I often write about dog breeds and highlight the surprising things about them. I’m not going to do that for Basset Hounds, because really, if you’ve been around a Basset Hound for more than five minutes, you have probably gathered exactly what you are dealing with.
That certainly was the case with my foster dog, Theodora. She was a lovely little puppy who was found trotting jauntily down a dusty country road. She was seven months old, and once cleaned up, absolutely perfect. The white of her coat sparkled like the snow. She didn’t have any of the little scars, scuffs or bumps that most scenthounds acquire during their journeys. Her ears, as Victoria so eloquently put it, were like “velveteen knee socks.” I was so excited to foster her — who wouldn’t be?
Well, Theodora came with a problem. She had no bite inhibition, meaning that she just bit people out of happiness or curiosity. She would not stop biting us. The humans in the house weren’t happy about the constant biting, but what worried us was the fact that she seemed to view our Chow’s fluffy tail as the ultimate thing to bite. We spent the two weeks we fostered her keeping her away from Chowder as much as possible, occasionally distracting her by putting a mirror in front of her because she was transfixed by her own adorable image. We never made a bit (get it?) of progress on her bite inhibition during that brief time — she was just a beautiful blockhead of a dog. Fortunately, she was adopted by experienced Basset owners who were just enchanted with her and her tendency to flop onto her back in the middle of the street to demand affection from any person who walked by. They didn’t care about her expressive biting. They never mentioned the problem, so they either solved it or ignored it.
When we reminisced about her, we really could boil down the experience into a few sentences. “She really loved to bite, didn’t she? She was lucky she was so cute.” Not complicated, but certainly loveable nonetheless. That simplicity of purpose and motivation is the Basset way, at least in my book.
So what do you need to know about these dogs?
- They are bigger than they look. They are incredibly heavy-boned, and even if they are low to the ground and don’t take up that much space, if you ever need to lift one, you’ll learn quickly that they have the density of a cannonball. They can weigh up to 70 pounds.
- They are stubborn and difficult to train. You’ll never make a Basset do what they don’t want to do. It’s funny, because they can do quite well in obedience classes, but I have a hint for you — it’s because you are doling out treats like a rigged slot machine. You might think you have trained your Basset, but the second they find themselves faced with doing what they want or obeying you, all training flies out the window.
- The things that make them so cute will also cause them the most problems. Those long ears trap in moisture, causing them to get ear infections throughout their lives. Those droopy eyes are easily irritated and need to be wiped and attended to regularly. Their skin folds can also trap moisture and become infected. That preposterous physique means that their joints are vulnerable to injury. You’ll need to make a daily effort to minimize the consequences of these tendencies, including checking your dog’s ears every day; wiping your dog down, especially in the folds, if they get wet; and keeping your dog’s weight down.
- They follow their magnificent noses for as far as they can, to the exclusion of all other things. Like most scenthounds, your Basset will be in their own little world while they are tracking something down. Keep that in mind and it might help you not to lose your patience with them.
Basset Hounds’ owners have distinct characteristics that aren’t that hard to divine.
- They have a fantastic sense of humor. They love their dogs with all their hearts and can be very sentimental, but they enjoy, and get many laughs out of, their dogs’ charming appearance and exaggerated characteristics. Bassets are just funny dogs, whether they are quietly napping on their beds or on greed-related adventures.
- They are tolerant. Bassets are stubborn and can be quite gassy if they’ve successfully followed their nose to adventure. A Basset Hound owner doesn’t mind either of these things at all. It’s all part of the package.
- They are responsible. Whether it’s because they realize that treatments for small infections are bankrupting them, or because they have a naturally strong sense of duty to their pets, most Basset owners are very conscientious about maintaining their dogs’ ears and skin.
So there you have it.