Bloodhound Temperament: The best nose in the dog business
Is the Bloodhound a good dog breed for your lifestyle? Although their name sounds scary for squeamish people, their primary ability is hidden in the name. They can smell like no other dog and are the scent masters in the dog breed world. But there is so much more to learn about the Bloodhound temperament. So before making decisions, read our blog post on this special and unique dog breed.
We'll help you learn about their history, temperament, exercise needs, and health issues. This information will help determine if this breed is a perfect fit. The Bloodhound is a busy dog with a sensitive and people-orientated side. However, they come with breed-specific challenges, probably more so than your average dog. They can be boisterous and underestimate their own strength.
Is the Bloodhound suitable, and can you deal with this highly specialised working dog?
Let's dive right in!
The Bloodhound has a surprisingly dark past, primarily down to humans by no fault of their own. However, the Bloodhound has no bad bone in their body and is not prone to aggression if socialised appropriately.
The Bloodhound's history is one of the most interesting in the dog world. Being an expert in picking up scents, they have been used for good but also for evil things by immoral humans.
Their ancestors include the St. Hubert Hound from Belgium and the Talbot Hound. The French still call the Bloodhound "Le Chien de Saint-Hubert". It is believed that these hound breeds originated in the Mediterranean area.
The first indications of the appearance of the Bloodhound in England start around the 12th century. But it is probable that they came to England long before that and were perfected here.
Even Scotland had their own type of Bloodhound in the 11th century called Sleuth Hounds to track and hunt people.
The Talbot Hound, now extinct, found its way to England from France around 1066 with William the Conqueror. The Talbot DNA contributed most likely to Boxer, Basset Hounds, Foxhound, Coonhound, Spanish Hound, Beagle, Harrier and Bloodhounds.
Initially, their ancestors were used to tracking wild boar and deer in medieval times. However, they did not participate in the killing as the Bloodhound doesn't portray violence towards other animals. Instead, they're a specialist dog bred exclusively for their strong sense of smell and tracking skills. Bloodhounds are often described as the oldest dog breed hunting by scent.
Their long and robust neck muscles make them perfectly built to track scents closer to the ground, whilst the long breed characteristic ears waffle the smell into their smell receptors located in their nasal cavity. In addition, the loose skin around their head can trap and retain the scent they are supposed to track.
It has been proven that the Bloodhound has around 300 Million scent receptors, followed by the Basset Hound with about 220 scent receptors.
Their strong sense of smell was discovered early, and they have been used to track criminals, lost children, and people that the handler wanted them to track down. Unfortunately, the Bloodhound's past is also intertwined with the dark time of slavery in the US. They were made to track down escaped slaves.
Nowadays, the Bloodhound has a dwindling gene pool and is close to extinction, as they're getting replaced by more multipurpose dogs, like the German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois. These expert police dogs can track scent that the handler wants them to find in a particular area and attack, an attribute that the Bloodhound lacks. Due to being such a niche dog, the Bloodhound is on the UK native vulnerable dog breed register.
In some happy news, the Bloodhound is the best and only breed to be used in the clean boot hunt in the UK. Due to hunting bans in the UK, the Bloodhound is the only breed that can be used. They don't kill the hunted object, which used to be foxes or deer. Instead, they follow the specific scent undistracted.
In this hunt, there are no stains of blood. Bloodhounds are tracking the smell of a human runner instead, and everybody follows and joins in.
The first dog show was held in the UK in 1859. In 1860 the first Bloodhounds were entered.
Bloodhounds are a rare dog breed in the UK, so if you're interested in owning one, be prepared for a longer waitlist. The UK Kennel Club recognises 4 breed standard colours.
Black & Tan
Liver & Tan
In 2022, only 34 Bloodhound puppies were registered with the UK Kennel Club, which is more than last year and a nice increase. The Bloodhound is not a common sight in the UK, but it has some loyal followers who love the breed.
Source: UK Kennel Club https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media/2403/quarterly-breed-stats-hounds.pdf updated March 2023
Now that we have a rough idea about their breeding history let's dive into how your life with a Bloodhound might look.
What is the Bloodhound Temperament like?
The Bloodhound temperament is busy and boisterous, especially at a younger age. They have a high drive to work and be entertained that a calm minute feels like an hour to them.
The Bloodhound is heavy, with a top weight of 46kg. This high-energy dog is full of muscle and can be hard to control. This is a dog that requires a physically strong owner.
Their sense of smell is so accurate and error-free that it can be used as evidence in a court of law in the USA. Their unique ability is that they can focus on one smell and don't get distracted by others around them. It's a skill that needs to be trained and positively reinforced daily to be flawless.
