"Keeping scenthounds happy

"Keeping scenthounds happy

Life As A Pet Parent

A large part of the role of taking care of your dog involves properly understanding what they need to thrive, and making provision for and allowances for their natural needs, traits and personalities. This will of course vary from dog to dog, and even two closely related dogs of the same breed will have their differences! However, all dogs regardless of their breed or pedigree status can be loosely grouped into a “type,” with other dogs that share similar traits and have similar basic needs.

These types are based around the basic personality and hereditary traits of the dogs within the grouping, which can be linked together due to sharing a common history in their traditional roles alongside of people, and what they were born and bred to do, or naturally evolved into as a result of the environment that they lived in.

In this article, we will look at the traits that make up the scenthound, and what scenthounds need in terms of their care requirements to be healthy and happy.

What is a scenthound?

Scenthounds are dogs that use their highly developed sense of smell to seek out and pursue quarry, be this either small animals that they are hunting for food or within a working role, or the trail of scent left behind that they have homed in on to follow. While all dogs have a very sensitive sense of smell that is much more developed than that of people, scenthounds are at the top of the ladder in terms of their sense of smell compared to other dogs. Not only do scenthounds have a greatly elevated sense of smell, but also the tenacity and persistence to put it to work chasing down their quarry!

An example of some scenthound breeds:

  • Bloodhound
  • Beagle
  • Basset Griffon
  • Foxhound
  • Dachshund
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Harrier
  • Hungarian Hound
  • Coonhound

...and many others!

How to tell if your dog is a scenthound

Your dog does not necessarily need to be a pedigree or purebred dog to be classed as a scenthound! Many mixed breed dogs with unknown parentage, and all dogs that share some part of their ancestry with one of the recognised scenthound breeds will share some of the scenthound traits, and may have a natural propensity for using their noses to seek out their targets!

Scenthounds have a real love of the outdoors, and will constantly have their noses to the ground, seeking out scents. They are easy to encourage to pursue a scent, and will do this with literally dogged determination, sometimes whether you want them to or not!

Scenthounds also have bags of stamina and endurance, and can pursue something that is interesting to them for hours at a time. Unlike sighthounds, they are not built for short bursts of high energy and speed, but with good energy reserves to keep their noses to the trail for the long haul.

Scenthounds generally have short coats, and long drooping ears.

Exercise requirements for scenthounds

Scenthounds require provision to be made for significant amounts of time outdoors, and a couple of short supervised walks per day will not prove sufficient. Long walks at a steady pace over wide ranging terrain are ideal for keeping the scenthound occupied, but they are also equally happy to entertain themselves outdoors if you are able to make provision for them to do so, letting them stretch their legs and keep their minds engaged without quite so much legwork required by yourself.

Scenthounds very much enjoy sports and pursuits such as drag hunting, or hiding scented clothing or their favourite toys around the place for them to seek out in what can sometimes prove to be challenging and complicated games! You can even raise the bar somewhat and make things harder for your dog by doubling back to confuse the scent path, using scented sprays and other objects to throw your dog off the trail, and adding diversions and obstacles to test out your dog’s tenacity and problem-solving ability! If you enjoy games of hide and seek and treasure hunting, life with a scenthound will be ideal for you!

Feeding scenthounds

Scenthounds are always keen to be fed, and will sometimes use their superior noses to find delicious (and disgusting!) treats for themselves when out and about. Feeding little and often is the best way to go about fulfilling your scenthound’s nutritional requirements, and feeding a nutritionally complete balanced diet that provides for slow release energy is ideal. Steer clear of foods that are high in sugar or carbohydrates, as these provide short spikes of energy that will leave your dog flagging later on in the day.

You can even turn feeding times into a game, hiding your dog’s next meal in a safe place within the home or garden for you scenthound to seek out!

Bonding and communication with scenthounds

Scenthounds are used to working in packs with other dogs, and are generally incredibly social and love the company of other canines. Scenthounds also enjoy being kept in pairs or small groups, and require a little more attention and time spent with their owners if this is not the case. Training the scenthound can be time consuming, and as they tend to be fairly stubborn dogs that have a one track mind where scenting is concerned, training can prove a challenge for the first time keeper.

Scenthounds are generally very social with people as well as dogs, and are not renowned for being distrustful or wary of strangers. They have open, friendly personalities and are generally keen to meet newcomers, although they do bond strongly with their main carers too. Scenthounds can fairly be classed as independent dogs, and while they do of course require adequate care, lots of attention, plenty of walks and mental stimulation, they are also good at entertaining themselves and are not among the most clingy and demanding of dogs.

Scenthounds tend to be very vocal, and will often speak, bay or howl to signify the presence of a scent or trail that interests them. It is worth trying to introduce a training command for “shush,” but how effective this proves to be will vary from dog to dog!

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