Books on Animals: Dogs

Breed books: Hounds

Sighthounds: (Afghans, Borzoi, Greyhounds, Lurchers, Saluki, and Whippets) Scenthounds: (Bassets, Beagles, Bloodhounds, and Foxhounds).

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General overview

The hound group was developed to hunt with humans and go after their quarry to corner or catch it. Hounds developed to catch small prey like hares need a lot of training and management, so that they do not use their skills on the local cats, and this applies especially to sighthounds, like greyhounds. You may find that your own cat is respected, but any intruder, or cat spotted on walks, is seen as prey, so sighthounds are generally best walked on leads if you live somewhere where there are a lot of cats.

Sighthounds are those hounds which use vision to locate and follow prey, and they can get up to very high speeds - hence many are also used as racing dogs. Greyhounds tend not to need long periods of exercise, though they do enjoy a good sprint, followed by a long nap on a soft sofa. Salukis need rather more exercise. Lurchers are often used as working dogs, especially to catch rabbits, and get their exercise that way. Sighthounds often take part in lure coursing, which you can get involved in just for fun, and to allow your dog to do what he has been designed to do, run fast. Generally speaking, it's the distance covered that is important, rather than the amount of time spent exercising, so the amount of time for exercise that sighthounds need depends on how much they run while they are out. Many sighthounds love to chase each other, and it can be a spectacular sight. Some also have a habit of rushing up to other dogs to encourage them to play. Most non-sighthounds have no hope of keeping up with a sighthound running in mad circles, though many will try. When not running, sighthounds like soft beds, since they are generally bony dogs, and can feel uncomfortable on hard floors. Sighthounds include some very graceful and elegant dogs, such as Afghans, Borzoi, and Salukis.

Scenthounds, like bassets, beagles and bloodhounds, track their prey using their noses, and tend to be noisier than sighthounds. Both scenthounds and sighthounds tend to go deaf when they have sensed interesting animals to chase. This means that exercising all hounds safely can be a problem. It is wise to have a large, well-fenced garden before taking on a hound, and even better if you have a few acres! It's also a good idea to take them to a safe area where they can run without being endangered by traffic. Some hounds can be trusted to come back, even if they do tend to rush off. Others can never be off outside a fenced area because of the risk of their getting lost. You do need to think seriously about how you are going to exercise your dog safely before choosing a hound, so you don't end up with an under-exercised dog that is climbing up the walls.

Good manners are best taught from puppyhood, because it's easier, but adult rescue dogs can still learn fast. The best time to teach good manners to a rescue dog is as soon as the dog arrives. That is when the dog is watching you to learn what the rules are. It's tempting to spoil the dog a bit, because you feel sorry for him or her. But it's kinder in the long run to let the dog know gently and firmly what you consider to be appropriate behaviour. Rescue centres usually have their own behaviourists and provide ongoing help for adopters. Gwen Bailey's 'The Rescue Dog' is also full of good advice.

Hounds bred to work independently of humans retain this independence when it comes to obedience training, and are not the most obedient of dogs. Some are more difficult to train than others. Afghans, far from being stupid, as some people think, can be quite inventively disobedient. On the plus side, hounds are usually gentle with people, in the sense that they are less likely to bite than most breed types, though they do, of course, need to be taught bite inhibition as pups, and they have been known to knock or pull people over when in pursuit of prey. Hounds also tend to have strong prey drive, and can nip when excited, especially if a human gets between them and their prey. Hound breeds designed to work in packs tend to get on well with other dogs. This generally easy-going nature of hounds can lull owners into a false sense of security, and hounds that normally get on well can suddenly have serious spats, especially if large numbers of them are kept in a relatively small space, and they do not get enough exercise.

Getting lost, and being hit by cars are threats to all hounds. Too much exercise and the wrong sort of food can be damaging, especially for puppies of large hound breeds. (We have put Irish Wolfhounds in the Giant Breed category, because of these problems, though they are also sighthounds). Sighthounds also tend to be more sensitive to veterinary pharmaceutical products, especially anaesthetics, flea collars, and worming products, than most dogs, because they have so little body fat. Care should also be taken about contact with garden chemicals, such as fertilisers. Scenthounds tend to have long ears which need regular cleaning, and which means that they are more likely to suffer from ear trouble.

