Although all dogs in the hound group are dogs that have been bred as prey dogs, the way in which they track or hunt is very different depending on the specific breed. In general there are two distinctly different types of hounds, however there are also some hounds that overlap in their hunting styles and techniques. The two different types of hounds are considered to be those that hunt primarily by sight and those that hunt primarily by scent.
The Sight Hounds
In general the sight hounds have been bred specifically in areas where there is lots of open terrain where being fleet of foot and being able to stay in close contact with the game, not specifically to allow the human hunters to keep up, was of essence. In addition many of the sight hounds are from areas where horses were used in the hunt, allowing even the respectively slow humans to keep up the pace with relative ease with both the prey animal as well as the dogs. Sight hounds are often pack dogs although they are not all as strongly aligned with the pack as the scent hounds.
Some of the most well known sight hound breeds are now used more frequently for lure coursing or racing, largely because the numbers of large game animals such as wild stags, deer, larger predators and even more exotic forms of small and large game animals have dramatically decreased. In addition many countries have outlawed hunting with dogs, reducing the demand for this wonderful animals as hunting companions. Often the sight hounds originated in the Middle East area and were then brought with various groups and individuals to other parts of the world. These dogs needed to be very fast, strong, highly intelligent but also very loyal to their owners. Often these dogs lived a very nomadic lifestyle within the tribe or group that owned the dogs, forming a larger pack of dogs that hunted with and guarded the humans.
Each dog and each breed is slightly different, however the following are general traits and temperament issues that are typical of the dogs in the sight hound category. The most common sight hounds include the Afghan Hound, Saluki, Whippet, Borzoi, Greyhound, Ibizan and Pharaoh Hounds, Scottish Deerhound and the Irish Wolfhound. The Basenji also uses sight almost exclusively in hunting, although they are slightly different in overall appearance than the other sight hounds.
There are some exceptions to the general temperament, however most of the sight hounds tend to be relatively more high strung than the scent hounds, but this is also part of not getting enough exercise. Ideally these dogs need to run for at least an hour or more per day in a large enough space that allows them to really get up to speed and keep going. They also tend to much more excitable and also very affectionate, highly interested in their families but often very aloof and stand-offish with strangers. This sometimes is misunderstood as these dogs being timid and non-affectionate, which really is completely opposite of their temperament.
The sight hounds also may be somewhat challenging to train as they are very attuned to owner's tone of voice and body language. If they are harshly corrected or corrected incorrectly, they may become confused and simply refuse to follow any commands as if they were fearful of doing the wrong thing. Timid dogs are typically dogs that have been abused, however with sight hounds even harsh correction can be seen by the dog as a cause for highly submissive behavior.
Some sight hounds may be challenging to housetrain and will need to be kept on a leash to prevent them from running off after anything they see as prey. These dogs can also be very submissive around other dogs and may have difficulty in adjusting to homes with highly dominant breeds.
The Scent Hounds
The scent hounds are the breeds that are more commonly associated with the hound group, especially in North America. The most common scent hound breeds are the Bloodhounds, Basset Hounds, Dachshund, Beagle, Black and Tan Coonhound and the Otterhound. There are also some less well known scent hounds such as the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. The two foxhounds are also predominantly scent hounds although they also use sight to a much lesser degree.
The scent hounds have been bred less for speed and agility and more for stamina and strength. Often the scent hound breeds come from European countries where the forested areas were dense and required a dog that had the ability to maneuver through heavy often very prickly undergrowth. Hounds that predominantly use scent tend to be very focused dogs, often able to concentrate on the scent to the exclusion of everything else. While a highly desirable trait when tracking, it is also a potential challenge for owners and those that are trying to train a scent hound for the first time.
As with the sight hounds, the scent hounds have natural instincts that really don't need any training in order to have the dog use his or her natural talents. Most scent hounds will start tracking on their own, at least to some degree, even as very young puppies. They have incredible noses and a strong problem solving ability that seems to come very naturally as well.
The scent hounds also need a lot of exercise, however they don't need the wide open spaces to run that the sight hounds do. They are great walking, hiking and jogging companions and do need at least 30 minutes of intense exercise per day in order to be happy and prevent rambunctious and problematic behavior.
Scent hounds, perhaps more than sight hounds, tend to be great family pets. They have unlimited patience with children and generally all will adjust well to other animals in the family. The scent hounds are more dominant in personality and some can be rather independent, however like sight hounds they are very bonded with their families. Most scent hounds are relatively easy to train but they will need to be kept on a leash to prevent them from heading out on a scent and simply ignoring the owner's calls to return.