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What is an American English Coonhound?
One of six different coonhound breeds, the American English Coonhound is a descendent of the English Foxhound and was bred for speed and endurance, and to bark loudly on a hunt. This breed is intelligent and easy to train as a hunting dog, and also makes a loving pet and gets along very well with other dogs. Originally known as the Virginia Hound, this dog was good at tracking both fox and raccoons. Once prey is found, the American English Coonhound barks and bay to signal its location. This breed earned its name due to its proficiency at hunting raccoons at night. American English Coonhounds are also capable of hunting bears and cougars, forcing them up trees to corner them so the hunter can shoot them.
Since the late 1600’s fox hunting was popular in Britain’s southern American colonies, in areas that are now Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. George Washington, who became the first US President in 1789, loved participating in British style horse and dog fox hunts. George Washington, along with Robert Brooke and Thomas Walker imported English Foxhounds to the United States, and by the early 1800s, they were used to create the different coonhound breeds. It was necessary to create a dog that was better adapted to the rough terrain in the United States, and initially, the different variations of the coonhound were all lumped together in one group referred to as “Virginia Hounds.”
At first, the Treeing Walker Coonhound and the Bluetick Coonhound were part of the group, but in the 1940s they were recognized as two separate breeds, different from the American English Coonhound.
With tracking skills that far surpass those of many other hunting breeds, one American English Coonhound was able to track a lost four-year-old despite never having been trained to track a human. American English Coonhounds also have the unique ability to climb trees. They start running at a tree from a distance, jump as high as they can, and then use their nails in their front paws to help them scale trunks to a height of up to 10 feet before reaching a branch to stand on, or sliding back down to the ground.
When he is tired of trying to catch the prey in the tree, the American English Coonhound will continue to circle and tree and bark and howl until its owner either kills the prey spotted by his dog or drags his dog away from the tree. American English Coonhounds are determined and fearless, and if a tree has enough low branches this breed will keep climbing to heights it can’t safely descend from.
In 1905 the American Kennel Club first recognized this breed as the “English Fox and Coonhound.” Also known as the Redtick Coonhound, the American English Coonhound was recorded in the Foundation Stock Service in 1995. In 2010, this breed was moved to the Miscellaneous Class, and in 2011, was recognized as the 171st breed in the American Kennel Club.
Hunters and sportsmen alike love the American English Coonhound for its lithe body, its effortless gait, and powerful muscles. While there is nothing bulky or hulking about this dog’s appearance, it has the strength and endurance of other more imposing-looking breeds.
The American English Coonhound has a domed skull, and low hanging, velvety ears. Its eyes are dark brown and its nose is black. Its muzzle is square, with a neat scissors bite. The American English Coonhound’s chest is deep, there is a smooth line from neck to tail with a straight back and shoulders that don’t protrude. This dog has straight, strong legs and a tail it carries high in the air. American English Coonhounds have round, well-padded feet that are almost catlike in the extent of their arch ability. This is a dog that uses its forepaws to scale tree trunks, and when walking has such smooth movements it appears to be trotting like a horse.
American English Coonhound Weight and Size
The American English Coonhound is a medium to large, lightweight dog. Males grow to a height of 22–27 inches (56–69 cm) at the withers, while females are slightly shorter at 21–25 inches (53–64 cm). American English Coonhounds weigh anywhere between 40 and 65 pounds (18 – 30 kg), with the weight in proportion to a dog’s height. Their bodies should have a lean, streamlined appearance – more like that of a runner than a wrestler.
American English Coonhounds have a few distinctive color combinations. They can be red and white or black and white. There are also dogs that are blue and white ticked, red and white ticked, or tri-color with ticking. If you see or own a tri-colored dog without ticking, or one that is a solid color with less than 10% ticking, or has a brindle coat, it is definitely not a purebred American English Coonhound.
The American English Coonhound’s shorthaired, coarse coat is perfect for hunting in the underbrush, as a dog with long hair would get its hair caught in branches and bramble. This breed is an average shedder,
Personality and Temperament
There is one thing American English Coonhounds love to do, and one thing only – hunt. While they are naturals at tracking down raccoons, teaching them to do anything else will require some effort. This breed has a loud, very vocal bark, and it uses its voice to let you know where prey is hiding. Many American English Coonhound fans believe that if you aren’t planning to use this dog for hunting, get yourself a different breed for a pet.
