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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
The American Foxhound is rarely thought of as a companion dog, but he can be a best friend to a person or family who loves hounds and wants a buddy to run, bicycle, or walk with on a regular basis.
American Foxhounds do four different types of work. Some Foxhounds run in field trials. Slow-trailing hounds with good voices are used by hunters with guns. Drag hounds follow an artificial scent. Packs kept by hunt clubs follow the fox as an exercise in houndsmanship and horsemanship.
The Foxhound is one of the oldest of American breeds but also one of the least known. He’s found most frequently on the Atlantic Seaboard or Southern United States, usually as a member of a pack owned by a foxhunting club. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering making one of these handsome hounds a member of your family.
A Foxhound is sweet and affectionate, but he’s also highly energetic. This is a dog bred to run full throttle over hill and dale, hot on the heels of a fox. Expect to provide him with lots of daily activity. A bored
Foxhound with energy to burn will create his own entertainment, and you probably won’t like it. He’s also noisy, with a loud bay that carries long distances. It’s not a good idea to keep him in an urban environment.
Be sure to walk or run him on leash unless you’re in an enclosed or traffic-free area. Otherwise, he’ll take off when he finds a good scent, going at a pace that you won’t be able to match. He’ll also need a securely fenced yard to ensure that he doesn’t go off hunting on his own. An underground electronic fence does not qualify as secure or effective for this breed. The desire to follow a scent will overrule any fear of a brief shock.
The typical Foxhound is gentle and friendly, especially with children. Toward strangers, his temperament varies, ranging from reserved to protective. If he’s raised with them, he gets along fine with
cats and other small critters, but use common sense. Don’t leave them together unsupervised unless you’re sure that they really are best buds. Being a pack animal, the Foxhound is fond of canine company and is best suited to a home where he won’t be the only dog.
The Foxhound is smart and stubborn, but if you begin training early and show him what you want, he is willing to learn. Positive reinforcement, particularly with food rewards, is the way to win his heart and mind. Working with a trainer in an obedience class will help you learn how to establish your leadership in a firm but fair way that the Foxhound will respect and respond to. You’ll need to put in additional effort if you’ve adopted an older Foxhound or one who is used to living in a pack rather than a home.
While you might think of him as an outdoor
dog, nothing could be farther from the truth. Foxhounds love their people, especially children, and will pine without human companionship. They should certainly have access to a securely fenced yard, but when the family is home, the Foxhound should be with them.
Foxhounds have short, easy-care coats and need only a weekly brushing or wipedown. The only other grooming they require is regular nail trimming and tooth brushing. Check the ears weekly and clean them as needed to prevent ear infections.
Remember that the American Foxhound is an uncommon breed. You may have to wait six months or more for the right puppy to be available, so start your search well in advance of the time you would like to have a dog.
list of breeders can be found on the website of the
American Foxhound Club. Choose a breeder who has agreed to be bound by the club's Code of Ethics, which prohibits its members from selling puppies to pet stores and outlines the responsibilities of its member breeders to the dogs they produce and the people who buy them. You can find the Code of Ethics on the website as part of the membership application.
Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Since a Foxhound can live to be 15 years old, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.
The earliest known hounds were brought to America by Robert Brooke in 1650. The descendants of those hounds played a role in the formation of several strains of American hounds. Other instances of early importation of hounds from England or France to America include Robert Walker in 1742 and George Washington in 1770, as well as in 1785, when he was given some French hounds by the Marquis de Lafayette. Washington was a great houndsman and once described his dogs’ voices as sounding like “the bells of Moscow.”
The importation of hounds from England, Ireland and France continued into the 19th century, by the Gloucester Foxhunting Club and the Baltimore Hunt Club among others. The Irish hounds that arrived in1830 became the ancestors of some famous strains of hounds: the Henry-Birdsong and Trigg lines. One of the most well known of the 19th-century American Foxhounds was a dog named Tennessee Lead.
The American Kennel Club recognized the American Foxhound in 1886. Because of his rare and specialized job, the American Foxhound is little seen as a companion dog and ranks 166th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
Besides foxes, American Foxhounds have been used to hunt deer and coyotes.
The American Foxhound is friendly with his family and other dogs. He has a kind and intelligent nature that makes him a good family dog, even with young children. Many a toddler has steadied himself by hanging onto the family Foxhound. With strangers, though, some American Foxhounds are wary or even downright aggressive.
A Foxhound should never be left to live alone with little human or canine companionship. The American Foxhound’s bell-like voice carries for miles, and you and your neighbors will hear it if you leave him alone to get bored. You will also find out just how much destruction a bored Foxhound can do.
American Foxhounds who are brought up with other pets such as
cats, small dogs or guinea pigs can learn to get along with them just fine. Dogs that are adopted from pack situations may have more of an adjustment to make and should not be left unsupervised with smaller animals that look like prey.
American Foxhounds have stamina to spare and are capable of running for miles. Be prepared to give one plenty of daily exercise. If you live in a rural area, he can run with the kids as they ride their horses or bicycles or go on long hikes with you. If you live in the city, he’ll be a great jogging companion. It’s best to keep him on leash or in a securely fenced yard unless you’re in a traffic-free area.
American Foxhounds are responsive and willing to learn. Take the time to show them what you want, and reward them with praise or treats when you’re pleased with them. Like all hounds, though, the
Foxhound is ruled by his nose and can be stubborn in his attempts to follow a scent, find food or otherwise get his own way.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and
parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from an English Foxhound, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
That said, American Foxhounds are a pretty healthy breed.
Hip dysplasia and ear infections are seen occasionally, but not frequently enough to be considered a concern. Other conditions include a platelet disorder called thrombocytopathy, and a white blood cell disorder called Pelger-Huet anomaly.
The American Foxhound’s short, dense coat is easy to groom. Brush it weekly with a hound mitt or rubber curry brush to remove dead hairs and distribute skin oils. The dogs shed moderately, and regular brushing will help prevent loose hairs from settling on your floors, furniture and clothing. Bathe the dog as needed.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails every few weeks. Keep the rounded hanging ears clean and dry so bacterial and yeast infections don’t take hold. Brush the teeth for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as is possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than in making big bucks. Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. He or she is most interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life. Look for more information about the American Foxhound and start your search for a good breeder by contacting members of the
American Foxhound Club.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical and should be reported to the AFC and the American Kennel Club. You should also remember that buying a puppy from one of those “instant pet” websites leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Many reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of an American Foxhound puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult American Foxhound might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult dog, you know exactly what you’re getting in terms of personality and health. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog instead of a puppy, ask breeders about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for an American Foxhound in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the American Foxhounds available on Petfinder across the country).
AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for an American Foxhound. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a
dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other American Foxhound rescues in your area. Most people who love American Foxhoounds love all American
Foxhounds. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The
American Foxhound Club’s Rescue Network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other American Foxhoound rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring an American Foxhound home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your American Foxhound, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an
Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the
dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your American Foxhound to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot any problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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