ALL DOG BREED PROFILES

Basset Hound

Basset Hound
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The basset hound is a dog breed that was made for hunting small game, such as rabbits. They are still used for this purpose in many parts of the United States, but when he’s not chasing bunnies, he can be seen lying on the couch, being a couch potato. He’s known to be great with kids, and his lovably amusing face will make anyone smile.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHighest
Exercise NeedsAbove Average

Dog Breed Group:Hounds
Height:Generally fourteen inches at the shoulder
Weight:Fifty to sixty-five pounds
Life Span:10 to 12 years

The basset hound may be known as the hush puppy dog, but there is much more to the breed than being an advertising icon. He has a very placid personality with a noble appearance that speaks of the age of the breed. His short legs may make him seem small, but there is much more to him than his short stature. He is quite popular as a family companion, but he can be a bit slow-placed, so jogs and runs aren’t ideal for him.

The name of the breed originated from the French word “bas” which means low, and this dog is certainly quite low to the ground. Their bones are quite heavy and muscular, making them weigh a lot heavier than they look. The only reason for their short legs is a type of dwarfism called achondroplasia, so he still acts like a big dog.

They are known as scent hounds, so they track prey by putting their noses to the ground. Their keen sense of smell is only second to the bloodhound. That means you should be wary of any food that falls onto the ground or between the cushions of your couch, because your basset hound will do anything to get to it before you do. This isn’t the only feature that is call back to his hunting origin.  Their low, dragging ears help to pick up additional scents and direct them towards his nose, while the loose skin around their heads serves to further catch any scent that they are tracking. Their short legs make it easier for hunters to follow them. Their white-tipped tails stand erect, so that they can even be seen in tall grass, and hunters won’t lose sight of them.

When they’re not outside sniffing about, they are calm and sometimes lazy within the home. They are loyal to their family and have a friendly disposition to strangers. They were originally bred to be pack dogs, so they do quite well around people and other pets. They shouldn’t be left at home for extended periods of time, as this can make them destructive and howl extensively.

They’re known for being quite hearty eaters, which makes them prone to obesity if their food intake is not carefully watched. This excess weight on the dog’s body shape can lead to back and leg problems, so exercise is a must in order to keep the extra weight off. Thankfully, they have a lot of endurance, so they do enjoy taking long walks. However, he does love to track, so once he picks up on a scent, he will want to follow it. It’s a good idea not to walk them off-leash, as he will wander off to find the source of the smell. They are single-minded when it comes to scents, and will most likely ignore you when you call them. These tracking instincts can be put to good use by getting him involved in dog sporting events, such as basseting, tracking, hunt tests, and field trials. The basset hound can be somewhat stubborn, however, so training does require a lot of patience. They will definitely obey commands when they are offered food, but may not in the future without a treat being offered.

Because of this stubbornness, house training can also prove to be difficult. Having a crate and using positive methods will help him to learn. Be consistent and refrain from using rough treatment, as this can cause the basset hound to shut down.

They have very unique voices, and are known to bay instead of bark. It’s a unique way of communicating that is often found in hounds. They also have a murmuring whine that they use when they want attention, especially when the family is eating. The basset hound isn’t against begging for food, and will use his sad eyes to try to win your over so you’ll drop a tasty morsel on the ground.