While all coonhounds have excellent scenting abilities, the American English Coonhound is renowned for its “cold nose”. That means that this breed can pick up a scent and a trail even after it is cold – meaning, long after the animal or purpose leaving the trail has been in the area.
When they aren’t chasing prey, the American English Coonhound does make a very good pet. This is a very sociable dog, both with people and other canines. It has a mellow, pleasant demeanor, and is alert and confident. This confidence can border on stubbornness when the American English Coonhound is on the hunt. It isn’t a good idea to raise small mammals like rabbits or hamsters if you own an American English Coonhound. They will view the little creatures as fair game, and become obsessed with pursuing them. On the other hand, this breed is good with children, and a loyal member of any family unit.
As watchdogs, American English Coonhounds are useful due to their incessant barking. On the other hand, if an intruder enters your home, your American English Coonhound is more likely to welcome the stranger by licking him than by biting him.
American English Coonhounds are renowned for having very strong nesting instincts. If you are particular about your furniture you will need to keep certain doors in your home closed and locked, or keep your pet in a separate living area. If given the chance, an American English Coonhound will burrow under your bedsheets, fashion a bed for himself in your pile of clean laundry, or claim a spot for himself on your couch or favorite recliner.
Behavior around other dogs
If you want a pet that will enjoy interacting with other dogs, the American English Coonhound is a good choice since it was bred to be a pack dog. You never have to worry about your American English Coonhound getting territorial and attacking other dogs he encounters. He will generally bark loudly if a strange dog enters his domain, but there is no danger of any vicious altercation.
You can take your American English Coonhound to the dog park, but he may get so distracted by all the scents in the area that he won’t have any real interest in playing with other canines.
Is an American English Coonhound a good Family Dog?
Before you even think about whether or not an American English Coonhound is the right breed for your family, you need to ask yourself whether or not your home is appropriate for an American English Coonhound. Because this breed is extremely vocal, barking, howling, and even “talking” very loudly, it isn’t a good choice if you live in an apartment or condominium. You should only bring an American English Coonhound home if you live in a private home far enough away from neighbors to avoid constant complaints about your noisy dog.
Even if you do have a big house with a yard for your American English Coonhound to run around in, you still need to be committed to providing daily activities involving a lot of exercise. The American English Coonhound needs to be out and about until he gets tired, and then once he comes home he will be a most loving and loyal family dog.
The best families of all for American English Coonhounds are hunting and farming families, or anyone living in rural areas. This breed loves any opportunity to spend time exploring fields and forests, trying to pick up the scent of potential prey.
How to Train an American English Coonhound
As insulting as it may sound to any dog lover’s ears, the American English Coonhounds has a reputation for being stupid, stubborn, and outright annoying. This isn’t completely true, because even though this isn’t a dog breed with the highest level of intelligence, it is actually quite easy to train.
Training difficulties arise when owners forget that the American English Coonhound has a few built-in instincts which make him appear to be dumber than he really is. It’s not that he’s dumb. He simply has a one-track mind. He is a wonderful tracker, an incessant “talker”, and knows the difference between a tree and a burrow when chasing prey. But in terms of learning tricks, complicated commands, or even learning to come when you call, this is not a dog that demands extra patience when training.
Trying to train an American English Coonhound is like trying to teach a child with ADHD. This is a dog that is very energetic, gets easily distracted by sights and smells, is stubborn when it comes to doing what you want before doing what it wants, and is extremely impulsive. If you want to be successful in your training sessions, your American English Coonhound needs lots of physical and mental activity, and a firm approach.
If you want to teach your American English Coonhound anything new, repetition and more repetition is the key, with an extra measure of kindness and optimism. To establish yourself as the leader of your pet’s “pack,” make sure to let him know that you always eat before he does. Also, socialize him with other dogs as often as possible. That way, while your American English Coonhound won’t always listen to what you tell him, at least you won’t have to worry about him becoming aggressive towards you or other dogs.
