Beagle Intelligence: Are They Really Dumb Like Some People Say?

Many people out in the world have many opinions about the intelligence of beagles. How does one measure intelligence and who decides what an intelligent dog is?

Are Beagles really as dumb as people say? Beagles are instinctively intelligent dogs. They are good at hunting which they are bred for. Many people say that they are dumb because they are not good at following orders. They are free thinkers and are not focused on pleasing a human. An obedient dog does not always equate to intelligence.

Beagles are incredible dogs with some incredible attributes if utilized correctly. In this article I highlight what makes this dog special while also explaining why people believe this dog to be dumb, because honestly, they can do some dumb things.

How Do We Measure Dog Intelligence?

What does it mean to have an intelligent dog? How do we know?

There are different kinds of dogs out there in the world. Some dogs are incredible at being companion dogs. These dogs are trained to help humans and be emotional support animals. Dogs that excel in this way are Golden Retrievers or Labradors. People can see what these dogs do and think to themselves, “Wow. that dog is so smart.”

But put a golden retriever with the police and the dog probably would not be the best fit. Trust me. I had a Golden Retriever and he would not even hurt a fly. Somebody in that situation would say, “That dog is terrible at this.”

What changed? What once was an intelligent dog, suddenly becomes a terrible dog who can’t do the right thing. It is because dogs are wired and have instincts to do certain things.

Do you see what I am saying? Different dogs are good at different things.

There are different kinds of intelligence with dogs. The one I have already talked about is is instinctive intelligence. Some dogs are just good at certain things. That is just the way they are made. German Shepherds are incredible at being guard dogs. Other dogs are incredible at herding, like Border Collies for example.

Dogs also have the ability to learn and adapt to the environment around them. Dogs are taught to do various tasks for humans. Some dogs are highly trained for purposes that help humans in their efforts like police dogs or hearing assistance dogs. This is called adaptive learning.

It is this kind of intelligence that makes dogs so valuable to us. Without the adaptive ability of dogs, we could not communicate well them and they would most likely not interact and support us in our efforts of day to day life in years past.

Then comes the last of the bunch. This one is the closest to home. This is the one that most people who have had a dog would consider intelligence. I remember when I had my golden retriever. As kids we would teach him to roll over or teach him the best dog trick, the handshake.

We would try every way in the world to get dogs to do it when I was a kid. Having a dog that shakes your hand was the coolest thing ever because they were not human but they could do a “human” thing.

This is a really simple way of explaining work and obedience intelligence. People will send off their dogs to have obedience training by professionals. I would know because someone close to me does this for a living. She trains dogs to know how to go outside and do their business. One of the most interesting ones is teaching the dog to respond to certain keywords in which they react appropriately.

I say this is the most common because this is what the average person experiences with dogs. When you compare the people who experience police dogs first hand and the people who teach their dog to give them handshakes, the numbers are way different.

And that, my friends, is how you measure dog intelligence. It is an interesting concept and I love to talk about it. Intelligence can be interpreted in different ways so we have to measure them all together.

That being said, let’s talk about the intelligence of beagles.

The Intelligence of Beagles

In a book called, “The Intelligence of Dogs” written by Stanley Coren PhD., He gave a questionaire to 199 obedience judges registered with the American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club and asked them questions about working and obedience abilities of 133 breeds of dogs.

According to the outcome of the survey, beagles ranked 3rd on the bottom ten, meaning there were seven dogs after it who are “less intelligent.”

Are Beagles Dumb?

Beagles are smart enough to realize how not to listen to you.

Now before you get upset, realize that this was a test for obedience. Beagles are not the best at being obedient. A lot of people take that as stupidity. But if you have ever seen a beagle when hunting ducks or just hunting in general, you would take that statement back.

You see beagles are smart enough to realize how not to listen to you. It is kind of like a young child who has gotten to comfortable with their ability to think and act for themselves. People often assume that the intelligence of the dog is based in its willingness to listen and submit to you.

I have to say that this idea is perpetuated by our culture. How many times have you seen someone with a dog and then the dog did something the owner said not to do and the owner shouts out, “Aw, shoot dog! Why’d you have to go and do that? You stupid animal.” I rest my case.

Beagles are actually smart and intuitive animals. They know how to swim and they know how to wait until the signal is given to catch prize after it has been shot. They can bring things back to you. They are incredible trackers. They have an incredible sense of smell. You cannot tell me that is not intelligence.

What Kind of Dog is a Beagle?

