All About Basset Hounds

basset hound on a brown leather leash next to an orange blanket decorated with paw prints

Perhaps one of the most distinct dogs around, Basset Hounds are easy to pick out of a crowd. With a short stature, large body, and floppy ears, it's understandable why so many people fall in love with this quirky canine.

About the Breed

Being a hound dog, Bassets share many common characteristics of other hounds. The most notable is that when their nose is on, their hearing is typically off. If you are around a Basset Hound, you will quickly discover that everything else around them becomes insignificant whenever a scent piques these dogs' interest.

However, because of their naturally powerful noses, pet parents can't blame their dogs for having an instinct to follow intriguing scents. Second, only to the Blood Hound, Basset Hounds have the most powerful super sniffers in the canine world.

Although Bassets are intelligent dogs, this can be overshadowed by the prominent hound traits of being stubborn and independent. To get your dog to do what you would like, you typically have to convince them that it's something they want to do.

Since this technique does not always work, there is a training secret that is nearly a guarantee to catch your Basset's attention—food. The way to a Basset Hound's heart may very well be through their stomach. These pooches adore food, and it should come as no surprise that they will look for any way to acquire more of it. Keep this in mind when choosing a spot to keep both your dog's food and your own.

Looking past their hound tendencies, Basset's are among the kindest, most loving, family-oriented dogs out there. These canines are even-tempered and are known for how well they get along with other dogs, cats, and children.

Before introducing your dog to children, you must teach the kids how to approach and interact with a dog respectfully. It is additionally vital to monitor interactions your dog has with kids. Because of their short stature, young kids may be tempted to climb on your Basset's back, but that added weight can cause injury to your pal.

Although these hefty canines are not necessarily a lapdog, no one has broken the news to these hounds yet, because chances are yours will try to curl up in your lap. As a Basset parent, you will no doubt appreciate that your dog will be just as eager to take a walk with you as they will to lounge on the couch and watch a movie with you.

young basset hound resting on a brown teal white and blue striped blanket against a red wall

Breed History

The first mention of a "Basset" dog appeared in the 1585 illustrated hunting text La Venerie. This piece, written by Jacques du Fouilloux, mentions that these short-legged dogs were used for hunting small animals like foxes, badgers, rabbits, and hares. In the illustrations for this book, the early French Basset Hound resembled the present-day French Basset Artésien Normand.

It is believed that Basset Hounds descended from the St. Hubert Hound, an ancestor of the noteworthy Blood Hound. After the French Revolution, the demand for hunting dogs increased, and as a result, the Basset popularity began taking off. By the mid-1800s, more Bassets were imported into England, and breeders were becoming more common for these dogs. These breeders fine-tuned the traits for Basset hounds, and they began resembling the dogs we recognize today.

Around the same time, just before the turn of the 20th century, Basset Hounds made their way to the United States. Americans adored these dogs, and they became one of the most popular choices for a household pet. In the following decades, Bassets made their way into the spotlight through commercials, television shows, movies, cartoons, magazines, and advertising logos.

Attributes

Basset Hounds are a unique dog breed, for many reasons, but most prominently for their one-of-a-kind body structure. They are quite literally a large dog with little legs. Although these dogs do not measure more than 14 inches to their shoulders, they can weigh on average 40-75 pounds. The average lifespan for a Basset is 10-12 years.

These dogs can appear in any hound color, including black, white, tan tricolor or tan, and white or black and white bicolor. The tan color can be found in varying shades, from a light lemon shade to a darker reddish-brown shade. Bassets can also have a gray or blue coloration, but this shade is rare and often undesirable because it has been linked to an increase in genetic issues.

Before welcoming a Basset Hound into their home, most dog parents have some questions about the breed they first want to be answered. Some common questions include:

Where Do Basset Hounds Come From?

These dogs originally come from France. Their name is from the French word bas, meaning "low."

What Were Basset Hounds Bred For?

Bassets were bred to be hunting dogs, typically being used for smaller game. Compared to nearly all other hunting dogs, Basset Hounds had much shorter legs, so they weren't as fast. Because many hunters did not have horses, they needed a slower dog to follow more easily on foot.

Can Basset Hounds Swim?

These hounds are not good swimmers, and it's not just because they lack the skill. Basset Hounds have dense bodies with heavy bones, and they carry a majority of their weight in the front. These traits, combined with the fact that they have short legs, mean that Bassets have difficulties even staying afloat.

It's best to keep a very close eye on your pal if you are on a beach or near water, but it's even more helpful to avoid proximity to water altogether. Safe alternatives can include allowing your dog to play in the hose or a sprinkler.

Are Basset Hounds Lazy?

This breed can indeed be quite lazy, but that's not to say that they dislike exercise. Chances are your Basset will appreciate lounging on their bed just as much as they will enjoy going for a walk. Even though your four-legged friend may be quite content to watch movies and nap in the sun all day, it's essential to provide them with regular exercise, or you will have a large couch potato on your hands.

Do Basset Hounds Bark a Lot?

Just like other hound breeds, Bassets are known to be vocal. They can let out a frequent howl or baying bark that can be heard from many houses away. They are also known to bark if they are left alone for too long—keep this in mind if you have neighbors. Your pal will also give you a heads up whenever they see something interesting in the yard or if someone passes by your house. If you prefer to have a quiet household, this may not be the right dog for you.

Do Basset Hounds Smell?

