The Basset Hound — What to Expect of This Dog Breed

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Basset Hounds are descended from the old St. Hubert hounds. Used to trail and drive game away, the Basset has had such famous admirers as King Edward VII and Shakespeare. The Basset was bred for hunting small game. The Basset’s long ears were developed to stir up and hold the scent for their strong nose to smell. The folds of skin under the chin, called the dewlap, help trap and hold the scent.

Wrinkles about the head and face also aid in holding the scent. Their large feet make them steady and the heavy bones make them sturdy. With their short legs they are ideal for slow trailing which allows hunters to follow on foot. The Basset is used primarily to hunt rabbit although they were first used on other small game such as pheasant.

Does the Basset Hound make a good pet?

The Basset Hound is one of the best dogs available for a family to love. They are extremely tolerant and love everyone in the family equally. They are a very gentle, sweet, loyal and affectionate breed, although they are quite stubborn at times. They get along well with other pets of various species. They are not an aggressive watchdog but will learn to give a deep bark as a warning if praised when sounding off. Otherwise, they will accept visitors with a sniff and return to a favorite corner. The Basset Hound is a versatile pet who will play with children, make a skilled hunter, and sit by their owner’s side during quiet times.

How big is the adult Basset Hound and how should they look?

The male Basset Hound at maturity usually weighs between 55 and 75 pounds, and stands 12, to not more than 15 inches tall at the shoulder. They are a big dog on short legs. The female is usually about 10 pounds lighter and 1 inch or so shorter than the male. Make no mistake, the Basset grows to be a good size dog, weighing more than most people expect, due to his heavy bone. As a young dog they need a consistent, firm, (but not harsh) hand so they will learn not to jump on people.

They are not lap dogs, even though they may think so. The Basset has a large, well proportioned head, sad, droopy eyes with a prominent haw; and long, low-set ears and loose facial skin and dewlap. A muscular neck and shoulders arch above a powerful chest, and the stubby legs are tipped with huge paws. His low-slung, loose-skinned, body is accented by a tail carried gaily in an upswept arc.

What is the Basset Hound’s temperament?

Basset Hounds have gentle dispositions. They were bred to be pack dogs and to get along with each other. This makes the male as friendly, mild, and easy to live with as the female. Males are not as aggressive as some other breeds of dogs, and they are usually not as prone to “marking” their territory unless there is an unneutered male around.

Do Bassets have any strange habits?

Some Basset Hounds have a tendency to howl when left alone for long periods of time. They will also wander away from home if not kept in a (securely locked) fenced area. The Basset is so good with kids, and often found in homes with children, great care must be taken to assure that gates cannot accidentally be left open when the kids enter and leave the fenced area. When a good scent reaches their nose, there is no telling where they will end up, and unfortunately, the Basset is not good at finding the way home. A responsible owner keeps his Basset as safe from harm as he would any other cherished pet.

A Basset with its large deep flews also tends to be more slobbery than other breeds. Some individual Bassets are “drier mouthed” than others, but as a whole the breed is a “wet mouthed” breed. To the prospective Basset owner, this means that that the dog will drool quite a bit, and tend to make a mess while drinking. If you are a fastidious housekeeper, and have an aversion to dog drool on your floors (and occasionally your walls), then the Basset Hound is probably not the breed for you. This is an important point, because one of the major reasons that Bassets are given up for rescue or adoption is that “the dog drools too much”. Time and again those involved in Basset rescue hear this same old story. So get out your slobber rag if you want a Basset!

How much does a Basset Hound eat?

Adult Basset Hounds generally eat between 2 and 4 cups of food per day. (Many dog food labels have you over-feeding your dogs.) Bassets often have a tendency to get fat, partly because their sad look lends their owners to “take pity on them” and give them more food than they require. Overeating is dangerous to all dogs. Puppies, depending on their age, will eat from two to four meals per day in proportion to their size.

You should avoid feeding your Basset fad foods; feed a well-balanced, name brand dry food supplemented with a quality canned food and/or other supplements. Many canine nutrition experts feel that vitamin supplements are not needed when using a top quality name-brand dog food. If a vitamin is used, care must be takne to avoid over-supplementing. Check with your veterinarian to see what is best for your dog. Store or generic brand dogs foods should not be used. A pregnant female Basset gradually requires more food and a supplement as recommended by your veterinarian.

Are Basset Hounds hard to groom?

