Renowned for speed and endurance, the American English Coonhound has a strong but racy body, a deep chest with plenty of lung room, a strong back, broad loin and well-defined musculature. A balanced, powerful dog with no exaggerated parts, the American English possesses the grace and attitude of a well-conditioned athlete.
American English Coonhounds can be prone to overheating while on coon hunts during the summer months in the Southern United States. Like other mid-to-large dogs, one of the most common health concerns is hip dysplasia. Other breed health predispositions may include ear infections (bacterial; yeast), progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and polyradiculoneuritis (possibly from exposure to raccoon bites).
The American English Coonhound was bred to hunt raccoons, foxes and other wild game. Its natural instincts, intellect, strength and speed make it perfectly suited for those tasks. However, it also makes a great companion for active owners who enjoy spending time outdoors with their high-energy pets. American English Coonhounds are gentle, friendly, reliable, affectionate and devoted to their owners. Breed fanciers also describe them as loving, loyal and eager to please. They interact well with children, especially older ones, as long as they and the kids are all properly socialized early in the relationship. These are sociable dogs, in part due to their history of living and hunting in packs. The bark, or bawl, of the American English Coonhound sounds a fine alarm that stands up in tone and volume to that of any other hound. As an alert, watchful dog with a big voice, the American English Coonhound can be a good watchdog. However, it shouldn’t be expected to be a guard dog or show excessively aggressive behavior unless it is extraordinarily aggravated. These dogs may be defensive when directly challenged, and protective when friends and family are threatened, but even then they rarely attack without extreme provocation.
This is a high-energy, extremely active breed that needs lots of daily exercise. American English Coonhounds love to run and make great jogging or biking partners for active owners. They enjoy playing games like fetch and hide-and-seek, and taking long brisk walks, with adults and children alike. They are increasingly competitive in outdoor canine sports, such as field trials, tracking, agility and obedience. Together with the other five AKC and UKC-recognized Coonhound breeds, the American English Coonhound participates in a variety of events sponsored by its parent club, including night hunts, water races, field trials and benched conformation shows. Of course, they make terrific, energetic hunting partners, eager to please their owners and true naturals at performing the duties for which they were bred. If American English Coonhounds dogs don’t get enough exercise, they can become bored, depressed, frustrated, anxious and/or hyperactive. They also can become destructive. They need a great deal of mental and physical stimulation to be content. Potential owners who have limited time to spend training, exercising and socializing their dog should consider a different breed. American English Coonhounds are not well-suited for apartment or condominium living or houses without fenced yards. They are active even indoors and are happiest with owners who have at least moderately-spacious homes on acreage.
The American English Coonhound needs a kind but firm hand for successful training. In order to make headway, owners should maintain calm, confident, consistent authority as leader of the pack. This breed may require more time, repetition and patience than other Coonhounds to reach the owner’s training goals, because it tends to be more easily distracted than its Coonhound cousins and likes to learn at its own pace. Some American English Coonhounds find it difficult to focus on anything but hunting and treeing other animals. Those dogs need extra motivation to learn their manners and basic obedience skills. Without steady, consistent, gentle guidance, this breed can develop undesirable traits such as dominance or excessive shyness. Socialization and training should start at an early age and continue for life.
American English Coonhounds love to explore and are great tracking dogs, anxious to follow every possible interesting scent and sound. Because of this trait, when not in a fully enclosed area, owners should keep their dogs on a secure leash at all times, lest they find a trail that is simply too alluring to ignore. This also applies to home security. The American English is a great escape artist and can flee from inadequately fenced yards and out open gates with ease. This breed has a strong instinct to chase and tree other animals. It is infamous for nesting. People looking for a dog that ignores the lure of a soft couch or warm laundry pile should cross the American English Coonhound off their list. On the other hand, they may be a good choice for active outdoorsy people who also enjoy cuddling and relaxing with their dog on the sofa or floor. American English Coonhounds are noisy. Their bark is more of a hound dog howl, and it is ear-piercing. They rarely bark once. Much more common is a long, sustained serious of sounds that some people find melodic and others find annoying. They sing to announce visitors before they reach your door, including other people’s visitors and sometimes even invisible ones. This isn’t a good choice for those living in tight urban environments next to non-dog-loving neighbors. The American English can be mouthy and seems to enjoy chewing on (and sometimes swallowing) sticks, stones, underwear and other items that normally are considered inedible. This includes the daily newspaper, which they like to shred or suck on until it is unreadable. They can be afraid of loud noises, including thunder, fireworks and slammed doors. Unless well-trained, they tend to pull when walked on leash and may be prone to counter-surfing the kitchen for tidbits (or larger items) of food.
The American English Coonhound’s short, close-fitting coat is easy to care for. This certainly is not a breed that requires religious grooming or meticulous trimming. However, they do shed quite a bit throughout the year and should be brushed regularly to keep household hair build-up at bay. A thorough brushing once a week with a clean, firm-bristled brush should suffice. Coonhounds don’t need to be bathed very often. Usually, they only require a good shampooing after they have romped in mud puddles or otherwise had a particularly eventful frolic in the out-of-doors. Of course, a bath is an excellent idea after a Coonhound is sprayed by a skunk or rolls in any of the wild animal or livestock feces that they find so appealing. It’s a good idea to brush them before their bath, to minimize the mess caused by excess dirt and hair. Owners can discuss a dental care regimen with their veterinarian. They should clip their Coonhounds’ nails monthly, or as often as necessary to keep them fairly short and tidy.
The breed traces its ancestry from Foxhounds brought to the United States by European settlers during the 17th and 18th centuries. It shares a common ancestry with all other coonhounds with the exception of the Plott Hound. The breed developed from the “Virginia Hounds”, which were developed over time from dogs imported to the United States by Robert Brooke, Thomas Walker and first President of the United States, George Washington. The dogs had to adapt to more rigorous terrain, with the breed being specifically bred over time to suit these new conditions. They were used to hunt raccoons by night and the American red fox by day. It was recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1905 as the English Fox and Coonhound.
The Treeing Walker Coonhound was recognized separately by the UKC in 1945, splitting it off from the English Fox and Coonhound breed. The following year the Bluetick Coonhound was also split.
The breed was accepted into the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service as the American English Coonhound in 1995. It was moved up to the Miscellaneous Class on 1 January 2010. Following the recognition of the breed by the AKC in the hound group on 30 June 2011 as the 171st breed, the American English Coonhound became eligible to compete in the National Dog Show in 2011 and both the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship for the first time in 2012.