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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
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If all you know of the Bloodhound is that he's the baying dog on the trail of the criminal in movies, you might be afraid of him, but these hounds are sweet and lovable. They’re also stubborn and require a deft hand at training.
The name “Bloodhound” does not come from this dog’s ability to track game and people, but from a long history of carefully recorded blood lines. In other words, he is a “blooded” hound -- a kind of dog aristocracy, if you will.
With his sunken eyes, deeply furrowed face and loose jowls, the Bloodhound resembles a person in dire need of a facelift. The sad-eyed appearance is misleading, however. This is an affectionate dog with a sense of humor and a strong character, traits balanced by a reserved and sensitive nature. He takes his name from his long lineage as a “blooded” hound, one kept by aristocrats for centuries and prized for his ability to trail game and people. Today he is renowned for his man-trailing ability and under certain circumstances his “testimony” is accepted in court.
When it comes to living with a Bloodhound, the house-proud need not apply. Noble he may be, but the Bloodhound is also big -- weighing from 80 to 115 pounds -- and odorous. His capacity for producing drool is matched by few other breeds, and when he shakes his massive head, slobber goes flying: onto walls, furniture and clothing. In accordance with Murphy’s Law, this is most likely to occur just after you have finished cleaning your home or have just gotten dressed for a night on the town.
While you might think of him as an outdoor dog, nothing could be farther from the truth. Bloodhounds 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 Bloodhound should be with them.
Bloodhounds have short, easy-care coats in
black and tan, liver and tan, or red and need only a weekly brushing or wipe down. That’s where the easy part stops. The wrinkles must be cleaned daily and kept dry to prevent infection. Be prepared to wash the face thoroughly after every meal and wipe the mouth after your Bloodhound drinks water—before he shakes his head and slings water and drool everywhere.
Be aware as well that the Bloodhound has what can best be described as a musty odor. You can’t wash it away or disguise it, so be prepared to live with it and love it.
Dogs like the Bloodhound have been in existence for centuries, used by noblemen to track game in the ritual of the hunt. The dogs take their name from the care taken in recording their ancestry, or bloodlines, so they were “blooded” hounds. Today’s Bloodhound descends from the St. Hubert hound, created in eighth century France to follow difficult trails in search of treacherous game such as wild boar. William the Conqueror brought St. Hubert hounds with him when he conquered England in 1066, and it was there that the Bloodhound eventually blossomed, some 800 years later.
The Victorians were famous for creating
dog breeds as we know them today — previously there had been no breed standards and rarely any record keeping of bloodlines. The rise of dog shows and a widespread interest in the keeping of fine or rare animals helped to save many breeds from extinction. The Bloodhound was one of them. His ability as a mantrailer, and the patronage of Queen Victoria, herself a noted dog lover, saved him from fading into oblivion. Mantrailing with Bloodhounds became a popular leisure activity, and it didn’t take long before the police recognized the Bloodhound’s usefulness in tracking down criminals.
These days, the Bloodhound is still a favored member of many law enforcement teams. His testimony is even accepted in court.
The Bloodhound is calm by nature, but by no means lazy. Forget that image of the sleepy hound on the front porch. This is a working dog capable of trailing a scent for hours or even days.
Life with a Bloodhound puppy can best be described as bedlam. Bloodhounds are master chewers and can easily destroy walls, doors and furniture if left unchecked. They will also eat anything in the hope that it is food: rocks, socks, toys, plastic wrap, kitchen towels, batteries, cell phones — the list could go on and on. It’s not unusual for this breed to require multiple veterinary visits or even surgeries to deal with intestinal blockages. Constant supervision and a good crate are essential to raising a Bloodhound puppy.
A bored Bloodhound with energy to burn will create his own entertainment. He’s a champion hole digger and can remodel your lawn in no time flat. Given the slightest opportunity, he will escape your yard to follow an intriguing scent and wander for miles before realizing that home is nowhere to be found. He’s not able to backtrack, so it’s best to prevent breakouts by enclosing your yard as thoroughly as if it were Alcatraz or Fort Knox.
The Bloodhound is renowned for his gentle nature, but beneath that placid exterior lies a tough, stubborn, independent hound. Training a Bloodhound requires skill, cunning and what some might call bribery. Positive reinforcement, particularly with food rewards, is the way to win a Bloodhound’s heart and mind. Force, on the other hand, will get you nowhere. When it is employed, the Bloodhound will simply don the mantle of passive resistance and refuse to do anything. For best results, begin training your Bloodhound when he is young and still somewhat malleable.
To fulfill the Bloodhound’s need to work, channel his amazing scenting ability with long, slow walks or hikes, permitting him to sniff out and explore trails. If possible, teach him to mantrail -- he’s born to it, after all -- and get involved in your local search and rescue organization. If nothing else, teach him to play hide and seek around your house. His skills will come in handy when you lose things.
