Basset Hound

Emily A. Fassbaugh, DVM
By Emily A. Fassbaugh, DVM on Sep. 27, 2022
three basset hounds romping around outside

In This Article

General Care

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The Basset Hound is a scent dog originally bred in France. Basset Hounds are descendants of the St. Hubert Hound, a Bloodhound-like dog developed in the 10th century in a Benedictine monastery.

The first picture of a Basset Hound dates to 1585. Bassets were bred to hunt rabbits and hares. The word “basset” is French for “rather low.” It is a perfect description of this breed’s stature, as they have short legs, a long body, large pendulous ears, and droopy skin around the neck, face, and muzzle.

Caring for the Basset Hound

chart depicting a basset hound's breed characteristics

Basset Hounds are generally good-natured and friendly but also independent and stubborn. They are very vocal and have a loud bark, especially when excited or frustrated. They have a short, smooth coat that requires little grooming, but they do shed a moderate amount.

They have a droopy face, ears, and lips, and they drool. They are prone to skin rashes and ear infections. They require frequent bathing and ear cleaning. They are low-energy dogs, but despite their short legs and stumbling gait, they like to play. Their short legs are prone to arthritis.

Basset Hounds have a strong sense of smell and can track food, people, and objects instinctively, to the point that they may wander if they are on a scent.

Basset Hound Health Issues

Basset Hounds are prone to skin, ear, and joint problems. However, with proper management, the Basset Hound can be kept quite healthy.

Skin and Ear Problems

The Basset Hound is predisposed to skin and ear problems. Bassets often have a primary allergy to food proteins, dust mites, mold, or pollen. Their droopy ears and heavy skin folds on the face and body hold debris and moisture. Allergens may trigger skin or ear inflammation, resulting in more debris and moisture than in other breeds.

Basset Hounds also frequently have a skin yeast, called Malassezia, and can develop infections where yeast infects the inflamed skin.

Skin and ear infections are painful to any dog. Any scratching, skin rashes, head shaking, debris in the ears, or strong odors may indicate an infection and should be examined by a veterinarian.

Frequent and consistent bathing with medicated antifungal shampoos and ear cleaners helps prevent and manage infections. Your veterinarian may also recommend medications such as Apoquel or Cytopoint to help manage allergies and prevent inflammation and infection.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Basset Hounds are classified as dwarfs because of their short and abnormally shaped legs, which make them prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is an abnormal development of the hip joint, resulting in a ball and socket joint that does not fit tightly together and is unstable.

Elbow dysplasia is an abnormal closure of the elbow joint growth plates, resulting in elbows that are abnormally shaped, have bone spurs in them, and are painful for walking.

Carpal Valgus

Carpal valgus is a condition where the wrist bends to the side instead of being straight, adding extra stress on the wrist joint ligaments and muscles. It can lead to a breakdown in the strength of the joint and is very painful as the dog ages.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation is a condition where the kneecap moves side-to-side out of position. It causes instability and sometimes pain in the knee joint.

All these joint conditions make Basset Hounds especially prone to developing arthritis. Basset Hounds, being low-energy dogs, gain weight more easily. Excess weight means excess strain on painful joints. Basset Hounds should be given a joint supplement containing glucosamine and chondroitin to slow the progression of arthritis. They should also get daily exercise and controlled food portions to prevent weight gain.

What to Feed a Basset Hound

Basset Hounds are large dogs with short legs. They are best fed a nutritionally complete and high-quality large-breed dog food. Also, food formulated for weight management helps prevent obesity in your Basset Hound. Avoid giving your pet table scraps and human food, as these provide unnecessary calories.

How to Feed a Basset Hound

Basset Hounds should be fed 2-3 times a day. These dogs can get bloat, so if your Basset Hound eats too fast, use a slow-feeding bowl. The Basset Hound has a very keen sense of smell, so it is important to keep food secured, sealed, and out of reach, so they may not steal it.

How Much to Feed a Basset Hound

Basset Hounds are quite prone to obesity due to their low energy.

Pay close attention to the recommended feeding amount on the food bag or as advised by your veterinarian, and use a measuring cup. Typically, 2 cups of large-breed kibble is appropriate for your Basset Hound, but this should be adjusted by 10-25% if your dog is underweight or overweight.

The sense of smell of a Basset Hound is very good; they smell food when other dogs may not, causing them to beg for it or steal it. Avoid giving your Basset Hound human food, as it can give them a taste and desire for the food, and it provides unnecessary calories.

Nutritional Tips for a Basset Hound

The Basset Hound is prone to joint problems due to their short, twisty legs. A high-quality joint supplement containing glucosamine and chondroitin may help keep your dog comfortable and mobile longer.

