The American Staghound is the all-American top-tier hunter that you’ve probably never heard of before. You won’t find this breed on the AKC’s most popular list, but that doesn’t mean you should discount it. These dogs are purpose-bred pooches, designed to be able-bodied hunters, and they’re still used for that today. American Staghounds are used to hunt a variety of animals, including predators like coyotes and wolves. They’re even used in competitive coursing, testing and proving their hunting prowess.
24 – 32 inches
45 – 90 pounds
10 – 14 years
Black, brown, white, yellow, blue, brindle
Families and individuals with previous pet experience and a yard
Alert, focused, tenacious, fearless, stubborn, wary, aloof, even-natured, devoted
American Staghounds were never bred as companion pets; they’re working dogs bred for the hunt. However, today, some people have been keeping them as companion animals, and as it turns out, they’re actually affectionate partners as well as adept hunters. Be aware, their incredible athleticism comes at a price. American Staghounds need plenty of exercise and yard space and they won’t do well in a small apartment.
American Staghound Characteristics
American Staghound Puppies
You’re probably going to have to do some searching if you want to find a reputable breeder of American Staghounds. They’re pretty rare dogs that few people even know about. Plus, they’re still purpose-bred for hunting, and they’re not a popular breed that has any sort of recognition.
In many cases, adoption offers a more affordable route to dog ownership. While you might get very lucky, there isn’t much chance that you’ll find an American Staghound in a shelter waiting to be adopted. So, if you want one of these dogs, you’ll have to start searching for reputable breeders. Remember to do your homework before choosing a breeder, that means doing a lot of research, asking them for health reports of the dog’s parents, and visiting their installations before paying anything.
Temperament & Intelligence of the American Staghound
American Staghounds are loving companions, even though they’re mainly intended as hunters. They tend to make great pets for people who become enamored with their dogs, but not casual dog owners. These dogs become quite needy with their owners and want lots of attention. They can’t stand being alone for long spans. They’re also notably stubborn, which can make it more difficult to get them to listen, especially for an inexperienced dog owner.
Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪
If you’re experienced with dogs and know how to be firm and command a dog’s respect, then you’ll be able to make a great family dog out of an American Staghound. It will need plenty of socialization and lots of training as well, but if you put in the work, they can make amazing family dogs. They’re even known to be excellent with children, so long as the dog is socialized and knows how to behave with kids.
Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?
As dogs with hundreds of years of hunting-specific breeding in their genes, the prey drive of an American Staghound is rather high. Still, they’re pack animals, and they can do well with other dogs of a large enough size. Small dogs can definitely be a problem though. It is quite likely your American Staghound will chase other small dogs. This could be tempered with lots of socialization starting at an early age. But even if you properly socialize it, there’s no guarantee that your American Staghound will be safe around small dogs. They’re hunters at heart, and it’s what they’re bred for.
Things to Know When Owning an American Staghound:
Food & Diet Requirements 🦴
Standing at heights up to 32 inches, American Staghounds are exceptionally tall dogs. However, they weigh a maximum of 90 pounds, so, despite their height, they won’t eat an outrageous amount of food. Still, you can feed them breed-specific dog food to ensure that they’re getting the nutrients that larger dogs require.
This is where an American Staghound becomes a difficult dog to own. They’re purpose-bred for hunting, and with Greyhound and Scottish Deerhound in their genes, these dogs have exceptional speed and endurance. They also have tons of energy to go along with that, and as the owner of an American Staghound, you’ll be responsible for giving that energy an outlet, lest it becomes boredom and causes negative behaviors you’d rather not see.
For the same reason, these dogs are not suited to apartments and small dwellings. Even if you have a house, these dogs are not a good fit unless you have a yard. American Staghounds just require a lot of space and exercise. Expect to devote more than an hour to exercising your Staghound every day, on top of the time it spends in the yard.
This is another way that American Staghounds can be difficult for inexperienced dog owners. If you’re expecting a dog that’s eager to please its owner and is a good listener, then you should look for a different breed. American Staghounds are known for being exceptionally stubborn.
You’re going to need a very firm hand to train one of these dogs, and even then, you’ll need a boatload of patience. You must establish dominance, but you can never use negative reinforcements or punishments because American Staghounds don’t respond well to such methods. They require lots of positive reinforcement but a very firm hand. It’s a difficult line to watch, which is why only an experienced dog owner and trainer should attempt to take on an American Staghound.
American Staghounds come in three different coat varieties. Shag coats look similar to a Scottish Deerhound, which has a shaggy, loose coat that looks unkept. Slick coats are more like the coat of a Greyhound; short and shiny. The third type of coat is called broken, and it’s a mix of the other two.
