The gloomy-looking Basset Hound proves that looks can be deceiving – most are in fact cheerful little souls, always in a good mood! A Basset hurtling along with its floppy ears flying is bound to bring a smile to every animal lover’s face in no time. Read on to find out everything you need to know about this short-legged hunting breed, which nowadays makes a loyal companion to a great number of families.
Long ears, short legs
With a maximum height of 38cm and a weight of around 35kg, the Basset Hound is a relatively bulky dog on unusually short legs – or, as the experts say, a “short-legged hound of considerable substance”. Key characteristics include the large, trailing ears and exceptionally long back. It is the crossing of bloodhounds that has led to the characteristic head, loose skin and continuous look of misery. The short coat is smooth and dense rather than fine and is usually in two or three colours, a combination of black, white and brown. Other colours of these running dogs are allowed by breeding standards.
British breed with French ancestry
The word “bas” in French means “low”, which is where these low-hanging Basset Hounds, got their name, as they have been popular for centuries in France and Belgium. The modern-day Basset Hound is descended from a French breed, the Basset d’Artois, which has now been absorbed into the Basset Artésien Normand breed. In 1863, the breed name “Basset Hound” was first mentioned at a dog show in Paris. Shortly afterwards, the breed spread into England where they gained their characteristic appearance, after being crossed with beagles and later with bloodhounds. This breed was then officially recognised by the British Kennel Club in 1880. During the Second World War, the number of Basset Hounds in Europe drastically declined, leaving just a few specimens of the breed once the war was over. A breeder in Great Britain, Peggy Keevil, refreshed the gene pool using French Basset Artésien Normand dogs, having a great influence on breeding in Europe. It was only in 1957 that the first litter of Basset Hounds in Germany were born and it was during the 1970s that these droopy-eared dogs reached the climax of their popularity. They quickly became regarded as fashionable dogs to have, particularly in Germany, Great Britain and the USA. This was not necessarily an advantage to the breed, as it was soon bred to unhealthy extremes in terms of its floppy ears and long back. During this time, one of the most famous Basset Hounds made its first appearance: “Dog”, the well-loved pet of US detective Columbo, who sat beside the popular and somewhat quirky investigator as he solved his trickiest cases.
Hunter turned family dog
Just one glance at this dog’s stubby little legs lets you know that it is no speedy runner. However, the Basset Hound is an excellent hunter, originally used for hunting hares and rabbits in hard-to-reach warrens. As a bloodhound, its job was to track down the game, using its perseverance and exceptionally good nose, which allows tracking old scents as well as new. For decades, this dog has been becoming an increasingly popular family dog. However, this popularity has also led to problems such as over-breeding. The Basset Hound has been bred to exaggerate its loose skin and short legs, which have now reached an unhealthy extreme that brings further health issues and effectively ends this dog’s ability to be used as a hunt dog.
Character: cheerful nature with family values
This breed is generally considered to be friendly and good-natured, affectionate and with a love of children that makes it the ideal family pet. However, do not underestimate the weight of these little dogs, as a child could be seriously shaken if it is caught up in the enthusiasm of a play fight. Even cats can expect to lead a generally peaceful life alongside the Basset Hound. It is never aggressive or fearful, meeting strangers and other dogs calmly. Nevertheless, the postman can expect to be met with a protective front if the Basset thinks its family or home may be at risk, acting tough but not attacking. The Basset Hound does not like to be left alone for long periods of time, being much happier at the centre of its human family. Displays of affection from this dog are rare, so think yourself lucky if you find yourself on the receiving end of a loving nudge from a wet nose. While many Basset Hounds have already adapted to their new role as a family dog, some still retain their distinctive hunt drive, which must be looked out for on walks. As with most hunting dogs, the Basset has been bred for independence and displays plenty of self-esteem as well as occasional stubbornness.
Health: things to avoid
As with the Dachshund and other long-backed dogs, the Basset Hound is at risk of back-related problems such as slipped discs and even paralysis. This is why stairs should be avoided at all costs! The long-hanging ears can also cause health issues, in particular chronic ear infections. When choosing where to get your puppy, it is sensible to ensure the breeder does not aim for extremes in terms of the back and ears, as this sort of irresponsible breeding makes your dog naturally prone to health problems. You should also pay close attention to your Basset’s weight, as it has a tendency to pile on the pounds. Ensure you are feeding it a balanced, high-quality diet and providing it with plenty of exercise. This breed loves to get comfortable, so you shouldn’t let it become a couch potato!
The Basset Hound is not a great lover of the heat, so during summer months save longer walks for early morning or late evening. Top tip: during these hotter days, cool your Basset down by dipping its ears in cold water! Even in the middle of winter there are limits for this short-legged dog – long snowy walks should definitely be avoided, as your Basset will be at risk of frostbite in the genital area and trailing ears. A healthy, well cared-for Basset Hound has a life expectancy of around 12 years.
