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The mechanical hound is this mechanism that is used to hunt down and kill people who have in some way violated the laws of the society. It is made of metal and is called a hound even though it has eight legs.
The main place where we see the hound is in the pursuit of Guy Montag. After Montag kills Captain Beatty, he is an outlaw. The hound comes to kill him (by poison) right away, but he manages to evade it. He then makes his way to Faber's house where he drinks something that changes his odor (so the hound can't find him). The hound eventually is programmed to kill someone else who is said to be Montag but is, of course, not him.
So, its purpose in the society is to kill people who break the laws. I think its purpose in the book is to show how (by serving as a symbol) faceless and mechanical the system is in this society.
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