Main Highlights
  • Like the majority of hounds, they can be quite stubborn and difficult to train.
  • Once a basset hound catches a scent, there is almost nothing that will stop him, even if he has the best recall skills. He will follow it to the end, regardless of any danger that may be posing to him. He should be kept on a leash at all times when he is outside.
  • During obedience training, gentleness and patience are best, as they don’t respond well to harsh techniques.
  • Basset hounds are known for their drooling. Due to the loose skin around their mouths, then tend to make a big mess when they drink water.
  • They’re also known for their flatulence. A change of diet can help to reduce this problem.
  • Basset hounds tend to become obese, as they love to eat. Given the opportunity, he will overeat, but this can lead to joint and back problems because of his shape.
  • They’re often prone to bloat, so it’s better to feed two to three small meals a day, rather than one large one. Don’t allow him to exercise too strenuously after his meal.
  • The length of his ears requires that they be checked and cleaned each week in order to prevent infections. The ear flaps needs to be washed more often, as they pick up dirt quite easily.
  • They have a reputation for being loud howlers, especially if they’ve been left at home for long periods of time.
  • Despite his size and short legs, the basset hound is incredibly strong and agile. He should be discouraged from jumping off stairs or out of the car, however, as this can lead to injury.
  • As puppies, they can suffer from joint pains as they grow. They should not be allowed to overdo things when they play, and they should be discouraged from trying to jump onto furniture.
  • They’re not great swimmers, as they are very front heavy. This makes him prone to drowning, so be sure that he doesn’t fall into any swimming pools or bodies of water.
Breed History

The breed originated in France, and is descended from the Saint Hubert Hound, the ancestor of the bloodhound. It was created when there was a mutation in the strain and brought about this short-legged breed. They were kept as curiosities, and then were bred on purpose in order to track rabbits under thick brush. They became quite popular among the French aristocracy, and became good hunting dogs after the French Revolution. Since they had no horses, they needed a dog that could be tracked on foot, and the basset hound made that possible. They were in Britain by the mid-19th Century, but they were still relatively unknown among the populace. Their popularity only really picked up when the Princess of Wales, Alexandra, kept basset hounds in the royal kennels. The breed was accepted into the Kennel Club in 1882, and weren’t brought to American until the early 20th Century. It wasn’t until 1916 that the breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club.

It was in 1928 that changed the reputation of the basset hound, as Time Magazine featured one on the cover and ran a story from the point of view of a basset hound puppy. The charm of the breed was soon discovered and he started to grow in popularity. He was used in advertising campaigns, such as for Hush Puppy shoes and the Fred Basset comic.

Size

Basset hounds are usually no more than fourteen inches at the shoulder, and can weigh anywhere from fifty to sixty-five pounds. They are considered large dogs with extremely short legs, as they’re not very easy to lift. This should definitely be taken into account when considering one, especially if your home has a lot of stairs. Getting your dog to and from the vet in your car can be a little more of a hassle than you originally realized.

Personality and Character

The basset hound is extremely laid back, to the point that he is rarely ever regarded as sharp-tempered. He gets along with almost everyone, and the only thing that ever gets him excited is a good scent. Though he is quite calm indoors, he remains alert, making him an excellent watchdog. He can be stubborn when it comes to training, and responds best when positive methods and treats are used.

Health and Potential Problems

Basset hounds are generally quite healthy, but they are prone to certain health conditions. Not all dogs will contract these diseases, but being aware of them is important before you consider bringing one of these dogs into your life.

