Coonhounds are tough dogs to own, but they’re super cute puppies – and as a result? They often end up in rescues or shelters
Coonhounds are one of the few breeds that remain whose heritage is only surface deep. This means that they’ve not been bred for pets as much as most other breeds. So, pretty much every coonhound is a hunter. And worse? They’re a hunter who isn’t the same as a Labrador, a Weimaraner or Spaniel. They’re based around their nose and used to lead a hunt – not to just participate.
Then, there’s the fact that their “purpose” the reason for which they were bred, is only skin deep.
A lot of breeds are slowly ‘forgetting’ their original purpose when we look at say, a show line golden retriever, they show minimal of their original breed purpose of retrieving and being driven for the right things in the field.
That’s just not so with a coonhound.
As they’re a relatively modern breed? They haven’t had generations of watering down that purpose, instead, when these dogs are brought into a casual home-style environment, they’re hard work.
Essentially? If you’re considering getting a coonhound as a pet? Read this first and let’s make sure you’re the right home for them.
Please note: I say this as a trainer and a coonhound owner in a non-working environment aimed at people bringing a coonhound into a home, non-working environment.
About The Breed: Coonhounds (generally)
There are 4 kind of “coonhounds”:
These dogs are all fundamentally similar and yet different to most hounds. Because they are bred to work entirely independently. They lead the charge, and the big difference between the breeds is the “target”, i.e. some are bred for deer, others for raccoons, some are all arounders.
Coonhounds: The Good
They’re wonderfully energetic
If you’re looking for a dog to do a lot of walking or running with? A coonhound is a great choice for you, because they’re ready to go as soon as you’re ready to go, and they’ll run or walk as far as you want. In fact? This is what they need.
Our coonhounds average about 35k steps a day – I feel this is what they need – and compared to the others of their breed on their tracking device they are in the top 10 of their breed every month – across the whole of the US.
They’re incredibly loving.
I’ve never gotten cuddles from any breed of dog like I have a coonhound. They’re happy to be snuggled, and you will probably move before they will because you’re either too hot, or they’re fidgeting a lot. It does often result in a severe lack of personal space at times? We’ve often had 70 pound hounds sat on our shoulder, or curled on a lap or chest.
They are freaking cute
The classic hound eyes, those wonderfully long ears, athletic figure? They’re truly gorgeous dogs that will attract attention. They also come in a wonderful array of colours whether you want the ‘classic hound’ white black and tan in a Treeing Walker, or the sumptuous coat of a Redbone or Black and Tan, or the unique ‘roan-like’ coat of a Red- or Bluetick! They’re truly attractive looking dogs no matter who you are.
You’ll become a master of all scent-stimulating activities.
From tracking to scatter feeding, coonhounds excel and are happiest when they’re using their nose, so investing time (and possibly some money) into scent work classes, or nose-stimulating toys like snuffle mats, or even into creating search boxes for them out of the amazon or chewy delivery stuff.
Doing this is almost always the most effective way of enriching a coonhounds life, it works their brain as well as their nose and helps encourage relaxation and happiness for them.
Coonhounds: The Bad
Hard to motivate
Because of their propensity for the hunt? They’re hard to motivate. Staying one step ahead of them at all times is your challenge because once they go into what I fondly call “Hunt Mode” switching them off of that? Is really hard. However, when the hunt isn’t going? Food works really really well.
They’re not that playful…
Physically? They’ll bounce around with you, but most of the time a ball, or squeaky toy is sub-par. They like the hunt – the real hunt – and finding something else as interesting as that is pretty tough. I’ve known coonhound parents to invest in RC Cars – something our two love is chasing after the 4-wheeler which gives them a great run around the yard (off-leash, of course)! But if that’s not an option, it might be difficult.
They’re Dogs who are ON or OFF.
They kind of only have two speeds. Go, or stop. On or Off. And they feel all their happiness at an 11, their anger at an 11, their hunger at an 11 (I hope you like drool!), and even anxiety. It makes them hard dogs to try and balance out at times, and it can mean that your training feels very stop-start too.
Luckily? When they crash out, they’re pretty much comatose, so that’s definitely a silver lining!
They can be pretty socially unacceptable…
Howling. Yeah. Lots and lots of howling. For those with close neighbours, or less than tolerant neighbours? Their baying is not a noise that everyone likes – heck – even I’m less than keen if they kick off at an inappropriate time (like 3am…). Not to mention then if you decide you want to take them into a store…
We made that mistake.
