As hunters, Beagles bark at new sights, sounds and scents. Prey such as a squirrel or bird could trigger a Beagle to bark and chase.
Beagles also bark for attention, at strangers, other dogs, fear, happiness, etc. Since barking is self-rewarding, it becomes incessant and hard to break.
It’s unrealistic to expect a silent Beagle. But, you can reduce it through consistent training, and management. Do not yell at the dog as he will interpret it as you joining in and worsening it.
Types of Beagle barks
Beagles have three types of vocalizations;
This is the usual “woof” “woof” bark. The bark may be at prey, an intruder, for attention, due to fear, happiness, and so on.
Most Beagles under 12 months will bark and rely more on the Beagle bay with age. It takes quite a while for an older Beagle to bark.
A Beagle bay is a cross between a bark and a howl. It’s long and drawn out with splits- like yodeling.
Beagles use the bay (half-bayed howl) to alert of prey. It gets more intense and enthusiastic the closer the prey as they prepare to chase. It can also be for attention or when he is lonely, happy, or in response to other Beagles.
Howls are deep, long, loud wailings that occur with the dog’s snout facing up.
Beagles learn to howl as early as 8 weeks old due to their hunting instincts. But, others can take a while to learn it. They use it to gather the pack to hunt, and to elicit social contact with other dogs at night.
At home, a lonely and bored Beagle will bark in an attempt to call you back. Close sounds such as flutes, sirens, and so on may also trigger the howling. Prey to a Beagle may also be a tennis ball or anything he finds interesting such as a flapping plastic bag.
Why do Beagles bark so much?
Determine the reason for Beagle barking for a management and training plan.
Beagles will bark for various reasons some of which may not make sense to us. They will bark at anything that interrupts their emotional state. They may bark to manipulate resources such as food or attention, or at an intruder or to scare a threat.
If barking gets the dog what he wants, reinforcing the behavior and making it harder to break.
If you suspect your Beagle is barking because he is ill, get him diagnosed and treated by a vet.
A bored Beagle will bark due to a lack of enough exercise and can be quite destructive. He may also seem like he is barking at nothing or at night to entertain himself.
A lonely bark will occur in isolation or when alone. The pooch may also show signs of separation anxiety such as;
- Frantic movement
- Excessive barking
- Inappropriate elimination
- Escape attempts
What to do
First, exercise your dog more to burn up pent-up energy.
You should also calm your idea into relaxing in his den alone. His den could be a crate, ex-pen, playpen, or a room closed off by a pet barrier. Teach him that you will always be back as and it’s a big deal you left. Start by leaving him alone for a couple of minutes (about 5 minutes) and increase his time alone as you progress. Have him relax in space for some minutes before you leave and meet his need before leaving.
Do not send the wrong message by comforting him each time your leave and arrive. This only worsens his anxiety. Instead, leave and come back without making a fuss.
Wear your coat and pick up your keys at random times at home to desensitize to these cues of your leaving.
Limit his access to outside triggers and provide interactive toys when you are away. Place some of your cloth items in the area and have some background noise such as soft music on your speakers or TV.
You can also hire a dog walker during the day or drop the dog off at a training class.
2. Warning/alert/alarm barking
Beagle will notify and warn off intruders in his territory. This includes joggers, birds, squirrels, delivery guys, cats, visitors, and so on. As such, don’t leave your Beagle unsupervised in the garden.
How to Stop
First, limit the dog’s view to the trigger until you are ready for training. Your Beagle is less likely to bark at what he cannot hear or see. For example, if you are outside, stand between the dog and the trigger as you bring him indoors.
If he is barking while looking out the window or door, draw the drapes and lead him away. Acknowledge the intruder by facing it as you lead him away to show you have a handle on the situation. You can also play soft background music to block outside noises.
This is only temporary. You need to change the dog’s response to the trigger in the long term through desensitization. Desensitization or counter conditioning is behavior change training to build a positive association.
Break his focus from the trigger before he reacts, draw eye contact, and mark and reward. Use a high-value treat to lure eye contact and reward.
