The hound group is broken in to two sub groups, scent hounds and sight hounds. These dogs were primarily used to hunt and hold or ‘bay’ quarry in large packs independently of their humans who would often arrive after the quarry had been caught. If they are to be successful companion dogs they require handlers who can understand their needs.
Sight hounds are built for speed, they are often sleek, slim and fast. When these dogs are in full flight it is impossible not to stop and stare, it is a magical sight to behold. Sight hounds are bred to chase small game such as rabbits and hares. Unfortunately many of our small companion dogs look much like small quarry making off lead training for owners of sight hounds more difficult. Luckily, sight hounds do not require much off lead running, they are often found lounging around and love to sleep. Sight hounds do well with daily walks on lead and the occasional stretch out in an enclosed area free from small dogs.
Sight hounds are often the best kind of dog for older people or people who are scared of dogs. Their quiet disposition makes them ideal house dogs who will not jump all over guests or frighten children. I think they are a very underrated group of dogs and more people would be better to have a sight hound than an overly boisterous gun dog.
The second sub group are the scent hounds. These dogs are often shorter and have long floppy ears, they were bred to follow trails with their nose down and once the quarry have been located some breeds will not bark but make a deep ‘baying’ sound. Scent hounds love to smell, and with an enormous surface area in their nasal membrane who can blame them? This quality can make them difficult to walk on and off lead as once on a scent they will block out the rest of the world and get on with the job of locating the source of the smell. This determination makes them more likely to pull on lead and have a poor recall.
Scent hounds need a daily walk and freedom to stop and smell, while they are using their nose their brain is working overtime to collect further information, this is great exercise for these dogs. Dogs who are more tired are much easier to live with. It is best to find an enclosed space to exercise scent hounds or attach a long rope to their collar and allow them to explore more secluded places. These dogs excel at tracking, a sport where the dog leads the way through the bush finding the source of a scent.
You will need to measure your expectations when training your hound. While they are often easy to live with, they can be difficult to train out and about. These dog were meant to work independently of people so once they are distracted they may not give you a second look. Your windows of opportunity to train your hound will be largely determined by them. When they show an interest in training run with it for as long as they can manage.
It will be much easier to train your hound if they come to you as a baby puppy. You will find they will be much more likely to look to you for instruction and this is the time to harness that attention and work as intensely as possible. A great idea for puppies and adults is to also train through hand feeding. This way your hound has to work for his food and it may give you more opportunities for teaching certain behaviours.
Hounds must learn how to recall and must be taught to check-in with you regularly. You can teach this by rewarding them for looking at you, if you reward this behaviour they will be much more likely to give it again. For a hound, rewarding this behaviour regularly for the first three years of their life will make it a habit, and you will have a dog who looks to you many times on a walk. If your dog is looking at you they are more likely to follow instructions.
Hounds can make the best pet dogs but need special handling and training, particularly if they are to be allowed off lead.