When you walk your Bloodhound, he must be on leash; otherwise, he’ll take off when he finds a good scent, going at a pace that you won’t be able to match. Bloodhounds have no street sense and will follow a trail into traffic or onto train tracks. Pulling is second nature to this very strong dog, so good leash manners are essential. Start teaching them as soon as you bring your puppy home, and work with a trainer to ensure that the lessons take.
The perfect Bloodhound doesn’t come ready-made from the breeder. Any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging, countersurfing and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained or unsupervised. And any dog can be a trial to live with during adolescence. In the case of the Bloodhound, the “teen” years can start at nine months and continue until the dog is about two years old.
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.
The perfect Bloodhound doesn’t spring fully formed from the whelping box. He’s a product of his background and breeding. Whatever you want from a Bloodhound, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All 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.
In Bloodhounds, the most serious and potentially expensive
health problems are hip and
elbow dysplasia, malformations of hips and elbows. Eye conditions such as entropion (the eyelids roll inward), ectropion (the eyelids roll outward) and keratoconjuntivitis sicca, also known as dry eye, are potential concerns. Another health problem that may affect the Bloodhound is
hypothyroidism, a common hormonal disease in dogs in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroxin.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it is impossible to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for common defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
The American Bloodhound Club participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Bloodhound to achieve
CHIC certification, he must have
OFA certification for hips and elbows and an OFA cardiac test. Additional certifications that are recommended but not required are OFA for patellas (knees), a PennHIP score for hips, and Canine Eye Registry Foundation certification for intraocular disorders, including persistent pupillary membranes and cataracts.
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease, but all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents. If the breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those tests because she's never had problems in her lines and her dogs have been "vet checked," then you should go find a breeder who is more rigorous about genetic testing.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the
dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Not every Bloodhound visit to the veterinarian is for a genetic problem. Bloodhounds are often sensitive to fleas and grass and can develop allergies that lead to skin and ear problems. Speaking of ears, those long, droopy ears are particularly prone to ear infections if they aren’t kept clean and dry. And being active outdoors, Bloodhounds often sustain injuries in the field such as cuts, lacerations, foot injuries or broken bones.
Bloodhounds are also more likely than many breeds to bloat, a condition in which the stomach expands with air. This can become a more serious condition, called gastric torsion, if the stomach then twists on itself, cutting off blood flow. Gastric torsion strikes suddenly, and a dog who was fine one minute can be dead a few hours later. Watch for symptoms like restlessness and pacing, drooling, pale gums and lip licking, trying to throw up but without bringing anything up, and signs of pain. Gastric torsion requires immediate veterinary surgery, and most dogs who have bloated once will bloat again. That means it’s wise to opt for the procedure known as "stomach tacking," which will keep the stomach from twisting in the future. This procedure can also be done as a preventive measure.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Bloodhound at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
Bloodhounds have short, easy-care coats in
black and tan, liver and tan, or red and need only a weekly brushing or wipe down. That’s where the easy part stops. The wrinkles must be cleaned regularly and kept dry to prevent infection.Be prepared to wash your Bloodhound’s face thoroughly after every meal and wipe his mouth after he drinks water — and before he shakes his head and slings water and drool everywhere.
Use a rubber hound glove to brush the Bloodhound’s short coat, remove dead hair and distribute skin oils. You can brush the dog daily or weekly, depending on your tolerance for finding dog hair around the house.
Bloodhounds shed seasonally, in the spring and fall. A tool called a shedding blade can come in handy during that time to help remove the excess hair.
Bloodhounds typically don’t need baths very often if they are brushed regularly. They have a distinctive odor that most people either love or loathe. If you’re a loather, don’t think you can bathe the smell away. It’s an inherent part of the dog and is something you must live with if you want a Bloodhound.
Cleaning the facial wrinkles is part of grooming a Bloodhound. Depending on the individual dog, wrinkles may need to be cleaned a couple of times a week or every day. Wipe out the crud from the wrinkles with a soft, damp cloth or a baby wipe, then dry them thoroughly. If moisture is left behind, wrinkles become the perfect petri dish for bacterial growth.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every few weeks, and brush the teeth for overall good health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are somethings 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.
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.
Start your search for a good breeder at the website of the American Bloodhound Club, and locate a breeder who has agreed to abide by its code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to take back any dog during its life if the owner is unable to keep him. Choose a breeder who is not only willing but insists on being a resource in helping you train and care for your new dog.
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. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it 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 a Bloodhound 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. Expect to pay in the vicinity of $1,200 for a puppy from parents with health clearances and CHIC numbers. 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 Bloodhound 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, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
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
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Bloodhound 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 Bloodhounds available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org 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 a Bloodhound. 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 Bloodhound rescues in your area. Most people who love Bloodhounds love all Bloodhounds. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The American Bloodhound 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 Bloodhound 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 a Bloodhound 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 Bloodhound, 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 Bloodhound to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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