Beagles think they're supposed to howl. This is great for hunters, but not so great if you want a low-key family pet. There's no stopping the strong howling instinct of a beagle, but there are ways to convince your noisy buddy that he doesn't need to howl all the time.
Determining the Cause
A good hunting beagle will howl when he's successful on a hunt. When there's nothing to hunt, he'll find some other reason to howl, even if it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Beagles will howl when they're lonely, bored, wanting attention or have found something interesting, or just because it's fun.
Pay attention to what your beagle is doing or what is going on around him when he howls. If you're getting complaints from the neighbors about the noise he makes while you're gone, he's probably howling for company. If he howls at people walking down the street, birds in the yard, a fluttering curtain or anything that moves, he probably needs more exercise and mental stimulation.
Beagles also howl when they're stressed or upset, excited, wanting to get your attention, or ready to play. Figuring out why your beagle is howling will help you decide how to handle it. Punishment rarely works on beagles, instead you need to find out what's making them howl and deal with the cause instead of the result.
Beagles love their packs, whether it's a pack made up of dogs or a pack made up of humans. They want company, affection and attention. If you have to leave your beagle home alone, chances are he's pining for you while you're away. The television or radio might be enough to keep some beagles company indoors, but others need another dog to keep them company. Adding another dog to your family pack may not be an option, so doggy day care may solve howling caused by loneliness and boredom.
A busy beagle is a happy beagle, so give your dog some work to do. It could be as simple as learning to catch a Frisbee in midair, or as serious as search-and-rescue training. The idea is to keep your beagle's mind and body busy with whatever task you choose. Obedience, agility, Flyball, Musical Freestyle and tracking are great calorie-burning activities for you and your dog, whether you do it just for fun or decide to enter a competition. And it will give your beagle something to concentrate on besides howling.
You probably won't be able to train your beagle to never howl or bay, but you can teach him when it's okay and when it's not. Redirection is a method of training that focuses your beagle's attention on a different, correct, activity instead of howling. For example, when he howls, engage him in a game of sit and stay instead.
Startling is another strategy that is useful for when you aren't able to redirect his attention. Shake a can filled with coins or spray a stream of water at your beagle to get his attention, then give him something else to do.
Crating your beagle can also work wonders. The crate is not a punishment, it's a place where he goes to rest quietly until it is time to be active again. Draping a towel or blanket over the crate may help him to rest and relax, especially if everyone else in the household is still awake.
Be careful what you teach your beagle. Just because he doesn't always do what you want doesn't mean he's not smart. Reward him for correct behavior but be careful that he doesn't come to the conclusion that you're rewarding him for howling.
For example, if you give him a treat as soon as he's quiet, he may realize that he just has to howl for a minute or two and then be quiet to get a treat. Pretty soon he'll be howling twice as much as before. Instead, make him obey some other command and reward him for that instead: When he howls, redirect him to sit and stay for a few minutes. When he's calm and focused on the "stay" command, reward him for staying.