Dogs in the hound group are just as diverse as dogs in any other group, however there really are two different types of dogs within the group. Not only do the two types of hound tend to look very different, they actually behave relatively more different than alike as well. The two basic types of hounds are the sight hounds and the scent hounds.
Sight hounds have been bred for generations upon generations to be able to run and stay with prey until they are exhausted and stop. The sight hounds then stay with the animal to prevent it from moving until the hunters arrive. Many of the sight hounds were used for hunting deer and other large game, but also in hunting other predators such as wolves and leopards in some countries. As such they are a very athletic dog and need to be able to have lots of room to get outdoors and run. It is not uncommon for these types of hounds to require an hour or more of running a day to be truly happy and content indoors. This can be accomplished by running with the owner on longer jogs or actual time in an off leash area on their own or with other dogs. Sight hounds such as the Greyhound, Whippet or even the Afghan Hound are commonly used on lure courses as racing dogs. Although dog racing has had its problems in the past with cruelty and disregard of the animals, these dogs really love to run and, with the right type of management and training, excel at these events.
Sight hounds recognized by the American Kennel Club include the Afghan Hound, Saluki, Borzoi, Greyhound, Whippet, Irish Wolfhound, Scottish Deerhound and the Basenji. Not all organizations recognize the Basenji as a true sight hound, which can lead to confusion. In addition many other sight hounds are recognized in other countries that are not recognized by the AKC.
In general sight hounds tend to be less dominant and slightly more timid than their relatives in the scent hound section of the group. Very lean, long legged and naturally very "racy" looking in appearance the sight hounds also tend to have huge energy requirements, especially as juvenile dogs. Without enough exercise these dogs can become escape artists and may engage in highly destructive types of behavior including chewing and destruction of property.
Training a sight hound requires a calm, even training method that focuses on rewarding the dog for a job well done. Harsh punishment or harsh training methods will only cause these dogs to become more confused and timid. They do need to have lots of time with their owners and they will establish a strong bond of love and affection. Ideal with most older children, the sight hound is a good family dog for an active family.
Living with a scent hound is also a terrific experience, but they also provide a challenge. Most of the tracking dogs have the distinctive baying vocalization, so bred to allow hunters to follow the dogs as they track. This baying noise is both deep and long in duration, possibly making this a difficult breed to own in urban environments.
Scent hounds also tend to be larger dogs, heavier and more solid in their body structure. Even the Basset Hound can weigh up to 65 pounds when fully mature. A larger scent type dog such as the Bloodhound will almost double that weight with males up to 110 pounds at full maturity. These dogs are not designed for speed like the sight hounds, but they are stoic, strong and determined in their tracking ability.
A scent hound is single minded when they get on a trail and are almost impossible to call off the scent until completely trained. Even fully trained dogs often are challenging to get off a track after they have been put on the scent. Unlike common myths about these types of hounds they are not slow to learn or difficult to train, but they are independent. Often the scent hounds are seen as stubborn by those that don't understand the breed because of their ability to focus.
Scent hounds don't have the need for large spaces to run and race like the sight hounds, but that doesn't mean they don't need large amounts of exercise, particularly as younger dogs. They love long walks with lots of time to stop and explore all the scents they take in. Working with these dogs on leash when outside of a fenced yard is essential until they are fully trained, and even then many owners prefer to keep them on a leash, often with a harness. This prevents run-aways and the dog getting on a track and just heading out on his or her own.
Generally both types of hounds, although more noticeable in the scent hound breeds, is the strong bond these dogs form with other canines and their owners. This natural pack type behavior is another trait bred into the dogs. Although a hound is a good solitary pet, they love to have another dog in the family to spend time with. Often another hound breed or mixed breed is a great option, however most hounds will love to spend time with any dog, even the toy breeds. In some cases hounds will even adopt other pets to be in their pack, becoming very friendly with cats, rabbits and other types of larger pets. It is always important to make sure that the dog is fully socialized with these animals before leaving them together unsupervised.
While hounds love to be outdoors, both types of hounds are also very bonded and attached to their families. With proper exercise they make terrific house dogs and are generally easy to train and calm indoors. Of course, like any dog, without enough attention, exercise and basic obedience work hounds can become destructive and may be prone to chewing and excessive barking or baying. Good socialization and early and consistent obedience work and exercise is typically all that is required to prevent this from becoming a concern.