Grooming needs differ greatly depending on what kind of coat your American Staghound wears. Naturally, Staghounds with shag coats require more grooming. They shed more and have more loose hair that must be removed by brushing. Dogs with slick coats need only minimal care with occasional brushing being all that’s required. Those with broken coats should need brushing two or three times each week. No matter what coat your Staghound has, keep bathing to a minimum to prevent drying out the skin.
Don’t forget about the other grooming necessities, such as brushing teeth, which should be done two or three times a week at a minimum; daily is better. Keep the ears clean and make sure to check for infection every time you clean them. Nails also need attention. Clip them regularly to ensure they don’t grow too long and cause problems for your pooch.
Health and Conditions 🏥
As dogs born and bred for the hunt, American Staghounds are incredibly hardy and resilient. There really aren’t any genetic conditions that commonly plague the breed. However, they are susceptible to bloat, just like any dog. Furthermore, some Staghounds show a sensitivity to anesthesia, which is important to know if you plan on owning one of these dogs.
Bloat is when a dog’s stomach swells up, filling with air. As the pressure builds, it prevents blood from reaching the heart, forcing it to pool at the back of the body instead. This sends the dog into shock, and in the worst cases, the stomach flips. When this happens, it drags along the spleen and pancreas, which completely stops blood flow, releasing toxic hormones that can even stop the heart.
Male vs Female
The biggest differences between male and female American Staghounds are physical. All of these dogs are pretty tall, but males are notably taller than females. Females top out around 29 inches in height, though males can stand three inches taller, reaching heights of up to 32 inches. Males also tend to be slightly heavier than females, with the heaviest females weighing in around 86 pounds and the heaviest males slightly higher at about 90 pounds.
3 Little-Known Facts About the American Staghound
1. They’re Bred for Ability, Not Appearance
Most breeds are meant to fit a certain look that the breed is known for. Many breeds have particular traits that are prized, and dogs on which these traits are more pronounced often demand higher prices. But the American Staghound is a different breed, so to speak.
These dogs aren’t bred to fit a breed standard based on appearances. Rather, they’re bred specifically for their abilities. These are hunting dogs through and through. As such, their speed, endurance, courageousness, and other traits are far more important than what the dogs look like. They must perform in the field, not in a show ring.
2. The Breed Isn’t Officially Recognized
The American Staghound is a little-known breed. Despite this, the breed is actually very old. It was first developed in the 1600s by early settlers. These settlers required hardy dogs that could help them hunt. Their lives depended on hunting for food and fur, and by crossing Greyhounds and Scottish Deerhounds, these settlers managed to create a perfect dog for helping them acquire these necessities.
Furthermore, coyotes were a major problem at the time for these settlers. These new dogs they bred were studs at hunting coyotes due to their agile bodies, excellent endurance, and ability to traverse any terrain. By the 1800s, the breed was self-contained, and most specimens were solely bred with other American Staghounds.
Still, they’ve received no recognition, even today. This is partly due to the fact that both Scottish Deerhounds and Greyhounds are still regularly bred into the gene pool in order to keep them sleek and fast with incredible endurance. But another major reason is that there are no breed standards based on appearance since they’re only bred for their abilities. And surprisingly, breeders of American Staghounds like it this way. They don’t want the breed to receive official recognition for fear that a breed standard based on appearance will ruin the American Staghound breed.
3. They Make Poor Guard Dogs
American Staghounds are generally wary of strangers. They’re also very alert dogs that don’t miss anything. This makes them incredible watchdogs. However, they’re poor guard dogs. They’re too even-tempered and lack the protective nature necessary to make good guard dogs. While they can turn on their aggression for the hunt, American Staghounds aren’t an aggressive breed overall, tending to remain friendly, even though they’re a bit aloof. While they notice anything out of place and might alert you, they’re not the type of breed that fights to the death attacking an intruder.
The American Staghound is a unique breed that’s not a good fit for first-time dog owners. They’re a breed that’s purpose-built for hunting, and if you need a hunting dog, there are few breeds that do it better. As it turns out, these dogs also make great companion pets, but you need previous dog training experience and plenty of yard space. Don’t forget that you’ll need at least an hour each day to set aside for exercising your Staghound. If you can do all that, then they make incredibly loving and affectionate pets that want all of your attention and hate to be left alone.
But if you don’t take care of that excess energy, you could have a bored and destructive dog on your hands instead. They can do great with kids, but small dogs might never be safe around a Staghound that has hunting deep within its DNA. American Staghounds definitely aren’t the dogs for everyone, but if you’re the right type of person, they might just be the perfect fit for you.
Other dog breeds you might want to check out:
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Featured Image Credit: Jolanta Beinarovica, Shutterstock