Shelby started mouse hunting in tractor supply – turns out they had a bunch!
Counter surfing… and trash diving
One of our two easily opens the somewhat stiff trash can cupboard in our kitchen, she knows exactly how to wiggle her little nose to go pick some morsels out of there if she so desires. And both of them will happily snag whatever you have (or had) on the counter and make it their next meal. Luckily, they’re pretty resilient in terms of their stomach, but nothing is safe.
Teaching to not counter surf can be done, and it can be managed – but it’s very easy to slip up and become complacent with, say, a nice sized steak that suddenly becomes your hound’s dinner…
They can climb, and they can dig.
Yep. Nothing is too much for a coonhound! Lucy (one of ours) will happily hop onto things about 4 foot high like it’s nothing. This is why your tables, counters, and other things are just not safe from these inquisitive woofs.
And the digging? Yeah, they’ll make short work out of anything that’s not stone, so do be careful at barriers! Some are more inclined to digging than others, but all are very capable of it.
Coonhounds: The Ugly.
They’ll likely never get a reliable recall
And… this is my biggest problem. Unless you’re really lucky, then your coonhound’s recall will not likely ever be truly reliable. If a deer springs from the undergrowth? You had better believe that your hound will go chasing it … for miles.
This does mean things like off leash hikes and enjoyable moments like this? Become somewhat limited.
You need a good sized yard with a fence.
Coonhounds need off leash time, where they can explore and sniff and do their thing. They need to be free at some stage, and have enough space to run, jump and climb. Without this, they can become restless, or more problematic with their behaviour indoors – and they have to be able to howl too. A coonhound who can’t howl will likely not be a happy coonhound.
The threat of an endurance monster is real.
So, in the training world there is a mythical beast that becomes very common in active dog worlds called an “Endurance Monster” – this is a dog who has to go, go, go. Stopping isn’t an option, relaxation isn’t an option. Usually, they’re a little stressed, their metabolism is going nineteen to the dozen and even gaining weight becomes tough.
Teaching your coonhound an offswitch isn’t usually hard, but the threat of over exercising
The Hunt is paramount…
We’ve lost aluminium Guttering and the railway ties that held out patio in place to their hunt. My gorgeously painted woodshed is covered in mucky puppy paws – and they undo a lot of the work we do around here (like removing wood from the woodshed). Because if there’s a mouse, vole, squirrel, or rabbit holed up in there? It won’t be for long. Even snakes… anything will do. Just because they’re coonhounds, doesn’t mean that other things don’t stimulate that drive in the same way… because they do.
Tips For Those Determined to Get A Coonhound
So, you’ve done this whole piece, and you still want a coonhound? Great! I’d always advocate rescuing (because there are just so many) but a purchase from a responsible breeder is not a bad choice either.
However, I do have some tips for you:
Beginners should know that one is better than two…
Go for one to start with. Because they’re made to work cooperatively, so having two pushes those natural drivers into overdrive when both are fixating on a thing.
If you’re determined for two? Get one, give it a couple of years and get a second when you’ve ‘finished’ training your first.
Positive training works
You don’t need to use a prong, and you don’t need an ecollar, they can and will learn, the same way they did generations ago before those tools existed. They’re usually really food motivated and that works for anything outside of the hunt, and if you can manage that situation too? Then you’re home free.
And start your training journey eary! They’re never too young to start training and socializing!
Get a tracking collar.
I love ours, we work with the Fi series 2 collar – which means that we’re protected even if something busts through our fence unexpectedly (which has happened). Getting them home safe and sound is much better than the alternative and it gives you wonderful peace of mind that I cannot overstate the importance of.
Don’t be tempted to cupboard-love them
They get chunky pretty quick. Especially if the exercise isn’t there. Happy hounds are fit, healthy, well-exercised (mentally and physically) and well-rested. Not chunky and slovenly. Erring towards the latter will likely result in some off-shoot behaviours that you’re not expecting. So try and keep their balance for them – even if they try and tell you they’ve not been fed in a month when you know for a fact they had breakfast.
I hope this has been helpful. For coonhound owners new and old, breeders, rescues and trainers, please share it, let’s keep coonhounds out of shelters by keeping people informed of what they’re truly getting in for.
The TLDR; Coonhound Version
Coonhounds are not for the faint of heart! They’re hard work. Trust me, I know! But if you think you can give a wonderful, loving, patient home that allows as much freedom as possible to one of these gorgeous dogs? They’ll pay you back handsomely, and I know that because I adore ours, no matter how difficult they can be.