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Deciding to buy or adopt a hound is a great option for many families. Hounds in general are loving, affectionate and very loyal dogs that are good as watch dogs, but definitely not good as guard dogs. Some hound breeds, more specifically the Rhodesian Ridgeback, is a great watch dog and will naturally be more protective than is typically seen with the other hound breeds. In general the sight hounds will bark, but are a bit more timid or leery of strangers and tend to be non-threatening in their presentation. Some of the very large breeds of sight hounds such as the Scottish Deerhound or Irish Wolfhound may be intimidating simply because of their height, but still these gentle giants rarely show any type of aggression towards humans
Along with being typically non-aggressive, most hounds have a relatively low dominance factor and some are typically very submissive. The sight hounds tend to be less dominant and far more submissive than the scent hounds, but each dog will have his or her own personality as well. Generally both the dominant and submissive temperaments make excellent dogs in the family since they do have a strong pack instinct. The dog simple extends the pack to include the family, however the family must, in turn, be able to be firm, consistent and gentle leaders for the dog to feel truly comfortable, secure and relaxed.
Leadership for the humans in the family starts with lots of interaction with the hound puppies or dogs. These dogs really do thrive on attention, however they must learn boundaries and that the humans are in control of the situation. The only method of training that works for these dogs is positive reinforcement. Negative or harsh types of punishment will only result in a cowed, highly submissive dog that is afraid of people and challenges. Ignoring the dog or puppy that is doing the incorrect thing and rewarding for positives is the best way to complete training. Training also has to be very consistent and all members of the household should be using the same commands and training protocol to prevent confusion for the dog.
Puppies in the hound group need to be carefully monitored as they grow. This is particularly true of both the very large and the very short breeds within the group. Larger dogs need time for their joints and bones to form and should be restricted from strenuous physical activity until they are at least a year old. While they can run and play, they should not be intensively trained for lure coursing or long extended hunts. Stressing the body of the developing puppies will result in arthritis, joint malformation and possible early onset of hip dysplasia in the larger breeds. Longer, shorter breeds such as the Dachshund and the Basset Hound along with the Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen need to be managed to prevent jumping up or down that can damage the developing spine. They should also be managed for weight gain as excessive weight will put additional pressure on the spine and can lead to paralysis and hind quarter movement problems.
All hound puppies and dogs need lots of routine exercise. While most are fairly adaptable to living indoors and even apartments, they do need to be outdoors as much as possible. No hound breed should be left outdoors without a secure fence. These dogs will roam for miles if they get on a scent or start chasing another animal. Their love of running, especially with the sight hounds, often leads to dog simply taking off if they are left outside without a secure yard. Some of the hounds, especially the medium sized Pharaoh and Ibizan Hounds can jump up to 5 feet and easily clear most typical back yard fences. Ensuring that the proper fence is in place before the dog arrives is very important. In addition it is never recommended that hounds of any type be off-leash outside of the yard for the very same reason. Of course owners that have completely trained their dogs to heel and respond off-leash don't have the same worry, but this training can be challenging and requires lots of practice and patience to completely be able to trust the hound.
Hounds seem to adjust very well to both children and pets in the home. Like any dog they do need routine socialization and raising the dog from a puppy in a home with other pets and children is always the best option. Some hounds may have a higher prey drive and not all ever completely break the habit of the chase, so working consistently with the sight hounds with cats and other pets is essential. Sight hounds are not recommended for families with rabbits or other small rodents as this is specifically the prey they have been bred for centuries to chase. Some sight hounds may also be prone to chasing poultry and may not be a good match for this type of farm environment. Typically the scent hounds are less prone to chasing, however this is a very general type of statement and each dog is definitely different.
Larger hounds may be rather rambunctious as puppies and therefore need to be supervised with younger children. Nervous or more high strung dogs may also have difficulty in adjusting to sudden noises and movements of very young children, so knowing the breed traits and level of comfort with small children is important. Typically the scent hounds are very suited to small children and they seem to have unlimited patience with kids. Children should be encouraged to work with the dogs under the parent or obedience trainer in order to understand how to be a good, responsible leader for the dog.
Hounds as a group may be slightly challenging to housetrain, however some such as the Basenji will almost house train themselves. Crate training or simply staying on a feeding and exercise schedule as well as routine trips outside to the toilet area is also an effective way to housetrain. Hound puppies, especially the scent hounds, may be prone to drooling, however most owners just see this as one of the many characteristics of the breed.
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