The Ever So Surprising Basset Hound

If you believe the Basset Hound is best pretending to be a lap rug, you might be surprised to find them well suited for many activities. True to its lineage, the Basset is an avid and capable hunter succeeding in field trials and hunting performance tests. Many are good trackers and with their great temperament, wonderful therapy dogs. They are often good at obedience, rally and agility—a few are even lure coursing.

Basset breeders’ or owners’ comments below describe their experience. Tales vary, but they all love their hounds. The breeders and/or owners that responded to the questions are: Marge Cook, Bugle Bay; JoAnn Hilliker, Westwind; Ellen Johnson, Alexander; Sharon Nance, Bobac; Terri Ralenkotter and Anne Testoni, Spectrum.

Basset Hound

How did you become involved with Bassets and in what events do you participate?

Marge: “Our first Basset headed to obedience school and we were hooked. The Basset hound was thought to be a tough breed to do obedience, but she proved them wrong. She earned her UDT by being consistent, reliable and full of charm, throwing gooey looks to well wishers as she worked. She went High In Trial at an all-breed show in Utility. That cutie led us to the conformation ring.”

JoAnn: “My husband, an avid reader of Fred Basset cartoons, wanted a Basset hound. We bought a pet and soon decided obedience training would be a good idea. Unfortunately we chose a trainer who was excellent with working dogs. Her advice was to get a ‘good dog’. Luckily we had joined BHCA and had contact with other Basset people. We learned the trick was to make training fun and let the hound think it was his idea with rewards for correct behavior. We entered an obedience and conformation match. The tray he won for Best of Breed was the start of almost 40 years of Bassets. We have competed in many venues—conformation, obedience, rally, agility, tracking, field trial and hunting performance. Individual Bassets ‘chose’ venues for participation depending on personality, likes and dislikes. I like the first activity to be basic tracking, a team sport with handler and hound. Bassets like to be in charge and they develop their natural scenting ability. It’s a great activity for puppies.”

Ellen: “I had Bassets and wanted to breed better dogs. I got my first show pup and started from there. I participate in Field Trials, where I enjoy watching Bassets work together as a pair on a line to find a rabbit. I have done some Obedience. I try to do things my Bassets enjoy.”

Sharon: “My love with the Basset hound happened 40 years ago. They are all things I am not. They don’t take themselves seriously, nap every day and enjoy the moment. I got my first Basset/mix from rescue, followed by a pet, which led to a show prospect. I began breeding and now judging. Most of my emphasis was on conformation, but enjoyed obedience as well.”

Terri: “I became involved in Bassets in 1996. I have competed in conformation, rally, obedience, agility, lure coursing, field trials and hunting performance tests. Rain is the first Basset to earn the AKC Coursing Ability Title.”

Anne: “My mother gave me a Basset hound puppy for my 15th birthday. My husband and I acquired a pet, followed by a rescue. We started obedience training and enjoyed figuring out how to get this wonderfully stubborn breed to cooperate. At the end of the class, the instructors suggested we compete. My Bassets are involved in conformation, obedience, rally, agility and therapy dog work. I have come to enjoy breeding.”

How important are mentors and have they helped?

Basset HoundMarge: “Our mentors were the breeders of our first show dog along with another reputable breeder. Mentors are important and can certainly help guide in any endeavor.” JoAnn: “Trainers for obedience and conformation were available locally. Early tracking was learned from reading and the BHCA videotape. Very experienced field trialers helped us understand the culture around field trialing, the judging and running hounds on rabbit. Participating in the BHCA Nationals exposed us to people with expertise. Almost everyone we asked was willing to share their knowledge and skills. A local rabbit hunter let me hunt with his Basset. Th is experience was invaluable.”

Ellen: “I feel mentors are a must in breeding. I learned so much from a breeder friend about raising pups. My current mentor is Barbara Brandt, Sasquatch. A good mentor is necessary to share their years of experience and knowledge. Th ose who do not have mentors are really missing out. I would not be where I am today without my mentors.”

Sharon: “Mentors are very important picking a show prospect, getting connected to a good trainer, joining clubs and getting involved in the dog fancy. My most treasured mentor was the breeder of our first show dog—Harriet Richman, Hobbit Hill. She was the one I went to for advice and was there to teach us about whelping and caring for puppies.”

Terri: “My mentors are very important. As I learned more about the breed I turned to BHCA breeders for my hounds. Th e mentors’ trust enabled me to have Bassets that could fulfill my dreams. Robert ‘Gene’ McDonald helped with aspects of showing when I got my first conformation dog. Ellen Ferguson, Kaleidoscope, is one of the pioneers of Basset agility for the club. Ellen has given her time and good advice over the years. Agility, obedience and rally instructors who believed that Bassets can do it all have worked with me to train in ways which compliment the independent nature of the Bassets. A great mentor in rabbit hunting was the late ‘Wild Bill’ Cartwright of the Ohio Valley Beagle Club. He spent hours showing me the ways of rabbits and hunting with Beagles that applied to Bassets.”

Anne: “Mentors are important to success in dog sports. Each dog sport has its unique written and unwritten rules. Mentors help the novice achieve success and avoid costly errors. My earliest mentors were in companion events and conformation. I was lucky to have good instructors for Rally and Agility. Th ey stood ringside at my first competitions providing moral support and technical feedback. I never would have tried my hand at breeding without the support of mentors. Their guidance has been critical.”

Basset Hound

What are the challenges and rewards of participating in your chosen events?

Marge: “There were many challenges— early mornings, late nights, sick puppies, old age problems, decisions on how to breed, etc. Those who have dogs know what a trick it is to grow the lawn without the excavation team making mulch out of the whole thing. We lost one of our field dogs while she was practicing her trade to get ready for the BHCA Nationals. That was scary but we got her back and to our great joy, she won the whole darn National Field Trial. My husband and I had tears running down our faces!”

JoAnn: “In retirement, competing is easier. When we were both working, balancing professional activities, training and competing was challenging. The rewards are many great friendships with ‘Basset people’. I believe the hounds know when they do something well. There is a satisfied look on their faces.”

Ellen: “I do the showing for me and field trials for the dogs. I also enjoy the company of friends and finding wonderful homes for my ‘kids’. Breeding can be hard when your favorite pup doesn’t turn out, but is rewarded by the one that is just what you wished for.”

Sharon: “Challenges are many with Bassets. They are independent thinkers and often seem to have a different agenda. Rewards come when hard work has paid off with a good performance. It is ‘gravy’, when the judge points at you for the first time or your hound get those qualifying scores.”

Terri: “The mindset of a dog bred for independent thinking versus a dog that is wired to please the handler can be challenging. By watching Bassets in the field, people will see drive, determination and stamina which surpass most breeds and observers will know that they are well suited for many activities. While it is nice to bring home the ribbon, my most priceless memory is one of Rain next to a smiling child taken at Shriners Hospital in Cincinnati.”

Anne: “Training the Basset Hound for any of the companion events brings special challenges due to their independent nature, sense of smell and unique conformation. I have been fortunate to find trainers who allowed me to identify methods that match the personalities and unique strengths and weaknesses of each dog. Nothing brings people to ringside at an agility competition like a Basset getting ready to run.” We hope that through these breeders’/owners’ eyes, you come to appreciate the Basset Hound as we do.

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