By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views
A coonhound advocacy group approached Pet News and Views asking for an interview. They want to spread the word that coonhounds are the pit bulls of the south.
Skeptic that I am, I didn’t totally believe them. Then I went to BlogPaws, and heard a lot of folks—from the south—talk about these amazing dogs and how many of them—too many of them—are mistreated.
Coonhounds are known as hunting dogs, and I’m not a hunter. And while I have a lot of trouble seeing hunting as a sport, I have met a handful of hunters who treat their dogs like family.
Anna Nirva, one of the founders of Coonhound Companions, knows a lot of people who keep large packs of coonhounds strictly for hunting. “They often complain that they are too noisy, untrainable, stubborn, and unfriendly,” she says. “I see these dogs often posted on different Yahoo groups needing rescue. When kept in large packs, they are often ignored and treated poorly.”
Anna rescued a coonhound a couple of years ago, and has been a spokesperson for the breed ever since. Anna and the other members of Coonhound Companions are promoting coonhounds as family pets.
Right before Anna was going to adopt Austin, her husband told his boss that they were getting a coonhound. “His boss basically tried to talk him out of it,” she says. “He wasn’t aware of how sensitive and good natured they are. So many people, who don’t know dogs, get the wrong information. Now that we have Austin, we know it was the right choice. If you want a large breed, coonhounds are great.”
Jerry Dunham, who is also with Coonhound Companions, explains, “The public’s perception is that coonhounds and foxhounds are hunting dogs only, not suitable as pets. I’ve heard that MANY times. I’ve never understood why retrievers, setters, pointers, and spaniels, all originally developed for hunting, don’t have the same stigma. Beagles, which are related to these hounds and have similar characteristics, seem to have dodged the stigma.”
According to Jerry, coonhounds are affectionate, without being clingy. “They tend to be easy going and very tolerant of children,” he says. “They were bred for centuries to be very social, so problems between hounds and other dogs in the family are almost never the fault of the hound, and are in general rare. They generally do well at dog parks, if that is something their family would like to do. Some of them, particularly when young, can be real clowns.”
Should You Adopt a Coonhound?
“The person who should consider adopting a young coonhound is someone who would also consider adopting a retriever or pointer,” says Jerry. “They do well with very active families, particularly those who hike or run a lot. They are less obsessively active than pointers and many retrievers, but have generally greater endurance. Most seem to be better at settling down inside the house than pointers, while being nearly as active when outdoors.”
For older coonhounds, you’d expect them to be less active and need less exercise, and that’s generally true. “It’s all relative,” says Jerry. “Our 7-year-old coonhound is more active than our Great Danes were at 2. He’ll probably get to the activity level of a 2-year-old Dane by the time he’s 10 or 11. He’s content to sleep quite a bit of the day curled up behind me in my office, as he is now.”
Why You shouldn’t Get a Coonhound
In general, coonhounds and foxhounds have two negatives that stand out, and neither negative is true of all examples of the breed. “A coonhound is useless to a hunter if he can’t track where his dog is in the woods at night, and that means that a good one is very loud,” says Jerry. “They aren’t constantly yappy as some smaller dogs can be if allowed, but when they do decide something needs to be commented on it may be audible for blocks around. Bear in mind that many hounds that end up in rescue are there because they’re failed hunters, and one of the reasons may be that they were NOT loud. An adopter wanting a coonhound, but living in close proximity to neighbors needs to make sure that they deal with a rescue group that is willing to seek out a quieter dog for them.”
Coonhounds were bred to traverse all kinds of terrain while tracking their prey, including going over fences and stone walls. To a healthy coonhound a 4-foot fence is nothing, and some very athletic examples can clear (not climb) a 7-foot fence. “The majority of coonhounds will not go over a 5-foot fence, but you have to be aware that they CAN,” explains Jerry. “If you want a scenthound, and want to be sure it will stay behind a 4-foot (or less) fence, get a Basset Hound. Reputable coonhound rescue groups will demand that adopters have at least a 6-foot fence.”
To learn more about coonhounds, click here.