When I ask handlers why they don’t bother to obedience train their hounds (which is what John said to me that day with a few more colorful words.) I seem to get the same response.
“I heard that too much obedience on a hound can kill the dog's track drive and interfere with its trailing.” “Bloodhounds can’t learn obedience” or my favorite... “I’ve tried to teach my Hound to come but could never do it” or “I don’t need it. That's what a leash is for”.
Let's address the excuses that handlers use to justify not teaching their Hound some basic obedience.
Killing the dogs drive with obedience.
I can only guess that the rumor regarding the “killing of track drive” has been perpetuated among Hound handlers because Hound breeds are notorious for being difficult obedience students.
In my opinion, the idea that simple obedience training could kill track drive or interfere with the dog's ability to trail or track is a difficult concept for me to grasp. If this were true, very few service dogs would be able to track or trail at all since most police and search & rescue groups have strict obedience standards. Many competition tracking dogs, (mine included) must down on articles it recognizes along the track and then continues tracking to the finish. There are training techniques such as over-use of aversive training methods can certainly impact behavior but not necessarily in a good way. Using strong aversives comes wit ha price tag. Poorly timed corrections or corrections that are too harsh can cause fear, resulting in the dog becoming worried or nervous and that can transfer to your tracking line. YIKES!
I don’t need obedience for my Hound.
Really? I have never seen a handler yet that didn’t need his or her hound to behave or obey a simple cue at some point. Demos and public relations are just one example.
Yes, Hounds are cute and usually very social but they are also big and sloppy. Let's face it, 90 pounds of unruly Hound knocking over children, misbehaving, slobbering on people or refusing to obey its handler in front of a crowd doesn’t look cute or speak well for a service dog.
I’m not saying to go out there and attempt to teach your hound dog a high level of off-leash obedience exercises unless your so inclined or just want a challenge, however, I encourage all of you to spend some time on basic obedience skills for your Hound. I am positive you will find that with a little patience, consistency, and persistence, you will begin to have some positive results without inhibiting your dog's tracking performance. If you don’t know where to start with your training, consult a well-rounded obedience trainer or a fellow handler with some obedience training experience.
Now being a hound handler myself for many years, I admit they can be a bit more challenging when it comes to obeying some types of cues, especially where scent distractions are involved, and ours are no exception to this rule, but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn to obey with little persistence and consistency from the handler.
The simple fact that Hounds can be an obedience challenge can cause the average handler to become frustrated and give up quickly, resorting to the leash as the only form of controlling the dog. Usually, these quasi-attempts at controlling an unruly dog involve pulling and jerking the dog into submission. Unfortunately, having to resort to these kinds of aversive tactics and looks very unprofessional for a service dog team. Further, this is not an ideal way of communicating with your dog, nor does it work in cases where the dog accidentally escapes from the yard or your vehicle. Lastly, to add insult to injury, some dogs are quite sensitive to leash abuse. Constantly pulling and jerking unnecessarily on a leash transfer to your tracking line and cause fear, nervousness and sensitively to the tracking line.
Obedience taught properly, even to a Hound will only strengthen your relationship with the dog and make you a much more cohesive team in the end. It may even save the dog's life someday. The come, sit or stay command may be all you need for a trailing hound and won’t affect your dogs trailing ability one tiny bit if the obedience is trained correctly. I have seen some handlers use a “wait” command (the equivalent of “stay”) on occasion. This is handy if you need to crawl over a fence or require a quick rest.
A quick tip for runaway dogs.
If you do happen to find yourself in a situation where your dog won’t come to you, try running AWAY from the dog while calling it to you in your HAPPY voice. Most dogs enjoy a good game of chase and will follow you. Most importantly, don’t punish the dog when it gets to you no matter how long it takes. It may never come again if obeying you becomes a negative experience upon arriving at your feet.
Obedience for your Hound?
A hound, in its excitement to get out of the car, pushes its way past its handler when the vehicle door is opened. Once the dog is loose, the handlers feeble attempts to call the dog back fall upon what appear to be deaf ears. Attempts to run after the dog and catch it only result in a fun game of “catch me if you can” for the Hound.
I see this scenario occur routinely in one form or another and when it happens it can be embarrassing, unprofessional and dangerous for you and your K9 partner. I know because I experienced this with my first Hound only I had the misfortune of having it occur right in front of John Lutenberg the first time I met him. Imagine how that went over!
What makes these incidents of immediate concern is the fact that it can take place accidentally or in a moment when the handler drops the line or is distracted for a moment and the dog is off and running amuck. This can happen anywhere at any time. In rural locations where wildlife is available for Hounds to chase or urban areas where traffic is an extreme threat.