|Thinking About a Beagle? Think Carefully...|
Thinking About A Beagle?
Think carefully and do your homework!
With all the hoopla surrounding the groundbreaking Best In Show win at Westminster for Uno the Beagle comes increased interest in the Beagle as a family pet. The Beagle has consistently made the list of the Top 10 most popular breeds for the past 100 years. But, if you followed the coverage at Westminster, you heard the crowd roar for this down-to-earth, unfussy dog everyone could picture curled up next to them on the sofa. And, the wave of media hype surrounding the Westminster win has just begun and will undoubtedly continue to escalate. This win represents a great achievement in the dog show world now that this long-overlooked breed has finally won the equivalent of the Academy Award.
But, increased interest in a breed is always a mixed bag. The possible repercussions of the hype relating to Beagles has left those involved with Beagle rescue understandably anxious about the oncoming trend. As evidenced in Dalmatian rescue after the movie "101 Dalmatians" was released, or previously with Beagles when "Shiloh" and then "Underdog" came out...... there will be a predictable spike in Beagle adoptions..... followed by a parade of owners surrendering dogs that don't work out. So, if people adopt Beagles, more dogs get homes, and that's a good thing, right? Well, yes and no. Dogs need to go to the right adopters who grasp the concept that pets are not disposable and who are willing to work through any issues that may arise. If people mean well, yet don't really understand what they are getting into, they can easily adopt for the wrong reasons.
As pointed out in an insightful NPR (National Public Radio) piece aired 2 days after the Westminster show, people are susceptible to a behavior called "social contagion". In plainspeak, one might think "Wow- cute dog, cuddly, looks friendly.... he just won Westminster. That's the breed for me."
But, not only are people apt to adopt for the wrong reasons, but now we're talking about a breed that is already wantonly overbred by backyard breeders, abandoned by (some) hunters at the end of the season and is overrepresented by far in shelters throughout the south and midwestern states. So, the Beagle breed can ill afford to have more impulse buyers and "boomerang" adoptions.
So, what is the solution to this impending problem? Breed education.
Most Beagle rescues, and some all-breed rescues who are educated on Beagles and handle a fair number of the breed, already do a great job of informing potential adopters about the pros and cons of Beagle ownership. They "vet out" adopters by checking references, do home visits and thoroughly screen to ensure that a particular dog makes sense and is a good lifestyle match to a particular home. And the good rescues take back dogs who don't work out.
More worrisome are the Beagles who wind up in shelters. Many of these facilities, whether municipal pounds or privately run shelters, have limited staffing and limited funds. They house the "castoffs" - the dogs who are dumped in the street, the strays, and those whose owners turn them in. Some shelters have no vet services, let alone someone on staff to be concerned with whether a particular dog would be a good match for a given family. And hundreds of Beagles are euthanized in shelters throughout the country every day for no reason- other than policy and lack of space..... and the fact that people didn't do their homework before adopting.
Once again, education is the answer. If you are considering a Beagle, research the breed and make sure you understand all of the responsibilities that come with it. Beagles are adorable and snuggly, but they do require training and they do have their quirks; they are byproducts of hundreds of years of breeding that makes them prone to wander when off-leash and a nose on 4 legs in general. For those of us who adore the breed, we celebrate their attributes and overlook their shortcomings. But, that same boisterous, upbeat personality can also represent some behavioral challenges that not everyone can live with or accept.
Most important, whether you adopt a Beagle or any other breed, you need to approach pet adoption as a lifetime commitment.
For pointers on what to expect when considering if a Beagle is the right breed for you, see the link to the article, "Considering A Beagle?" (also on the right hand column of this page). And see this excellent article, "So U Want A Beagle?", courtesy of BREW Beagle Rescue.
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