Care: a daily clean under the ears
The Basset coat is fairly easy to clean, only needing to brushed every few days with a soft brush to get rid of any loose hairs. The long ears and the droopy eyes peering out through loose skin, however, require considerably more attention. They should be checked and cleaned on a regular basis, as they are prone to inflammation. Lift the ears daily and clean them out whenever necessary, as parasites and dirt can get caught under the long ears and cause friction and irritation to the skin. These floppy ears are very poorly ventilated in comparison to standing ears, creating a warm, moist climate that encourages inflammation in this sensitive skin. Get your dog used to these ear checks when it is a puppy, turning it into a comfortable ritual that can build a bond between the two of you. Clean the outer ears gently with a cotton wool or cleaning pad – cotton buds should not be used for canine ears! The inner ear can then be cleaned using a special ear cleaner from any good pet store. If the skin is irritated due to rubbing, try applying a skin-neutral cream. Be sure to ask your vet for any advice before doing this for the first time.
Consistent, patient training
Ensure you are consistent and firm when training your Basset Hound, to prevent it from becoming even more stubborn. Cruelty and force have no place in puppy training. Instead, focus on creating a certain margin of tolerance that your dog is aware of, so that in the long term it can grow into a self-assured dog. It would much rather be playing and exploring than learning obedience, so try to make its training fun for both owner and dog. Look for a puppy training school before getting your Basset, and be sure to choose one with experience of training these stubborn little bundles of fun! As well as showing your Basset plenty of love and affection as a result of good work, there is one key point to bear in mind – patience, patience and more patience!
A hunter’s nose never rests
Many people take one look at the Basset’s short legs and assume it requires very little exercise. However, these former hunting dogs love a good long walk and need plenty of activity – just at their own pace. They also love any kind of searching game, using their bloodhound nose to track and search for objects.
Is a Basset Hound the right dog for me?
Unlike many other hunting dogs, the Basset Hound makes a great companion and can even be a good family dog. It is also suitable for people who do not have time to spend every minute of the day with their dogs. However, they still need to schedule in time for consistent training, and the Basset does not particularly enjoy being left alone. It is a child-friendly dog, making it suitable for most family situations. They also don’t mind having their long ears pulled, although it is important to teach children from the outset that this furry family member should be treated with respect. If this is done, then there is nothing to stop a life-long friendship from forming. The Basset Hound can also be ideal for older people that like to go for nature walks with a canine companion. Before moving a dog into your household, ensure that no one is allergic – it is a good idea to visit your doctor and get everyone tested. This breed enjoys a garden, so ensure yours is securely fenced, meaning the dog can be free to roam around and search without fear of escaping. It should avoid climbing stairs at all costs and should be carried when the time comes to face a staircase.
Before choosing a Basset Hound, you should also consider the time and money that needs to be invested in this breed in the long term. As well as daily walks, play and fuss, it is also important to think about holiday care for your dog as well as considering potential future illness. You may be able to take your four-legged friend with you on holiday, but you should always research the area thoroughly before going, to check out the possibilities and find hotels. You also need to think about the cost of initial accessories such as bowls, leads, blankets and brushes, as well as a high-quality food and regular veterinary visits. There can also be additional, unexpected health costs that you should be prepared for.
Finding your dream Basset!
You’ve decided: the Basset Hound is your dream dog and you are going to welcome one into your family. In Europe there are many serious Basset breeders. Before you buy, make sure you look carefully at its health. It can be easy to fall head over heels for those wide, faithful eyes and floppy ears, but you need to use your head as well as your heart! No matter what, do not buy from a black-market breeder, no matter how appealing the cost of these Bassets without papers or health checks may be. You would be paying highly for this reduced cost as well as fuelling black-market breeding, thanks to the rules of supply and demand. The number of Bassets and similar-looking crosses bred without standard breeding characteristics and health aspects is sadly increasing. When choosing a breeder, make sure they have not bred the back or ears to excess, nor the loose skin. Extremes generally offer unfavourable health. By visiting a breeder, you can generally expect to meet your puppy as well as getting to know the parent animals and the environment your dog has been raised in. A serious breeder will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have regarding the health and appearance of his or her dogs, as well as the typical breeding aims with Bassets. You may also be on the receiving end of some questions, as the breeder will want to know the puppies are going to a good home. In most cases, the breeder will stay in contact with you even after sale to answer any queries and help the puppy settle in.
If you are looking to take on an adult Basset Hound, the internet is normally the place to look. It happens far more often than you may think that people unexpectedly have to give up their Basset Hounds. An advantage of this is that you are receiving a dog that is already at least basically training, so that even absolute beginners that don’t trust themselves to train a puppy can find a loyal and loving companion. The former owner will generally be able to advise you about the dog itself and judge whether the two of you would make a winning team! You should always be provided with a valid vaccination pass, as well as pedigree proof and a health certificate. Many will also want to pass on a favourite blanket or food to help ease the transition for their dog. Although animal shelters and animal protection agencies rarely have pure-bred Bassets, Basset-crosses are no less charming and are always looking for new homes.
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