The Basset Hound does not need fussy coat care due to his hard, short coat which repels dirt and water rather well. However, they should be brushed weekly to remove any loose hair and dirt. Bassets do not shed very much if brushed regularly. The Basset Hound needs a bath only four to six times a year because a good rubdown with a coarse cloth or a hounds glove will remove a great deal of dirt and bring a shine to the coat.

Regular grooming helps create a bond between owner and pet. Wipe out the insides of the ears once a week. The Basset’s heavy ear leather prevents loss of moisture from inside the ear, and, if it is not cleaned out with a cotton ball and a solution recommended by your veterinarian, odor and/or infection can result. Clean the outside of the ears also because they often drape in food and water dishes and pick up dirt from the ground. Trim the nails every 1-3 weeks to allow the dog to walk correctly on his feet and properly support his heavy weight.

Puppies need more frequent clipping than the adult. Should you hear the nails clicking on the floor, they need to be cut. Have your veterinarian or breeder show you how to properly clip your dog’s nails. Clean your Basset’s teeth with a soft toothbrush and water/doggie toothpaste to prevent plaque buildup. You may want the veterinarian to show you the proper procedure for anal gland care as another means of keeping your dog odor-free and comfortable.

Are Basset Hounds healthy dogs?

The Basset Hound claims excellent health. He is not prone to many hereditary weaknesses that are present in some other breeds. Many of the Basset’s health problems can be attributed to his owner because he allowed his dog to become overweight, possibly resulting in aggravated arthritis, back problems, or heart trouble.

Physical fitness is as important to the Basset as it is to humans. The Basset Hound enjoys running and leading an active life. Dogs raised in areas of the country where they can participate in the popular sport of field trialing can enjoy particularly good health. The Basset is an endurance dog.

All breeds can carry genetic disorders or hereditary faults. The following list includes some of the problems that can develop in Bassets:

Von Willebrand’s Disease

A hereditary disorder appearing in some Bassets is Von Willebrand’s disease, a platelet disorder resulting in mild to moderately severe bleeding and a prolonged bleeding time.


The Basset is one of the breeds predisposed to glaucoma.


Like many other breeds with a deep chest, the Basset is susceptible to gastric dilatation with torsion of the stomach (bloat). This can be a problem regardless of age. Torsion or bloat is considered an emergency and action must be taken immediately.


Paneosteitis is an elusive ailment occasionally seen in young Bassets. It is also known as wandering or transient lameness. Attacks are usually brought on by stress and aggravated by activity, and up to now, the cause and the cure are unknown. This mysterious disease causes sudden lameness, but its greatest potential danger may lie in false diagnosis, resulting in unnecessary surgery. A puppy will typically outgrow it by the age of two with no long term problems. It can be quite minor, or so bad that the dog will not put any weight on the leg. Symptoms may be confused with “elbow displasia”, “hip displasia”, “patellar luxation” and other more serious disorders.

The most definite way to diagnose paneosteitis is radiographically. Even with this, signs can be quite minimal and easily missed. As to treatment, no cure was found in experimental tests and the only helpful thing found was relief for pain (aspirin, cortisone, etc.) However, using these, the dog tends to exercise more and thereby aggravate the condition.

In diagnosing the cause of a Basset’s lameness, a radiograph of the forelimbs may indicate a condition called elbow incongruity. (Elbow incongruity is a poor fit between the 3 bones which comprise the elbow joint.) Studies to date indicate that elbow incongruity is normal in the Basset and is not the cause of the lameness. It is also suspected that many of the previously mentioned unnecessary (panosteitis) surgeries have been performed on Basset Pups just because radiographs that were taken showed elbow incongruity.

A study on forelimb lameness in the Basset is currently underway at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. As previously mentioned they have determined that elbow incongruity occurs in the Basset but suspect that incongruity rarely causes the lameness. During the course of the study, conservative therapy will be recommended for all cases in which panosteitis appears to be the cause of the lameness. In cases with severe growth deformities or elbow pain associated with elbow incongruity, surgery may be recommended. If your Basset develops lameness and is diagnosed with an “elbow problem”, discuss with your veterinarian the possibility of panosteitis.


Some Bassets may have allergies to grasses. Hanging t heir head close to the ground for long periods of time will further aggravate it. If an allergy is diagnosed, a veterinarian can prescribe a mild eye ointment or other appropriate treatment.