Dogs are motivated creatures. I’m not talking about the little ones in your purse. I mean the bigger ones that you can run around and do stuff with. Golden Retrievers are motivated to help humans. For whatever reason, they love that and that’s their goal.

“They need consistent creative non-repetitive training and do not do well alone.” 

Darlene Stewart

Beagles, on the other hand, are more free thinkers. They do not conform to what a human wants generally. So good luck with that. Does this mean they are dumb? Nope. It just means you’re going to have to try harder to earn its respect. Following orders is less about intelligence and more about whether your dog desires to please you or not.

Beagles are hunting dogs. They are incredible at tracking and they are intuitively good at problem-solving. They are pack dogs and they are driven by the desire to find food. They are also social so do they do not do as well being alone. Have you ever read the book “Where the Red Fern Grows”? There are two dogs that the boy owns. Obviously, Wilson Rawls knew a thing or two about hunting dogs.

Historically, Beagles were bred to hunt rabbits and hares. Since they are motivated by food, they are motivated to hunt. Along with the ability to hunt, they have some incredible perks that give them an edge in hunting.

They have a powerful nose. The nose senses smells in the air, obviously. I do not need to spell that out for you. We can smell a pie being baked and we can, for the most part, follow it to the source if we are near enough.

We have about six million olfactory (or odorant) receptors in our noses. Compare that to a dog’s almost 300 million olfactory receptors and our noses do not seem so significant anymore. Also, a dog’s brain has a notable ability to analyze smells 40 times better than our own. So naturally, dogs have an edge up on us when it comes to smell.

Beagles actually have some of the best noses out there even among dogs!

SpeciesNumber of Scent Receptors
HumansApprox. 5 million
DachshundsApprox. 125 million
BeaglesApprox. 225 million
BloodhoundsApprox. 300 million

Beagles are also built well for hunting. They have sturdy bodies that are agile and fast. They are not going to fold under some pressure of the moment. These dogs make for amazing hunting partners and sometimes outdo even the bigger and stronger hunting dogs.

Everything about these dogs makes them good for hunting with. They have big, floppy ears to hear with. Their neck is long but sturdy. The long neck allows the nose to reach the ground easier. Their short legs also help with reaching the ground better.

You might be surprised to know that Beagles and a similar dog called Coonhounds were bred to hunt on their own and bring food back. It is almost like they are a private party who helps with accomplishing the goal of the owner. How cool is that?

Most dogs are more obedient and follow commands. They hunt based on what the hunter tells them to do. Beagles, on the other hand, can go out and hunt their prey and find their way back if needed. That sounds like an intelligent dog to me. These dogs are absolutely incredible when they do what they are meant to do and that is true of any dog.

Among being a free spirit, Beagles are best in packs. Whether it is just a few or a dozen, they work well with others. They are happy and cooperative which helps them get along with new dogs and work as a team.

Beagles are not exempt from being stupid. They have their moments but it is not the end of the world.

Wrapping it All Together

Beagles are a dog of extremely instinctive nature and intelligence. They are free thinkers with a carefree attitude.

They are driven by a desire for food and they are efficient in groups because of their attitude. When it comes time to get serious, they will do what they need to do to win the prize.

They are built to be an incredible hunting dog with a nose far better than our own. Their big ears help with and their long neck and short stature make it easy to get to the dirt and start sniffing for a scent.

Beagles are independent dogs and they may not listen to you as much as you would want. They will do things that make you think, “Dog, you are really dumb.” But remember, obedience does not determine the intelligence of the dog.

Related Questions:

Are Beagles Intelligent? It really depends on how you define intelligence. Many people believe that intelligence in a dog is determined by how well they listen to you. This is called work and obedience intelligence. Beagles are independent and free-thinking dogs who do not follow commands well. They are more instinctively intelligent dogs, meaning that their instincts are what make them intelligent.

Are Beagles affectionate? Beagles are widely considered to be good pets with adults and children. They are kind and affectionate animals. They are not that big so they will not run anybody over for the most part. They are also non aggressive and carefree in nature so you will not have to worry about your children getting hurt. It’s uncommon for beagles to attack something that is not food or a predator.

What are Beagles best known for? Beagles are best known for hunting. Specifically, rabbit and hare hunting. There are other things that they can hunt but rabbits and hares are the most common. Beagles and quick and agile on their feet so they can chase down little animals well. Beagles are also driven by the desire for food instinctively so when it comes time to hunt, they are excited and ready to put in the effort.

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