One health problem that can affect larger breeds is bloat, which can be very serious and even fatal if not treated rapidly. Prevention is better than cure, and dogs should be fed at least twice a day, rather than having just one big meal. They should also rest after eating, rather than being encouraged to play actively, so they have a chance to digest thier food. It used to be thought that raised feeding bowls were a good idea, but ideas have changed, and floor level bowls are seen as better. A tendency to bloat appears to be inherited to some extent, so this is one more reason to check the longevity of the ancestors of any pup you are interested in, and find out what the ancestors died of, and how old they were.

Hounds have enormous appeal, but be sure you know what you are taking on! They have been designed to do a job, usually following quarry or racing. You may not want to use them for their original purpose, but they still like to be given something to do.



Afghan Hound (Pet Love)

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Afghan hounds are sighthounds with a reputation for being good-looking but not very bright. This is not exactly true - though they are graceful and elegant dogs, which are not keen on obeying commands, such as 'here'! They are very bright when it comes to doing what they want to do, and not doing things they don't want to do. Owners just need to work out how to motivate them.

They are independent, sometimes wary of strangers, and need careful socialisation. They do need exercise in a safe area, and like most sighthounds, are prone to chasing and catching small furry animals. Their long coats need quite a lot of grooming or they can get tangles and mat. Afghans are not the ideal dogs for people with children, because they are a large breed which is not especially sociable, needs a lot of attention, and is sensitive.

These are very sensitive dogs, both to stress and rough treatment, and they can react badly to some chemicals and foods. Afghans also have a more than average susceptibility to cancer, though they are relatively healthy for large breed dogs. This is a good introductory book for new owners of Afghan hounds. The history and character of the breed are well explained, and the book is clearly written and well set out. It's a good introduction for novices, though experienced owners are likely to want more.


Afghan Hounds (The World of Dogs)


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This guide to Afghan hounds covers more ground than Bryony Harcourt-Brown's book, and is also more expensive. It's worth the extra for the advice on showing, and fun activities with Afghans, as well as extensive advice on how to care for the breed at all stages of their lives.

There's plenty to interest experienced owners, who will also love the pictures.



The Basset Hound Owner's Survival Guide


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Anybody who takes on a basset hound needs a sense of humour. You will really only appreciate the breed if you can laugh with your dog. Basset hounds are very similar to bloodhounds, and both breeds are skilled at drooling.

Basset hounds are natural clowns, with sweet, gentle natures, usually getting on well with other dogs and with children, but they are not the most obedient of dogs. A basset likes to follow its nose, rather than go where you want to walk, and they can get lost following a scent. They can also be very noisy, and may howl if left alone.

Common health problems include hip dysplasia, luxating patella, hypothyroidism, eye trouble, ear infections, bloat. They should also not be allowed to get too fat, or do a lot of jumping, because this puts too much of a strain on their backs. Like Dachshunds, another long-backed, short-legged breed, Hassett Hounds can be difficult to houstrain.

This book captures the pleasures and frustrations of owning a Basset, and is an enjoyable read, as well as being packed with useful tips.


Beagles for Dummies


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Beagles are popular as pets as well as working dogs. They are designed to live in packs, so tend to get on well with other dogs. They are also gentle with people, and are usually healthy. They are not easy to obedience train, and get bored easily, finding ways of doing what they want rather than what you want them to. Short daily training sessions from when your Beagle is a pup are helpful for ensuring that beagles are reasonably obedient, and they need to have rules clearly and consistently set out.

Children and well trained beagles usually get on well, though children need to be aware that beagles can like rough play, so should not be wound up. Beagles tend to be a bit mouthy, liking to chew a lot, and mouth people, and they need to be taught that mouthing people is not acceptable. Beagles are, however, quite tolerant of children and usually enjoy their company.

One serious disadvantage that owners often report is poor recall - Beagles are prone to picking up a scent, following it, then forgetting where they left their owners! They can also be noisy, and some will bark, bay, and howl, especially when left alone.

Common health problems include epilepsy, hypothyroidism and eye trouble, though generally they are a healthy breed. Susan McCullough's book provides a wealth of information on the breed, including choosing a beagle, puppy care, behaviour and training, health care, and caring for senior beagles..


Training Your Beagle


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This is a very clearly-written guide for Beagle owners, explaining how to train their dogs. It covers a lot of ground, from the very basics, to training for shows, but experienced beagle owners are unlikely to find anything startlingly new.

