I make my living from my hound dogs. I take guided hunts for cougar, lynx and bobcat in the winter months. I also run black bear hunting in May and June. The country I hunt is hot and dry so black bear visuals are low and the use of a good bear pack is a necessity. Wintertime deals me a diverse amount of weather conditions from bare ground, three feet of snow and - 40 degrees. I am often contacted and asked what I look for in a good hound?
First thing I look for in a good hound is heart. I want a dog that has hunt drive and heart. I want a dog that meets you at the kennel door at 5:00 am no matter how many days in a row they have been hunted. I like a dog that makes me say, “ no, buddy you have to stay at home today”. If I have to beg a hound to hunt I do not beg long. Nothing is more discouraging than a hound that will not grind it out cold trailing or tries to line out a bear and does a little strike circle and runs back to load up. Breeding heart in a hound is number one in my book. Having a hound run a bear for 12 hours and then keep striking on your drive home is the dog I want in my truck.
I like a dog to have black pads on their feet. Yes I have had hounds with white pads that have been exceptional hounds. It has nothing to do with there hunt drive, it is just black pad dogs seem to hold up better. I have a deep shiny black and tan male out in my kennel right now that is the most durable hound I have ever had. He never breaks down on me. His feet are always good and he is always ready to hunt.
Build is important, to me not as much as heart, but right close. A good deep chest and lots of front end reach when they run. I like a fast dog that still possesses enough brains to slow down and use its nose when the need requires it. If a dog does not move easy it is more liable to give up the run quicker. A broad chest dog that seems to be fighting every running step generally is. They use more energy to run and burn out quicker. I like a hound that glides across the terrain with smooth easy effort.
I also like a longer ear and good square muzzle with slobber jowls but not the loose kind. Tight skin around the eyes and jowls but possessing that majestic kind of head. You need this look to posses a better nose. That is why bloodhounds have the coldest nose. Moisture from the jowls attaches to scent molecules, which get waft into the air by the ears and then the larger nasal cavity, picks it up. Bloodhound head is proven science not opinion. This build of head though, has to have an athletic body to go with it or once again you will have a dog that breaks down. A little walker intensity is nice as well. That is why a majestic walker cross is a desired choice of mine. You get both head, intensity and build.
A voice to eco through the valleys is a pleasure and at times a need. I love to hear a hound with a great bowl mouth and chop change over tree. Moments in mountain country with wind and distance as factors that one loud bawl mouth might be the only thing that saves you miles of mistakes or gets that tom cougar shot before dark. There is no doubt that a loud mouth dog is going to run a lynx farther but they will ware them down and still catch the lynx if they have enough heart. A good sounding voice is more of a pleasure to me than a necessity but I like to have voice in my kennel.
Having a hound that minds is very important. Nothing drives me crazier than hunting with someone who is in a wrestling match with a hound at the box door trying to leash it up. I have been asked often how do you get a hound to hunt with you? Take them to obedience school first, not to educate the dog as much as the owner. If you do not know how to get your hound to mind, your hound-hunting career is always going to be less than desirable. If you want to dry ground hunt or free cast a hound and it won’t return to your call, what then? Be the guy who stops on a logging road and lets 5 dogs out for a break, then calls them to load up and 5 dogs load up. You will find that when your dogs have parameters that their focus on the hunt will tune in. A hound that runs wild, especially in wolf country, is a dead dog!
Another thing, do you want to drag 5 hounds off a tree on leashes every time? Yes maybe the first little ways, but it sure is nice to walk out with 5 dogs healed in. If you get your hounds handling this way, then you are the head of the pack and your hounds are hunting for you!
Remember your hound doesn’t know English. Don’t babble at them when you really need them to respond, if you want them to come use their name period. If you want them to load up use their name plus “load up” or “truck” or whatever simple command you have for getting your dog to jump in your truck. Just remember to keep commands simple. It is tone they are responding to not English words. So get hounds that will mind you.
Some hounds have long dull coloured hair and others have short silky coats. I like hounds with short silky coats. They seem to shine and remain healthier. I cannot prove this, but observe it for your selves and see if there is anything to it! I need my hounds to stay healthy on a hunt so I try for shiny coat pups to raise.
It has made me look at hounds in a different light knowing they are earning my living. I guide trips from 5-10 days long. I cannot have poor excuses why my hounds didn’t catch. I require results, my patience are thin but my love for a great hound is immense. The love for hounds is routed in me but another fact still remains. A hound dog is a tool for me to do my job well. If you have a dull saw or cheap wrenches you cannot mechanic, if I have poor hounds I cannot guide a diverse amount of hound hunts.
The words I live by, “it is okay to like a hound, but easy to love a great hound”. Ps… I live by-looks good is good, with hounds. This is only my thoughts and experienced opinions, but we all know the similarities between opinions and A-holes, everybody has one!