Are Beagles Good Squirrel Dogs? Can You Train It To Hunt Squirrels?

are beagles good squirrel dogs

Some people enjoy having squirrels in their backyards, while others find them a nuisance rodent that causes much damage. Other people like to hunt squirrels out in the woods. Dogs are synonymous with hunting, and hunters can discuss the merits of hunting dogs for hours. So what about Beagles – do they make good squirrel hunters?

Beagles are hounds with an excellent sense of smell, allowing them to track and scent squirrels. In addition, they have a natural hunting instinct that drives them to chase squirrels. Beagles are known for their loud bay, which is useful in indicating to the hunter that the Beagle has a squirrel treed.  

Beagles’ ancestry is not clearly defined, but it is certain that they descended from a combination of different hound breeds, making them good hunting dogs. They were so popular for hunting rabbits and hare that the term ‘beagling’ was coined for hunting with a pack of them. 

Squirrels are not much different from rabbits and hares, and Beagles will chase them with enthusiasm.

Are Beagles Good At Scenting Squirrels? 

Beagles are hounds which means that their primary hunting method is scenting the quarry. Beagles have a fantastic sense of smell. Consider these facts about a Beagle’s nose. 

  • Humans have five million scent receptors, and Beagles have two hundred and twenty-five million. They are the dog with the second-highest number of scent receptors. The only dog breed with more scent receptors is bloodhounds, with three hundred million. 
  • The olfactory (smell) area in a Beagle’s brain is forty times the size of the olfactory area in the human brain.
  • Beagles have extensive scent membranes in their nose, which form pockets to trap scents even when the air is exhaled. If this scent membrane is unfolded from a Beagle nose, it would be about sixty square inches. If you did the same with a human scent membrane, you would only get about one square inch. 
  • Beagles have floppy ears which funnel scents toward the nose. 

Beagles are ideally suited to tracking squirrels by scent. They will do this naturally, and the hunter would simply need to guide the learning process.  

Are Beagles Good At Visually Hunting Squirrels?

Beagles are primarily scent dogs and will track in this scent modality in preference to others. Therefore, the hunter needs to encourage Beagles to pair their scenting abilities with visual hunting. This is best done by using a drag bait with puppies. 

The bait is initially used at ground level. After a while, the hunter will begin situating the bait in the tree. 

With the appropriate encouragement and training, a highly motivated dog can be trained to respond to its owner’s voice. For example, the Beagle will associate the form of the bait or squirrel in the tree with the scent. 

A good method of teaching a young beagle to add visual hunting to its skillset is to pair it with an older experienced squirrel hunting beagle. The young dog will copy the older dog, look up into the tree, and make the associations in this way. 

Is It Difficult To Teach Beagles To Tree A Squirrel?

As hounds, Beagles are natural hunters and will follow a quarry. When the squirrel stops in a tree, the scent will be strongest there, and the Beagle is unlikely to leave that place. 

When hunting, the dogs follow their noses and are not easily distracted by other stimuli during the hunting process.

Teaching the Beagle to tree a squirrel is relatively easy. If your Beagle comes back to you after tracking the squirrel, take him back to the tree and encourage him to bark and remain by the tree. Once again, experienced squirrel dogs are excellent trainers for this behavior.

Some hunters will chain the young dog to the tree to teach him to remain by the tree once the squirrel is resting there. However, this is not usually necessary with Beagles.  

Beagles have a loud voice which they like to use frequently. Baying and barking at a treed squirrel is natural for them. However, some squirrel dogs of other breeds are not natural barkers, which can be a problem for a hunter when trying to locate the dogs. 

Beagles have a wide range of vocalizations, and hunters will soon learn to identify all the sounds a Beagle produces. It becomes a simple matter of determining whether the Beagle is still chasing or has treed the squirrel based on the vocalizations produced.    

Are Beagles Good Dogs For Hunting Squirrels In The Woods?

Beagles are a diminutive hunting breed of dog. They have a compact, robust body that allows them to easily move through heavy underbrush in the woods, thanks to their short stature.

Beagles have short coats which are easy to groom. They do not collect many burrs, twigs, or leaves in their coats when hunting. Generally, a quick brush and wipe-down will eliminate any small amount of debris collected in the coat during hunting. 

The breed has white hairs on its tail tip, which helps detect where they are. When a Beagle is hunting, the tail is held upright, and the white hairs at the tip make it an easy marker for the hunter to spot. A hunter must know where his dog is to avoid tragic accidental shooting. 

Are Beagles Easy To Train?

Beagles are hounds and, as such, do not usually score high on dog intelligence. However, it’s essential to understand that hounds have a completely different approach to learning. They are stubborn dogs that like to think for themselves. 

Positive reinforcement is a non-negotiable approach when training hounds. Negative reinforcement or punishment will never be effective with hounds. Using the Beagle’s natural instincts makes training much easier.

While Beagles will never win awards in obedience trials, they are relatively easy to train for squirrel hunting as it plays to their strengths. 

Beagles are cheerful, equable dogs that get along with other dogs and children, making them enjoyable pets. They are equally at home, treeing a squirrel and romping around the garden with children.  

Final Word

Beagles are good squirrel dogs. They have a natural inclination to chase and hunt small animals. Their excellent nose means they seldom lose the trail of a squirrel. Once the squirrel is treed, their powerful voice lets everyone know they have succeeded in their task. 

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