Many Basset Hounds also benefit from omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which can help manage and prevent skin and ear inflammation. There are veterinary products that provide the right balance of fatty acids for your dog, but fish oil is also a good option.

Behavior and Training Tips for a Basset Hound

Basset Hound Personality and Temperament

If you want a dog that is independent, friendly, and low energy, the Basset Hound is ideal. Basset Hounds are generally affectionate and friendly with kids and other dogs.

While Basset Hounds are content with minimal job duties and aren’t athletic, they do need daily moderate exercise to keep them fit. They can be stubborn but are generally food-motivated due to their keen sense of smell, which helps with training.

Basset Hounds bark quite a lot. They have a very loud, baying-like bark, and they use it when they are excited or frustrated. They drool and can be smelly because of their skin and ears.

Basset Hound Behavior

The Basset Hound is generally a gentle, mild-mannered dog. They are not prone to anxiety, and are adaptable, but they can sometimes be protective of their homes and do bark a lot.

Basset Hounds also have a very keen sense of smell. They are low to the ground and are quick to find food and toys before their owners can react.

They eat anything that smells appetizing, including nonfood items and toys, putting them at risk for intestinal blockage and upset stomach. It is important to keep anything you do not want the Basset Hound to eat out of their reach.

Any signs of gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, and decreased or no appetite should be evaluated quickly by a veterinarian.

Basset Hound Training

The Basset Hound is independent, low-energy, and stubborn, which can make obedience training challenging.

Fortunately, the Basset Hound is quite food-motivated. To make training more successful, find a “high-value” treat that your dog gets excited over. For the Basset Hound, it could be something like fish jerky or turkey hot dogs. You should save these treats for training only, so that they do not lose their value.

Fun Activities for Basset Hounds

The Basset Hound is a scent dog, and they excel at scent training and nose work. Nose work helps the Basset Hound be more active and get more exercise. There are clubs and organizations in most cities that can give you information on how to get scent training and nose work for your Bassett Hound.

Basset Hound Grooming Guide

Basset Hounds have a short, smooth coat. They require daily brushing to cut down on  shedding, but no professional grooming is needed. They are prone to skin and ear infections, so they do require frequent baths every one or two weeks, as well as ear cleaning once or twice a week.

Skin Care

A Basset Hound’s skin can be greasy and smelly if not cared for properly. Basset Hounds have an unusually high amount of Malassezia yeast that lives on their skin, so bathing them every one to two weeks with a hypoallergenic or medicated antifungal shampoo helps manage yeast overgrowth and prevent infections. With their heavy skin folds, it is important to dry their skin thoroughly to prevent irritation from moisture.

Coat Care

The short and smooth Basset Hound coat does not require grooming beyond daily brushing and bathing one or two times a week. They are moderate shedders.

Eye Care

Basset Hounds have droopy eyelids, resulting in increased mucous in their eyes. The eye discharge should be cleaned daily with a warm, wet washcloth.

Consult your veterinarian if the eyes become red, the discharge is yellow or green, or if your dog is holding their eye closed, as these are signs of infection or injury to the eye.

Ear Care

The Basset Hound is especially prone to ear infections. Their ears should be cleaned and flushed with a medicated wash one or two times a week to prevent ear infections.

If your dog scratches her ears more than usual, shakes her head, feels pain when you clean or touch her ears, or if a strong smell comes from the ears, contact your veterinarian, as these may be signs of an ear infection.

Your vet may prescribe daily medication drops to treat the ear infection, or they may use a leave-in treatment. When your Basset Hound is being treated with daily drops it is safe to clean their ears daily, unless otherwise directed by your vet.

Considerations for Pet Parents

Basset Hounds can be great family dogs because they are friendly, low-energy, and playful. They require a moderate amount of daily exercise, so it is important to walk them daily.

Basset Hounds also require regular bathing and ear cleaning, so it helps to have a bathtub in your home. They do not need a backyard, but the mental stimulation of tracking smells, either in a yard or on walks, keeps them happy. Basset Hounds have a very loud bark that may bother pet parents and neighbors.

Basset Hound FAQs

Is a Basset Hound a good family dog?

The Basset Hound is very friendly and playful, which makes them excellent with children and families.

Are Basset Hounds smart dogs?

Basset Hounds are relatively intelligent, but they can be difficult to train because they are independent and can be stubborn. They have a very keen sense of smell, so they are very good at nose work.

Featured Image:

Emily A. Fassbaugh, DVM


Emily A. Fassbaugh, DVM


Dr. Emily Fassbaugh grew up in San Diego. She attended the University of California, Davis for both her undergraduate studies in Animal...

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