Owning a Scenthound

Since Miss P's incredible win at Westminster on Tuesday there will be a huge up-swing in people thinking that a Beagle is the perfect breed for them. Scenthounds in general are not for everybody. If you only have experience with a generic mutt, retriever, or terrier, then the moment you bring your hound home will be an adjustment.

Miss P is from show lines of Beagles which means that they are bred responsibly, there is a screening process involved and contracts. If you want a Beagle just like Miss P, go to a show breeder. Beagles in shelters or advertised in the newspaper or on craigslist won't even be closely related to Miss P. Hunting Beagles are not good pets at all. My first experience with Beagles was with hunting Beagles and it takes a special type of person to be willing to look at a hunting Beagle and want to take it home for a pet. Most hunting Beagles in the south are kennel raised for generations and the concept of housebreaking is incredibly foreign to them. My very first experience with a Beagle was the exception when it came from hunting lines, I called her Shiloh. She was quiet, sweet, loveable, and hated to hunt. So she spent a lot of her time in my arms when I was around. She would only bark if somebody was on the phone with me and she couldn't see me. She was kennel raised and I knew that she would never warm my bed every night because it would be too stressful for her. Regardless, she was my inspiration to get involved in hounds (Oceania kennel name is taken from letters of animals that I have had, she was the I and O, Simba was an A, Nala was the N and A and Alice is the C and E).

Show line Beagles are completely different than the pet and hunting line Beagles. Show line Beagles are health tested, raised in the home, incredibly well socialized and most breeders even start housebreaking from the time they are old enough to walk. Show Beagle puppies are taught how to walk on a leash, have started learning what showing is all about and various other things that set them up for success in a home. Most people will never qualify for one though because show Beagle breeders have applications and most future owners aren't willing to wait for their perfect puppy to be born. Most future Beagle owners will go to their local rescue and pick up the Beagle—like dog in a kennel with no idea of their history.

Scenthounds in general, even Hamiltonstovare, follow a few universal truths and the main one is stubborn. Most scenthounds will look at you like you have completely gone insane if you are standing on the deck in the freezing cold asking them to come inside. Most scenthounds are perfectly happy to sleep on a dog bed all day and not truly care what sort of housework you are doing. They are not dogs that will say “what can I do for you?” They are also not dogs that will say “you are the best person ever, how can I help?” Hamiltonstovare will generally say “I see you and I are in the same room, cool.” They will also say “You feel bad, come over here and give me a cuddle, let's hug it out.” My Hamiltonstovare puppies are more in your face than their parents but they are still stubborn and love a cuddle.

Rescue hounds are a different issue all together, and you can probably lump rescue Beagles, Foxhounds, Coonhounds, generic hounds and Hamiltonstovare all into one package. Most rescue hounds are hounds that were hunted and either didn't return to the hunter or was intentionally dumped. Rescue hounds probably do not come housebroken and are probably used to being kenneled a majority of the time. They probably have never slept on a sofa or stretched out on a cool floor in the summer. Rescue hounds should probably be rehabbed like retired racing greyhounds but that isn't done. Rescue hounds are marketed as a sad, sweet face that needs to be adopted as fast as possible because more sad, sweet faces need homes. If you go to any rescue in the south now, probably a majority of those dogs for adoption will be hound mixes of some sort. Most look very workman-like and tend to be hard to adopt because their reputation proceeds them. The reputation of a rescue hound is different than that of any other breed in a shelter. That reputation is that you are in for a struggle, so most people walk right by them and go for the breeds that are probably way too much dog for them.

Owning a scenthound be it from a rescue, backyard breeder, responsible breeder, etc. take a few things. The main one is a very gentle hand. Hounds do things at their own pace and trying to force a hound to do something that they don't want to do can cause them to shut down. Hounds do not respond well to harsh punishment, gentleness and patience are key. Gaining the trust of a scenthound is one of the most fulfilling things in life, if you gain the trust of a hound then you will have a dog that is so loyal that they will do anything for you. If you have ever wondered how foxhunters rarely lose hounds, most of the time it comes from mutual trust of the hounds and the huntsman. There is an old expression that applies to all hounds “if you don't trust your hound, don't hunt it.” A lot of rescue hound owners have been told by the shelter and the rescue to be on guard for a lot of things but instead of being on guard, accept them. If you accept the fact that a scenthound is gong to be stubborn, that they have a mind of their own and that they won't ask you for guidance, then you will see a huge change.

Overall owning a scenthound is a wonderful experience to those who have the patience to do it. Those who go to a shelter because they don't want to wait for a responsibly bred hound, regardless of breed, to be born are NOT suited to be hound owners. Owning a hound takes time, energy and research. If you aren't a patient person then a scenthound is not right for you. Most of my inquiries fail not because I turn people down, but because people aren't willing to wait. If a future owner waits for what they want then they will be rewarded in spades with the dog that they get.