It is well-illustrated, and is certainly a very useful book for a new owner of a Beagle.


Bloodhounds: Everything About Purchase, Care, Nutrition, Breeding, Behavior, and Training (A Complete Pet Owner's Manual)

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Bloodhounds are gentle dogs which have long been used for their tracking skills, and they are perhaps the best known scenthound dogs. They are champion scenthounds, and do not want to give up a trail until they have got to the end. This means that walking off leash is not an option unless you have enclosed land.

They are great droolers, and like to give slobbery kisses. They also have a distinctive bay, which can upset the neighbours, and they need a lot of patient training. They are generally good with children and other dogs, though they do need careful training, since they are a large breed, which can knock over small people, and they are a little too strong and determined for smaller people to handle easily on a lead. They may also slobber and drool on children (or give them wet kisses).

One disadvantage of the breed is that they tend not to live long, like many large dogs. Common health problems include allergies, entropion (eyelid inversion), bloat, hypothyroidism, heart disease and hip dysplasia. This is not a very long-lived breed, and it's worth checking the longevity of the ancestors of any Bloodhound pups you are interested in.

This is a short book, but a delight for Bloodhound owners because of the beautiful illustrations and the very clear picture it gives of the breed. It's a good introduction to the breed, though owners are likely to need more in-depth information if they succumb to the temptation of taking on a Bloodhound.


On the Trail: A Practical Guide to the Working Bloodhound and Other Search and Rescue Dogs

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Bloodhound owners who want to understand what their dog is designed to do can benefit from reading this guide to working search and rescue dogs. These dogs are happiest when allowed to work, or take part in recreational activities which involve tracking.

This book explains how to teach them the right skills, and how those skills can be put to use.


The Borzoi (The World of Dogs)


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Borzoi are also known as Russian wolfhounds, and may have been originally developed to hunt wolves. They can run extremely fast, and will tend to go deaf if you have them off the lead and they spot animals that they can chase. A safe area for them to exercise is essential.

They are long-haired dogs which shed, and they are large dogs, which can occupy a lot of your sofa, or bed! They are similar to greyhounds in temperament, and can get on well with children and other dogs, though being large and fast movers, it is easy for them to knock smaller children over.

Borzoi aren't especially long-lived, and can suffer from a number of medical problems. These include the common sighthound sensitivity to veterinary phamaceutical products such as anaesthetics, bloat, heart disease, and hip dysplasia.

This book explains the origins of the breed, which helps to understand its special characteristics, and there is also information on the breed in the UK. There is help with choosing and training a Borzoi, as well as showing and breeding. The chapter on puppies is especially useful, since diet and exercise levels are important for their proper development. There is also very useful information on genetics for people wanting to breed Borzois, or research their dog's pedigree.


English Foxhound, a Complete Guide: a Complete Handbook

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Foxhounds are not generally kept as pets in the UK, but many dog owners may consider them if hunts start getting rid of dogs in large numbers. Foxhounds raised in the home as pups can be very engaging companion dogs. Like most hounds, they do not excel in the obedience department, but they are usually gentle, so long as they are taught bite inhibition, and they usually get on well with other dogs.

Training should be ongoing, and short daily sessions are helpful, as is making house rules clear from the start. Well-trained Foxhounds can be good with children, though rough play should be discouraged so that it does not get out of hand. They can co-exist well with other dogs in the same household, since they are pack dogs. Fights can still happen, especially if too many are kept together in a relatively small space, and they don't have enough exercise. Rescuing several Foxhunds is not a good idea unless you have a lot of space, can give them enough exercise, and know a lot about hounds.

Foxhounds can be noisy, which is fine if you want a watchdog, but not so good if you have thin walls. They are also similar to beagles in having poor recall once they pick up a smell, and they are not always safe with cats. They are generally healthy, though as working Foxhounds tend to be culled when they can no longer hunt. less is known about diseases of middle and old age of Foxhounds than is known about breeds more commonly kept as pets.

This book is a short introduction to the breed, and is well illustrated. It is helpful if you take on a foxhound as a pup, but is not much help for anyone who plans to take on a rescue ex-hunt foxhound. Such hounds are really only for experienced owners with a lot of patience, and a novice armed only with this book is likely to run into difficulties.