We recommend always keeping your Bloodhound on the leash as their re-call abilities could be better once they have picked a scent they decide to follow. Let them run free in an open but securely fenced area. To let them explore the world, we recommend a long training lead.
Having time is of the essence when planning to own a Bloodhound. They can be destructive around the house if left to their own devices. A bored Bloodhound will be a naughty Bloodhound.
Letting your dog sniff sufficiently outside when they catch a trail is crucial. Bloodhounds love exploring and are curious dogs, so walkies sometimes take longer. But they will also not let a stone unturned in your house, so make sure your house and garden are "Bloodhound" proved.
Bloodhounds were bred to be headstrong and make decisions by themselves. As an owner, you need a lot of understanding for this wilful breed.
Socialisation from as early as 4 weeks is crucial when owning a Bloodhound. During that time, puppies create a framework for perceiving the world and reacting to everything outside the norm. New people, children, smaller animals or dogs all form part of the puppies' environment. The more they're exposed to different situations, there more they will grow accustomed to them and not see them as a threat.
Bring your Bloodhound puppy to dog shows, parks, supermarkets and pet shops and let them develop and expand their framework. Bloodhounds are huge and heavy dogs. They can easily knock people over as they're unaware of their strength. However, in the socialisation phase, they learn to control their strength and adjust their reactions to different people.
As a future Bloodhound owner, you will require a lot of understanding of the breed's history. The Bloodhound was never bred to sit obediently at home. They have a wild and boisterous side, reflected in their history. Therefore, training can be challenging. Learning and opening up to your Bloodhound will be crucial as you need to explore what makes your Bloodhound tick.
Despite their engaging nature, Bloodhounds are sensitive dogs. Yelling and shouting at them can make them very upset and more stubborn. Positive reinforcement works best, but every Bloodhound may respond differently to particular positives. Observe your dog and its reaction and see what works best.
If you're very houseproud, this dog might not suit you. They slobber a lot, and it ends up on walls and ceilings.
The Bloodhound is not the right choice if you're looking for a watch- or guard dog. They love everybody and everything and will happily greet them at the door. The Bloodhound is an empathetic dog with a very people-orientated side.
Bloodhounds are loyal and have a lot of compassion for their owners and family. They love giving smooches and expressing their love by lying next to you on the couch or demanding your attention with their paw.
Bloodhounds require an understanding owner with time to dedicate to them and their need to sniff the world. They have a lot of energy and demand 2 hours plus exercise as their fundamental right.
Many Bloodhounds end up back at their breeder after a while because newbie owners underestimate the work involved with this breed. It's not a breed suitable for new full-time working dog parents. Constant training, physical and mental stimulation, and attention will take up most of your time.
Their endurance is mind-boggling, and they can spend a whole day outside without tiring. Be ready for this commitment if you set your mind on a Bloodhound.
Let's now look at some common Bloodhound questions.
Are Bloodhounds good family dogs?
Bloodhounds make for excellent family dogs if socialised appropriately. They have a loving, compassionate and affectionate temperament towards their family and are great with children.
Socialisation is crucial as your dog should have expanded its framework for approaching different people. For example, bloodhounds can get excited quickly and knock a smaller child over if they haven't been taught to be careful around smaller humans. On the other hand, you should teach your children how to approach a dog respectfully.
Bloodhounds are very patient dogs and can deal well with many turbulences. Especially older Bloodhounds have a more steady and balanced temperament.
You should never let your young child hold the lead of a Bloodhound. Once they sniff an enticing scent, they might pull hard and risk injuring your child. In addition, a Bloodhound requires a physically strong handler. Remember all this, and you will have a great family dog.
Are Bloodhounds stubborn?
Yes, Bloodhounds are not an easy breed to train and can be stubborn. As a consequence, their independent nature can shine through in training sessions.
You will be required to spend a lot of quality time with your dog, understand what makes them tick and sometimes just accept that they aren't going to win any obedience competitions.
They were bred to follow their noses and are a specialist dog breed. If you're after a perfectly trained dog who follows every command, consider looking into a different breed. The Bloodhound can be trained with patience, positivity and consistency. They're intelligent, so they can understand what you want them to do. Unfortunately, what leads them astray is usually their nose… Once you know that and adjust your expectations, you can live with your half-obedient Bloodhound.
Has a Bloodhound ever won Best in Show?
Yes! Trumpet won the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Show in 2022 and is now the first Bloodhound to win the title. To win Best in Show, the dog is judged on how well they conform to its breed standards. Trumpet's appearance, movement and temperament were tested, and he passed with flying colours taking the crown against 3,500 other breeds.
