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Pros? Cons? Comparisons? I'm trying to decide and since I'm biased towards Beagles I'd like a second opinion on what breed is the better of the two for life with a fairly active family (Or at least main owner.), no kids and no fellow pets other than a fish or two.
 

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I think you should first define "Active". For some people active means they're hiking and running marathons anytime they're not at work. For others "active" might just mean not couch potatoes.

Beagle pros: Affectionate, typically very friendly and tolerant, good natured animals, often good around children, adorable, medium to low energy, but they enjoy activity and can excel in sports like agility, very food motivated in training so it's easy to find a reward they desire.

Beagle cons: Stubborn, they'll eat anything and everything that crosses their path--even if it's a small live animal, some are resource guarders, they follow their noses and are prone to wander, they have a very dandery coat and shed a lot, so can affect people with allergies more than other breeds, they howl/bay, some are difficult to housetrain.

JRT pros: Very intelligent, very trainable and love to learn new things, the most high energy small dog I can think of, excellent for dog sports and doing activities with their owners, great ratters (I don't think many people seek them out for this anymore, except for maybe some farms, but I think it's a pro!)

JRT cons: Usually hard personalities, I don't want to say "dominant" but they can be intense and have a pushy attitude, can be snappy, very high prey drive and can also be reactive to other dogs, tend to bark a lot, their intelligence and high energy can be a con because if they are not properly exercised and mentally stimulated they can be destructive.

It might be clear I favor Beagles but these were the main things I could think of. I think if you're a bit more clear on what you want it could help you make a better choice. I will say that I personally favor Beagles because of their sweet personalities, and lower energy. JRTs are great if you want a dog for a sport, TV (which is why there's so many in show business), high levels of training, or to do something with them. They're kind of the Border Collies of small dogs. I am not interested in dogs like that, and I have seen quite a few that are snappy and reactive to people and other dogs.

Also I have to add that these are two of the most common breeds I see in shelters if you're considering adoption. I actually know someone who runs a shelter who has half a dozen Beagles she's looking to rescue out to other states if you're interested. Plus there's the Beagle Freedom Project that always has Beagles that were rescued from cruel Laboratory experiments.
 

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I would agree- they're very different dogs.

I would describe Beagles as affable companions (though they do have a tendency to resource guard, as was stated above) that can be a little thickheaded. They do also have a tendency to follow their nose and their hound dog braying/bark can be considered annoying by a lot of people. They definitely enjoy the outdoors and while I wouldn't describe the breed as needing a lot of exercise (ie, 2 30min walks would probably be fine per day), they will certainly be happy to accompany you on walks in nature or in a city. They aren't a breed you'll have to go way out of your way to exercise enough. They are very food motivated and some are faster learners than others- patience will get you far with them and I personally really like their approach to training (which is pretty much please give me that food I'll do anything you want).

I would describe Jack Russels as tiny Aussie Cattle Dogs more than Border Collies. Tenacious, often verging on reactive, energetic, VERY smart, and often a breed that will become destructive because of improper exercise and mental stimulation. IMO they are only a breed to consider if you really, really enjoy training. The only Jack Russels I've ever come across (whether IRL or on the internet) that seem like dogs I'd like to hang out with are ones whose owners work very hard on trick training and/or in dog sports like agility. Unless you are a regular jogger, they are a breed that you will likely have to go out of your way to provide with enough exercise. They have a much "harder" intensity about training than Beagles do, IMO- whereas Beagles often give me the impression they're working for a reward, JRT seem to enjoy puzzles and training for the challenge of it. Where Jack Russels have an extreme intensity (albeit often a cheerful one), Beagles are just downright cheerful and silly dogs.

Both breeds can have pretty intense prey drive but IMO they aren't quite the same- the Terrier is going to figure out a way to get a kid's hamster if it really wants it, the Beagle is just best not let alone with it in easy reach. I have heard many stories of JRT's going out of their way to kill small animals/pets, but I know a family who regularly had small pets- mostly hamsters- whose cages were kept on the floor that he liked to watch but never actually tried to get at. Both are likely to want to chase small things, though the JRT is much more likely to finish the job and bring you small offerings of birds and rodents, whether because it has more drive to kill or just because they're better at catching.

Overall I would consider Beagles a much more laid back, easy family companion than a JRT. If you only want to go through basic obedience commands, aren't specifically looking for a jogging companion and don't have a hankering to dive into agility I would think a Beagle would be a more fun choice. If you really like training with your dog, like the idea of a jogging companion and don't mind the possibility of reactivity, JRT do seem like pretty fun dogs.

To give you an idea of how I would rate the two breeds:
I would personally never get a JRT without a training goal, the same way I would never get a Border Collie, Cattle Dog, Kelpie, or Working line GSD unless I wanted that energy for a specific purpose- either Agility, Rally or advanced trick training. On the other hand, Beagles are on my short list of breeds I might want to get while my eventual children are young for them to grow up with, along with Bloodhounds, Labs, Goldens and Boston Terriers.
 

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according to my small experience JRT are a bit more independent than beagles, they seem to have a bit more pepper than beagles which seem to be a bit softer in their temperament.
beagles often get along well with other dogs, while some JRT seem to be a bit more picky when it comes to humans as well as dogs.
both need a lot of exercise though...I've seen so many fat beagles, which is just sad.
Also: both can have a lot of preydrive and depending on where you want to walk with them, there's the chance that you'll never have them at the point that they can run off-leash.
 

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...I've seen so many fat beagles, which is just sad.
Sorry if I'm momentarily hijacking this, but on the subject of Beagle obesity... One time a Beagle came into the first shelter I worked at. No joke, this animal was 60 POUNDS! (27 KG). It was appalling and I don't know how he was able to move. Apparently his owner "didn't believe in dog food." So yeah, if you get a Beagle make sure you don't overfeed them and do exercise them enough! They'll eat themselves to death if you let them.
 

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I am personally very biased to my Jacks. For us they are a perfect fit and I couldn't imagine having any other breed.

They are, as others have said, VERY high energy and we can only walk them off lead in certain places as their prey drive is so high. I have had to rescue my male from more than one rabbit hole and a chihuahua from my female stalking it.

My two get 4 walks a day, 2 half hour and 2 hour long and we give them puzzle toys to keep them thinking. They are the most amazing dogs if you put the effort and training and they will do anything for you - or a rope toy. They need constant input and feedback but I found that once you start training different tricks it becomes very addictive and you just want to do more and more, and they are more than willing to learn.

As far as dog aggression they are great with bigger dogs (fairly sure they think they fall into that group) but anything Yorkie size or smaller they see as something to be hunted down so we do have to watch out for them.

We've never had an issue with barking. Poppy and Nelson were taught to speak and sing at a young age which is supposed to help with this. Same with nipping/snapping. They've had fingers in ears and up noses (nephew and niece both under 5), make up applied, nails painted etc and neither have batted an eyelid.

Once I have my slippers on in the evening however they miraculously turn into lap dogs and love nothing more than a cuddle under a blanket.

I suppose it's like any breed. As long as you put the effort in they will be great, and with a JRT it needs to be quite a lot of effort.

I hope that helped a bit
 
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