Adopting the Racing Greyhound


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Former racing Greyhounds are often taken on as pets, and they can adapt well, though they often need house training, and, like many sighthounds, some have a tendency to chase cats. They can move at an extremely fast pace, even those rejected as too slow for racing, but, surprisingly, they do not need much exercise, preferring a few quick sprints, followed by long naps on a soft bed, preferably yours, if they can get on it. They are much easier to live with if owners invest time in obedience training as soon as their adoptee comes to live with them. Greyhound rescue centres provide useful advice, and do their best to match dogs to owners.

Some ex-racing Greyhounds are so easy-going that they can be take on by first-time dog owners, and can happily co-exist with children, while others can be more challenging. Generally they co-exist happily with other dogs in the same household, though they can easily be hurt in scraps, since their fur does not provide much protection.

This book is an excellent guide to what to expect if you take on a racing Greyhound, and it can help you to understand many quirks which can surprise even experienced dog owners.


Veterinary Advice for Greyhound Owners

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This is an extremely useful veterinary reference manual for people involved with Greyhounds and Whippets. It covers a lot of ground, and it is very easy to find the information you need. The book is also inexpensive for the amount of information it contains.


The Lurcher


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Lurchers are not a breed as such, but a cross between greyhounds and other breeds such as collie, terriers, or wolfhounds, so though Lurchers tend to behave like typical sighthounds, they can vary a great deal in their biddability. They do, however, tend to be gentle dogs, so can make good family pets for people with large, enclosed gardens. They generally get on well with other dogs, though since they are crosses, this can vary. Some Lurchers like to do sighthound rushes at other dogs, veering away at the last minute, and this is not always appreciated, though some dogs see this as an invitation to play.

This is a very good guide to Lurchers, which looks at different variations, and is geared to those interested in working Lurchers. There is a lot on the history of the breed, as well as the different sorts of work carried out by Lurchers. Not a book for people worried about dogs catching bunnies!


New Complete Lurcher


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Plummer has a very engaging writing style, and he excels in anecdotes, which also make important points about the breed.

This gives a good overview of Lurchers, and their use as hunting dogs, with a lot of useful tips for owners of Lurchers, on general care, training, showing, and breeding them.


The Complete Saluki (Book of the Breed)


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Salukis are exceptionally beautiful dogs, and a very ancient breed, originating in the Middle East. Like most sighthounds, they are at risk from being hit by cars when they run off especially when they are young, but older Salukis can make good jogging companions if you can find a large area which is a long way from roads to jog in. They are very clean, can be finicky about their food, and are usually gentle dogs, getting on well with other dogs, and children who respect them. Health problems include the usual sighthound sensitivity to chemicals, though the biggest risk to their health is traffic.

This is a good overview of the breed, with tips on general care, coursing and showing, and wonderful illustrations. It's worth getting the book for the pictures


Whippet (Pet Love)

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Whippets are a contradictory breed. They look delicate, and can easily suffer injuries because of their thin fur, but they are tough little dogs out in the field, good hunters, and bold. They like running fast, and also curling up next to their owners, preferably lying on something soft. They are good sources of heat in winter. They are generally gentle with people, and can live happily with other dogs, but their peacefulness should not be taken for granted. It may be tempting to keep several of these dogs, because they are small and appear gentle, but fights can still happen in packs, and the more dogs there are, the more dangerous a pack fight can be.

Sensible precautions such as not keeping too many dogs, or same-sex littermates are a good idea, even if your Whippets live together as a peaceful pack, sleeping in a warm heap. Whippets are generally healthy, and a long-lived breed. Their numerous good qualities make them favourites of many people, not just in Northern England!

This book is packed with information about Whippets, including the breed's history, training and general care, and the author is clearly a fan of this engaging breed.


The Whippet (World of Dogs)


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This book covers more ground than Juliet Cunliffe's book on Whippets, and is more expensive. It is very well illustrated, and gives a thorough account of the breed's history. Experienced Whippet owners will find much that interests and delights them in this book.


Working Longdog


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Longdogs are sighthounds such as Afghans, greyhounds, salukis, wolfhounds, or crosses between sighthound breeds.

Frank Sheardown believes that sighthounds should work for a living, and he provides help with choosing, caring for and training sighthounds with this objective in mind.