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How to Care For an American English Coonhound
American English Coonhounds are extremely energetic dogs that need an excessive amount of exercise. This is not a dog for older or disabled owners unless you own a huge property in a rural area where your pet can safely run off-leash as much as his heart desires.
If you are an avid hiker, biker, or runner, then the American English Coonhound can be a perfect companion. Just remember that whenever you are outside of your fenced yard, and especially when you need to go home by a certain hour, always keep your American English Coonhound on a leash. Otherwise, he is likely to pick up a scent of something that brings his hunting instinct to life and he will invariably run off in the opposite direction you want to go. You will be able to find your errant pet because of his loud barking and howling, but catching him as he circles or tries to climb a tree is a whole other challenge.
At home, your American English Coonhound will love fetching a ball that you throw, playing hide and seek, or engaging in a “speak” and “quiet” game. If you are creative, you can build an obstacle course for your American English Coonhound on your property, and teach your pet to run it by placing treats at each station in the course.
Grooming and Shedding
Grooming your American English Coonhound is the easiest part about caring for it. You can use a firm bristle brush as needed to smooth and refresh his short coat. About once a week use a grooming mitt to remove shedding hairs. You should also regularly check his ears for accumulated wax and dirt, as all floppy-eared dogs require. Bathing your American English Coonhound whenever you have the time and energy will keep his skin and coat clean, as will letting him swim in freshwater when the opportunity arises.
What to Feed an American English Coonhound
An American English Coonhound puppy needs to eat two meals a day, of one to two cups of dry food. Adults should be fed two to three cups of food three times a day. This is a dog that burns a lot of energy, and so needs to eat more often than other dog breeds of similar height and weight. The American English Coonhound also needs a constant supply of clean drinking water to prevent dehydration. This is a dog that never stops moving, no matter how hot it is outside, and it has a tendency to overheat.
Since the American English Coonhound is such an active dog, it does best to eat dog foods with a high percentage of protein in the ingredients. Avoid brands that include artificial fillers such as wheat, corn, and soy, and sugars and sweeteners. If you find yourself in a situation where you have no manufactured dog food on hand, feed your American English Coonhound chicken or fish without any spices, and try not to give him too much bread.
Known Health Problems
Thanks to excellent genes and generations of a healthy, active lifestyle, the American English Coonhound is generally a healthy breed. It is important to test dogs used for breeding, to make sure they can’t pass on hip and elbow dysplasia, or progressive retinal atrophy to their litters.
American English Coonhounds are at risk of developing bloat because they have deep chests. Bloat is a painful buildup of gas in the stomach and can lead to gastric torsion, which is a twisting of the stomach. Bloat can be life-threatening, so it is important to be alert for signs of this condition: a swollen and hard abdomen, pacing, restlessness, anxiety, and failed attempts to retch, vomit, or burp. In an acute case of bloat – the medical term is gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), your pet will have pale gums, shallow and rapid breathing, and he can lose consciousness in less than an hour. If you notice your American English Coonhound exhibiting any of these symptoms, take him immediately to the vet. One-third of dogs that need surgery for bloat do not survive, and this is the biggest cause of death in dogs after cancer.
To prevent bloat, be stringent about feeding your dog three to four small meals a day as opposed to one large one, and don’t let him exert himself until an hour after eating. In addition, avoid feeding him too many carbohydrates, as that increases the risk of developing bloat.
If your American English Coonhound receives enough exercise, a healthy diet, and any necessary health care, he should live for a relatively long life for a dog, 11 to 12 years.
How to Choose an American English Coonhound Puppy
The American English Coonhound (or just “English Coonhound” – if you are searching for breeders on the internet), is a very popular breed. Therefore, there are hundreds of breeders around the United States to choose from.
The site GunDogBreeders.com has a 15-page list of breeders for this breed alone! However, many kennels that advertise American English Coonhound don’t have working websites. It will take some time and patience to find a breeder you feel comfortable dealing with. The best way to find a good breeder is to join the American Coonhound Association Facebook group, where you can view posts by other American English Coonhound owners and ask questions about breeders.
