Foxhounds are few and far between and among them is the American Foxhound. With its origins in the USA, the American Foxhound is a friendly and musical-sounding dog that is bred for hunting and tracking, thanks to its keen sense of smell. Foxhounds are many things; they are friendly, patient, playful, good trackers and great with families and children. If you have a Foxhound, you know that when he picks up a scent, he will follow it across town and there isn’t much you can do to stop him. But they are not good watchdogs owing to their friendly nature. Additionally, they can be hard to train, a trait that can make them quite difficult to handle. So why is your adorable Foxhound so hard to train? See more on that below.
The Root of the Behavior
Dog expert Adrienne Janet Farricelli points out that Foxhounds’ breeding contributes a lot to their resistance to training. They are bred for hunting and are thus naturally inclined to pursue scents (prey) instead of sitting still listening to people or taking commands. Since hounds hunt in packs, they are more used to being in the company of other dogs as opposed to being around humans and pleasing them. Further, Foxhounds are meant to be outside in nature hence when you constrain your dog for too long, he will no longer exhibit signs of friendliness and good behavior but will be impatient, difficult to control, and even destructive. Consider that your Foxhound is meant to walk many miles a day with his nose to the ground until he finds prey. Thus, when you keep him indoors for prolonged hours, this goes contrary to his true nature. In a nutshell, when you take away the physical and mental stimulation that comes from being outside, his frustration quickly builds and a dog in a state of frustration cannot be trained.
Unless you can provide your Foxhound with a lot of stimulation and exercise, you should not leave him in your home alone for long. He will destroy your house and may even injure himself. Restless dogs have been known to jump out of windows in response to a stimulating activity or scent out in the street, often at great cost to them and their owners. Lastly, the very nature of hunting requires a dog that will chase and catch prey without any instructions from his owner. Whereas you would expect that a Foxhound will get lost when hunting, the opposite is true. No matter how far Foxhounds stray from their owners when in a hunting situation, they always know to come back with their catch. This independent trait is yet another reason why Foxhounds are difficult to train. They are not used to taking instructions because they can think for themselves.
Encouraging the Behavior
Trainers who have managed to successfully train Foxhounds credit their success to first understanding the true nature of this dog breed. For instance, while Foxhounds are all trained to hunt, they are very distinct in how they approach hunting, and this is based on the category of hound they belong to. That is, hounds are either scent hunters or sight hunters. American Foxhounds are scent hunters, so to motivate your American Foxhound to obey your commands, you need to entice him with scents that are stronger or more attractive than anything in his environment. But using treats will not be effective if you don’t get your timing right. You need to catch your dog when he is just about to pick out a scent and distract him with your treats. If he has his nostrils locked on another scent, you will find it difficult to get him to listen to you.
Where you live will also influence how hard you must work to train your American Foxhound. If you live in the country, use your environment to your advantage. Open fields offer the best stimulation for hounds and after several hours of running around chasing hares and squirrels, your hound will be very receptive to training. You should also keep him in a kennel and preferably get him other Foxhound companions. If you live in the city, find a dog park where you can allow your Foxhound to run around for many hours. You can also increase your American Foxhound's receptiveness to training by starting training indoors where there are fewer distractions. More importantly, positive reinforcement always works as when your dog knows that there is a reward for behaving in a certain way, he will work to please you.
Other Solutions and Considerations
While training your dog, avoid using a command repeatedly when it doesn’t yield any results. Doing so, according to dog expert Crystal Thompson, teaches him ‘Learned irrelevance.' Referencing a book titled “Accelerated Learning,” by Pam Reid, Crystal Thompson explains that this phenomenon happens where a dog comes to associate a command as irrelevant because though you use it, there is no consequence when he does not follow it. If for instance your dog comes when you call and you give him a treat, he will associate this with the treat and hence the command will remain relevant because of the reward attached to it. If no reward is forthcoming, your dog will not be motivated to come when you call, to sit, roll over, or perform any other task you wish him to.
The bottom line is, you can train your Foxhound but it won’t be an easy task because you will be fighting against millennia of breeding. If you are considering getting a dog but don’t like physical exertion, the American Foxhound might just be a little too much for you and you’re better off getting a dog breed that will match your personality, lifestyle and likes. But if you are up to the task, the challenge that comes with training a Foxhound should be exciting for you.