There are different dog breeds out there; some are strong and loyal protectors of their owners, while others are incredible at being good companions. Then there’s a group that’s smart enough to learn command words really quickly, herd, or even problem-solving. Every dog parent wants to think that their furry animal is the smartest on the block, and while this may hold true, dog intelligence comes in different forms. One might ask, in what category do Beagles fall into? Before we answer that, let’s point out that most of those who say their dog is smart often refer to how easy they are to train, which is not the only way to measure a dog’s smartness level, as we will see later on.
So, are Beagles smart? This is an intelligent breed of dogs with a very specialized skill-set. They are good at hunting, which is what they are bred for. Many people say they are not smart because they are not good at following orders, but an obedient dog doesn’t always equate to smartness. Beagles are free thinkers and aren’t focused on pleasing humans.
People have many opinions about the smartness of Beagles. But who decides what an intelligent dog is and how does one measure the level of smartness? Beagles are great dogs with some of the best attributes if utilized correctly. For starters, they are one of the best scent hounds in the world, with incredible noses and long, floppy ears that help with their sniffing capabilities. They are also social and kid-friendly, making them great family pets. In this text, we highlight what makes this dog breed special while also explaining their level of smartness and why some people believe they are dumb. Let’s get right into it:
Types of Intelligence
Before we get into whether this is an intelligent breed or not, we need to understand the different smartness levels that a dog can belong to:
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Instinctive intelligence is basically the ability to perform tasks a particular breed was bred to perform like protecting, hunting, herding, etc. For example, the Cocker Spaniel, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and Chihuahuas are great at being companion dogs as they are trained to be emotional support animals to help humans. The Border Collie and Australian Shepherds are incredible at controlling livestock on farms, while German Shepherds are some of the best police dogs. Last but not least, the Gordon Setter is often used as a general-purpose gundog.
But what if you put a Chihuahua in the field to herd? They will be terrible at it. What changed? What was once an intelligent dog suddenly becomes dumb? That’s because different dogs are bred and wired to do different things. Mixed breeds may be able to offer the best of both parents.
This is the ability to adapt and learn from the environment to address and solve everyday problems effectively. The adaptive ability of dogs makes them able to learn and pick up different social cues during training. It’s also what makes dogs valuable to humans and able to communicate with them.
Working and Obedience Intelligence
This is the ability to learn when taught or by observing a human. It’s the one that most pet owners consider as sharp, so much so that people will often send their dogs to have obedience training by professionals. This is where you find your dog can do human things like shake hands. Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, and Labrador Retrievers are considered some of the most intelligent dog breeds because they require fewer than five repetitions to understand new commands and obey 95% of the time or better.
The standard dog intelligence test tends to focus on working and obedience intelligence. But just because they are not obedient dog breeds doesn’t mean they are dumb; some might not be as responsive to obeying an unfamiliar handler. Plus, different dogs have different motivators.
Are Beagles Intelligent?
A professor of canine psychology, Dr. Stanley Coren, ranked over 100 dog breeds. He used two criteria to measure their intelligence levels: how many repetitions it took for a dog to learn a new command and how often it obeyed a command on the first try. The higher the success rate in both areas, the more intelligent a dog breed was considered to be. According to the research, Beagles took around 80-100 repetitions to learn a new command and, on average, obeyed only 25% of the total commands. From these results, Beagles were ranked in the bottom 10 of that list.
It’s extremely difficult to create a standard test to measure the smartness of these animals. Different dogs have different motivators. Plus, Beagle’s personality affects their test results. Though they can be friendly and affectionate, they are also curious and make independent decisions. As a result, not all of them will obey commands just because you tell them. Additionally, Beagles have a strong sense of smell and are often governed by their noses. Dr. Dodman, professor emeritus, says they may seem hard to train because they are more interested in tracking with their noses than listening or pleasing anybody.
Tests comparing Beagles to human intelligence have found that they are as smart as a two-year-old. Beagles can learn as many as 165 words, the shortest way to get somewhere, where an object is, understand simple gestures, figure out simple gadgets, and so on, but with the right motivation.
Beagles are actually smarter than most people think. While they may lack working and obedience intelligence, they do possess instinctive and adaptive intelligence. Beagles, like the Scottish Terrier, Jack Russell Terriers, Basset Hound, and Bloodhound, were bred for hunting. They have an incredible nose for locating and differentiating all types of odors, which is why they are some of the best trackers, hunters, health inspection dogs, and TSA dogs. Beagles are also good at problem-solving and are highly capable of learning from past mistakes, which are both clear signs of high adaptive intelligence.
Are Beagles Easy To Train?
There’s no doubt that Beagles are intelligent hound dogs. In fact, they are clever enough to be able to ignore you. But their strengths can also make training time a challenge. For starters, they are an independent breed and like to do what they want and not what they are told to do. Being free-thinkers, they don’t comply easily with what a human needs. This doesn’t mean they are dumb, but you will have to try harder to earn their attention and respect.
Beagles have been bred for centuries to become hunting hound dogs, and these strong instincts can overwhelm them during training sessions, making it difficult to concentrate. They have an acute sense with over 200 million scent receptors in their nose, making them easily distracted by the smells in their environment.
This popular dog breed is also highly energetic. Without enough physical and mental exercise, they tend to be hyperactive and may seem to lack focus or discipline as they are focusing on releasing pent-up energy. This is why it’s recommended to carry out training sessions after the dog’s daily exercise instead of before.
Mental sharpness can also decline over time, reducing your dog’s training capabilities. Some dogs even suffer from canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD), which is a decline in cognitive abilities enough to affect functioning. Other factors that can impact your Beagle’s abilities to train well include their temperament, gender, etc.
Whatever bad behavior you Beagle have, the right training program is key to having a happy and obedient dog. While it may prove difficult to train Beagles, it’s not impossible. All you need is the proper amount of effort, consistency, patience, kindness towards the dog, and commitment to their training program.
Is Your Beagle Smart?
Just like human intelligence, every Beagle has a different level of smartness. Generally, if your Beagle is capable of doing the things listed below, they are a smart cookie:
- They’re an escape artist
- They can solve puzzle toys
- They know how to stay safe
- They can remember demands without practice
- They can easily master brand-new tricks
- They know how to get your focus
- They know when you’re going away
Do you want to know just how intelligent they are? Here are some home tests you can do to test your dog on different levels:
The Towel Test
This is probably the most well-known home test. Give your Beagle a towel and let them get familiar with it. Then toss the towel over their head such that it covers them completely. They will try to free themselves by getting the towel off their head, thus testing their problem-solving skills. The average dog takes about 15-30 seconds; how long did yours take?
Uncover the Treat Test
For this test, show your Beagle their favorite treat and once you have their undivided attention, put the treat on the floor and place a towel over it. If your dog can find the treat from under the towel in less than 30 seconds, then they are quite smart.
When your dog is out of the room, rearrange the furniture to ensure their favorite spot is moved. Bring them back in to see if they can find their favorite place. If they do so in less than a minute, they are smarter than the average dog.
Beagles can easily be distracted, which is why you should perform these tests only when you have your dog’s undivided attention. It’s also extremely important to be patient and kind when performing these exercises if you want more accurate results.
Keep in mind that a dog’s level of smartness is partly genetic and partly its environmental circumstances, which together determine its memory, obedience, social training, problem-solving abilities, and observation power. For this reason, hunting, sporting, herding, and guard dogs all require different levels of training and intelligence.