  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus: also called bloat or gastric torsion. This is a life-threatening condition that can affect deep-chested dogs like Basset Hounds, especially if they are fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, drink large volumes of water after eating, and exercise vigorously after eating. Some think that raised feeding dishes and the type of food might also be factors in bloat. It is more common among older dogs, but can occur at any age. GDV occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists (torsion). The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid itself of the excess air in its stomach, and the normal return of blood to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die. Suspect bloat if your dog has a distended abdomen, is drooling excessively and retching without throwing up. He also may be restless, depressed, lethargic, and weak with a rapid heart rate. It’s important to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. There is some indication that a tendency toward GDV is inherited, so it’s recommended that dogs who develop this condition should be neutered or spayed.
  • Von Willebrand’s Disease: this is a hereditary disorder that can cause mild to moderately severe bleeding and a prolonged bleeding time.
  • Panosteitis: this is an elusive ailment that is sometimes seen in young Basset Hounds. Its primary sign is sudden lameness and puppies usually outgrow it by the age of two years with no long-term problems. The lameness can be slight or severe. Many vets are not aware of this problem in Basset Hounds and may misdiagnose it as elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, or even more serious disorders. If misdiagnosed, the vet may want to do surgery on your dog that isn’t needed. If signs occur, ask for a second opinion from an orthopedic specialist before allowing surgery to be performed.
  • Glaucoma: basset Hounds are prone to glaucoma, a condition in which pressure builds up inside the eye. It can lead to blindness if not detected and treated early. If you notice your Basset Hound squinting, tearing, or rubbing at his eyes, or if the eye or eyes appear to be red or bulging, take him to the vet immediately for a checkup. Glaucoma can cause damage to the retina and optic nerve in a matter of hours, so a trip to the emergency room can definitely be warranted.
  • Allergies: these are a common ailment in dogs. Allergies to certain foods are identified and treated by eliminating certain foods from the dog’s diet until the culprit is discovered. Contact allergies are caused by a reaction to something that touches the dog, such as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos, or other chemicals. They are treated by identifying and removing the cause of the allergy. Inhalant allergies are caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, and mildew. The appropriate medication for inhalant allergies depends on the severity of the allergy. Ear infections are a common side effect of inhalant allergies.
  • Patellar Luxation: also known as “slipped stifles,” this is a common problem in small dogs. It is caused when the patella is not properly lined up. This causes lameness in the leg or an abnormal gait, sort of like a skip or a hop. It is a condition that is present at birth although the actual misalignment or luxation does not always occur until much later. The rubbing caused by patellar luxation can lead to arthritis, a degenerative joint disease. There are four grades of patellar luxation, ranging from grade I, an occasional luxation causing temporary lameness in the joint, to grade IV, in which the turning of the tibia is severe and the patella cannot be realigned manually. This gives the dog a bowlegged appearance. Severe grades of patellar luxation may require surgical repair.
  • Thrombopathia: this is another blood platelet disorder that is sometimes found in Basset Hounds. Like von Willebrand’s, thrombopathia affects the ability of the blood to clot.
  • Eyelid and Eyelash Problems: bassets are prone to ectropion (a turning out of the eyelids), resulting in a dry cornea, and entropion (a turning in of the eyelids), causing lashes to dig into the surface of the eye. Your vet should be able to determine if your Basset has either of these problems and can correct the problem surgically if needed.
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease: basset hounds are especially prone to having back problems. This may be due to genetics, moving the wrong way, or falling or jumping on or off furniture. Signs of a back problem include an inability to raise up on the rear legs, paralysis, and sometimes loss of bowel and bladder control. It’s important to always support your Basset Hound’s back and rear when holding him. If a problem occurs, treatment may consist of anything from crate confinement with anti-inflammatory medications to surgery to remove the discs that are causing the problem or even confining the dog to a doggie wheelchair. Some owners have found that they can help ward off problems by taking their Basset Hounds to chiropractors that have experience in working with dogs.
  • Ear Infections: because the Basset’s long ears don’t allow sufficient circulation of air to the inside of the ear, infections can develop. Ward them off by cleaning your Basset’s ears every week and taking him to the vet if his ears smell bad or seem inflamed.
  • Obesity: this is a serious problem for long-backed breeds like Bassets. Although your Basset Hound is likely to be a “chow hound” and look at you pleadingly for more, find out how much you should feed him to maintain a healthy weight and stick to it for his own good.
  • Hip Dysplasia: hip dysplasia occurs commonly in Basset Hounds. Many factors, including genetics, environment, and diet, are thought to contribute to this deformity of the hip joint. Affected Bassets may be able to lead normal, healthy lives, but some might require surgery to get around easily. This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. If you’re buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems. Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can also be triggered by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors.
  • Cherry Eye: this is a condition in which the gland beneath the third eyelid protrudes and looks rather like a cherry in the corner of the eye. Your vet may need to remove the gland.
Care Features

Basset hounds are known for being usually calm dogs, so they do quite well in small homes and apartments. They should live indoors with their family, with some access to a fenced yard. They don’t do very well living outside in extreme hot and cold temperatures.

