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Ron Willbie, Animal Photography
Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
The noble Scottish Deerhound is a giant breed who loves to run and equally loves spending time with his owner. Deerhound puppies will take you on a wild ride before they reach a gentle and laidback adulthood. The rough coat is pretty easy to groom, but it sheds moderately. Don’t expect this breed to be a watchdog.
Scottish Deerhound GCH Foxcliffe Hickory Wind made history in 2011 by becoming the first of her breed to win Best in Show at Westminster.
He's tall, he's noble, he has a wild and kingly look in his eye. You're sure he's pondering memories of ancient Highland hunts over the misty moors. Then he eats your iPhone.
The Scottish Deerhound is indeed a noble beast, but he's also a bit of a joker. At home in castle or condo, he's quiet and calm in the house as an adult. But new Deerhound owners need to realize that he can wreak considerable havoc as a puppy and adolescent, given his high spirits and great size, not to mention a desire for activity that seems as if it will never end.
The Deerhound has two great joys in life: running after things for great distances at enormous speed, and lying next to you on the sofa, head in lap, great dark eyes gazing into yours with equal parts love and laughter. If you can provide him with both those things, then you face a bright future together.
If you can't, however – if your idea of lots of exercise is a trip around the block and your idea of spending time with your dog is an absent-minded pat on the head when you get home from work – then this is not the dog for you. Deerhounds are extremely attached to their human family members and are miserable, bored, and destructive if left alone too long and too often.
Like his cousin the Greyhound, an adult Scottish Deerhound is perfectly happy with much less exercise than he needed in his younger years. He never gets over the desire for human company, though. That's a deep and inalterable part of his nature – as is chasing things, so even if a Deerhound in his senior years is happy with a trot around the block a couple of times a day, that walk will still need to be on a leash. Few Deerhounds are "too old" to chase a deer, a squirrel, or a neighborhood cat. A large yard with a solid fence — never an underground electronic fence — is essential for this swift and impetuous dog.
Deerhounds tend to be very good with children who are polite to them, but they are not “playmate” kind of dogs, and their large size can make them somewhat hazardous in the presence of toddlers. Never let your Deerhound develop a habit of jumping on people, no matter how cute it is when he's a puppy. An adult Deerhound stands more than six feet tall on his hind legs, and even if all he’s trying to do is plaster your face with kisses, that's a lot of dog – especially for someone just meeting him.
Dogs like the Deerhound were known as far back as the 16th century. In his book “Of Englishe Dogges,” Johannes Caius wrote of Greyhounds that “Some are of the greater sorte, some of a lesser; some are smoothe skynned and some curled, the bigger therefore are appointed to hunt the bigger beastes, the buck, the hart, the doe.”
Known even then as Deerhounds, used to pursue and bring down the great Highland stag, they were highly valued. A lord convicted of a capital offense could purchase his life with a leash of Deerhounds. And it was only lords who could own Deerhounds, not only for reasons of exclusivity but also because peasants couldn’t afford to feed such large dogs. But with the disappearance of large game and the destruction of the Scottish clan system after the failed invasion of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the population of Deerhounds dwindled to a dangerously low level by 1769. In 1825, Archibald and Duncan McNeill undertook the restoration of the breed and saved it from extinction, but never in its history has it been numerous and that remains true today.
A few people still hunt with Deerhounds, either singly or in pairs. In the United States, it’s illegal to hunt deer or other antlered game with dogs, but Deerhounds are used on coyotes and rabbits and sometimes wolves.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Deerhound in 1886. It ranks 141st among the breeds registered by the AKC
It may be that we love — or envy — Deerhounds because they live the life we would all like to have: They do what they want, when they want, pleasing only themselves. If they please you in the process, that’s good, but it is certainly not something the Deerhound planned or even cares about.
That’s not to say that Deerhounds don’t love their people. They are affectionate and have a strong desire for human companionship, meaning they don’t do well in homes where they are left alone much of the time. But being with people and actually doing what they want are two very different things. You shouldn’t expect the latter.
Sir Walter Scott’s Deerhound Maida may well have been “The most perfect creature of Heaven,” but adolescent Deerhounds fall far short of that standard. They require lots of daily exercise not only because they are an active breed in general but also to build and maintain muscle (it’s hard work supporting that giant body). By the way, check with your vet before beginning strenous exercise with your dog, especially when he's still young. That said, dogwalkers who specialize in taking dogs running or hiking rejoice when a busy person acquires a Deerhound. When they aren’t running for the sheer joy of it or chasing down a squirrel or rabbit in the back 40 (you do have an acreage where your Deerhound can run in safety, don’t you?), they are eating the remote control to your massage chair, eating the cable for the GPS collar you bought for them, or eating their fourth Kindle.
It is after adolescence, when they are two or three years old, that Deerhounds become the quiet, dignified dogs they are always said to be. They remain alert throughout their lives, but only to what interests them, making them a poor choice for anyone in hope of a watchdog.
Deerhounds are described as tractable and easy to train. That is true if you can figure out what motivates them to learn. They may only do something if they can see what’s in it for them — and even then only if they feel like it. Hit upon the right offerings of food, squeaky or furry toys, or the chance to run off leash and combine them with short training sessions that don’t involve a lot of repetition — Deerhounds get bored easily — and you’re good to go. They can even do well in competition. Deerhounds have earned Utility-level titles in obedience trials.
