Busting Coonhound Myths: Why These Dogs Make Great House Pets

When Bo, an 11-year-old champion Black and Tan Coonhound, was laid to rest in October at the Underwood Memorial Coon Dog Cemetery in Tuscumbia, Ala., the Associated Press reported that nearly 400 mourners attended his funeral.

Such an outpouring of grief for one dog probably comes as no surprise to many Coonhound pet parents, who almost unanimously describe their dogs as sweet, loving and extremely social with adults, children and other dogs.

In fact, one of the only negatives they may cite is the misconception that these dogs are nothing more than loud, smelly, hunting dogs that have no business being indoor house pets.

“People think they’re stupid, wild dogs, climbing trees in the countryside,” said Anna Nirva of Coonhound Companions, an advocacy group formed last year.

Because of these misconceptions, Coonhounds – whose six breeds, all of which originated in the United States, are the American English; Black and Tan; Bluetick; Plott; Redbone and Treeing Walker – fill many animal shelters in the southern and eastern regions of the country. Even Pit Bulls, the breed most likely to be found in shelters elsewhere, are adopted more frequently in these areas than Coonhounds.

Somehow Beagles – which were also bred as hunting dogs – have managed to escape the negative stereotype.  According to the most recent American Kennel Club (AKC) registration statistics, the Beagle is the fourth most popular dog in the U.S.

The AKC itself has pretty much ignored Coonhounds until very recently. While the Black and Tan Coonhound has been recognized since 1945, Plotts weren’t accepted into the AKC registry until 2006; Redbones and Blueticks in 2009; and the American English just this year. Next year, Treeing Walkers will finally receive AKC recognition.

Last September, Steve Fielder, director of the AKC’s Coonhound division, optimistically wrote in a “Coonhounds at the AKC” article, “There’s no doubt the Coonhound breeds will flourish with AKC’s acceptance.”

Coonhound Companions is working hard to make Fielder’s prediction a reality. Nirva and other members of the “Coonie-crazy team,” as its website describes them, recently spoke to i Love Dogs in an effort to bust some myths and spread the good word about these dogs.

Myth: Coonhounds are Loudmouths

Although potential adopters might fear a Coonhound would be too vocal (and Elvis didn’t help their image any by singing, “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, cryin’ all the time”), many of these dogs end up homeless for precisely the opposite reason – they’re too quiet, and therefore not good hunting dogs.

Mary Beth Hall, who is the chief dog warden of Union County, Ohio, said, “It’s a misconception that they’re loud. They’re quiet indoors.”

But that doesn’t mean a Coonhound won’t occasionally serenade you. As Jerry Dunham, the founder of Tejas Coonhound Rescue, noted, “They tend to peel the paint when they vocalize.”

Nirva said Austin, her rescued Treeing Walker Coonhound, literally sings for his supper. “But otherwise, he’s quiet,” she added.

Emily Plishner, whose two Redbones compete in United Kennel Club events, said Coonhounds are “the most musical dogs in the world.”

Along with the singing, Plishner said these dogs have an incredible vocabulary. “They have a whole range of voices,” she said. “You can tell which neighbor is approaching just by the tone of their bark.”

While their barking might make them good watchdogs, Jean Stone, the founder of Gentle Jake’s Coonhound Rescue in Ontario, Canada, noted that Coonhounds were not bred to be aggressive. “If you’re looking for a guard dog, don’t get a Coonhound,” she advised. “They don’t have a mean bone in their bodies, and would do anything to avoid a fight.”

Truth: Coonhounds are Lookers

Not only would a Coonhound be a shoo-in to win “American Dog Idol,” but they’re also major crowd pleasers, thanks to their doggie-matinee-idol looks.

“Those big brown eyes and long, floppy ears … they could beg the last crust of bread from a beggar, they’re so irresistible,” Plishner said.

Angela Faeth, owner of Map Adventures, said that when she walks Olivia, her Black and Tan Coonhound, her dog becomes a “total guy magnet.”

And because they were bred to be good hunters rather than good lookers, Coonhounds generally have few health issues. The most common is easily treatable ear infections due to those adorably floppy ears.

“Beagles and Bassett Hounds tend to have more health problems – and more difficult personalities – than Coonhounds, yet they are more popular,” noted Stone.

Truth: Coonhounds are Happy Wanderers

When they take their Coonhounds out to meet their adoring public, pet parents must be sure to keep them on leash.

“They can quickly cover many miles,” Stone said. “In fact, some Coonhounds end up in shelters because they became lost after they were separated from their owners.”

Nirva said the popular conception that these dogs require yards with 6-foot fences “may be true for some Coonhounds, but for not all of them.” She said Austin has never left her property, even though there are raccoons roaming the neighborhood. “He’ll wander over to the driveway, but won’t go farther,” she said.

Truth: Coonhounds are Very Nosy

Because they are scenthounds bred to chase raccoons (and bears) up trees, Coonhounds have incredible senses of smell.

