Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Deerhound
Average Cost to keep/care for a Deerhound
The Deerhound is a large, harsh coated dog that is often described as being tall, graceful and very hairy. They are related to the Greyhound and originate from north of the border in Scotland where they were often referred to as the 'Royal Dog of Scotland' because at one point in history they were only allowed to be owned by the nobility. Sadly, the breed is currently one of the native dogs that has been placed on the vulnerable native breed list although they are magnificent characters that are ideally suited to life in the country and make wonderful family pets. However, because of their very large size, sharing a home with a Deerhound is on the expensive side not only on the food front, but insuring one of them cost so much more too.
The actual origins of the Deerhound remain a bit of a mystery, although it is thought by many that the Phoenicians first introduced similar hounds to Scotland when they arrived on these shores to trade. The large and elegant dogs they brought with them were used for thousands of years to hunt large game in the Scottish Highlands which included red deer. There is some belief that the original hounds did not fare that well in the harsh conditions thanks to their shorter and lighter coats so they were bred to native dogs that boasted heavier and courser ones with an end goal being to produce a hardier hunting dog. The result was the Deerhound we know today.
With the advent of the gun, hunting changed and dogs were no longer needed so by the 1700's the number of Deerhounds was on the decline. However, enthusiasts of these large and elegant dogs still kept them on larger estates, Queen Victoria owned a pack of Deerhounds. But it was not until the mid-1830's that the breed became popular again with two brothers by the name of Archibald and Duncan McNeill saving the breed in the 1800s when they started a breeding programme. During World War II, like many breeds, once again the number of dogs declined. It was very difficult to feed the large dogs, and many were destroyed.
Today, the Deerhound is still very rarely seen both here in the UK and elsewhere in the world with their numbers remaining low. As such these beautiful dogs have been placed on the native breed vulnerable list by The Kennel Club.
Height at the withers: Males 76 cm, Females 71 cm
Average weight: Males 45.5 kg, Females 36.5 kg
A Deerhound is a very large, yet extremely elegant dog that boasts a long, rough coat very reminiscent of that of a rough coated Greyhound. These hounds may be very large, but they are gentle giants and have lovely large heads which are especially broad at a dog's ears. Their muzzles taper to their nose and dogs have nice level lips. Their heads are long with the top of it being rather flat with dogs having a slight rise over their eyes rather than a stop, and are covered in longish hair which is a lot softer than on the rest of their bodies. Noses are black in colour and slightly aquiline in shape. Dogs have a nice moustache made up of silky hair and they also have a slight beard.
A Deerhound's eyes are quite full and dark in colour which can either be hazel or dark brown. These dogs always have soft look in their eyes when they are relaxed, but when alert this changes to a very keen expression. Their ears are set high and when relaxed a dog holds them folded back. When excited or alert, they hold their ears raised but the fold remains. Ears are covered in glossy hair and they are soft to the touch. They can be either a dark colour or black. The Deerhound has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.
Necks are extremely strong with dogs boasting a long reach although this can often be hidden by a dog's mane. Their nape is quite prominent but there is no throatiness around their necks. Shoulders are well laid back and set not too far apart. Front legs are straight and broad. A Deerhound's body is very much like that of a Greyhound only a lot larger and with a lot more bone. Their chest is deep and loins are well arched before dropping down to a dog's tail.
Hindquarters are broad, and fall away with dogs boasting powerful with hips that are set well apart. Back legs are well bent at the stifle. Their feet are compact being well knuckled and Deerhounds boast having very strong nails. Tails are long and thicker at the root before they taper to the tip. Dogs carry their tails straight down or slightly curved when relaxed, but when alert or moving, they carry them curved higher. Tails are well covered in hair on the upper side it is wiry and thick while underneath, the hair is longer.
When it comes to their coat, the Deerhound boasts a shaggy, thick, close-lying coat that's rather ragged in appearance and crisp to the touch. The hair on a dog's body, their neck and their quarters is wiry and harsh whereas on their heads, breasts and bellies the hair is a lot softer to the touch. Deerhounds have a slightly hairy fringe on the inside of their front and back legs. Accepted breed colours include the following:
The Deerhound is a quiet, dignified and gentle dog that boasts a friendly and laid back approach to life. They are among the breeds that seem to have an affinity with children and there is nothing they like more than to be in a loving, family environment. Given their large size, they can have a tendency to be clumsy, especially when they are still youngsters. They are not the best choice for first time owners simply because they need to be with people who have a deep understanding of the breed and what it takes to look after and care for such a large hound.
They are, however, a great choice for people who are familiar with this type of dog who live in the country and who would be able to dedicate the time it takes to exercise and look after them. They are known to be intelligent and they are always eager and willing to please, but their socialisation, training and education has to start early for them to mature into well-rounded and obedient dogs.
Like so many other hound breeds, the Deerhound is a sensitive character by nature and as such they do not respond well to any sort of harsh correction or heavy handed training methods. With this said, they answer very well to positive reinforcement which has to involve them being trained with a firm, fair and gentle hand.
In the right hands Deerhounds are quick to learn new things and will always try to do what is asked of them. They are intelligent, obedient characters that like to please. However, early socialisation is a must with these large dogs which means introducing them to as many new situations, people, animals and other dogs as soon as they have been fully vaccinated. Their training has to start early, it has to be consistent and always fair throughout their lives because Deerhounds are never happier than when they know who they can look to for guidance and direction.
Despite their large size, the Deerhound is known to be a real gentle giant and this includes when they are around children. With this said, they may well accidentally knock a child over because they are known to be a little clumsy which is especially true when they are going through the adolescent stage of their lives. As such any interaction between toddlers and these large dogs has to be supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous which could end up with someone getting hurt or frightened.
With early socialisation, Deerhounds can live with other dogs, even given their hunting heritage, but caution should always be observed if they are to live with smaller pets, especially cats because their instincts might get the better of them with disastrous results.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Deerhound is between 8 and 9 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The Deerhound is known to known to be a healthy breed and one that does not appear to suffer from the many hereditary and congenital disorders that seem to plague other pure breeds. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Deerhounds need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
The Deerhound's coat is harsh and wiry which means it needs to be brushed on a regular basis to prevent any matts or tangles from forming. They do not which means their coats should also be hand stripped at least twice a year and this is best left up to a professional groomer.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Deerhounds need to be given a ton of exercise on a daily basis and ideally this has to be a minimum of 2 hours. A shorter walk in the morning would be okay, but a much longer and more interesting one in the afternoon is a must to keep these dogs happy and healthy. They also benefit from being allowed to roam around a back garden as often as they can, but the fencing has to be very secure to keep these dogs in. However, they are definitely not the sort of dog that would adapt well to life in the city, whereas they thrive in a country environment.
With this said, young Deerhound puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives. They should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs because this puts too much pressure on their still growing joints and limbs.
If you get a Deerhound puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Because Deerhounds are prone to suffer from bloat, it is really important that they be fed twice a day instead of giving them just one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand to place their feed bowl which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down low to reach their food. You should never feed a Deerhound just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more a risk of suffering from bloat.
If you are looking to buy a Deerhound you may have to go on a waiting list because not many puppies are registered with The Kennel Club every year and you would need to pay upwards of £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Deerhound in northern England would be £71.75 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £130.13 a month (quote as of May 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £60 - £70 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Deerhound and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £2000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Deerhound would be between £140 to £210 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.
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