Why are hounds so stubborn?

When I first used my American fox hound mixed with Walker raccoon, he often met blank eyes when “coming here”, and then he walked in another direction. Correction: When I put forward an order that I know he knows, I would be lucky if he could look me in the eye. Usually, he will not show any reaction, but continue to do what he is doing. I was convinced for a moment that he had hearing problems.

If you have some kind of hound, whether purebred or mixed, this situation probably sounds familiar. Especially if your dog is newly adopted or you have never experienced this breed, it may be a bit shocking. You may find yourself wondering why your friends’ dogs picked up on commands so easily, and going as far as questioning the relationship with your dog. The good news is: there is nothing wrong with you OR your dog. Your hound dog is not broken. You are not failing. Honestly, the difficulties you are running into with obedience are probably identical to anyone else with the same breed of dog. Your dog, like all of his floppy-eared cousins, was literally born this way.

So why does your hound seem to refuse to listen? What can you do to make them really learn? Understanding the history and origin of the scent hound can help you better understand your dog and find the root of stubbornness.

1. First we have to talk about why dog breeds exist.

As domesticated wolves have evolved into modern dogs as we know them today, human intervention is the main reason why all dogs look different today. Humans roamed freely like ancient country dogs, but began to breed dogs selectively according to the niche skills that humans needed to help. The dogs were bred for their abilities to hunt, herd, track, retrieve game, etc. Dogs were“not categorized as specific breeds, but were bred and classified according to the job they did.”Over thousands of years, breeds splintered off according to the distinct “purpose” of the dog, whether that type of dog is still used for that original intended job in the present day or not.

You can see how this has been carried throughout history in today’s “breed groups” that purebred dogs are categorized in. For example, the herding group, made up of cattle dogs and sheep dogs, all have the overarching “original” purpose of herding livestock. Even if your beloved family Australian Shepherd is not working on a farm tending to sheep, the dog still has a deep-rooted genetic drive to herd. This is why you may catch the dog nipping at your kids ’ankles outside: it is literally their instinct to herd, no matter what the “stock” may be. You shouldn’t try to curb that need, either.

People who do not understand dogs may think that “hunting dog” is just a synonym for “dog” – just like the word “puppy” or “dog”. This is a fair assumption ( especially in German, dog means “handsome man”). However, “hound” is a specific breed group categorized by dogs that are used to track prey. This does not include the “sporting” dogs like pointers or labrador retrievers, who were bred to hunt/retrieve birds, and instead covers dogs that hunt small to large mammals. Within the Hound Group is a further division: sighthounds and scent hounds. Just as those names suggest, this split is attributed to which of the dog’s physical attributes benefit the hunt most. While I’m sure sighthounds present their own set of training challenges, this article is focused on the personalities of scent hounds*: the long-eared, floppy, and “musical” companions often referred to as “a nose with a dog attached”.

2. Why scent hounds exist.

If you have a scent hound, you know that to this day, these dogs are often used for hunting. Regardless of whether your coonhound/foxhound/beagle/etc. Whether hunting or not, history tells us that this is the original “purpose” of this kind of dog. At first, humans needed help to find their next meal. With the help of a country dog with a keen sense of smell, humans can track and hunt this animal.

Over time, people who need this kind of tailing help continue to breed the country dog with the best nose, and finally breed dogs with other characteristics that can improve their hunting ability. From the smell emitted from the ground to the nose, to the wrinkles that retain the smell, breed and even lead to the sound of the dog, so that the hunter can hear where the dog leads him. So our beloved scent hound appeared.

the game was wasn’t very useful in these situations. The dog One of the key features that these hunters need these dogs is that they can go hunting without human guidance, whether they know it or not. They need motivated and instinctive dogs to run out and guide hunters to find their prey, not the other way around. A dog stood aside, waiting for the hunter to tell them that they could finish their work independently.

Yes, your hound is literally genetically predispositioned to not listen.

And there you have it — the stubbornness. In reality, what is regarded as stubborn and actively refusing to listen is actually acute independent thinking and extreme, sometimes replaced concentration. The scent hound is designed by humans to persevere in pursuit of their most powerful senses. From the dog’s point of view, he or she is doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. The smell is the absolute most important thing to them at all times. Combine that with the innate desire to “do what they want”, and you have a recipe for a dog that doesn’t really listen. As I like to say, nose on; ears off.

3. So what do you do about it?

Non-hound people will say scent hounds are unintelligent because they tend to not pick up on commands and training cues quickly. This is absolutely not true, because they are very smart themselves. In addition, they are not as eager to please humans as some other breeds of dogs. These dogs know what they want and when. Once the laser is focused, if you want to do anything, you must find a way to capture them.

Scent hounds are still very willing to learn, it’s just their motivation may be different. Understanding why your dog is like this is the first step. The next step is finding a way to make use of these qualities while training. I am personally a fan of this excerpt from an article on American English (Redtick) Coonhounds to summarize training a scent hound:

  • The key is to find a way for your [scent hound] to think that the training course and its promising results are his ideas. If an American English hound does not want to learn, he may insist on doing his best and stubbornly refuse. This breed requires an experienced handler with the ability to finesse the dog into learning new skills. This is not a dog that will happily offer commanded behaviors simply because it makes you happy even though they are genial and happy and enjoy time spent with their “people.” They are simply dogs that know their own minds and don’t like being pushed into things they have no interest in doing.

For this reason, first-time dog owners usually do not encourage them to choose hunting dogs. Their training mechanism may seem a little different from what you see in an ordinary puppy school. These methods make special use of their natural instincts. With that being said, they are by no means untrainable. They just need it to be done in a different way. I highly recommend looking for a trainer with scent hound experience (ours had a beagle at home, so she really knew what these dogs were like). Hounds often need help from people who“get” them. They’re just misunderstood.

Plus… don’t forget food. I have never met a scent hound that wasn’t food-motivated. There’s a delicate balance, however, since these insatiable creatures can become snack obsessed. Working with a hound-experienced trainer can help you find news ways to make sure your hound listens even when food isn’t presented.

4. Don’t let this push you away.

It is a pity that the training difficulty and loud voice of hunting dogs often scare off potential users, because they have seriously missed it. There is a reason for the existence of “hounds”. They are like velvet ears.

These dogs’ clever wit and strong personalities are exactly why I am so obsessed with them, and why I will continue to advocate for this misunderstood breed. I don’t think I will ever not have a rescue hound running around the house. It is never a dull moment with them and even through the tribulations of training, You will find yourself smiling at them as you cross the hurdles. With dedication, one day your dog will “click” and eventually listen occasionally. The hounds are more adaptable and easy-going than you think. In the end, all they want is your love (and your lunch).

Published On: December 7th, 2022Categories: Dog knowledge