Bloodhound Temperament in a nutshell
People-orientated, loyal and loving temperament towards their family
A dog that will require patience and understanding
Advanced knowledge of positive reinforcement training is required
Energetic, active and boisterous which requires a strong handler
Perfect re-call might never be achieved so keep your Bloodhound on the leash
Bloodhound fun fact
The Bloodhound is the most featured dog breed in the Walt Disney universe. We are not counting quantities; otherwise, 101 Dalmatians would win. But can you name all Bloodhound breeds in the Walt Disney universe?
We know Trusty (Lady and the Tramp), Copper, although he is a Bloodhound/Coonhound mix, we will count it (The Fox and the Hound), Bruno (Cinderellas Dog), Towser (The dog in 101 Dalmatians) and last but not least Napoleon from the original Aristocats. In the newest Disney movie, we met Stella in "the Princess and the Frog". And who could forget Toby from "The Great Mouse Detective"? So as you can see, there are numerous Bloodhounds in the Walt Disney universe.
Another fun fact is that Pluto actually debuted as a Bloodhound in the Micky Mouse cartoon "The Chain Gang" in 1930. He was later changed to a mixed-breed dog.
Potential health issues in the Bloodhound breed
It is a good idea to budget for potential vet bills and the time required to care for your Bloodhound if they develop a particular condition. As a new owner, you should be prepared to pay medical expenses associated with the breed.
The size of this dog will make medical treatment expensive. Thus, always opt for comprehensive insurance. Medicines are, for example, dosed based on body weight, so a Bloodhound will set you back financially.
As with any breed, a dog can have inherited conditions or conditions due to environmental factors.
Not all Bloodhounds will experience the below non-hereditary diseases. However, it's essential to be aware of them to spot problems early on so you can follow up with immediate treatment.
The below list does not replace a vet visit. In general, always look for a vet if your dog displays any sort of symptoms and internet research never replaces a vet visit.
The below health conditions are more likely linked to the Bloodhound breed or are mentioned in health surveys among Kennel Clubs:
Bloat: Needs to be treated immediately as it can be deadly to your Bloodhound. When it comes to Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus Syndrome or simply bloat, many deep-chested breeds are susceptible to it. It is recommended not to exercise Bloodhounds 1 hour before they eat and at least 1 hour afterwards. Please consult your vet for more details and tips.
Cancer: Like many other dog breeds, Bloodhounds are susceptible to cancer. Keep an eye out for swelling, lumps and bumps and observe your dog's behaviour.
Ear infections: This dog has a lot of loose skin and floppy ears. Floppy ears are susceptible to infections due to less air circulation.
Elbow and hip dysplasia: an inherited skeletal condition that can be exacerbated by quick growth and obesity
Ectropion: is an outward rolled eyelid that can cause irritation and discomfort and lead to conjunctivitis. This is more likely in breeds with loose skin.
Entropion: an inwardly rolled eyelid that can result in the same symptoms as ectropion. Both conditions can be corrected surgically. Again, very likely in breeds with a lot of loose skin.
Neurological disorders: Epilepsy and seizures have been reported in this breed.
Heart conditions: Breeders should test for any heart conditions before breeding.
Wobblers syndrome: A sort of head tremor that has been reported in Bloodhounds. It's believed to be a hereditary condition that is not harmful to your dog. The head will move side to side or up and down in quick movements. Try to distract your dog if it starts with treats or games. As the gene for the syndrome is unknown, there is currently no gene test for this condition.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM): Can be tested with a DNA test. It can lead to paralysis of the hindquarters.
Always go to an experienced and specialised breeder when looking for a Bloodhound. Most hereditary diseases are inherited in a recessive manner. It means the puppy must inherit both parents' genes to become affected. The puppy becomes a carrier if the mutation is only present in one parent. Hence, choosing a reputable breeder who has done genetic testing on their Bloodhound litters is vital.
Owners' voices about their Bloodhound
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Conclusion: Is the Bloodhound the right dog for me?
The Bloodhound is a specialised working dog who will do well with an active family or very active household. They're an exciting and curious dog breed that amazes you daily.
However, you must show patience and understanding for their heritage as the ultimate scenthound. Their drive to be outside exploring scents, trails and nature is so deeply ingrained in them that they need long, versatile and active walks.
The Bloodhound should also be mentally challenged; otherwise, they will eat anything they set their eyes on and may wreck your home due to their mouthiness.
Before deciding that the Bloodhound is the dog, you've been looking for, familiarise yourself with the positive reinforcement training method and accept that this dog won't win any obedience competitions.
They bond with all family members, the more, the merrier, and they enjoy the togetherness you can give them. Once you provide the Bloodhound with a home and loads of scent work, they will be loyal, devoted, ever-loving, and happy.
Bloodhound Summary Breed Info box
Tendency to drool
Tendency to bark
Tendency to dig