“It’s amazing how their noses work,” Plishner said. “Their nostrils open and they take in the world. They know what’s passed through the yard overnight. There are no secrets with a Coonhound.”

Faeth said that when a Coonhound’s nose is down, his ears are closed. Hale agrees: “If they’re focused on something else, it’s like talking to a wall.”

Although you might think a Coonhound would only be happy if he were hot on the trail of some varmint, these dogs tend to have an indoor/outdoor switch, and can be perfectly happy couch potatoes.


Myth: Coonhounds Smell Bad

Another persistent myth concerns H.O. – hound odor. But most Coonhound pet parents say their dogs are funk free, even if they’re only bathed a couple times a year.

Faeth said dogs that aren’t neutered or spayed, and those kept outdoors, may be more odiferous. She noted that her own dog does have a slight scent around his ears, but it’s a very pleasant musk she likes to call “hound elixir.”

As always though you must take care for your dog and groom it regurarly. There are no esxcuses.

Truth: Coonhounds are Social Networkers

Because they were bred to hunt in packs of two to four dogs, Coonhounds are extremely social.

“A great advantage is that you never have to worry about Coonhounds with other dogs,” Hall said. “They do really well at the dog park.”

Coonhounds also get along fine with both adults and children. If they’re raised with cats, they can even get along with them as well.

Release the Hounds (From Shelters)!

If all of these accolades have you thinking about adopting a Coonhound of your own, be sure to do your homework first (just as you should for any breed). Dunham recommends that you contact a rescue group for their assistance in finding the perfect Coonhound for you.

For more information about Coonhounds or to find out how you can help spread the positive word about these dogs, visit the Coonhound Companions website.

  1. We adopted an approximately 7-year old coon hound from the shelter a few months ago. This article is so true. She is social, a charmer, and good indoor pet. She is fairly quiet unless she has something to say, then she bellows! She is very polite, and even a bit of a silly clown at times. We had beagles before, and while they are smaller and a bit cuter, the coon hound is easier to handle and deserves a better rep than they get. We have a tall fence and she enjoys laying outside when it is nice. She is the biggest couch potato we have ever had! She can go from super active to super sleepy in no time flat! We love her and glad we adopted her!

  2. I have a Walker-hound mix. I call him my “soul dog” Best dog i have ever had the privilege to love!

  3. Even if they aren’t raised with cats, they can learn to not only tolerate them, but also love them as a pack member. We adopted a blue tick that was 3 years olds, and while we had to watch him carefully at first with our 8 pound cat, once he learned (within just a week or so) that she was a member of the family and not a toy to chase, all was well. They love to snuggle together on the same dog bed now. I am so in love with this breed and own two. The other is a black and tan. Best! Dogs! Ever!

  4. The truth of hounds in shelters is not only their noisy reputation, but the horrible habit of over breeding and releasing unwanted hounds, which some hunters employ to avoid feeding dogs through the winter. While many hunters care for their hounds very well, many do not.

  5. They are truly the best dogs ever!!! I had a bluetick Coonhound and she was my first coonhound. She was perfection in a fur suit!! She loved everyone she met and they loved her. I was a complete afterthought when I would walk in a room with her because all you would hear is “Georgie’s here!!!” and people would coming running to give her pets and treats – her two favorite things!! They truly steal your heart!!!

  6. We adopted our second Treeing Walker and they are the best, most loving wonderful dogs!

  7. Bo, the hound referred to in the beginning of this story is my Ruthie’s grandfather. She was my very best friend. I miss her so much. I laid her to rest a month ago at the young age of four. She had severe seizures due to a brain tumor. They get sick just as humans do. We currently have nine Black and Tans. We have had as many as 13. They are loud, when hunting. They are loud when they are playing. That’s what they do. They are lookers. They look for food, for anything they want to look for. Wanderers? Oh yea. If not on a leash they can wander far. Nosy? Well I have learned don’t bend over in front of them unless you want a nose in your behind! Smelly? Bathe them. Social? They are pack dogs. They prefer company. They need a job. All in all my hounds have made some of they very best friends and pets I have ever had.

  8. I’ve had Coonhounds for 25 years now. My dad and grandfather had Coonhounds. My dad and grandfather grew up in the country. I live just outside Chicago. When people ask why I have Coonhounds. I tell them, “it’s in my blood.” These dogs don’t just come in your house and take over. They come into your heart and take over. My 2 B&T’s I have now are the sweetest little girls. Of course their both 100% Daddy’s girls. LOVE my Coonhounds!

  9. I’m so in love with my two coon hounds. They are truly my best friends. My older one is highly intelligent and so helpful with my elderly mom. She’s incredibly loyal. My younger one has the best sense of humor. He needs lots of attention and loving.
    These dogs have changed my life for ever!

  10. I found a young coonhound in a cemetery. Never could find who she belonged to either. No microchip. I’ve now had her 4 yrs. This article is on point. She’s very mellow and not as active now. She loves everyone and everything. She’s a tree walking coonhound.

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