Scent Hounds

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Your dog is this type if he:
Has a great willingness to go outdoors, put his nose to the ground and follow scent trails. He is also keen to go searching for objects hidden around the home and garden at the end of scent trails. He enjoys carrying soft toys, but may not respond quickly to training or even be that interested. He has pendulous ears and a smooth or wiry coat.

Exercise and play

Scenthounds love the great outdoors and generally have a lot of stamina,  having been bred to follow long scent trails. Unlike Sighthounds [link] who are short-distance, high-speed sprinters, Scenthounds can best be compared to marathon runners – happy to trot or run along steadily for hours at a time.

Independent play

Scenthounds are naturally independent and usually more than happy to amuse themselves. Good games include ‘hunt the toy’, where you can hide some treat-filled toys around the garden at the end of scent trails. Hiding treats in small cereal boxes is a cheaper alternative to buying commercially manufactured treat-toys and he will be fulfilled by the challenge of extracting the food.

Playing with the owner

Hide-and-seek is a great game for Scenthounds, who are bred to follow scents left by rabbits and other fleet prey, but as they concentrate so hard while doing this, their recall response can deteriorate quickly on walks that are full of interesting scents. Hard work can overcome some of this: training them in less stimulating places and rewarding them for finding you during hide-and-seek can help them stay more focused on you, making them more recallable in any environment. The better his recall training, the more you can let him off the lead to follow scents without the risk that he might disappear, oblivious to your calls. Hide-and-seek is a great game for family walks, too, with the children having fun hiding and you then asking your dog to find them.

Following a basic scent trail is the greatest fun for scenthounds and tracking is a sport in its own right in some countries. In the UK, it is one activity tested in Working Trials. Breed or kennel clubs should be able to point you in the direction of your nearest training class. At home, you can easily set up a fun trail for him to follow by dragging some smelly cheese on a string along the ground out of his sight, then releasing him to follow the trail for a treat or lots of praise. Devise increasingly difficult trails for him to follow – longer, with more turns, and with less smelly tracks.

Scenthounds also enjoy ‘Fetch’ and it is a good way of reinforcing the recall command. Throw a toy into long grass, and, when he finds it, call him to you, saying his name and “Come” in an excited tone of voice. When he comes, give lots of praise, a treat, and then throw the toy for him to find once more.

Given their need for long exercise periods, many Scenthounds make good jogging companions, trotting beside you on a lead for miles at a time. Make sure he is given opportunities to rest and drink when needed.

Hide-and-seek in five easy steps

You will need: a willing friend and a ‘smelly’ treat, such as dried tripe or small piece of strong cheese

• In your home, ask a friend or family member to hold your dog. Then, armed with a smelly treat, hide somewhere in another room – maybe behind the sofa or a door.
• Call your hound’s name and say your recall word (e.g. “Come”), at which point your friend should release the dog, so that he can come and find you.
• It won’t take him very long at all to track down the smelly treat – and you with it – at which point, you should give him lots of praise and a piece of the treat.
• Repeat the game and, over time, make it increasingly harder for your dog to find you by, for example, going outside to hide in the garden where there may be more distractions, and then hiding on walks in places where it is safe for your dog to be off the lead.
• If the dog needs help finding you, make a sound such as “Lalalalalalala.” Don’t use his name or your “Come” request – say it only once at the beginning of each search.

Emotional bonding

Like most hounds, who are bred to hunt in packs, Scenthounds are usually sociable with other friendly dogs and particularly enjoy canine company. If you have two or more hounds in the home, they are likely to play with each other and be less reliant on you to provide entertainment. The downside is that there will be more noise when they’re playing together (Scenthounds like to bay, and one dog barking or howling can soon set off the other), and training will be more time-consuming. It is important to train each dog individually if you have more than one, so that you establish a strong bond with each dog.

You can strengthen this bond in a number of ways: play, training and exercise are crucial to your dog’s emotional and physical health, but just spending time together is also very important. If he’s been adequately exercised – in mind and body – a scenthound will enjoy simply snoozing at your feet in the evening while you read or watch TV.

He will also enjoy being stroked and brushed all over. Scenthounds are usually short- or rough-coated rather than long-haired but, nonetheless, daily grooming will ensure that any debris picked up from forays through the undergrowth is removed and that any skin and coat health issues can be noticed and treated early. On another level, the physical touch of stroking and gentle brushing will be relaxing and strengthen the bond between you.

Scenthounds are fairly independent but also sociable and usually quite attached to their owners at home, especially where there aren’t nearly so many interesting trails and new smells to follow. If left on their own for too long, they can get bored, becoming destructive or howling to attract attention. If trained to accept short periods of being left on his own from a young age, any hound should happily be able snooze for a couple of hours away from you in a safe, dog-proof room. Exercise him before you leave, so he is toileted and ready to relax, and hide a treat-filled chew-toy for him to find in your absence.

Being a naturally vocal type of dog, it makes sense to teach your Scenthound to howl and bark on request and encourage him to do so at certain times and under specific conditions. This will mean that not only can he have a good howl when it’s convenient for you both, away from the neighbours, but you can also silence him more easily when he barks inappropriately.

Teaching your dog ‘Speak!’ and ‘Shush!’
It may sound strange, but to teach your dog to stop barking on command, you should first teach him to bark on command.
• Ask your dog to sit and then show him a tasty treat, but keep it out of reach.
• As he gets frustrated, he should eventually bark, at which point you should immediately say “Speak” and then give him the treat and lots of praise.
• Repeat and your dog should soon learn that he should bark whenever you look at him and say “Speak”.
• Practise little and often, in various locations, in order to generalise his learning.

Now that he’ll bark on request, you can train him to stop when asked.

• Ask your dog to “Speak” and reward him as usual.
• Next tell him to “Shush” and distract him with a high-value treat, such as a new squeaky toy or a very tasty treat. When he stops barking, praise him and give him the treat.
• Repeat little and often, and you’ll soon be able to control your dog’s barking.

Nutrition and health

Scenthounds usually love their food and will often scoff their meals in seconds if given a chance. They may also scavenge and steal food, so keep heavy or lockable lids on your kitchen and outside bins. Since food is such an important part of what makes Scenthounds happy, it makes no sense to put down a bowl of food to be wolfed down in seconds twice a day. Instead, make mealtimes longer-lasting and more interesting by devising different ways of delivering his food. Scatter up to 50% of his measured daily dry food ration around the garden on dry days and hide it in different places inside the house. If you have time, try to lay scent trails as you do so to encourage him to be a real Scenthound and ‘work’ for his food.

Reserve maybe 5% for use as rewards when training, especially the recall which Scenthounds need to practise. The remaining amount of the total ration should be fed in two meals every day (morning and evening) so that your dog will always see you as a ‘parental’ food provider.

Key Facts: Scent Hounds

Your dog is this type if he:
Has a great willingness to go outdoors, put his nose to the ground and follow scent trails. He is also keen to go searching for objects hidden around the home and garden at the end of scent trails. He enjoys carrying soft toys, but may not respond quickly to training or even be that interested. He has pendulous ears and a smooth or wiry coat.

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