Lure eye contact, YES, treat, treat, treat. Repeat before you name the cue. WATCH, draw eye contact, YES, treat, treat. The verbal cue should always precede your hand movements. As such you tell the dog what not and what to do when he spots barking stimuli. The dog learns to associate the trigger with something good and will focus on you more. For instance, Stranger= Yummy treat.
3. Alarm or Fear-based barking
The barking may be due to fear of an unfamiliar situation he does not trust. It can happen at home or outdoors on walks in an attempt to scare the threat. The fear may develop from a previous traumatic experience or as the dog ages. If the barking works, it reinforces it making it likely to repeat.
The dog is likely to adopt an aggressive posture as the intruder gets close. Signs of fear or aggression include;
- Raised hackles
- Tail tucked between his legs
- Perked up ear
- Intensified growl
- Lunging and leash reactivity as he feels trapped by the leash
- Fixation on the threat
- May attempt to back away
How to stop
Asking a scared Beagle to sit or wait will not work. Do not yell or use leash jerking as it will worsen his fear. The more aroused he is, the less likely he is to listen.
Management is everything in the beginning. Block the dog’s ability to see or hear stimuli. Walk him on quieter routes at quieter times of the day to avoid any confrontations with other dogs and people. Work within your dog’s comfort zone and let him interact with others at his pace. Have him on a leash and use a head halter such as a Gentle Leader for better control during walks.
Don’t force him to approach other dogs head-on with a leash as this will worsen his arousal. If he eyeballs another dog, break his line of sight by going around him in an arc to disengage him. Reward for calm behavior.
Only allow off-leash play in quieter places and keep him engaged with a treat as people and dogs pass by.
If your Beagle is aggressive or lunges at people, muzzle training may be necessary for the public. Use a fitting muzzle that he can pant and drink through. Smear peanut butter on the inside and let him lick it as you hold it to get him wearing it. Accustom him to touch and handling.
Barking at Visitors;
Shut the dog in the back room before letting them in. Only allow him to meet other dogs when is calm and relaxed.
You can also have the dog meet the outdoors and walk together if he is not too reactive. Ask the visitors to be dog neutral and should ignore the Beagle as non-existent. They should not pet or give the pooch treats as he may find himself too close for comfort. Instead, offer treats yourself and lock the dog away as the visitors leave.
In extreme cases of fear or aggression, lock your dog away and leave him with an interactive toy.
Counter condition the dog to build a positive association of the stimuli with the dog.
This involves training from a distance the dog is comfortable. He should be able to spot the stimuli without eliciting a response or only a mild one. You can tell each time he eyeballs a threat. Ask him to watch you, mark, and reward. Then, walk away in the opposite direction as you reward more for being calm. If your dog reacts, you are too close- increase the distance and repeat the procedure. It’s hard to get an overstimulated Beagle to focus. With time and repetition, the distance will resolve itself.
Teach the watch me command separate from counter conditioning. With a yummy treat, lure eye contact, YES, reward. Wait, the dog looks away, wait, the dog looks at you, YES, reward. Repeat this until the dog offers to look at you more and more.
4. Demand barking
This is where your Beagle barks at your to manipulate for resources. Resources could be food, attention, play, a belly rub, going outside, and so on.
Some beagles can be quite pushy with their demands.
How to stop
If you give in to your dog’s bidding, he learns that it is the right thing to do. The trick is to respond in a way that does not reinforce the behavior by ignoring him. No treats, no belly rubs, no eye contact, no yelling, no attention. Even negative attention will be good attention to the pooch. Make a coffee, move to another room, pretend to read a book, watch the TV, and so on.
This is much easier said than done as the dog may go into an extinction burst where he barks as much as possible. Only give attention the instant he stops barking or baying even if it’s to catch a breath.
Also, teach the dog an alternative behavior such as ringing the bell to go out or bringing a toy for play.
