Destructiveness is a normal thing for most dogs, especially working dogs like American English Coonhounds. Your dog’s behavior can be described as destructive if he damages things that he shouldn’t, such as shoes, furniture, floors, carpets, clothing, doors, or other belongings. He can damage your belongings by digging, chewing, or ripping them apart. American English Coonhounds are very active dogs and though their destructiveness can be upsetting and costly, it can also be dangerous for them as chewing and scratching can result in injuries to their toes, nails, and mouth. Additionally, if your dog swallows any of the non-food items he is destroying, this could lead to gut problems which can be fatal if not treated. With that said, outlined below are some reasons that explain why American English Coonhounds act destructive.
The Root of the Behavior
Coonhounds are active dogs and thus require a lot of exercise and stimulation to deal with energy build up. As such, when you notice your American English Coonhound acting destructive, you should first and foremost consider whether he has been getting enough exercise. The type of exercise you give your Coonhound also matters because whereas some dog breeds are content with just a leisurely walk around the block, Coonhounds need more than that. Since they are bred for hunting, they are most suited for the countryside, where they can follow scents and chase after prey. This is in stark contrast to keeping a Coonhound in an apartment or townhouse where he has limited outlets for burning his energy. But while a lack of activity is the most obvious explanation, there are other factors to consider. If your English Coonhound’s destructiveness is accompanied by other behavior such as hiding, whimpering, tearing up window blinders, and relieving himself in the house, this could be a different issue.
One, your dog may be afraid of someone or something such as a loud lawn mower, construction noise, fireworks, or thunder. Two, he could be suffering from separation anxiety. You can tell when destruction is anxiety-related because the behavior will usually start when you leave the house and is directed at everything your dog can reach and latch on to. Three, your dog could be marking his territory. In such a case, he will not only destroy things but will also act aggressively especially towards other dogs. AKC breed standards caution any sign of aggressiveness in a Coonhound should be cause for concern because Coonhounds have a natural inclination for sociability. Lastly, your American English Coonhound could be reacting to stimuli outside your house, such as scents or passing animals that have caught his interest. As his primary instinct is to follow scents and chase after animals, if he tries to leave the house but cannot do so, he will scratch at doors and windows in an attempt to break free.
Encouraging the Behavior
Destructiveness, while normal in some circumstances, should never be encouraged because doing so will only result in more destruction and leave you with an unmanageable dog that is difficult to control. Indiscipline in a dog stems from the notion that he is dominant to you and not the opposite. Veterinarian and dog trainer Michele Welton maintains that every dog belongs to a pack and when a dog joins a household, he sees the household members as his pack. If your dog notices that he can get away with behavior that is not acceptable, he begins to think that he rules over you.
As American English Coonhounds tend to be independent, it should not surprise you if he takes the lead when you don’t set standards for him. As such, training a dog early in his life is very important because he grows up knowing what is acceptable and what is not. If your Coonhound is past puppyhood, he can still be trained though with a lot more effort as American English Coonhounds are less patient when older. Nevertheless, no matter how much you train your Coonhound, he will not stop destroying things if you don’t exercise him enough. Take him jogging with you in the park and allow him to follow scents and chase squirrels. If you have a busy schedule, get a dog walker who has experience working with Coonhounds. Further, if his destructiveness is directed at his toys, you should consider getting him some new toys or removing the ones he seems to destroy.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If your dog sustains any injuries that are related to his destructive behavior, you should take him to the vet. It is also likely that he could swallow items he destroys and this can be dangerous as foreign objects could clog his digestive system. In the same vein, sharp objects such as wooden splinters or shards might lodge in his gums or palate causing him pain. Vomiting, excessive drooling, low mood, decreased appetite, or a complete refusal to eat even when your Coonhound is clearly hungry could mean he has a mouth injury or a compromised digestive system.
A series of blood tests, stool tests, and x-rays at the vet’s office should determine the extent of the injury and the treatment required. Even more important is to prevent injuries before they happen by setting boundaries for your dog. It is normal to be uneasy about setting boundaries because you want your dog to view you as his friend or equal. Yet, failure to address destructiveness through training and boundaries will make it harder to take care of him and this will result in overall poor health.
American English Coonhounds can be quite destructive, but this might just be their way of telling you that they need to chase a scent or run after some animals. Where destruction happens just because your Coonhound enjoys it or because no one has told him not to destroy things, training and setting boundaries will help to right things.