There has been much controversy in recent years over traditional fox hunting, especially in the United Kingdom, where fox hunting with hounds and horses has been a tradition for centuries. As a result, foxhunting with live foxes and dogs has become illegal in Britain and parts of Europe, though it is legal in Canada and the U.S. The controversy stems from the practice of using a pack of hounds to run a fox, followed by the pack of dogs killing the fox. As a result, some fox hunters have switched to using a drag to create a fox scent trail for dogs to follow. This provides the dogs with a hunting outlet and exercise, allowing human counterparts on foot or horse, to participate without a live fox being run and killed. However, North America has a large population of foxes, and when fox and human habitats overlap, problems can arise.
Foxes present a problem by preying on pets and small livestock, especially poultry, and hunting fox to control the population and protect domesticated animals is necessary in many areas. Dogs may be used as a tool to locate, track, and hunt fox where and when necessary to control wild fox populations.
Fox hunting with a pack of dogs requires great stamina, agility, and courage on the part of the dogs. There is a risk of dogs being injured when a fox turns to defend itself, so a pack of experienced foxhunting dogs that can work together is necessary. Certain breeds of dog have been developed for generations to excel at this type of work including, miniature, smooth, wirehaired, American, and English foxhounds and Harriers. Dogs used for hunting foxes are started early as puppies, learning to scent fox and becoming used to the smell of foxes, and the sights, and sounds of the hunt. However, only more mature dogs should be used in an actual hunt on live fox due to the danger from strenuous physical exertion and the danger of confronting a cornered wild animal.
Dogs being used to hunt fox will need to learn to scent fox using commercially available fox scent, or fox hides provided to the dog for this purpose. Dogs being used for foxhunting must be in excellent physical condition, as hunting fox with dogs involves running over long distances and over rough terrain, and a dog that is not conditioned for such activity will experience muscle strain and injury as well as possible joint and other injuries. Dogs used for hunting fox and other game are often fitted with tracking collars to allow handlers to locate the dogs if they become separated from handlers or the pack. Dogs should have strong off-leash recall and a good grasp of off-leash commands prior to hunting fox in the field.