Beaglier

Stuart Fitzgerald
Dr Stuart Fitzgerald (MVB MANZCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Beaglier
Julie Bayer-Vile / Flickr.com

The Beaglier is a small hybrid dog that has been popular, especially in Australia, since the 1990s. This designer dog is playful and energetic, yet adaptable enough to enjoy lounging with its family in the evening as much as running through the local park. It is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Beagle cross, and usually has an agreeable mix of its parents’ characteristics – though one of the main reasons for its development in the first place was to produce Beagle offspring that were not quite so driven to pursue scent trails. As some Beagliers may be more Beagle-like in their behaviour, it is important that owners are able to provide a secure space from which the dog cannot escape in search of prey. For the same reason, they are not suited to homes with small pets, including cats. However, their background of living in hunting packs does mean that they are generally very sociable with other dogs.

Beagliers are generally as gentle as the Cavalier, while being slightly more robust, and so they make good pets for children. While they are companion dogs, and should be kept indoors as part of the family, they can shed quite heavily, which may be a concern for some owners. Those lucky enough to benefit from hybrid vigour may be more healthy than their pedigree parents, but all hybrids are at some risk of the inherited disorders seen in the purebred lines, and Beagliers can suffer from heart, eye, and orthopaedic problems. When buying a designer puppy, always insist on seeing proof of the parents’ good health in the form of a veterinary certificate, and when possible spend time with at least one parent to ensure they are of a sociable and balanced disposition. Nurture is indeed important in rearing a pup, but nature certainly plays a major role in a dog’s temperament, and some traits, such as nervousness, can readily be passed on. On average, a Beaglier has a life expectancy of 11–13 years.

About & History

As any veteran Beagle owner will attest, the breed’s keen sense of smell and strong prey drive can make these sociable dogs a handful to control. I recall one out-of-hours incident I attended a couple of years ago, when a Beagle owner called me to examine one of his four dogs who had slipped his lead and led a merry chase through dark fields and woodland late at night. The chase came to an end when Murph (the dog) turned back to check that his owner (Tom) wasn’t too badly injured after Tom had unthinkingly run in front of an oncoming car. Thankfully, both human and dog were not seriously hurt, but the story illustrates just how strong the Beagle’s hunting instinct can be. The Cavalier, on the other hand, has virtually no prey drive, and because the two breeds are not dissimilar in size and shape, they seemed a natural pairing to the first breeders in Australia around twenty-five years ago.

For better or worse, cross-breeding results in chance inheritance of the parent’s characteristics, but Beagliers tend to be of relatively predictable appearance and temperament. Neither of the two pedigrees involved have any serious behavioural vices, and the Beaglier’s enduring popularity is testament to its sociable, outgoing, and friendly nature. Although this is a hybrid, rather than a pedigree breed, many breeders practice multi-generational Beaglier to Beaglier breeding, and it is recognised by various designer dogs registries around the world.

Appearance

Beaglier Large Photo
Julie Bayer-Vile / Flickr.com

While multi-generational Beaglier crosses tend to resemble one or other of the parent breeds, first-generation Beagliers usually blend their features quite evenly. They tend to have a relatively large skull and medium-to-large eyes. The eyes, however, should not protrude as they do in the Cavalier. The muzzle is short, around one-third the entire length of the head, and the nostrils should be quite large. This characteristic is largely down to the Beagle, and it means the Beaglier should be free from any of the respiratory problems that can be seen in the Cavie. The ears are medium-sized, with rounded edges, and hang at the side of the head.

Ideally, the limbs should be reasonably well-boned and straight. When viewed from behind, a bow-legged hindlimb stance is not desirable, as it can indicate several orthopaedic problems. The neck and body are usually quite strong and compact, and the tail is held below horizontal when at rest, but with a marked upward curl. The coat is slightly longer than the Beagle’s, and may have a slight wave, although it is more often straight and somewhat coarse. The most common colours are:

  • Tricolour (black, tan, and white)
  • Tan and white
  • Red and white
  • Black and white
  • Black and tan
  • Ruby

The average height for the Beaglier is 31–33 cm (12–13 in) at the withers, and it has a weight range of 6–10 kg (13–22 lb).

