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Is A Coonhound The Dog For You?
by Ruth Clark 1996

This account of the experience of coonhound ownership is primarily written for city and suburban people who think they want a coonhound.  The first part is pretty negative.  When you get a good mix of hound and people, the results are marvelous!

I think I really wrote this for the people who nodded their heads while I told them what to do, and then returned the dogs 3 months later:

  • He digs!
  • The neighbors have threatened to shoot her!
  • He barks all the time!

IS A COONHOUND THE DOG FOR YOU?

Coonhounds are not for everyone.  While they are loving, gentle, and good with small children, they do have some distinct drawbacks.

A common misconception about Coonhounds is that they are very laid-back, and will lie around most of the time, doing nothing.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Coonhounds are very high energy dogs.  IF YOU CANNOT COMMIT YOURSELF TO PROVIDING A LOT OF EXERCISE FOR THE DOG, YOU DON’T WANT A COONHOUND.  (Once trained, they make excellent jogging partners.)

They are bored easily, and must have things to keep them occupied.  They also are very people-oriented, and like to be doing something with you.  Bored hounds will find a way to occupy themselves.  You will probably not enjoy the results, which can range from climbing fences and getting into the neighbor’s garbage, to the complete destruction of your sofa or your landscaping.  Some will also become boredom barkers, causing your neighbors to hate you.  IF YOU DON’T HAVE THE TIME TO DO SOMETHING FUN WITH YOUR DOG EVERY DAY, YOU DON’T WANT A COONHOUND.

I do not adopt Coonhounds out to homes where they will be left alone while the owner works.  There are breeds that, once trained, can tolerate this perfectly well.  They are not Coonhounds!

All dogs are pack animals, and want to be part of a group.  Coonhounds are more so than most.  To leave one entirely alone is cruelty.

The few Coonhounds I know that have been left alone all day rapidly became either escape artists, major diggers, or boredom barkers.  IF YOU WOULD NEED TO LEAVE YOUR DOG HOME ALONE ALL DAY, YOU DON’T WANT A COONHOUND.  If they have another dog for company, they’re all right, but everything I said about boredom applies – multiplied!

Speaking of barking, Coonhounds are loud.  That’s LOUD.  !!!!LOUD!!!!  Even the few hounds that have normal dog voices are loud.  And if you happen to get one with a good old-fashioned bawl mouth, rest assured that your neighbors will know.

Greyhounds were bred to run, and you can see it in their build.  A retriever pup will bring you things all day long.  A Coonhound is bred to bark (or bawl, chop, bugle, squall, etc.), so that the hunter, at night, can find the tree the ‘coon has climbed.

LOUD!!!!!!!!!!

Think of the noisiest dog you ever lived near, the one you wanted to kill.  If you compare that noise to a regular automobile horn, a Coonhound is like the air-horn on an eighteen-wheeler truck.  I like the Coonhounds varied voices; some of my neighbors do, and some don’t.  (Understatement.)  Individual hounds vary widely in the amount they bark, but they are always loud!  IF YOU, OR YOUR NEIGHBORS, WANT PEACE AND QUIET, YOU DON’T WANT A COONHOUND.

Coonhounds must be kept from roaming.  They are first and foremost hunting dogs, and will go hunting on the faintest excuse.  The trouble they can get into if not confined is immense; two of my houndsmen friends learned the hard way when their hounds (in two separate incidents) were shot by ranchers for molesting stock.  Others have died from drinking some neighbor’s used anti-freeze, and being hit by cars.

They can also be escape artists, digging under and/or climbing over fences.  They can learn to open gates.  Since they are very hardy and tolerant of pain, the invisible fence will NOT work.  They must have at least a six-foot fence, and may require further measures to keep them from digging or climbing out.  IF YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO DO THE WORK INVOLVED IN KEEPING A HOUND IN, YOU DON’T WANT A COONHOUND.

Coonhounds are enthusiastic, affectionate dogs, who have the reputation of being very difficult to train.  It is not hard if you go about it right, but the common methods of training are not right for Coonhounds.  Due to their affectionate nature, if you don’t train your hound, you will have a monster on your hands – jumping up, knocking you over to lick your face, etc.  Also, walking an untrained hound on leash can be painful; they are very strong, and will drag you all over.  (And, of course, they must be kept on leash – see above.)  IF YOU’RE NOT PREPARED TO SPEND TIME AND MONEY TRAINING YOUR DOG, YOU DON’T WANT A COONHOUND.

Coonhounds chase cats, and may kill them.  I don’t recommend combining the two unless you are prepared to watch constantly, until the hound understands that kitties are off-limits.  I close off my bedroom with the old-fashioned kind of baby-gate, so that my cats can slip through the holes and be safe from my hounds.  I also suspect that, if my cats were not kept indoors at all times, the dogs would have killed them.  Outdoor cats are fair game.  –A Coonhound that was picked up by Animal Control running loose is probably a hunting dog, and is probably not housebroken.  They are easily housebroken by the crate-training method, and much, much more difficult to housebreak by any other method.

--Coonhounds grow at normal speed, but are very slow-maturing.  They aren’t really grown-ups until they’re about two and a half.  –The larger, deep-chested ones are subject to bowel-torsion.  –Rabies vaccinations must be kept up-to-date; hounds are hunters and will hunt all their lives.  Mine catch more mice than my cats.

So what are their GOOD points?  They are usually very good with children, even toddlers.  (No dog should ever be left alone with a young child; children sometimes don’t know when they are inflicting pain, and every dog has its limit.  And children need to be taught how to behave around dogs – they are not toys!)  Coonhounds love children, usually, and can make wonderful companions for lonely ones.  That’s why they’re the heroes of so many dog stories!

They are very affectionate, and can take all the petting you can dish out.  They like to be talked to.  At the same time, they are usually not very demanding, and are content to lie at your feet.  (You may trip over them frequently.)

Coonhounds are very intelligent, and have inventive minds.  I enjoy watching them figuring things out.  You may have heard someone say they had a hound who was dumb as a stick; that dog was smart enough to fool his owner into thinking he was untrainable!

Although they have a lot of energy, they also have relaxed and tolerant attitudes.  Once trained, you can take them anywhere, and they will usually be fine, not to mention charming the socks off people.

They have very expressive faces, and body language.  They like to communicate.  This is another reason to train your hound – until they learn some manners, they communicate by jumping up, putting their noses in inappropriate places, etc.

They make good watchdogs, because they will raise the roof when a stranger approaches your house.  At the same time, since they are people-lovers, they don’t have the protection instincts of some other breeds, and rarely bite.  (Any dog will bite if provoked far enough.)

Note:  Colorado (and in many other states) legal precedent says that a beware of dog sign means the owner knows the dog is vicious, leaving the owner vulnerable to lawsuits.  To protect ourselves from dog-bite lawsuits, we legally savvy dog owners post no trespassing signs.  Check the legal precedents in your state!

They are paradoxical; they will put up with a good deal of pain, if they are doing something they want to do, and are also very sensitive.  They get their feelings hurt easily.  When they are unhappy, they are miserable.  Mine, in spite of being trained, still have me wrapped around their dewclaws.  (That’s the closest thing they have to a little finger.)


Please consider a rescued coonhound from one of the rescue sites below!

Maine Coonhound Rescue

Dixie Coonhound Rescue

Feel free to write me at: WILDCLIFFDANES@yahoo.com for more info on rescued coonhounds, or for breeder conacts if a purebred puppy is STILL what you are looking for!






Copyright 2008 Tracey Spillane/Wildcliff - All Rights Reserved

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