dog training, dog behavior, dog health
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Centuries of Instinct and Enhanced Senses

by Kay King ( )


Perhaps no group of dogs has contributed more to idioms in the English language than the Hound Group. 

"stop hounding me" 
"he ain't nothin' but a hound dog" 

More often read in novels than heard in speech is "hangdog expression" which refers to the often sad-looking expression of hound dogs.
Bred to hunt mammals, hound dogs are various breeds with similar characteristics: droopy ears, short coats and often a deep bark called a "bay" that can be heard over long distances.   All hounds have in common a highly developed sense of smell and it is the characteristic of magnified "senses" that set this group apart from other dogs.  That said, other characteristics of hound breeds have little in common as a group.  Hounds may be lazy or excitable, require extensive exercise or be lumps on the rug; some love to run full out while others prefer nothing faster than a slow trot.
Hounds are not the Einsteins of the dog world.  Their strength is in the ability to fully focus on their senses and to act accordingly.  This is not to say these are stupid dogs - because they are very smart in their own unique way.   Scent hounds are often cunning in detecting location of prey while Sighthounds are at a slightly lower intelligence level.  Sighthounds can be trained to follow a lure around a track again and again or through changes in direction - without anticipating the next location and thinking up a shortcut that will help catch the lure.   This lower intelligence simply means more repetition is required to train the dogs and response to learned commands will not be as reliable as with very smart breeds of animals.  On the plus side, this is the same trait that makes many of these breeds calm and undemanding as pets.   As any dog owner will tell you - the smarter the dog, the more trouble he can find to get into!
There are two distinct types of hounds - Scent Hounds and Sighthounds - as well as two much smaller recognized types: 

Scent Hounds:  Follow their prey by tracking the scent.  These breeds are not fast runners but are bred for endurance. 

Sighthounds:  Keep prey in sight and will catch and kill game on their own;  bred for speed and keen eyesight.

Aboriginal Hounds:  Use all senses - sight, hearing and scent.  Not as fast as Sighthounds or as good at tracking as Scent Hounds; combine good speed and endurance.  This small group is rare, but it is commonly accepted that Afghan Hounds are in the Aboriginal sub-group.

"Other" Hounds:  Track prey using sight and scent combined but not as good at either as the sight or scent hounds.  This sub-group is not defined by breed and often may be a hybrid of two breeds...yet still classed as "hound dog".
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