A Devoted Hunting Dog: Coonhounds

Pet Type


May 2, 2020

Most people can agree that many activities in life are more enjoyable when you are doing them with someone you know, or someone you trust. Sometimes, even just having other people joining you can make the task at hand more interesting and interactive.

There are many activities out there that some people consider a solo activity, even though they can be easily spruced up with a companion. This includes both human companions and canine companions. For instance, most people don’t think about taking their dogs with them during hunting trips.

However, when you think about it, this is quite literally what hunting dogs were bred for. Taking your dogs out hunting with you can be an enjoyable experience for both you and your dog, and it can be a great way to bond with your dog. One dog that you might want to consider taking on your next hunt is the coonhound.

The coonhound is a scenthound that was bred to hunt specific animals. With an instinctual ability to hunt down small animals, this dog can make the perfect companion to go hunting alongside. When you are done hunting for the day and ready to come home, your coonhound will be waiting for you.

While these dogs might be more focused on their “job” than getting pets and playtime, these dogs will still be loyal and loving members of your family. Do keep in mind that these dogs are not the best for beginner owners, are not suitable for apartment living or multi-pet households, and young children need to be supervised  while playing with this dog.

Where Did the Coonhound Come From?

As more people began to dislike vermin of all sorts bothering them, more and more people began to adopt the idea of getting a hunting dog to take care of the vermin in the houses and the sewers. One of the most popular hunting dogs that was developed during this time period was the coonhound.

It is estimated that the ancestor breeds of the coonhound were brought to the United States in the early 1800s, and not long from there, the coonhound breed was developed. This breed quickly gained popularity in both England and the colonies. Fox hunting’s fame suited the coonhound’s abilities perfectly, and coonhounds became one of the most popular hunting dogs around for its time period.

As the name might suggest, these dogs were mainly bred to hunt down fox. Most of these dogs found themselves fighting against raccoons (hence the name “coon” hound), foxes, and other medium-sized vermin. Today, while coonhounds are still used to hunt down foxes, they are primarily used to either hunt down racoons or to become companion dogs for families.

What Does the Coonhound Look Like?

The coonhound shares many of its features with its ancestor breed, the English foxhound. This gives the dog a body that is sturdy, lean, and built for agility and endurance. They are meant to be fast, agile, and able to run for endless swaths of land to catch a fox or a racoon. They have deep chests, as many hounds do, and they also have a long snout and drooping ears. This dog has a medium-length tail as well as powerful leg muscles.

As for more exact sizing, these dogs tend to stand between 23 and 26 inches in height, without much variation between males and females. They can weigh anywhere between 45 and 65 pounds, depending on their lifestyle, diet, and gender. These dogs have a medium-length coat with coarse, hard fur to protect the dog from environmental damages. There are a variety of color combinations that you can find this dog’s coat in, including red and white, blue and white, tri-colored, and black and white. Some dogs have ticking patterns, while others do not. This is entirely dependent on the parent dogs.

How Does the Coonhound Behave?

First things first, the coonhound is not a dog for people who are new to dog owning and especially pet owning. These dogs are stubborn and take a fair amount of experience to work with. These dogs are also not usually companion dogs. Of course, from their loyal nature they appreciate your company and enjoy the fact that you are there with them. However, these dogs will not be happy if they are pulled into a person’s lap for cuddles. Instead, you should think of this dog as primarily a working dog. These dogs put their “job” first before affection.

Coonhounds, by nature, are determined, driven, stubborn, and hard to get a handle on. They were bred to drive its prey, racoons and foxes, into a state where you as the hunter could catch your prey. This means that these dogs are focused on their target and their task. When they are not working, they are generally good natured and easy going. Because of their history as hunting dogs, these dogs are vocal, and they are loud about it. This is something you will need to prepare yourself for when you adopt one of these dogs. Another thing that you will need to keep in mind is that training these dogs is a challenge in it of itself.

Because these dogs are hardwired to try and outwit their prey, which is the commonly clever fox, these dogs will often try to outwit you when it comes to training. This incredible stubbornness is something that can only be dealt with by someone who knows how to train dogs properly and commandeer authority from those dogs. The best way to try and overcome the stubborn nature of the coonhound for training and obedience is to show that you, as the owner, are the “alpha” of your pack. You are the leader between your family and your dog. Throughout training, you will also need to be persuasive and upbeat, rewarding your dog for even simple tasks until your dog is doing what you want it to do.

How Do You Care for the Coonhound?

Caring for this dog is almost as demanding as learning how to train the dog. As outdoor hunting dogs, they crave time outside. Whether that is hiking alongside you, swimming, or even just jogging on a trail, these dogs benefit heavily from expending their energy outside. You can consider them a high-energy breed with this as well. Usually, you can satisfy their exercise requirements with a lengthy jog daily, or something of equivalent exertion.

Thankfully, these dogs do not have a difficult coat to work with. The coarse nature of the coat makes it very easy to brush and comb to keep clean, and the short length of the fur helps to ensure that cleaning doesn’t have to happen often. You can usually get away with weekly grooming sessions and bathing your dog only when it has driven its prey through puddles of mud.

How Is the Coonhound’s Health?

These dogs tend to be relatively healthy, given the fact that they are purebred dogs. All purebred dogs, because of the nature of purebreds, are at an increased risk of developing hereditary conditions. A reliable breeder will be more than happy to talk about your puppy’s ancestry with you and go over what some of these hereditary conditions include.

If a breeder refuses to do this, you should consider finding a better breeder. As for other common health conditions the coonhound suffers from, you should be prepared to encounter hip and elbow dysplasia, eye disorder, ear infections, and bloat. These dogs unfortunately have a shorter life expectancy, ranging between 10 and 12 years.