Before buying an American English Coonhound puppy, research the breeders in your area to see which ones have the best reputations and are most communicative. Having pedigree papers is not the only thing that will guarantee a healthy dog with a good temperament. Find a breeder that will allow you to visit his kennel and see for yourself how he raises and cares for his dogs and puppies.
While most dog owners feel that one dog is all they can handle, this is a breed that might be happier if you take home two. The American English Coonhound was bred to hunt in a pack, and if your puppy has a friend (another coonhound, or any other compatible breed) to play with 24 hours a day, he may be less demanding in terms of needing attention from you.
How Much Do American English Coonhounds Cost?
As compared to other coonhound breeds, the American English Coonhound is on the expensive side. A healthy puppy with pedigree parents can cost on average $1000 to $1200 dollars. If you buy a puppy or an older dog from a rescue organization, the price will be significantly less. For example, the Carolina Coonhound Rescue organization has a number of coonhounds up for adoption, and the organization accepts out-of-state applications. The cost for puppies six months and younger is only $350 dollars, and for older puppies and dogs, $250. The only problem with adopting from a rescue is the wait.
There is no guarantee that the moment you decide to buy an American English Coonhound, there will be one waiting for you at a rescue shelter. Buying from a breeder is definitely more expensive, but at least you can get a better idea of when a litter will be born and available for purchase.
Quick Breed Summary Table
There are six breeds of coonhounds recognized by the United Kennel Club: the Black and Tan Coonhound (registered in 1900), the Redbone Coonhound (1902), the English Coonhound (1905), the Treeing Walker Coonhound (1945), the Bluetick Coonhound (1946), and the Plott Hound (1946). The English Coonhound is only called the American English Coonhound by the American Kennel Club, which recognized the breed in 2011. Otherwise, it is referred to in the United States as the English Coonhound. The Plott Hound is the only one of the six that didn’t descend from foxhounds. Its ancestors are boar hunting dogs from Germany.
What makes the American English Coonhound different from its cousins is that it comes in the widest range of color variations, and it is the easiest to train. On the other hand, it is also the most expensive of all the coonhound breeds. In the table below, some of the similarities and differences between the American English Coonhound and the three most popular coonhound breeds are listed, to make it easier to decide that the American English Coonhound is the best breed for you.
|American English Coonhound||Redbone Coonhound||Bluetick Coonhound||Treewalker Coonhound|
|Height||24 inches (56.5 cm)||23.5 inches (60 cm)|
|Average Weight||60 pounds (27.5 kg)||62.5 pounds (28 kg)|
|Lifespan||10 -12 years||12- 14 years||11 – 12 years||12 – 13 years|
|Family Dog||Great family dog, generally child friendly||Great family dog, very child friendly||Great family dog, generally child friendly||Great family dog, generally child friendly|
|Trainability||very easy to train||easy to train||easy to train||easy to train|
|Intelligence||Average to low intelligence||Very intelligent||Low to average intelligence||High intelligence|
|Health||Generally healthy||Frequent, numerous health issues||Frequent, numerous health issues||Frequent, numerous health issues|
|Price||$1000 – $1200||$600 – $800||$500 – $600||$400 – $600|
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If you want a dog that won’t just be a cuddly pet but will serve as a faithful and enthusiastic partner on your hunting and camping trips, the American English Coonhound is a wonderful breed to choose from. All coonhounds are very vocal, and bark a lot and loudly. All coonhounds have wanderlust, a strong desire to hunt and track, and a seemingly endless amount of energy.
The American English Coonhound is a good choice among the other coonhound breeds because it is generally healthier than the other five. A healthy dog saves its owner not only a lot of money but also a lot of worry and heartache. In addition, keep in mind when choosing a dog breed that the whole reason to get a dog is to have a loving, enjoyable companion – if you aren’t looking for a ferocious guard dog.
By owning an American English Coonhound, you can be guaranteed that you will never be bored, and as an added bonus stay in great shape, as you meet the challenge of giving this breed enough exercise and mental stimulation to keep him happy.