The crisply coated Scottish Deerhound, “Royal Dog of Scotland,” is a majestically large coursing hound struck from the ancient Greyhound template. Among the tallest of dog breeds, the Deerhound was bred to stalk the giant wild red deer.
The breed is so old, the American Kennel Club can’t separate the Deerhound’s true origin from myth and legend. Evidence suggests that large deer stalking hounds were in Scotland before the Scots themselves got there in the ninth century. As far back as anyone knows, clan chieftains used packs of huge, shaggy hounds to pursue and bring down the wild red deer: swift 400-pounders with punishing antlers.
Scottish Deerhound Appearance
The Scottish Deerhound is 28 to 32 inches tall and weigh 75 to 110 pounds. Deerhounds are cousins of the Greyhound, but are much larger and more substantial. The crisp coat is seen in several colors including blue gray, brindle (subtle tiger striping), gray, and brindle gray. The tapered head and long neck add extra lift to an already stately hound.
The Scottish Deerhound’s harsh, somewhat wiry coat is very easy to care for, requiring only an all-over brushing and combing every week or so and a trim of his nails every few weeks if they aren’t worn down naturally. Grooming tools to have on hand include a slicker brush, a fine-toothed metal dog comb, and an electric nail grinder or a pair of dog nail clippers. A bath may temporarily make the Deerhound’s coat softer than desirable, it will also remove dust and dirt, “doggy odor”, and will bring out healthy shine and true color.
The Scottish Deerhound’s life expectancy is 8 to 11 years. They live the life we would all like to have…They do what they want, when they want, pleasing only themselves. If they please you in the process, that’s good, but it is certainly not something the Deerhound planned or even cares about.
Despite their seemingly selfish traits, they are affectionate and have a strong desire for human companionship, meaning they don’t do well in homes where they are left alone much of the time. But being with people and actually doing what they want are two very different things.
Deerhounds have a pleasing personality. And though some Scottish Deerhound may chase strangers, it usually behaves politely with other dogs and pets, and plays nicely with children. A subdued and easy-going breed, it makes for a great indoor pet; however, the Scottish Deerhound also enjoys going outdoors. The opportunity to go for a run or hike will always excite his interest, but (after adolescence) he doesn’t demand it. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to give him daily exercise. It’s important for both his physical and mental health.
A Deerhound’s other great interest is food. Yours, not his. He may rouse himself when you are eating to investigate what’s on your plate in the hope of getting some for himself. If you are so foolish as to leave a roast cooling on the counter with a Deerhound in the house, it won’t be there when you return.
Caring for a Scottish Deerhound
Next, we’ll go into how you should care for a Scottish Deerhound.
The Scottish Deerhound should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too much can cause obesity. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times. Because of the risk of bloat, several smaller meals per day are preferable to one large meal, and strenuous exercise is not recommended before or after feeding time.
Deerhounds were bred to run for the sheer joy of running. Destructive puppies are generally not getting enough exercise. Older Deerhounds are hard to pry off your couch, but they do require regular daily exercise. While nutrition and exercise are key to raising a puppy into a fit, well-muscled adult, the secret to a healthy, long-lived Deerhound (in addition to good genes) is being happy and well exercised. This is not a breed that handles stress well, nor is it a breed that will thrive with just a daily leash-walk around the city block. Fitness should be maintained throughout old age.
Deerhounds are happy when you are pleased, but pleasing you will not be a priority and Deerhounds can be lazy. They will do what they feel is in their own best interests. Deerhounds are sensitive and respond best to positive training methods. They won’t do well in a kennel or left in a crate while their people go to work. While he possesses a quiet and dignified personality in the home, the Scottish Deerhound may try to chase any furry animals that run past him. For that reason, the breed should be exercised on a leash or in a fenced area.
Like other sighthounds, Deerhounds can be dangerously sensitive to anesthesia and certain drugs. Large and deep-chested breeds are susceptible to bloat, a sudden, life-threatening stomach condition.
They are also susceptible to major health issues such as cardiomyopathy, gastric torsion, and osteosarcoma (Bone cancer can affect any breed of dog, but it is more commonly found in the larger breeds. The disease is extremely aggressive and has a tendency to spread rapidly into other parts of the dog’s body.). Hypothyroidism (it’s thought to be responsible for conditions such as epilepsy, alopecia (hair loss), obesity, lethargy, hyperpigmentation, pyoderma ,and other skin conditions. It is treated with medication and diet.), neck pain, atopy, and cystinuria may also plague this dog. Scottish Deerhounds (mostly males) can also suffer from cystinuria, a genetic kidney defect that leads to the formation of bladder stones. Cystine stones are very difficult to manage with diet or medication and often require surgery to remove the stones from the bladder and to relieve urinary blockages. There may be no advance signs that the dog is forming cystine stones, and urinary blockage is a life-threatening veterinary emergency. So if your dog exhibits any unusual urination, including straining, contact your veterinarian right away.
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Scottish Deerhound Club of America