Best in show breed may not be best pet

THURSDAY, FEB. 14, 2008

NEW YORK – Uno the beagle may be “America’s dog,” which is what the commentators at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show dubbed him when he took best in show honors Tuesday night.

But the merry little hound is not the right breed for everyone.

To be sure, there is a reason the beagle was the fifth most popular breed in American Kennel Club registrations in 2007: It is an excellent family dog, with a genial temperament, appealingly small size and irresistibly pleading expression.

But beagles come with baggage.

“Once they hit a scent in the air or on the ground, they will try and trail it, regardless of what’s in the way,” warned Skip Herendeen, of Henderson, Nev., an American Kennel Club judge who bred beagles and was at Madison Square Garden to see Uno make history as the first of that breed to win the Westminster show.

“Some 50 years ago, I was one of those people who purchased a beagle just because it was cute, and I paid the price,” said fellow judge Barbara Sawyer-Brown, of Chicago. “I ended up with an adorable dog that never came when called, and was the smartest dog I have ever known.”

“A beagle-proof fence has to be at least 4 feet high so they can’t climb over,” said Karen Philhower, president of Safe Hounds Beagle Rescue in Sparta, N.J. “And, because they dig, part of the fence should be buried so they can’t burrow under.”

Then there’s Uno’s penchant for barking at his handler in the ring and during news conferences.

“Their instinct is to run in a pack, and one marvelous trait of that is the baying,” said Herendeen, referring to the beagle’s signature cry. Philhower adds that the beagle’s gregarious nature can also lead to howling or barking when lonely or bored.


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