Feb 232015
 
Not your average glamour shot.  (Stacy Keach with Miss P, from the Westminster site.)

Not your average glamour shot. (Stacy Keach with Miss P, from the Westminster site.)

So, hey!  Miss P, Beagle Beautiful, won the Westminster last week!

Beagle Beagle Beagle!

She is a lovely bitch, with personality and elegance and the most beautiful expression.  And Beagle owners everywhere are bouncing around in the Land of SQUEEE!  Including me!

However.

There’s a thing that happens when a breed is spotlighted this way, especially a breed that often invokes fond childhood memories.  Or has Snoopy as an unofficial spokesperson.  Or has that face and those eyes.

People want them.

Which is actually very cool.  I certainly want them.  I think Beagles are a wonderful breed, or I wouldn’t currently have three of them while already looking forward to the next.  (Many of us are in the “can’t have just one” category.)

Miss P at the Ronald McDonald house, from the Westminster site.  I mean...AWWWW...

Miss P at the Ronald McDonald house, from the Westminster site. I mean…AWWWW…

But there’s a concern, too.  And that’s that people will base their desire for a Beagle on unrealistic expectations–the trained show dog they see on TV vs. a puppy or adult-adopted dog.

“We expect a family dog” is entirely realistic if you mean “a pack dog who needs family time and is generally good with kids.”

“We expect a dog who slides into the family gestalt as an autotrained pet without purpose-bred behaviors” isn’t going to end happy.

So the message goes out from those who know:  Maybe you want a Beagle, maybe you don’t.  Do your research.  Understand the breed.  Don’t fall in love with Miss P’s amazing expression and think that’s what you’re getting out of the box.

But, I say.

Big freaking BUT.

Sometimes the message goes awry.

This past week I’ve seen a veritable stream of Beagle-bashing commentary.  Such commenters extoll the breed as universally stupid.  Problematic.  Harder to train than a chair.*

*Yes, really.  I’m not offering that trainer any more attention by linking, though.

Could be that those folks are actually trying to do the Beagle world a favor.  You know, beware the Beagle Puppy Rush* and all that.

*Any breed puppy rush: the resulting mess of poorly bred and discarded dogs in the wake of a surge of popularity due to a movie or public event involving that breed.

Even if so, I’m not buying it.

It’s not that I don’t share the concerns about a Beagle Puppy Rush.  It saddens me to think of any Beagle with a family who considers their dog stupid instead of delighting in the nature of the breed’s intelligence.

It really saddens me to see spindly-legged little creatures with Precious Moments features for sale on one of those Internet sites.

But I guess what I’m saying is this:

I feel it’s perfectly possible to celebrate and admire a breed for what it is, and still make it clear that it’s not the best breed for everyone.  To urge people to do their research without vilifying dogs along the way.

There’s a big difference between “This breed is too [bashing words]” and “This breed’s [temperament/physical nature] isn’t something that works with my life.”  There’s no need bash the breed along the way.  There’s no need to bash anything just because it’s not our preference.

So, Beagles.  (In my experience, that is.)

Beagles were bred to chase rabbits, and that takes independence, persistence, a nose, and vision tuned to movement.  Along the way they acquired a sense of play and curiosity to rival any cat.  They’re pack dogs, so they mostly get along.

As part of that independence, persistence, and curiosity, most of them will constantly test their boundaries.  Some of them will do this in a passive aggressive way that makes you feel like a big poothead for enforcing the rules*, but best you not fall for that.

*Of course, if you enforce rules with no attempt to train them first, then you are indeed a big poothead, and they know that, too.

As far as a Beagle is concerned, every option is a possibility until you convince them that it’s not.  And then sometimes until you move the chairs out of the kitchen so it just really isn’t.

The bottom line is that the merry little hound makes a wonderful partner.  But those who want an easy companion/autopilot dog probably shouldn’t get one.

In the meantime, “A chair is easier to train than a Beagle” is just rude.  Whereas “A Beagle has a more persistent intelligence than you may want to deal with” is a lovely truth that will aim a prospective owner in a better direction for that particular family.

(And to the woman who never discerned half a Beagle lifetime of clandestine pottying behind the couch, or who walked a slipped collar for several blocks without realizing she was without her dog?  Really?  You’re blaming the dog for those things?)­­

Know what you want, get what suits you, and don’t breed-bash along the way.  So there.

 

  16 Responses to “Beagle Bashfest”

  1. We get out of it what we put into it. So many dogs declared ‘stupid’ have simply given up trying to teach their brain dead humans anything. That woman? Should have invested in houseplants

    • I can’t disagree with that!

