Traits, Personality and Behavior
His short-legged, long-backed silhouette is one of the most recognizable in the dog world, and he's one of the most popular of the hounds. His special combination of stubbornness (manifested by selective deafness and an apparent ability to remain deeply asleep with a human being calling his name from four inches away) and sense of humor leaves his owners unsure of whether to be angry or just give up and laugh. Tip: Laugh.
Most Basset Hounds come in some combination of white, tan or black, and have dark, expressive eyes, a wrinkled forehead, and long floppy ears. They are large dogs with short legs, weighing from 50 to 70 pounds. They need to be brushed every couple of days to keep the moderate shedding to a minimum. Keep their wrinkles, ears, and the area under their somewhat sagging eyes clean and dry.
He's never really in a hurry to get anywhere, but his long-ago past as a hunting hound sometimes sends him off under fences and out open doors. He's a poor choice for backyard life, as he's deeply attached to his human family and will pine and mourn if banished outdoors. More to the point, he'll howl, loud enough to be heard for miles around.
This sturdy hound loves children and is a wonderful playmate for them, though it's always best to supervise kids and dogs. He's also almost always wonderful with other dogs and with cats. In fact, it's rare for a Basset Hound to have any serious temperament problems, as long as you don't expect much in the way of obedience.
The Basset Hound's long back is a weak area, so discourage him from jumping up on couches or on you. And watch his waistline; he can suffer from a number of health problems that will be made much worse by obesity. He loves his food and isn't too proud to beg for it -- or steal it. When he's older, he might find even a single flight of stairs impossible to manage. Unless you can heft a dog who weighs between 50 and 70 pounds, think twice before bringing a Basset Hound into a home with stairs.
Health Issues Common to Basset Hounds
Your puppy's breeder should have written documentation from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) that their dogs are free of gonioscopy, an abnormality of the eyes that can result in glaucoma. They should also have clearance from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) that your puppy's parents' have normal thyroid glands and that their hips and elbows are free of dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a genetic hip deformity that requires costly surgery to repair and can lead to arthritis later in life. University of Pennsylvania (PennHip) hip certification is also accepted.
Dogs should also be genetically tested for thrombopathia through the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, and have von Willebrand's factor antigen testing, which can be done by any veterinarian, to screen for bleeding disorders common in Basset Hounds.
Basset Hounds suffer from a spinal problem known as intervertebral disc disease, which can affect any part of the Basset Hound's spine including the neck. This condition makes even the smallest of movement painful and difficult and can require surgery.
The Basset Hound's long, floppy ears also make them prone to chronic ear infections. Left untreated, such infections can cause permanent damage to the ear canal and even destroy your dog's hearing.
Bassets are more likely than many breeds to bloat, a condition in which the stomach twists on itself, cutting off blood flow. Bloat and torsion strikes very suddenly, and a dog who was fine one minute can be dead a few hours later. Watch for symptoms like restlessness and pacing, drooling, pale gums and lip licking, trying to throw up but without bringing anything up, and signs of pain. Bloat requires immediate veterinary surgery, and most dogs who have bloated once will bloat again. That means it's wise to opt for the procedure known as "stomach tacking," which will keep the stomach from twisting in the future. This procedure can also be done as a preventive measure.
To protect yourself from the expensive vet bills associated with these conditions, you'll want to purchase pet insurance for your Basset Hound before they show symptoms or are diagnosed.
6 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Basset Hound Puppy
Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. The Basset Hound's sweet, sad face and popularity have made him the target of irresponsible breeders and puppy mills. If you go this route, you're more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
Make sure your puppy's breeder is a member in good standing of the Basset Hound Club of America and has agreed to abide by the club's Code of Ethics, which prohibits selling puppies to or through pet stores or other third party retailers.
Find a breeder who is willing -- eager, in fact -- to go over the health histories of your puppy's parents and their close relatives and to discuss how prevalent those particular health concerns are in his lines. The Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) requires that breeders test all their breeding dogs for several eye and bleeding disorders that occur in the breed.
Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Basset Hounds aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out.
Puppy or adult, take your Basset Hound to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues. Ask specifically about preventive care for ears, since dogs with floppy ears are prone to infections.
Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Pet Insurance for Basset Hounds
Pet insurance for Basset Hounds costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Basset Hounds are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.
Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Basset Hounds are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Basset Hound is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.