The long drooping ear predisposes the Basset to otitis externa, (smelly yucky ears). This is easily prevented if ear cleaning is done regularly,such as when nails are clipped. Check with your veterinarian for an ear wash, or make a preventative cleaning mix of 50% isopropyl alcohol and 50% white vinegar.


Due to the Basset’s large paws, they are prone to interdigital cysts, abscesses and fungus infections between the digits (toes).


As a puppy, the Basset should never be given too much exercise because of the heavy boned front. Care must also be taken to protect the front when jumping off anything, stairs, tables, etc.

How much does a Basset Hound cost?

A purebred, pet quality Basset Hound puppy from a reputable breeder may cost between $350-$700, depending on the part of the country. The price for a puppy with show (or breeding) potential will start appreciably higher. Prices of individual puppys vary according to quality (show or field potential), age, geographic region, and availability. The puppy should have been checked by a veterinarian and given appropriate inoculations based on its age. Inoculations for rabies, distemper, leptospirosis, hepatitis, kennel cough, and parvovirus are all necessary.

A conscientious breeder will have a complete record of all puppy illnesses, treatments, and inoculations. Beware of a breeder who sells a puppy without all the necessary shots or proper AKC registration information. Also beware of the breeder that wants to sell a puppy prior to 8 weeks. In many areas it is against the law to sell or transport a puppy younger than this age. Pet stores tend to change the highest prices for puppies. The source of these puppies is usually a puppy mill, whose sole motive is breeding for profit, not temperament, type, or health. Buyer Beware!

What can I expect in my older Basset?

Given good care, the Basset can lead a very active 10 years and be active as a stud dog up to 12 years. (AKC will not register puppies sired by a dog over 12 years of age without written permission of AKC and certification from a veterinarian.) Bassets enjoy their food in old age and, if allowed, become fat and lazy. The Basset is an easy keeper and a steady hound and usually lives 8 to 12 years, although there are many that live beyond, to 14,15,16 or even up to 17 years.

Are Bassets hard to breed?

Yes! Once determining that your dog of bitch is worthy of being bred (be sure to read the breeding FAQs) the owner of the dog must be prepared to provide the following.

  • A safe, secure, clean area to keep the visiting bitch to be bred (the bitch always goes to the dog). Can you provide this?
  • Bassets do not “free” breed and need to be personally handled/ supervised throughout the entire act of breeding. Are you willing to do this? Two Bassets left together is a room will only result in two tired, frustrated, unbred dogs.
  • Your male will probably start “marking” (peeing) his territory in your home.
  • Your male may become more aggressive perhaps to you, and your family.
    Remember: If you have never had ice cream, you will never miss it. Spay and/or neuter.

Are Bassets hard to housetrain?

No harder than any other breed, you must be consistent.

Can the Basset Hound swim?

Only with a great deal of difficulty. With 2/3 of the Basset’s weight in the front, and with such short legs, they can swim only very short distances, and with great difficulty. If you must go boating with a Basset be certain, you have provided a life preserver for him or other suitable floatation device. Extra care must be taken around swimming pools, and the Basset should never be left, unsupervised in a pool area. Should your Basset be prone to falling in, get him to swim to the stairs, so that he will learn the way out.

What about colors? Are red and whites rare, therefore worth more? What about the “blue” Basset?

The value of a Basset should not be based on its color or markings. The tri-color is the most common, followed by the red & white. Tri’s at times can appear to be black and white, but on closer inspection, a touch of brown usually can be found. Red & whites can be almost completely white with just a few spots of tan, or they can be a deep mahogany color with only a small amount of white. Most come somewhere in between. There are also lemon & whites. A true lemon is rarely seen. Their markings are mostly white that fades into areas of very, very light tan. To tell if it is a true lemon, the puppy, at birth is totally white with no hint of tan. The light tan color develops as they mature.

It should also be noted that the color and coverage of the marking of the puppy you get at 10-12 weeks will change as they mature. Every once in a while, you will hear of someone advertising the “rare” blue Basset (actually it is gray). The standard states “any recognizable hound color is acceptable”, and blue is a recognized color in some other hound breeds, so it’s not illegal – but it is VERY undesirable. It is a recessive trait resulting in genetically inherited disorders associated with this color, i.e. periscoping intestines, skin allergies and food allergies. Be wary of breeders selling these “blue” bassets. A reputable breeder would not involve themselves in purposely breeding inferior quality.

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