The Deerhound may seem indolent, but he has a passion for the outdoors. The opportunity to go for a run or hike will always excite his interest, but (after adolescence) he doesn’t demand it. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to give him daily exercise. It’s important for both his physical and mental health.
A Deerhound’s other great interest is food. Yours, not his. He may rouse himself when you are eating to investigate what’s on your plate in the hope of getting some for himself. If you are so foolish as to leave a roast cooling on the counter with a Deerhound in the house, it won’t be there when you return.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 8 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Never wait until he is six 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. These experiences as a young dog will help him grow into a sensible, calm adult dog.
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 Scottish Deerhound, 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.
For a giant breed, Scottish Deerhounds are reasonably healthy, but they can suffer from certain health problems, including a higher incidence of some forms of cancer, heart disease, bone problems, hypothyroidism, and a liver condition called portosystemic shunt.
Scottish Deerhounds suffer from a higher rate of bone cancer (osteosarcoma) compared with some other breeds. It usually occurs in one of their legs. While bone cancer is almost always fatal, if it is diagnosed early enough some dogs can do well (for a while) after the affected leg has been amputated, so don't let human prejudices about amputation close your mind to the possibility.
Scottish Deerhounds can develop a type of heart disease known as cardiomyopathy. This condition affects the heart muscle's ability to contract. It can also cause an enlarged heart, and arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm). Regular heart exams are a good way to catch this condition early, and no dog with cardiomyopathy should ever be bred. Nor should any Deerhound be bred without a comprehensive heart examination by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist and OFA certification in the previous year. The sad reality, however, is that a dog who tests fine one day can develop heart disease the next, and the puppy of two parents without heart disease can still develop it.
Like the Greyhound, Scottish Deerhounds may have an abnormal response to certain anesthetic drugs, or to the stress of hospitalization. If you are concerned about an upcoming procedure involving anesthesia, discuss it with your veterinarian.
Scottish Deerhounds can be plagued by bone problems, including panosteitis (a painful condition in puppies and growing dogs), hypertrophic osteodystrophy, and osteochondrosis. If your dog is limping, in pain, stiff, or reluctant to get up or move around, contact your veterinarian.
Scottish Deerhounds (mostly males) can also suffer from cystinuria, a genetic kidney defect that leads to the formation of bladder stones. Cystine stones are very difficult to manage with diet or medication and often require surgery both to remove the stones from the bladder and to relieve urinary blockages. There may be no advance signs that the dog is forming cystine stones, and urinary blockage is a life-threatening veterinary emergency. So if your dog exhibits any unusual urination, including straining, contact your veterinarian right away.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it can be hard 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 these defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
The Scottish Deerhound Club of America participates in the Canine Health Information Center, a health database. Before individual Deerhounds can be issued a CHIC number, breeders must submit a heart evaluation that includes an echocardiogram from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and test results for blood diseases that occur in the breed. Optional, but a plus, is a test for liver function.
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.
The very best breeders will also have OFA certification of thyroid health and the results of at least one normal urine test for cystinuria, done by the University of Pennsylvania. All breeders should be able to show written documentation that those tests have been done.
Don't fall for a bad breeder's lies. If the breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those tests because she's never had problems in her lines, her dogs have been "vet checked," or any of the other excuses bad breeders have for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away immediately.
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 Deerhound visit to the vet is for a genetic problem. Broken toes or legs are common injuries. And Scottish Deerhounds are more likely than many breeds to bloat, a condition in which the stomach distends with gas and can twist on itself (called gastric torsion), cutting off blood flow. Bloat and torsion strikes very 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, lip licking, trying unsuccessfully to vomit, and signs of pain. Bloat requires immediate veterinary intervention, and surgery is necessary in many cases. Unfortunately, dogs that have bloated can bloat again, so most veterinarians offer a procedure known as gastropexy or "stomach tacking," which anchors the stomach to the body wall to help keep it 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 Deerhound 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.
The Deerhound’s harsh coat is usually easy to care for, but some Deerhounds have a silkier, longer coat that can become quite tangled. Usually, though, all he needs is a good brushing with a pin brush or slicker brush two or three times a week. Give the coat a going over with a stainless steel Greyhound comb to make sure you didn’t miss any tangles and to comb out the hair on the face (known as furnishings) and you’re done. Only a few baths a year, when the dog is dirty, are necessary.
The rest is basic care. Trim his nails as needed, usually once every week or two, and keep his ears clean and dry. Check the ears weekly for dirt, redness or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle pH-balanced ear cleaner recommended by your veterinarian.
Good dental hygiene is also important. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath. Introduce your Deerhound to grooming early in life so that he learns to accept it willingly and patiently.
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 a great way to find 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 more 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 Scottish Deerhound and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Scottish Deerhound Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the SDCA’s guidelines for responsible ownership, which prohibit the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and call for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them.
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.
Lots of 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 Scottish Deerhound 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 Scottish Deerhound 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 Scottish Deerhound 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 Scottish Deerhounds 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 a Scottish Deerhound. 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. Most people who love Scottish Deerhounds love all Scottish Deerhounds. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Scottish Deerhound Club of America’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 Scottish Deerhound 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 Deerhound 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 dog. 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 Scottish Deerhound, 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 Scottish Deerhound 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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