      I do think it’s not quite as simple as “get out what you put in,” although at heart that’s certainly true. I think when people try to define intelligence/trainability to their narrow strictures, they can try pretty hard and still fail. Then they pass judgment and blame the dog, instead of realizing where the dog is coming from, accepting and celebrating its nature, and finding ways to work with what it is.

      My friend keeps recommending the When Pigs Fly book. I keep forgetting to put it on my list!

      • Yes, I do keep recommending it!

        • Yes you do! It’s now on order at our local indie store. 8)

          • And my copy is on order, too. Neither Dachshunds nor Beagles are Collies, Retrievers, etc. Not HARD to train. Just… different!

  2. (Sigh) Yeah. Overbreeding due to popularity, and then people blame ill-bred and ill-trained dogs for not being perfect.

    Of COURSE Beagles are too intelligent for most people! So naturally the people blame the Hounds. Dachshunds get it, too. Remember the Disney movie, “The Ugly Dachshund?” That was a trio of pain-in-the-keister miniatures, which represented neither miniatures nor standards well!

    But, as has been observed, Beagles and Dachshunds have different mindsets. (And this is true of many breeds.) Both are stubborn, both are smart, both have excellent noses, both have keen eyesight. But very different mindsets.

    I’d had Dachshunds for 39 years when Babette Beagle came into my life. And yeah, I know she’s a bit spindly-legged, likely from a local pack bred for hunting so the breeders are less concerned with conformation. She’s only 11″. We think she was part of a puppy pack being run on the levee and that she didn’t stay with the pack, and so was abandoned. (We’ve heard the hunters do this.)

    And yes, she has driven me nuts over the years because I made the mistake of expecting her to act like a Dachshund. Reading about Connery and Dart has helped me begin to understand the Beagle mindset. I wasn’t planning on a Beagle. I’ve been a Dachshund gal for too many years. But HAVING a Beagle (since I wasn’t about to turn away a lost, scared, 7 month old girl on a cold November night), I’m doing my best to see that she’s happy.

    Pack oriented, she was VERY upset this weekend when her Harper went off to a conformation show — she moped and snuggled her Shadow. When we brought Harper back last night, she danced and bounced and play-bowed, and the two of them tore around the house like mad.

    Babette absolutely lives up to one characteristic of our dogs, regardless of breed: she’s frequently too darned smart for OUR good. Maybe she knew what she was doing on that November night when she headed for the psychic neon sign on our roof. The one I say reads S-U-C-K-E-R, and which my husband insists reads, S-U-C-C-O-R…

    I still shake my head, though, over the idea that someone would just abandon a dog… or blame the dog for their failure to train properly. Bash a Beagle? I’ll bash THEM.

    • Babette is a very lucky Beagle!

      (I vaguely recall the Ugly Dachshund. And I do utterly love Dachshunds, have flirted with getting one…but I know they’re not the same! No big surprise–they were bred for two totally different tasks. My dogs on badgers? I don’t think so!)

      • Heh. One of these times, if we get a chance to visit my sister in Utah, mayhap we can meet in person somewhere and you can meet Harper and Babette. (Not counting on Mr. Shadow being along on that trip — he’ll be 17 in 17 days, and to be honest, that’s been about two years more than I expected. Don’t WANT to see it, but I can tell he’s starting to slow down.)

        Actually, Dachshunds and Beagles can make a darn good hunting team — I wish you could have seen Harper and Babette’s partnership when they took out that opossum! Babette did the aerials and Harper did the under-belly work. Possum expected a high attack, got a low, and vice versa. Possum didn’t have a chance! (My back door neighbor, whose garden said vermin had been tearing up, asked if I would rent them out….

        Babette has my husband wrapped very firmly around one dainty Lady Beagle paw. We were driving back with Harper from the conformation show (dang it, Boy went Reserve) and I was talking about taking him over to a Barn Hunt in Pensacola in about 3 weeks to see if we can finish his Open title — be much easier at our local show if all I have to worry about is Babette’s Novice legs and Senior legs for Harper. And Harry says, “You know, she was so upset with just Harper gone — she’ll really go crazy with two members of the Pack missing. I think I’ll take a day of vacation, and we’ll all go — that way Babette can have some of the fun, too.”

        So now I need to go digging through the book you recommended and see if I can learn enough to help Babette finish her Novice! Connery Beagle, oh, what you started, blogging about Barn Hunt!

