I recently adopted a coonhound, possibly a mix. The shelter he came from said that Lucas is about a year-and-a-half-old, although my vet thought he was closer to three-and-a-half. The shelter said he is “quiet.” He has only barked 3 times in 3 weeks.
Why doesn’t he bark?
A from Emmy Sue
It is not unusual for a newly adopted adult hound to be dead silent for a couple of weeks in a new home. My first hound was silent until he went to the vet for the first time and decided to hunt the resident cat. Scent hounds are at their most talkative when they get a whiff of something that smells exciting. Once your hound is more comfortable and secure in his new environment, and he knows which smells go with good things, he will probably be more verbal. Once he decides to chime in, he will be loud, often to the point that you will be nostalgic about his initial silence.
Hounds are bred to hunt out of sight of their handlers, so a "loud mouth" is a desirable trait in a working hound. Accordingly, they are bred to be very loud, so loud that other dog breeds sometimes take offense. If you take your hound to a busy dog park, all hound breeds will be fine with its voice, even dachshunds, but other breeds, such as terriers, may shun him. Some other breeds act like boisterous hound voices are plain rude.
My speculative theory about this initial silence is that hounds know their loud mouths can give offense, so keep quiet until they are sure their new owners are hooked. This may be pure fairy tale, but I'm sticking to it.
Most hounds are capable of a large range of vocalizations. In hunting contexts, the two most often remarked on are a “chop” and a “bawl.” A “chop” is a rapid fire short bark, typically heard when the hound has found it’s quarry and is at its most excited. A “bawl” is the stereotypical hound dog song that is often used when the hound is trailing on a scent, or when the hound finally catches up to his quarry and is telling his handler he has “located” it.
However, hunting hounds are trained to be quiet when they are not "on a scent." No one wants a noisy “kennel barker.” At competitive hunting events, barking for no reason or the wrong reason can cause a hound to lose points, an offense called "babbling." Even barking on the scent of the wrong kind of animal (an opossum rather than a raccoon, for instance) is considered problematic. Hounds that have been "pleasure" hunted--rather than entered in the competition events--are usually trained to open (vocalize) only when "on scent." A well-trained hunting hound will only bark on the desired game, and will learn to ignore off game.
Nonetheless, most hounds do bark some when they are excited for other reasons, they just make (sometimes subtly) different kinds of noises, ranging from whimpering and whistling to soulful moans to operatic arias. As you get to know each other better you can figure out what each variant means. Hounds are bred to give each individual a distinctive voice so that the handlers can tell what each one is up to when out of sight at night (when raccoon hunting is done) with other hounds. Because these sounds are particular to each hound, I can't tell you exactly what yours will talk about how, `but typically, a whiff of the desired scent will result first in whimpering and whistling, then a steady bark or bawl, then a "locate" (indicating that the game has been sighted or is very close) then a "tree bark" --a steady short chop to indicate where the game has been sent up a tree and held. But some hounds have their own idea of what sound goes with what, and some have voices that defy description. I knew one guy who had a hound that sounded like a fog horn and made everyone crack up laughing every time it opened its mouth.
In a pet environment, the hound will eventually start responding to its new handlers' expectations. Mine make a heartbreaking noise whenever I leave them at home to go out. It only lasts until my car engine is out of hearing, but is very effective at making me think twice before leaving them at home! My husband tells me they can hear me returning long before he can, and begin to sing excitedly. I had one hound that had a special bark for the UPS guy. Most hounds will bark to greet guests or intruders, but some have been taught not to sound off for visitors. Mine have different barks for different kinds of game. I can tell whether mine are barking at a bear or raccoon or cat just by the sounds they make. One of mine had a special bark to warn me about snakes. Since snakes don’t have ears, I find that fascinating. It probably isn’t effective to warn off the snakes, although I’m sure the snakes can feel the vibrations.
Some hounds will bark at food scents. Most will get excited as you are putting food in their bowl and yowl in anticipation, especially if you are later than usual. If you don't discourage it, yours may holler at you when you are cooking or eating human food. I have one who can disrupt any dinner table conversation. A squirt bottle can help dampen that kind of vocalization if you don’t find it charming.
If you want to hear your hound's voice sooner, you can purchase a bottle of training scent. This is a concentrate in a medicine-sized bottle, which you dilute with water. It mostly smells like raccoon (it also comes in bear, bobcat or lion) urine and glandular secretions, so you only want to use it outside. It is not appealing to humans. Lay a trail by dipping a rag in a dilute solution of it. If you spill it on yourself, your hound won’t leave you alone for days, no matter how you scrub! You can buy this stuff at hound supply stores, Amazon or even WalMart. Some of the bigger hound supply stores online: Valley Creek Hunting Supply, F&T Fur Harvesters, Gun Dog Supply, and Lion Country Supply. Or Google "raccoon training scent." One reliable brand is Pete Rickard’s. He sells his brand on his website.
Most hounds do not sing to fire engines and other sirens, as they do in cartoons, although a few will. Some also like to sing along with yodeling--try Hank Williams singing Lonesome Blues to see if yours will.