Character & Temperament

Beagliers are very much companion dogs, being extremely affectionate and wanting to constantly shadow their owners. They are playful and energetic, and thrive in homes with children, for whom they make ideal playmates. For the adults in the home, the Beaglier is a lively and reasonably athletic walking or jogging companion, but it also knows how to relax, and is not likely to still be bouncing around in the evening when the humans are winding down after a busy day.

It is very sociable with other dogs, and generally with people, though some rare individuals can show a hint of nervousness. As discussed above, the Beagle’s strong hunting instincts mean that the Beaglier should not be left alone with small pets, and gardens and yards must be very well secured against escape attempts.

Trainability

The Beaglier usually has such a strong drive to please its owner that training is relatively easy. Some are a little stubborn, but persistence and patience will almost always pay off. Off-the-lead recall is one area that can be especially difficult to master, again for the reason that most will blindly pursue any interesting smells they encounter, so unless an owner is very confident in their individual dog’s behaviour in this regard, it is advisable that Beagliers should always be exercised on-leash.

Health

Hybrids can inherit some of the more common health problems that their parent breeds suffer from, and in the case of the Beaglier, these include the following:

  • Diabetes mellitus – Some middle-aged and older Beagliers may become dependent on daily insulin injections to regulate their blood sugars. Signs of diabetes include dramatic weight loss, increased appetite, and excessive thirst.
  • Epilepsy – Often first seen in young dogs less than one year old. Most commonly takes the form of convulsive seizures, though other, less dramatic signs, such as apparent confusion, can also be seen. Many epileptics do not require treatment, particularly if they suffer less than one seizure per month.
  • Glaucoma – Inherited from the Beagle, glaucoma can cause severe discomfort and sight loss due to increased fluid pressure within the eye. Seen in dogs as young as three years of age, and can require surgical removal of the eye to reduce pain.
  • Hip dysplasia – A common cause of lameness in juvenile dogs due to disordered growth of one or both hip joints. This condition is strongly inherited, and hip scoring of the parents, when available, can help select for pups that are free from the problem.
  • Hypothyroidism – Like diabetes, hypothyroidism is a disorder of hormone deficiency. Lack of thyroid hormone in middle-aged dogs causes weight gain, symmetrical hair loss, and lethargy.
  • Intervertebral disc disease – The rubbery discs that act as shock absorbers between the bones of the spine become less compliant with age, and can degenerate to the point of pressing on the spinal column. This can cause signs of severe pain and/or loss of coordination or power to the hindlimbs. Most dogs recover fully with adequate rest and anti-inflammatory treatment, but all should receive veterinary attention as soon as possible to ensure more dramatic interventions are not required.
  • Mitral endocardiosis – A very common problem in the Cavalier, degeneration of one of the major valves regulating the direction of blood flow within the heart allows changes in pressure within the cardiac chambers. In turn, this eventually leads to heart enlargement and loss of function. Early symptoms include abdominal swelling, breathlessness, and coughing, although regular veterinary examination will detect an audible murmur at a far earlier stage and allow the condition to be managed before symptoms become noticeable.
  • Patellar luxation – Lack of support around the kneecap can allow it to wobble out of its normal position. This causes an obvious non-weight bearing lameness that tends to come and go when out on walks.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Beagliers need plenty of exercise, in combination with measured amounts of a good-quality diet, to ensure they don’t become overweight or obese. Most require at least an hour of walking per day, though this can be divided into several shorter walks if this is more convenient.

Grooming

The coat is quite dense, and sheds reasonably heavily. Brushing it daily or at least every second day is advised to prevent a build-up of loose, dead hair and skin cells. Those Beagliers with a coarse coat may need to be washed only every two months, but finer, Cavalier-like coats are likely to benefit from monthly bathing.

Again depending on coat quality, professional grooming to keep the hair trimmed and neat may be necessary every two to three months. The Beaglier has quite a short jaw and may be prone to plaque build-up, and so tooth brushing is strongly recommended to prevent dental disease. This is best introduced as a daily routine in puppyhood, using a purpose-made brush and dog toothpaste.

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