  3. Go Beagles!

  4. And it’s the same with horses…this breed is stubborn, that one is stupid, this one is flighty, that one is dull….they’re different, yes, but not good or bad overall. And with children…ye gods do people have narrow filters for what children should be and which ones are what.

    95+% of the responsibility for how training a [dog/horse/child/chicken] goes is due to the trainer’s ability to understand and work with the real [dog/horse/child/chicken] in front of them. Work with, and not against. I’d say 100%, but occasionally there’s a problem only the Super-trainers can perceive and work with.

    • Super Trainers are amazing. It seems like whatever their technique, they have such timing and precision that they can make a situation clear to an animal.

      • Yes. I was once at a the Royal Windsor horse show, and in the Riding Horse class the judge was a former UK Olympic Team member and medalist (I am blanking on her name but if I recall correctly she was one of the pair of sisters who were on the team though not at the same time–hers was a silver in dressage, I believe.) In British shows, the judge rides each horse in such classes, after the horse is shown by its own rider. One of the horses did not go well in the first part of the class–resisting the bit, head up and nose high, back hollowed, etc. The judge took a moment or two–as she had with each horse–to stroke its neck, speak to it, before mounting, moved off at a quiet walk, and then on the rail picked up a trot.

        Once more the horse threw up its head, but after perhaps two strides began to relax, round up, coming down onto the bit and into her hands. Four-five strides in, suddenly it looked like a completely different horse–like a perfectly conformed, cooperative riding horse instead of a bull-necked star-gazing mistake who should not have been in that class. The trot was easy, perfect in rhythm, springy, neither lagging nor rushing. Instead of the way the horse had lunged into a somewhat rushed, uneven canter before, this time the canter depart was smooth, easy, and the canter perfectly balanced and rhythmic. One ear forward, one ear tipped back a little, and if you weren’t a rider with some experience you would not have seen her do anything. She appeared to just sit there, floating along with the horse. They moved out into the hand gallop that class requires–a strong, powerful stride but still perfectly responsive to her aids, not trying to snatch the bit or backing off it.

        From the first moment the horse relaxed and yielded at the poll, I was mesmerized, watching her hands, her leg I could see–how did she do that, in the high-stress situation of a major show, with crowds in teh stand and lining the rails (where I was)? Well–you ride, so you know, and I had just enough expertise to see it. Perfect position, perfect balance, the relaxation of her body conveying to the horse that this was not an emergency of any kind. The completely independent use of aids, with a sensitivity and tact–I have to say courtesy–in her hands that conveyed “I trust you can do this, let’s find the best position for your mouth…yes, like that. Can you give me a bit more? Oh, thank you, that’s exactly right.”

        I could *just* see the slight movements of wrist and fingers and heel when she was not blocked by the other horses in the center of the ring. She was near me when she asked for the down transition from hand gallop–and got it with absolutely no resistance. She slightly tightened her little fingers; the curb rein was not loose, but not pressured; her legs were quiet but firmly there. The horse tucked just slightly, enough to come down exactly in collection, forehand (but not head) rising a little. The class includes a hand gallop–the horse moved out strongly, but still perfectly fluid in her hands (I was staring at her hands and the horse alternately–so I could see what she was doing–how she her hands communicated–tiny tensions and releases, perfectly timed) and when she came back to a canter and then trot, the horse was not resisting in any way. In fact, the horse was delighted with this rider.

        It was a lesson I have not forgotten in the past 12 years. She rode all the horses well, of course, but this demonstration of how much difference a rider can make–and how fast–in such a high-stress setting was…amazing.

        • What an awesome experience!

          • It was. Though I’ve often wondered what the man who rode the horse into the ring in the first place thought…if he realized he’d given the horse a bad presentation or blamed the horse still. (He’d had an iron grip on the reins–classic heavy hands–his weight was a little too far back, and he had at least one “busy” leg. Every line of his body looked tense.)

            That horse didn’t win–the one who was going to win was pretty obvious from the beginning and looked to be a pleasure for anyone who could ride, to ride–but you could see its potential.

          • What I wonder is who trained it. Someone other than Mr. Heavy Hands, I should think. Someone who’d given that horse a notion of a better place to be in, given the opportunity…

          • I don’t think it could have qualified for that show under Mr. Heavy Hands–I got the impression that like many top shows, you couldn’t just enter My Little Pony (or My Big Horse) but had to qualify with points from previous shows. Perhaps this was a catch-rider when its usual show-rider was sick or injured or otherwise unable to ride it. Certainly its response to the judge’s hands was that of a horse that had some idea what such hands meant. Even a green horse will relax better under a better rider, but this was relaxation into a more advanced level of training.

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