can also distract a beagle.

This is why you don't see as many search and rescue beagles. But they DO exist. Animal Planet has an awesome video of a search and rescue beagle squad in San Diego for their Small Dogs, Big Jobs series.

The handler in the Animal Planet video, Pam Medhurst, has her own YouTube channel with some cool training videos as well, like this one with her dog Snickers.

5) When they track what they are after, watch out! Ever heard of Beagle Brigades? They can be found at airports in several countries around the world. The beagles are on the hunt for food, plants and other things that should not be coming through Customs. By doing so, they are protecting America's crops and livestock.

This is Thunder. In 2011, his handler wrote this post on the USDA blog about being a member of the Beagle Brigade. There's a whole training center for the dogs, which come from rescue groups and shelters all over the country. And when they're retired, they are found forever homes.

So the best thing to do with your sniffer is channel their energies with a little training. You can't shut off the nose, so you just need to work with it. Carry around treats that are more enticing than whatever the dog can sniff.  Not all beagles will respond, but many will.

You can also incorporate it into play. Take a tracking course, which involves ground scenting. And it's an AKC-sanctioned event, so you can compete with dogs all over the country. You can also try field trials or beagling, but those are really meant for real hunters.

Do you have any suggestions for dealing with a beagle's nose? Let us know in the comments section! Also -- got any beagle quirks you want us to talk about? Tell us!


  1. Great one!!! I totally disagree ... Lulu must have a good reason for using the "nose" Lots of Golden woofs, Sugar

    1. Sometimes her reasons are good -- but she gets herself into lots of trouble too.

  2. haha I love that video! We are still figuring out how to deal with a beagle nose too. Please share any tips you learn.

    1. In my experience the best thing to do is overload. If she has lots to do, lots to remember, she can't get distracted. It works best.

  3. I never knew! Thanks
    for sharing your beagle facts.

  4. If only Lulu could tell us about all the amazing things she smells...Great to learn some new things about beagles today

    1. No kidding! At 225 million cells, she must be able to sniff all kinds of things we can't fathom -- or at least it's a richer experience.

  5. I am a scent hound myself and I am always off road sniffin' along. My sister is into pee sniffing but not me...I sniff after the critters all the time!

  6. I have worked out a compromise with my beagle on our walks. The first half of the walk, I say "Sniff!" and he can start and stop as he pleases. Then, for the second half of the walk, I say, "Trot, trot, home!" and he picks up the pace and we have more of an exercise walk home. I didn't so much train him as he trained me in this pattern. Beagles are NOT easy to walk! (e.g. one must constantly watch for trash)


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