We are looking to adopt a two year old bluetick. Is it likely to howl? What can we do to prevent that?
A from Emmy Sue
What some people call “howling,” other people call “hound music.” That depends on where you live and who your neighbors are!
Coonhounds can be pretty vocal and that may disturb your neighbors, so check your local noise ordinances before you adopt.
Coonhounds don't usually sing unless they are in hunting mode, although some pet coonhounds that don't hunt will transfer their passion to other contexts. I have one elderly hound who "hunts" human food, and bellows to beg from the dining table and kitchen counter. That is fairly easy to stop with the consistent application of a squirt bottle, which--to my husband's annoyance-- I don't bother with often enough.
Coonhounds rarely howl to fire engines and sirens like they do in cartoons. When we lived in Brooklyn NY our hounds regularly ignored the chronic street babble like any other city resident. Some dogs will howl at the moon, but I’ve never heard of a coonhound that does. One of my hounds used to respond to coyotes singing nearby, but most don’t, although they will converse with other dogs in the neighborhood unless discouraged.
Pet hounds may howl at squirrels or cats hanging around outside windows or on the other side of a fence within sniff distance. Mine sing at bears or raccoons in my garbage or bobcats on the prowl, but I live way out in the country. Almost all coonhounds will bay or bark at raccoons within scent range, but most pets won't smell that if they are inside with windows closed at night. Some have sensitive enough noses to wake up from a sound sleep in the middle of the night or from the back seat of the car (with closed windows). It's almost always some smell that sets them off, and they get super excited when they get a whiff. On lead, they become very difficult to control, pulling to get to the source. Each hound has his own game preferences. Some sing about cats, some will sing for possums unless taught not to. Some will sing for the mailman who carries biscuits.
The best way to keep the peace with neighbors is to keep the hound from smelling things it’s going to want to hunt. Barriers that keep hounds from seeing game they want to hunt won’t work. Hounds are bred to hunt at night, so they use their nose and their hearing more than their sight, and they can smell and hear things you can’t. And scents can enter houses and cars through ventilation systems.
Pet hounds also sing different (often loud) songs to express their emotions, and these can be very effective at manipulating their humans. Most hounds will sing enough to pull your heartstrings as you are leaving them behind at home. If you let that get to you, they can sing all day and disrupt the neighborhood. Most quickly learn that you can’t hear them after a couple of minutes, so they stop, only to start up again when they hear your car engine upon return. You can limit the length of time this goes on by masking the sounds of your departure. Leave a radio or tv on playing softly--no loud abrupt noises like quiz shows or heavy metal. Gentle talk or soft music are good. Nature noises are not good--there’s bound to be an intriguing noise. My dogs are always responding to exotic animal noises on public radio.
Coonhounds have a huge vocabulary of vocalizations. They are bred to hunt out of sight of their handlers, usually at night. They communicate with their humans by “talking” constantly and distinctively enough that their handler can tell what each individual hound is doing when it is hunting with several others. These noises vary from soft whimpering to loud baying and chopping, with subtle variations. One of the joys of owning a hound is learning what your individual hound is saying. I can tell what each of my hounds are hunting by sound alone, and also how close they are to chasing it up a tree. However, each hound has his own “speech” in every situation, so you have to figure that out for yourself. The better you understand what yours is saying, the better you will communicate. Musicians have the practice to be particularly good at this.
Incidentally, other breeds of dogs consider hound vocalizations so loud as to be rude. Bring your hound someplace where there are other breeds of dog, and some of the foreigners may be put off by how loud the hound is. Interestingly, other hound breeds and hound mixes tend to recognize and be understanding of hound talk in each other immediately, while terriers or toy breeds may find it annoying. Hounds that are used to going to dog parks will pick up on this and be quiet when they first arrive.