While indoors, they’re mostly inactive and are content to lie in the sun all day. They will enjoy long walks if they’re leashed, so he’s not a dog that you have to force to go outside. Providing him with exercise will stop him from being a couch potato and gaining unnecessary weight.

While they are puppies, discourage them from trying to jump onto furniture or using stairs. This can put a tremendous strain on their legs and back, and can lead to injury. Invest in a ramp to help him get around to where he needs to go. It’s best to help him in and out of the car, as he’s not a very good jumper.

They should be treated with kindness, as they have sensitive dispositions. He can be quite independent, so positive reinforcements are necessary to get your dog to do what you want. They are prone to developing selective hearing when it suits them, especially if there is something more exciting for them to pay attention to.

Feeding Schedule

Basset hounds should get roughly 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups of food a day, with treats being minimal. They have a tendency to overeat, so it’s very important that you watch his food intake on a daily basis.

Coat, Color and Grooming

Basset hounds are known for their smooth and short hair that is good at repelling dirt and water. It is quite dense, so it provides him with a lot of protection through all kinds of weather. The skin itself is loose and quite elastic, so he has a droopy look to his face and back. The most common colors for the coat are tri-color (tan, black and white), black and white, brown and white, or red and white.

They don’t require a lot of grooming, except for cleaning the ears, wrinkles of the face, and wiping up their drool. They rarely ever need baths unless they’ve rolled in something recently, and even then, the bathing process is simple. They do shed all year round, but a weekly brush with a bristle brush takes care of this quite easily.

Their ears tend to get dirtier than the rest of their body. Ear infections are a frequent problem if they aren’t checked on a regular basis. Air doesn’t circulate very well in them, so they can become quite warm and moist. They should be cleaned at least once a week with a special solution you can get from your vet. The face wrinkles can be cleaned with a damp cloth and should then be thoroughly dried.

As always, the teeth should be brushed on a regular basis or dental chews should be provided, and the nails should be trimmed at least once a month if they aren’t being worn out on their own.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

Basset hounds are quite fond of children, and get along very well with them. You should exercise supervision, however, as there is a tendency for children to try and ride him, and treat him a little too roughly.

Given that they are pack dogs, they get along well with other dogs that live in the home. They also get along quite well with cats if they are introduced at an early age.

Though the basset hound was originally bred to be a hunting dog, you won’t find a more laid back companion when you’re spending time at home. He’ll lie in your lap and suck up all the attention you have to give him, but he’s ready at a moment’s notice to go outside and get some playtime in. His baying may be a problem at first, but with some gentle and consistent training, he can learn when it’s appropriate to speak. His constantly sad expression certainly hides this breed’s playful and fun-loving nature.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Daniella Roberts

    My sister is getting a female Basset Hound and am pretty sure she’ll have a grand time with her dog. I was reading through the article and they are quite similar to Beagles, aren’t they? I wonder if my sister is better of with a Beagle? Any ideas?

  • Betty Roster

    Will my friend be better off with a standard Schnauzer, a Basset or a wire-haired dachshund? She’s getting married soon and would love to hear the pros and cons of each breed. They’re moving in the city in a house with a medium-sized backyard and fenced.
    Plus, they would want to start a family real soon. They’ll love to have 3 children at least.

    • If these three are her main options, my vote goes with the Basset Hound. Basset Hound is the one with the mildest temperament of them all, plus it is the breed that is more compatible with children.

  • Samantha Grey

    Has anyone here have a Basset? My younger sister is thinking of getting one this year. She’s a couch potato who loves cooking and playing the electric guitar. Is this breed a good match for her?

    • It may not look like it, but Basset Hounds need significant amount of exercise. This can be a problem if the pet parent is not that active or is willing to do some walking every single day.

  • They are indeed quite similar to each other in terms of trainability, level of shedding, and grooming requirements. However, Beagles may have a higher exercise requirement compared to the Basset Hound.

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