“The expression is noble and dignified, and characterized by solemnity, wisdom, and power.” This is a quote from the AKC breed standards for the bloodhound, which s a fabulous dog, but definitely not the dog for everyone.
The Bloodhound does drool. They carry part of every drink with them and usually like to “share” part of that drink with you. (They “slime” you.) They are sweet, affectionate and even shy. It is even said that they can have their heart broken.
While many think their name, bloodhound, comes from them following a “blood trail” or by being aggressive and causing blood when they find their “man,” this is not close to true. Their name of bloodhound came from the purity of their line — their bloodline is pure.
Many people confuse the basset hound with the bloodhound. They are quite often surprised when they actually see a bloodhound and see just how large they are. Bloodhounds are actually in the giant breed category. The standard says they should be in the 90- to 110-pound range. (My two range between 110 and 120 pounds each.) Their height, according to AKC standard, should be from 23 to 27 inches at the withers.
The temperament should be extremely affectionate and never quarrelsome with people or dogs.
Many people wonder about the bloodhound’s “wrinkles” or loose skin. There is a reason for the loose skin and long ears, and even for their drooling. All of this is designed for their searching abilities.
The long ears are designed to drag on the ground when they are searching. The dragging of the ears on the ground “stirs the scent” back up toward their sensitive noses. The wrinkled skin falls forward on their face and over their eyes to both protect them from the brush and debris and to “hold” the scent they are searching for. The drooling even has a purpose; it helps to “refresh” the scent and to help hold the scent.
Bloodhounds need firm but sensitive training. They should never be allowed off lead in a non-fenced area. The fabulous nose of the bloodhound seems to “control” their brain, often making them “deaf and blind” when they get on a scent. They will actually walk into traffic when they are following a scent, and their determinedness drives them to “find” the item of the scent.
However, bloodhounds do not consider their tracking and trailing abilities to be work. They generally think it is just a fun game. This is also how an untrained handler can ruin bloodhounds’ searching abilities and break their heart.
Bloodhounds, in general, should not be used as cadaver dogs. Often, when bloodhounds are searching for a lost or missing person, the bloodhound will stop up to 25 feet or so from their find and will “act weird,” not wanting to go on with the search. This is because a bloodhound only wants to find live “prey.”
Because of their sensitive natures, being forced to complete the search and coming across a deceased find, it is said to often “break their heart.” This is where proper training for the handler is important. An experienced handler will recognize the hesitation in their search and know what is ahead and will not force the dog to continue but will reward the dog for its find.
Many people think these dogs are the big, lazy porch-potato; however, they are not lazy. A well-bred bloodhound is extremely active. They should be able to go for hours upon hours, and they walk for miles and miles. A well-exercised dog will be happy to lay on the coach with you; however, what is well-exercised to them is much more than what you would think.
My male bloodhound has played with other dogs, basically nonstop, from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. on many occasions and, after a quick half-hour nap, he was ready to go again.
Bloodhounds being of the giant dog group do not mature until 2 to 3 years old. This means that they are still growing and maturing until about the age of 3. They require lots of training and exercise. Their training must be firm but gentle.
These dogs are not for a first-time dog owner. They are also not for the elderly or a coach potato. They are lively and active, gentle souls. Because of their strong sense of smell, they will get into everything. Because of their size, they are big-time counter-surfers and must be taught at a young age to stay away.
Also, because of their large size and constantly wagging tails, they can clear a coffee table or low shelf of its contents with one wag of their thick tails. And, because of their large size, they need to be trained not to randomly jump on people. This is very hard for a bloodhound, to contain their exuberance, because they just love everyone.
Bloodhounds are very good with children but, because of their large size, happy personality and love of everyone, they must be supervised with very small children. They would not intentionally harm anyone; however, they do not realize their size and strength, and because of their love of everyone, they can accidentally harm people by jumping or sitting on them.
Bloodhounds love to work. They need to be kept busy. They are very intelligent, but a little stubborn. They are extremely nose-driven, so finding activities to keep them busy and using their nose abilities is sometimes a challenge, but with a little time and effort, it can be done.
You can design games, making them search for their treats by hiding them around the house or yard. There are toys on the market, too, that make a game out of finding the treat. Kongs also make good activities for bloodhounds. My bloodhounds also love raw, meaty bones, bully sticks, hooves and more.
Bloodhounds eat a lot of food: 4 to 5 cups of a high-quality dry food a day. If you choose to use a canned food, you will need 4 to 6 cans of a quality food per day. Do not overfeed bloodhounds. They can easily become overweight, adding to other possible health issues. Some of the possible health issues of bloodhounds are bloat, hip dysplasia, heart issues, yeast issues and ear infections.
Most responsible breeders will do health tests on the breeding dogs and bitches. These tests include X-rays of hips, knees and elbows, and tests of the heart. If you plan to purchase a bloodhound puppy, make sure that the parents have had all of their health clearances.
Also, ask to see the parents. Take a good look at them. Do they have ample skin, but not an overabundance? Look inside their ears; are they clean and free of odor? Look at the underside of the parent. Are there large patches without hair? – signs of yeasty skin issues. Is there too much skin around the eyes, causing them to hang down?
If possible, find out about the age of grandparents when they died, or any siblings of the parents or grandparents. Are they breeding for show dogs, working dogs or other? Do they do mantrailing/tracking/search-and-rescue work with their dogs? Do they belong to any breed clubs? Are they asking you questions? (A good responsible breeder will ask you questions such as: Do you have a fenced yard? Have you owned dogs before? etc.)
Before you decide that you definitely want a bloodhound, realize that when a bloodhound shakes its massive head, their drool can go everywhere — especially furniture, walls and even ceilings. If left to dry, it will need to be chiseled off.
They are great dogs. They are sweet and loving dogs. They may be a good watchdog, but not protectors. They will bark when they hear or see someone, but mostly to entice that person to come play with them. Generally, because of their massive size and deep bellowing bark, not too many people will chance it, though.
One more misconception people have about bloodhounds is about them baying when they are on a trail. This is incorrect; they are silent trailers.
One good thing about them is their general ease of coat care. If fed a good diet and not having hereditary skin issues, the grooming of bloodhounds is quite easy; weekly brushing with a shedding blade and finishing up with a boar bristle brush. Nails should be kept trimmed to avoid flattening and splaying of the feet. Ears should be cleaned at least weekly or after lots of playing in dusty areas.
So, as long as you can deal with their drooling and you don’t mind removing things from low tables and shelves, if you have a fenced yard, if you have a firm but gentle training style, if you can afford to feed them, if you have time to dedicate to entertaining their nose and brain, if you have the room for their large size — you couldn’t pick a better dog. A well-bred bloodhound should live to 10 to 12 years old. Just be sure you purchase from a reputable breeder.
Cheryl Loveland is a dog groomer, pet-sitter, dog trainer and fosterer for many unwanted animals. She does rescue work for all types of animals and has owned or fostered most types of domestic animals and many wild ones. She currently resides with two bloodhounds, which she has shown in conformation and is currently training her male bloodhound for search-and-rescue work. Also residing with her are a bichon frisée, two cats and two birds. She welcomes comments, questions and suggestions for future articles at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, she is not an expert: she offers her opinions and suggestions from her experience and research.