Ain’t Nothin Like a Hound Dog

I’ve had the distinct privilege of knowing six hound dogs in my lifetime. Four of them lived in my home during my childhood or in my adulthood.

Sandy, a docile female Beagle, was my first dog, adopted by my childhood family when I was five years old. The runt, she was the only one left of Sooner and Pepsi’s litter. Her coloring was sub-standard, but that hardly mattered to me. I loved her, named her, cuddled her, miss her. She lived to the age of thirteen.

Sandy was a malleable, good-natured Beagle. Not overly affectionate, I only remember her licking me once and that was after she nipped at me. Her guilt was evident, and I readily forgave her. I don’t even think I told me parents because it was inconsequential. Her mellow howl was sounded at the doorbell or when people passed by our house. But, other than that, I remember her being a quiet girl. Her only faults were disliking service men in jeans and bolting when off leash. I’m not certain why she disliked men in jeans, but I know Beagles tend to be runners. So, we made sure we kept her tethered. She would have been a good mama as she defended my sister against a neighborhood bully once. Good thing she was tethered in that instance!

Sandy listened well and told no secrets. She was the kind of dog little girls long to keep close forever.

Pogo was our family’s second dog. But, she was my first cognizant puppy experience, and I only knew her well in her first two years. Pogo was a runty, Basset Hound female that my mom purchased from a pet store. She was a tri-color like Sandy. But, unlike Sandy, I wouldn’t describe her as docile. I also learned that Basset Hounds are not as lazy as they look. Notice her name? Pogo is short for pogo stick.

Somewhere between two and ten, she had sufficiently mellowed. Yet, not before she made an indelible mark…on the laundry room wall where she chewed through the drywall and on the Berber carpet, which she unraveled when her became bored with her bone.

Basset Hounds are considered a medium breed dog, but their low center of gravity and heavy body structure makes their 40 to 60 pounds feel like much more. Their long bodies allow them to mount counter-tops for stealing bacon and sandwiches. Their duck-like waddle–thanks to their short legs and boxy feet–give them a distinct advantage when walking. They can put on the brakes and become almost immovable. They also whip their cone-shaped heads at the sign of a passing rabbit, squirrel, or swirling leaf, which can make a person nearly dislocate a shoulder if not prepared. A harness or gentle leader and basic obedience are essential. Basset Hounds are great family pets as long as quality training and playful attention are included.

Buddy was a pedigree, tri-color Beagle my husband and I purchased after our first year of marriage. My husband grew up with a male Beagle, so we felt confident in our breed of choice.

Buddy was a true hunter and tracker. He could get a rabbit into a dizzying circle. He caught two squirrels, and one met its demise. After getting away as a puppy, he tracked his way home. Not only that, he got way while staying at a friends’ house and found his way back to their house.

Buddy was truly our first baby. Which means we had a bit of a first child on our hands. He got our undivided attention for the first three years of his life. He was independent, but he was easy-going. After we had our first son, he adjusted well. He was good with other dogs, too. But, he did go after bacon that was in my second son’s mouth. Just a warning–even a dog you know well can cause a scar.

Which brings me to Buster, our rescue Beagle we acquired when he was ten months. Actually, I think he was a Beagle-Basset mix. We were his third owners. Which meant he was a basket case.

The short story is that, after basic training, neighbor complaints and police visits about the barking, several seizures, biting incidences at and away from home, and a consultation with a dog psychologist, we had him euthanized at the age of four. As his third owners, I know we did everything we could do for him. I just wish we had known him first.

The unfortunate part of my hound dog experience is that one dog busted it for more experiences. I’ve since gotten to know my brother’s Basset Hound, and I’ve appreciated my friends’ Beagles. Because of my two wonderful experiences with Sandy and Buddy, hound dogs–especially Beagles–will always hold a special place in my heart. But, I don’t think I would personally own another dog from this grouping.

Here are a few points of parting advice for adopting any breed, but especially a hound dog, whether from a breeder, pet store, or rescue organization.

  • Acclimate to the breed through research and, if possible, interaction. Understanding any breed before an adoption is key. Find a breeder who welcomes visitors before adoptions. Read up on the breed. We have a suitably dog-eared copy of Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds that I would highly recommend. The AKC (American Kennel Club) website also has excellent information about breed standards.
  • Assess your family personalities and dynamics as well as your reasons for wanting a dog. 
    • Are you willing to put time into training and into providing interaction for your puppy or dog? Hounds need at least basic obedience training and stimulating playtime.
    • Do you want a dog that follows you and comes to you for attention? If so, a hound dog might not be the best breed for you. But, if you want one that is “affectionate enough,” then you are making a good choice. Hound breeds vary in degrees on the affection scale. For example, Beagles may be slightly more affectionate than Basset Hounds by breed standards.
    • Do you want a dog that is good with children? In general, well-bred and well-socialized hounds make good family pets. But, as you will notice, even my best Beagles nipped at least once. Socialization with humans and animals is important for any puppy or dog.
    • If you live in an area of prevalent small game hunting (rabbit, squirrel, etc.), a Beagle (or similar breed) is an excellent choice. A Basset Hound doesn’t have the energy for a long hunt, but will unearth a rabbit nest in short order. If hunting isn’t your passion, understand that it may be for your hound dog. Expect to find proud puppy presenting you with a prize from time to time.
  • Acquire the essentials for owning a hound dog.
    • Microchipping: Remember these hound dogs tend to be runners. Buddy was a rarity in his self-return.
    • Bark Collar: Hounds bay…a lot.
    • Gentle Leader or Harness for walking
    • A leather leash for walking
    • A retractable leash for training
    • Treats…lots of treats…for training
    • Interactive, problem-solving toys
    • Crate: For potty-training and for when you are away. This is essential for Pogo-type pooches who get in trouble when bored.
  • Adopt a hound dog from a reputable breeder and meet the parents. My two best experiences were Sandy and Buddy, both from reputable breeders. Sandy had a long, healthy life. Although Buddy died when he was eight from hepatitis, he was a smart, adaptable dog.
  • Avoid puppy mills and research each individual puppy/dog. Be sure you know as much about your puppy’s or dog’s origins as possible. Puppy mill dogs can be harder to train, which means training a puppy mill hound is even more difficult. Is the rescue puppy/dog a stray? He or she is probably a runner! Ask lots of questions, especially if you are adopting from a pet store or a rescue organization.
  • Attend–at least–basic training with any hound dog. The independence–a.k.a. stubbornness–of this grouping means the training will take a bit longer. But, there won’t be regrets in doing it. Only regrets if it isn’t done.

All you want is a cute puppy or dog? Then, there ain’t nothin’ like a hound dog!

Sandy and Me circa 1977