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Black and Tan Coonhound

black and tan coonhound

Black and Tan Coonhound

• History

Scenthounds descend from the Talbot Hound, the hunting dog used by nobles and kings a thousand years ago. The direct ancestor of the Black and Tan Coonhound is the English Foxhound, but the coonhound breeds themselves are a uniquely American creation.

The Black and Tan Coonhound, developed in the mountains of the southern United States in the 1700s, takes his size, coloring, long ears, and scenting ability from the foxhounds and bloodhounds perched in the branches of his family tree.

He was bred to tree raccoons and possums, but he’s more than capable of running bigger game. That versatility made him an ideal companion for colonial settlers who created him to be a “trail and tree” dog, meaning he could find his quarry and tree it until the hunter arrived.

The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1945. The first Black and Tan Coonhound registered by the AKC was Grand Mere Big Rock Molly.

Despite his fine qualities, the Coonhound has never made the leap to popular companion dog, something for which his fans are probably grateful. He ranks 131st among the 155 breeds and varieties recognized by the AKC.

• Size

The largest of the six coonhound breeds, Black and Tans range in weight from 75 to 100 pounds. Males stand 25 to 27 inches at the shoulder, females 23 to 25 inches.

• Personality

This working scenthound was bred to work closely with other hounds, so he knows how to go along and git along with canine pals. With people he doesn’t know, he might be reserved but never shy or vicious.

He can be headstrong and likes to have his own way, but with firm, consistent, patient training the Black and Tan Coonhound is a well-mannered companion, albeit one who’s slow to mature. Expect to have a fun-loving puppy on your hands for at least three years.

At home he’s an easygoing friend, but put him on a scent trail and he’s as serious as a heart attack. This compulsion to follow his nose means you won’t ever want to have him off leash unless you’re in an enclosed area.

• Health

Following are some conditions that can affect Black and Tan Coonhounds:

◦Hip Dysplasia (HD):

This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can be worsened by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors.


A cataract is an opacity on the lens of the eye that causes difficulty in seeing. The eye(s) of the dog will have a cloudy appearance. Cataracts usually occur in old age and sometimes can be surgically removed to improve the dog’s vision.

Note: Responsible breeders use only physically sound, mature (at least two years or older) dogs, and test their breeding stock for genetic diseases pertinent to the breed.

Both parents should have health clearances, documentation that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Black and Tan Coonhounds, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better) and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site.

Health clearances are not issued to dogs younger than two years of age. That’s because some health problems don’t appear until a dog reaches full maturity. For this reason, it’s often recommended that dogs not be bred until they are two or three years old.

 • Care

Being a pack dog, the Black and Tan Coonhound is among the few breeds who can adjust to kennel life and even live outdoors — if it’s not too cold, he’s with another social dog, and he’s given warm, dry shelter. But if he’s an only dog, he should live indoors with his human pack so he doesn’t get lonely.

If you do keep him outside, make it during the day only and bring him in at night. He’ll need a large fenced yard since hounds are the original “travelin’ man” and will roam for miles if they catch whiff of an interesting scent. A fence keeps your Black and Tan Coonhound safely at home.

Note: An underground electronic fencing isn’t strong enough to contain him.

Because of his tendency to wander, it’s essential that a Coonhound be tattooed and microchipped and always wear a collar with identification tags.

Coonhounds are big enough to countersurf, and they’ll eat anything you leave within reach. Put the garbage up high, and don’t leave pies, bread, roasts, or any other goodies cooling on the counter, or they’ll be gone when you turn your head.

It is important to crate train your Coonhound puppy. Puppies explore, get into things they shouldn’t, and chew stuff that can harm them. It can be expensive both to fix and replace destroyed items, not to mention the vet bills. Crate training ensures not only the safety of your puppy but that of your belongings.

While they’re mainly sweet and easygoing, Black and Tan Coonhounds have the independent and stubborn nature common to hounds. They’ve been bred to work on their own, and don’t necessarily see why they should have to do things your way. On the plus side, they generally housetrain quickly.

Obedience training is highly recommended, but don’t count on perfect compliance. This is a dog who enjoys putting his own spin on obedience commands. Use treats and positive reinforcement techniques to persuade your Black and Tan that he wants to do as you ask.

And “ask” is the operative word. Hounds will flat-out ignore you if you try to boss them around. When training a Black and Tan Coonhound, bear in mind the saying that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

• Feeding

Recommended daily amount: 3 to 5 cups of a high-quality dog food daily, divided into two meals.

How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don’t all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog.

The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you’ll need to shake into your dog’s bowl.

Hounds like to eat. Monitor your Black and Tan Coonhound’s food intake so he doesn’t get fat. Keep your Coonhound in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you’re unsure whether he’s overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test.

First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can’t, he needs less food and more exercise.

For more on feeding your Coonhound, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.

• Coat, Color and Grooming

A short, dense coat protects the Black and Tan Coonhound as he trails his quarry through rough brush. It is, of course, black, with rich tan markings above the eyes, on the sides of the muzzle, and on the chest, legs, and back of the thighs. The toes bear markings that look as if they were made with a black pencil.

Brush the Black and Tan two to three times a week with a hound mitt or firm bristle brush to distribute skin oils and keep loose hair from floating off the dog and onto your furniture and clothing.

Check and clean his long, graceful ears weekly to prevent infections. Bathe as needed.

Other grooming needs include dental hygiene and nail care. Brush your Black and Tan Coonhound’s teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.

Nails should be trimmed regularly to keep them short. Your Black and Tan’s nails may need to be trimmed weekly or only monthly; each dog is different. If you can hear the nails clicking on the floor, they’re too long. Short, neatly trimmed nails keep the dog’s feet in good condition and keep your legs from getting scratched when your Coonhound enthusiastically jumps up to greet you.

Get your Coonhound accustomed to being brushed and examined when he’s a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth and ears.

Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you’ll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he’s an adult.

• Children and other pets

Black and Tan Coonhounds are patient and tolerant with children. That said, it’s never appropriate to leave dogs and young children alone together. They should always be supervised to prevent any ear biting or tail pulling on the part of either party.

Being pack dogs, Black and Tan Coonhounds are always happy to have the company of other dogs. A bored hound will find ways to entertain himself — destructive ways that you won’t like — so if no one’s home during the day, it’s best if he has at least one canine buddy.

They can also get along well with cats, rabbits and similar pets if they’re raised with them in the home. Be sensible and don’t leave them unsupervised with other pets until you’re sure they all get along.


Black and Tan Coonhound

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