If not properly groomed, your Basset Hound can quickly start to stink. Because these dogs are so short, they are more likely to get dirt and grime on their bellies and ears. While some pet parents may do a quick wipe-down when necessary and then a bath once a month, other Basset parents have found that a weekly bath can help keep almost all odors at bay. Also, don't forget to clean your dog's wrinkly face and neck. These wrinkles can also trap dirt and become stinky if not maintained.

Do Basset Hounds Shed?

Don't let their short coat fool you—Basset Hounds shed constantly. However, by just brushing your dog once or twice a week, you may be able to manage the dog hair and shedding better.

A Basset's large, floppy ears, wrinkles, and big muzzle all serve a purpose. As their ears drag on the ground, they help pick up scents, the dewlap (wrinkles around the neck) helps trap in those scents, and the muzzle is so spacious so that it can house the powerful olfactory receptors.

Grooming

A majority of a Basset Hound's grooming routine is by the books. Brush their teeth weekly using dog-safe toothpaste, and trim their nails about once a month or when they are long enough to start clicking on the floor. To help manage their shedding and to keep their coat healthy, it's recommended that you brush your dog every week—multiple times a week is even better.

If your dog avoids puddles and dirt, then they may be able to go a month or longer in between baths. However, since these dogs are so close to the ground, you may find that a quick weekly bath is necessary to help keep them clean and smelling fresh.

Basset Hounds also require some special grooming needs due to their unique features—a responsibility all Basset parents will have. Although all dogs' ears should be checked and cleaned regularly, you must check your Basset's ears at least once every week. Be sure to clean any dirt that may be on the outside of your dog's ears and to use a veterinarian-recommended ear cleaning solution for inside your dog's ears. After your dog has played in the water or received a bath, it will also be essential to make sure that their ears are completely dry.

Your pal's wrinkles will also need to be cleaned out regularly. Typically a damp cloth will work just fine but be sure that all wrinkles are dried out completely. Otherwise, your dog's skin may become irritated.

Most Basset Hounds have droopy eyes, which can also collect dirt. It can be beneficial to wipe the area gently around their eyes. Doing this a few times a week can help keep your dog's eyes clean and healthy. Talk with your veterinarian about recommended products and cleaning tips so that you can safely keep your dog in tip-top shape.

Be sure to make each grooming experience a positive and calming one. It's also beneficial to begin introducing your dog to each grooming item as early as possible.

basset hound puppy on a leash with ears blowing in the wind

Care

Basset Hounds are pretty happy-go-lucky. These droopy-faced dogs are extroverted and sociable, so they do not do well with being left alone for long periods. If left by themselves outside, they will often resort to howling or digging holes. If left alone inside, they will also resort to howling. Bassets are happiest when they are near to and spending time with their family. To help your dog deal with their loneliness while you are away, you may find that getting them a dog or cat companion could be the perfect solution.

These hounds are dedicated foodies, and they will do just about anything to grab another bite—including staring you down with those sad puppy eyes. Even though it may be tempting to slip them some scraps, you should try your best to refrain. Bassets are prone to weight gain, and obesity is a serious problem for this breed. To help combat this, be sure to keep the extra treats to a minimum and to feed your dog the recommended amount.

Daily exercise is another crucial component to keeping your pal healthy. These dogs are known for being lazy, but most don't take much convincing when there's a walk involved. Although they prefer to move at a leisurely pace, most Basset hounds have great endurance and will joyfully go for a long stroll. Just be prepared to let your scent hound pal stop and smell many, many things.

Due to their body type, Basset Hounds are more susceptible to sustaining a back injury. To help avoid this, be sure to limit your puppy's activity level (no long, strenuous activities) until they are fully grown—typically close to 2 years of age. Even when your dog stops growing, you will still want to monitor some of their activities. It's vital to keep in mind that when a Basset Hound gets older, they may not be able to do steps anymore. These are heavy dogs that you may not be able to carry up or down a flight of steps.

Training

A crucial part of raising a Basset Hound is to train them properly. These canines are naturally stubborn and independent, so training should begin as early as possible—otherwise, you will have an unruly dog on your hands. Like a Basset parent, you will also quickly discover that treats and food will become your best friend for training. Just remember, while working on commands and tricks, it's helpful to be patient, persistent, and to remain positive.

A useful command to begin working on as soon as possible is the recall command. As a hound dog, Bassets can easily get distracted by interesting scents. Because of their nose, Basset Hounds have a tendency to wander. To help ingrain the importance of this command, you can even use "higher value" treats to entice your dog even more.

Another helpful command to teach your Basset is the "wait" command. This command can become more than useful—it can help reduce the risk of your dog sustaining a back injury from jumping on or off something. Instead of having your dog jump into your car or onto your bed, you can teach them to wait until you can pick them up.

Common Health Issues

Basset Hounds, like all other dogs, are prone to developing some health conditions. According to our claims data,^ the top five issues that affect these dogs include,

  1. Ear infections
  2. Allergies*
  3. Cancer
  4. Sensitive Skin
  5. UTI

There is no guarantee that your dog will develop any or all of these problems. However, because this breed is predisposed to these conditions, it is helpful to be familiar with each item's signs and symptoms.

It is also essential that you never skip your dog's annual veterinary appointment, even if your dog appears to be perfectly healthy. These regular check-ups can help ensure that your dog is in good health and that they are up to date on all shots and medications. Not to mention, if an issue does arise, these annual appointments provide an opportunity for your veterinarian to catch it early on.

^ Internal Claims Data, 2015-20

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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