Overview of the Deerhound

Origins and History

The Scottish Deerhound, or the Deerhound, is a breed steeped in antiquity, tracing its lineage long before recorded history. These majestic dogs were originally bred in Scotland to hunt and bring down the mighty red deer, a task they were admirably suited for thanks to their formidable size, speed, and agility.

The breed’s noble bearing and regal presence did not go unnoticed by the Scottish nobility, who often referred to the Deerhound as the “Royal Dog of Scotland.” This esteemed title reflects the high regard these dogs held and the predominantly aristocratic circles within which they moved. Historically, owning a Deerhound was a status symbol, indicative of nobility and high social standing.

Characteristics

Physical Appearance

Size and Weight Specifics:
Male Deerhounds typically stand between 30-32 inches at the shoulder, while females are slightly smaller. Their weight generally ranges from 85 to 110 pounds, making them one of the larger and more imposing breeds. Their considerable size contributes to their storied prowess as hunters capable of tackling large game.

Coat Type and Common Colors:
The Deerhound possesses a rough coat that protects it from the harsh Scottish weather. This coat can come in shades, including gray, brindle, and fawn. Each hue not only adds to the dog’s aesthetic appeal but also serves as camouflage during hunting excursions in the rugged highlands.

Temperament

General Disposition:
Deerhounds are known for their gentle and dignified temperament. They are rarely aggressive, which makes them excellent companions. Their loyalty to their family is profound, and they maintain a calm composure in domestic settings, which belies their fierce hunting capabilities.

Interaction with Humans and Other Animals:
These dogs are exceptionally good with children and can coexist peacefully with other dogs, provided they have been properly socialized from a young age. However, their interaction with strangers can be somewhat reserved. Early socialization is crucial for Deerhounds, as it helps them become well-adjusted, confident adults who can easily handle new people and situations.

Health and Care of the Deerhound

Common Health Issues

Deerhounds are majestic creatures known for their grace and aristocratic appearance, but they do come with specific health challenges that prospective owners should be aware of. Firstly, they are prone to bloat, also known as gastric torsion, which is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention. Feeding practices and diet are crucial to mitigate this risk, which we will cover in more detail below.

Cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle that can lead to heart failure, is another serious health concern in Deerhounds. Regular cardiovascular monitoring from a veterinarian can help manage this risk. Additionally, bone cancer (osteosarcoma) is unfortunately common in the breed. It’s aggressive and can lead rapidly to lameness or pain; thus, early detection and management are crucial to improving the quality of life.

Given these concerns, the average lifespan for a Deerhound is typically between 8 to 11 years. Regular vet check-ups are essential to catch any signs of these diseases early on.

Diet and Nutrition

The diet of a Deerhound should be carefully managed to support their overall health, mainly to prevent bloat. High-quality commercial dog food can suffice, but a home-prepared diet with a balanced mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and essential fats can also be beneficial. Owners should feed their Deerhounds two smaller meals daily rather than one large one to reduce the risk of bloat.

Proteins are crucial for muscle maintenance, especially for a large, active breed like the Deerhound. Fats should not be skimped on; they provide the necessary energy to maintain their hefty frame and lush coat. Regular consultations with a vet can help tailor the diet to your dog’s specific age, weight, and health needs.

Grooming Needs

Grooming a Deerhound is less intensive than some other breeds, but it still necessitates regular care to keep their coat healthy and to minimize shedding. Brushing twice a week with a slicker brush helps remove dead hair and distribute natural skin oils throughout the coat, which are essential for maintaining the coat’s natural luster and weather-resistant properties.

In addition to regular brushing, their coats should be checked for tangles and mats, especially around the dog’s feet, hock joints, and ears. A metal comb can help detangle the finer hair on their legs and tails. Occasional trimming around these areas not only keeps them neat but also prevents debris like burrs from becoming entangled in their fur.

Training and Exercises for Deerhounds

Training Tips for Deerhounds

Training a Deerhound, like most sighthounds, requires understanding their unique temperament and exercise needs. Deerhounds are not just large dogs; they are creatures of speed and stamina that were bred to hunt. Therefore, they respond well to specific training methods and poorly to others.

Effective Training Methods

The most effective way to train a Deerhound is through positive reinforcement techniques. This means rewarding your dog for good behavior, including treats, praise, or playtime, preferably involving a chase or race, which taps into their instincts. Deerhounds are more likely to respond to incentives than to punishment, which can lead them to shut down and ignore commands.

Consistency is critical when training your Deerhound. They benefit from a regular schedule that reinforces their learning and builds on progressive lessons. Patience is also crucial, as this breed can be susceptible to harsh commands and might need more time to master new skills.

Common Training Challenges

Deerhounds can sometimes exhibit a stubborn streak, which is typical for the breed, given their independent nature. This stubbornness can be mitigated by making training sessions engaging and sufficiently motivating. Incorporating games that involve running can particularly help them gain cooperation.

Due to their sensitive nature, Deerhounds require gentle training methods. They do not respond well to harsh treatment, which can cause them to become timid or scared. Training sessions should be short to maintain their attention and should always end on a positive note.

Exercise Requirements for Deerhounds

Deerhounds require extensive daily exercise to maintain their health and happiness. They are only suitable for small spaces, and unregular access to large open areas is possible.

Daily Exercise Needs

A minimum of 40 minutes of exercise per day is recommended for Deerhounds, but more is preferable, especially if it involves running. Due to their endurance, long walks are ideal for this breed, and they also enjoy jogging or hiking alongside their owners. It’s important to remember that Deerhounds should not be forced to exercise right after eating to prevent health issues like bloat.

Suitable Activities

Deerhounds excel in activities that mimic their natural hunting behaviors, such as lure coursing. Lure coursing involves chasing a mechanically operated lure, a fantastic way for Deerhounds to exercise as it engages both their mind and body. Other suitable activities include tracking and agility training, which keep them fit and sharp.

Given their need for open spaces, Deerhounds should have access to a safely enclosed area where they can run freely without getting lost or into traffic. Their enormous strides and speed can be surprising, so a secure area is critical to their safety during exercise.

Living With a Deerhound

In a Home Environment

Deerhounds are majestic creatures that thrive in environments where they can roam and explore. Understanding the space requirements is crucial for those considering bringing a Deerhound into their home. These large hounds are best suited for homes with access to large, open spaces where they can exercise freely. Due to their size and energy levels, Deerhounds are only well-suited for apartment living if there is regular access to a park or open space to run and play extensively.

Deerhounds can be wonderfully gentle and affectionate companions when living with other pets and children. They generally get along well with other pets, mainly if they have been raised together from a young age. However, it is essential to note that they can be somewhat aloof with strangers, which is why early socialization is crucial. Introducing your Deerhound to a variety of people, including children, at a young age will help them become more adaptable and friendly. These dogs are known for their patience and are typically very good with children, making them excellent family pets.

In the Great Outdoors

Deerhounds, with their thick, wiry coat, were bred for the cold, misty climes of Scotland. This heritage is reflected in their love for outdoor adventures, particularly in cooler climates. They are not just sofa dogs; they thrive on plenty of outdoor exercise to keep them mentally and physically healthy. So, if you’re considering a Deerhound, be prepared for regular outdoor activities to meet their exercise needs.

However, prospective Deerhound owners should be mindful of the climate in which they live. These dogs are sensitive to hot weather due to their thick coat, making them uncomfortable and prone to overheating. During warmer months, it is essential to ensure that your Deerhound has access to plenty of shade and fresh water. Plan outdoor excursions during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening, to help your pet maintain a comfortable body temperature.