The history of the English Foxhound can be traced back through an organization known as the British Masters of Foxhounds Association, which was originally developed in Great Britain in the early 1800's. This group, comprised mostly of dedicated fox hunters, kept records of the various hunting packs, mostly owned by the wealthy royalty of the time, including breeding records and statistical information.
The English Foxhound was developed from several breeds of dogs and was designed to produce a dog that had strong hunting and pack instincts, a good ability to scent, as well as an ability to keep ahead of mounted hunters. The breeds used in the early development of the breed included the English Greyhound, valued for its speed and endurance, the Fox Terrier, known for bravery and determination on the hunt as well as the much larger and heavier Bulldog. The Bulldog contributed both strength and size to the two leaner and lighter boned breeds, resulting in a stockier, very athletic hunting companion.
In early breeding programs the English Foxhounds hunted in packs, with the only basic training required was to stay with the pack and to stay on the trail of the fox or other game on the hunt. They were bred for the hunt, not for any type of obedience work, temperament or specific breed standard. Of course there were some qualifications required, especially when it came to temperament and physical ability. Dogs that were aggressive or too timid to run with the pack were not retained for breeding, nor were dogs that were slow or had any physical health issues.
The result was an amazingly strong, high stamina dog that was solely focused on the trail of the prey animal. They were kept in kennels in large packs, not traditionally in the home as a companion pet. Rarely if ever would the Foxhounds have sustained human interaction except for on the hunt, resulting in dogs that preferred the company of dogs over that of human companions.
The modern English Foxhound still has some of this type of inherited temperament which must be considered when training. As with many of the hound dog group, there are actually two different lines of English Foxhounds, the show and the field lines. Field lines are typical hunters, true pack dogs that are more excitable, higher strung and often more demanding in the area of training than the show lines.
Show lines of English Foxhounds have been bred with stronger emphasis on meeting the breed standards as opposed to hunting ability. These dogs still have a strong hunting and pack instinct, but they are more content to be companion dogs and single dogs within a household. Individuals that are considering an English Foxhound and don't want to hunt with the dog may wish to consider only dogs from show lines to make training easier and less challenging.
The English Foxhound can run beside or in front of a group of mounted riders for several hours, so these dogs need to have some type of high intensity daily exercise before they can engage in training routines. Ideally a home with one or more people that love to jog on a daily basis is the best match for the breed if the dog is to be kept in the city. They are not a good match for an apartment and typically do not adjust to confined or penned up options for lifestyles. Most breeders recommend a country type of home where the dogs can have room to run while still enclosed in safe, secure fences. When not provided with significant amounts of daily time active outdoors per day these dogs can become very destructive.
Training needs to start with the very basics of obedience. The puppy should be rewarded each and every time he or she responds to a command. This reward can be small amounts of food combined with petting and praise, but it has to be more rewarding than following a scent or simply doing their own thing. Repetition with training routines needs to occur over a longer period of time, but not all at once in each training block. In other words it is important to practice the sit command several times a day at different times and places, not all at once in the same ten minute training block. The English Foxhound is excellent with children and kids should be included in early training to establish that they are also leaders in the family with the dog.
Exercise the dog prior to starting any type of training, especially if they have been on their own for the day. Leaving the English Foxhound outside in a fenced yard can provide good activity as these dogs will self-exercise outside. Include exercise and play in training routines in the form of games and even agility types of training routines. Once these dogs understand what you want they will be eager to please and will work to make you happy.
Leash or lead training the English Foxhound is a big priority for most owners. This breed, as with any scent hound, has to be leashed when off the property as they will ignore commands to return once they get on a scent. They are also notoriously bad at pulling on the lead and need to be taught to heel using consistent, positive methods. Many trainers recommend starting the puppy or young dog with a halti or head halter type device in addition to the collar. This allows safe correction and cueing of the dog without putting any strain on the throat and neck if the dog pulls or runs while on the leash.
As a true pack dog the English Foxhound typically is highly social from birth and will get along well with most dogs. Early socialization will help reinforce this behavior and prevent issues from developing as the dog gets older. When trained to hunt with a pack the English Foxhound can adjust to being with the dog pack during the day and being a family dog when not hunting. With this strong pack instinct they often do best with at least one other companion canine at home, however they will also accept cats as part of their pack.