5. Excitement barking
Your Beagle may bark when excited or when he wants to say hi. This includes moving objects, other dogs, birds, skateboarders, and so on. If not allowed to say hi, the reaction can turn into frustration barking. Don’t allow him to say hello to others in an aroused state as this reinforces the barking.
When dealing with such a barker, use timeouts. Teach the dog impulse control to have him look at you each time he spots something exciting. Teach your dog to watch you as explained earlier and use it to disengage him from stimuli. Repeat this with different triggers that stimulate the Beagle and increase distractions. If he is calm and not interested in the stimuli, mark, and reward.
Also, use leash pressure to correct the dog for willful disobedience. The instant he looks at you mark (YES) and reward. Things will progress at the dog’s pace, so be patient and consistent.
6. Social barking/howling
Beagles are pack animals that respond to other dogs barking, baying, or howling. They may also be responding to similar sounds such as flute, piano, horn, siren, and so on.
Expose the dog to noise elements at a low volume for counter conditioning. Mark and reward for calm behavior. Show and withhold food reward for barking to break his focus. The instant he stops barking, look at him, mark (YES), and reward.
Repeat this will different noise elements as you build good habits. Reward each time he exercises impulse control as your raise the volume level with time.
7. Compulsive barking
Compulsive barking is for self-amusement without context. The barking can be stimulated by rustling leaves, light, wind, and so on.
You should not ignore compulsive barking as the barking itself is rewarding. Instead, ask him to do something incompatible with barking such as fetch. Apply correction with leash pressure, a sharp noise, a squirt of water, or NOPE. Only apply a correction for disobedience, mark and reward the instant he is quiet.
How to stop Beagle from barking
Without proper leadership, the dog will assume the role and bark a lot. Thus for the best results, build a better relationship with the Beagle as a good leader.
Have a proper reward system (yummy treats, toys, praise, play) for building positive associations. Only reward for desired habits and impulse control.
Socialize the pooch more with all manner of people, sounds, sights, smells, and animals. Build more positive associations so he is less likely to bark. Also, exercise him more as he is less likely to bark when tired.
Train the Bark and Quiet command
First, train your dog to bark on command. Find what gets him to bark such as a knock on the door or any trigger you can control. You can trigger frustration barking by withholding a reward. Only offer a reward if he barks.
Dog barks, YES, treat, treat. The dog is silent, wait, the dog barks, YES, treat, treat, treat. As you progress, add a verbal cue (SPEAK, BARK…) before you trigger the bark. Soon the dog will form an association with the cue to the barking.
From here, teach him to shush on command. Get him to bark then let him sniff a yummy treat on your hand and wait for him to be silent. The treat is likely to stop the barking. The instant he goes silent, YES, reward, reward. If he barks, withhold the treat and wait for him to go quiet. Repeat this a couple of times as you build duration on the silence. Soon add a verbal cue (QUIET, SHUSH…). Verbal cues should always precede any body movement or hand signals.
Alternate between BARK and QUITE as the dog improves as you use fewer treats.
Add distractions to imprint the commands and be firm, patient, and consistent.
Barking correctors interrupt a Beagle stuck in the barking loop or for disobedience. Clapping, a sharp noise, leash pressure, or a squirt of water can draw his attention.
When he barks or is about to, interrupt him, say QUIET in a calm but firm voice as you draw eye contact. If he is too aroused, a head halter (gentle leader) for disengagement. The instant he stops barking, mark and reward.
There are also bark collars for automatic correction each time the dog barks. Bark collars either use a loud beep (ultrasonic collar), citronella spray, or electric shock. Electric collars do more harm than good, especially with a fearful Beagle. Citronella collars appear to be the most humane and effective.
Some dogs also learn to bark at a lower intensity without triggering the collar. Only use a bark collar with a professional’s recommendation.
Most Beagles will have a reason to bark, bay, or howl. Identify the reason for barking for a management, behavior change, and training plan.
Manage the environment, read his body language and learn to communicate better.
Training takes time but if you struggle, consult a vet or animal behaviorist. It’s also unrealistic to expect a Beagle to be completely silent.
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There you go, WOOF!