If you've ever had the misfortune of having to chase after your American English Coonhound, you know well that they love to run. While you understand that the American English Coonhound was bred to hunt, you didn't necessarily envision yourself running down the streets of your neighborhood in hot pursuit of your dog because he caught wind of a rabbit and jumped the fence. What is it that makes American English Coonhounds love to chase things? Is it genetic, or can your dog your dog be trained to stay put in the private confines of your yard.
Each breed is predisposed to different traits. Because of this, a well-researched study of the American English Coonhound's history can provide valuable insights into why your dog does the thing he does. But more than this, many behaviors are common to all dog breeds and can trace their roots back to their wild dog ancestors and their struggle to survive in a sometimes less than hospitable environment. If your American English Coonhound loves to chase, is his behavior normal? Is there hope that you can keep him safe and secure in your yard?
The Root of the Behavior
The American English Coonhound is a lesser known breed, ranking only 170 out of a possible 192 recognized breeds registered with the American Kennel Club. This distinctive hound has a dual heritage. Originally descended from Foxhounds in England in the 17th century, this breed's original purpose in its homeland was to assist their owners with ridding homes and farmsteads of foxes and other prey. English settlers brought early variants of this breed to the United States to continue their work as hunters in the new land. It was here that this breed gained its American roots and was purposefully bred to refine the hound into a dog skilled at chasing and trapping raccoons who were plentiful in the United States and ideally suited to provide sustenance and clothing for the hunter and his family. To create the American English Coonhound we know and love today, conscientious breeders attempted to selectively breed other lines and types of dogs into the pedigree of this highly prized hunting hound. This breed enjoyed many different names before finally settling on its current moniker. Other names for the American English Coonhound include the Redtick Coonhound, the English Coonhound, and the English Fox and Coonhound.
This genial breed prefers to be in the company of other dogs, a well-established trait in this dog bred to hunt in packs. His distinctive howl is unmistakable in tenor, tone, and volume. Amongst hunters, the American English Coonhound has earned the reputation as the fastest of all breeds in its same classification. Many breed aficionados proclaim, "If I couldn’t have an English hound, I’d give up hunting.” But the American English Coonhound finds his place in homes as well. Characterized by his pleasant personality and friendly nature, the American English Coonhound can also be well-suited to family living. However, due to the breed's headstrongness, they are a challenge to train, making them a better choice for the experienced dog owner. The American English Coonhound's history helps to explain his penchant for chasing things. As a hunting dog, his ability to keep up with prey while in the field would be of great importance to the pack and his owner. Chasing is a behavior that is instinctive to this breed. Since he has been hardwired to pursue quickly moving quarry on a hunt, the American English Coonhound also bears a predilection for chasing moving objects resembling prey while in his yard or out on a walk as well.
Encouraging the Behavior
Prey drive is often activated by movement. While an animal's movement appeals to the American English Coonhound's natural instincts, smell is also a powerful motivator for this breed to take flight. These powerful breed traits would also play a role in the early dog's ability to survive in the wild. Since the wild dog relied entirely on his ability to hunt to procure food for himself and his pack, he would need to rely heavily on his nose to fulfill this role. When the wild dog's nose detected the presence of prey, the stalking and the chasing would begin. The ability to chase an animal and ultimately trap it was a skill that ensured that the dog and his family members continued to be well fed. As with many high energy breeds, the American English Coonhound will also chase things when bored. Boredom often occurs in high drive dogs who do not receive sufficient mental and physical stimulation on a daily basis. Since the American English Coonhound is a breed with high energy resources to expend and who was also bred to be a dog with a job, he can easily fall into nuisance behaviors if his needs are not met.
To combat this type of behavior, it is important to ensure that your American English Coonhound receives regular daily exercise for his body and has access to toys, bones, puzzles, and other things to keep his brain and his jaws productive. An engaged dog rarely has the time or the interest to seek out things to chase. Many owners are surprised to discover that their American English Coonhound not only likes to chase moving objects, but they also possess the ability to climb trees in his pursuit of them. Since trees are a favored hiding spot for raccoons, this skill served the breed well when out in the field on a hunt. However, it is another cause for concern for the average pet owner. Dogs who scale trees can easily become injured, but more than that, they can also jump fences, giving them free rein in the neighborhood. While Fido might enjoy a day chasing all of your neighbors' pets, it's hardly good for community relations. Although it is well-established that the American English Coonhound likes to chase things, it is still necessary for his safety that he be taught a proper recall. The recall command is the one tool in every dog's trick repertoire that has the power to save his life.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Because the American English Coonhound is a breed driven by both sight and smell, he is far more challenging to train than your average dog breed. In fact, most owners of this beloved breed share that if their dog is not interested in learning a new skill, he simply won't, and he is well aware that there is very little that you can do about it. Because of this, it is important to master training techniques which allow you to persuade the American English Coonhound that learning new things was actually his idea in the first place. This is key to teaching any stubborn breed a new and valuable skill. A recall in a dog that has an immense prey drive is not an optional thing. Your dog must learn to come when called. This one skill could save his life. Make no mistake; training your American English Coonhound to come on command will not be easy. It will take a great amount of practice, skill, and patience.
In general, this breed is highly food motivated and can be enticed to learn through the use of some of his favorite foods. However, even food will not convince an uninterested hound that training is fun. For this reason, it is important to keep sessions very short and to find creative ways to keep them lively. As you work on training your American English Coonhound to come when called, it is important to keep him on a lead in areas where he could become loose and a danger to small animals and even to himself. A loose dog chasing prey puts both himself and the prey at risk because he is too focused on the hunt to notice any vehicles around him. If you have a fenced yard, take care to ensure that your fence is of a sufficient height and strength that your American English Coonhound cannot easily scale it in search of something fun to chase. If you cannot be there to supervise your dog's outdoor time, make certain that he has access to a variety of fun items to choose from to engage his mind and his body in a positive manner.
Has your American English Coonhound's penchant for chasing got your down? Hound owners worldwide commiserate with you. Rest assured that this instinct is very normal for most hound breeds, and particularly for the American English Coonhound. To ensure your dog's safety at all times, keep Fido securely fenced and with plenty of enrichment toys at his disposal to keep his brain and his body productively engaged at all times.
By a Parson Russel Terrier lover Jason Homan
Published: 04/26/2018, edited: 01/30/2020