I’m here to tell you that that just ain’t so! While all breeds were bred with certain characteristics and traits in mind, most breeds can serve many different purposes. This idea has gotten so popular that many national breed clubs offer versatility awards to showcase the wide variety of talents of their breed. As society changes, our beloved companions adapt and change alongside us. The only trait that doesn’t change is the love of a dog for its owner.
What I will share with you is a not a secret and not magic. If you want to compete in any event with a “different” breed of dog, you need to learn what’s typical for that dog and learn how to adapt your training to the type of dog you’re running. Just like people, dogs do not all learn new things by one cookie-cutter secret training method. Some people are right-brained, some left-brained, some detail oriented, some instinctive. Some dogs are keenly intelligent, some dumber than a box of rocks, some anxious, some bold, some like ten million repetitions, others like to be shown once then they’ve “got it” so don’t drill it.
I’ve trained 3 coonhounds to be therapy dogs, compete in agility, obedience and tracking. I’ve entered treeing contests and shows, watched a couple hunts, and thought about trying dock jumping with a coonhound just for a lark.
The most important part of competing with a dog is to remember that training and competing is essentially about building a bond between you and your dog. The dog doesn't understand the rules of competition. What they do love is the time spent with you training and succeeding at whatever you choose to try.
My Treeing Walker Coonhound is willing to try anything for me. He desperately does not like to be corrected, but he’s full of mischief and joy when he’s right. He cannot take any pressure, so I have to be very conscious of my nervous Nellie actions at competition. He’s also maturing very slowly. While friends are hopping in to the competition ring with young pups, I’m finding that at 2½ years of age, he’s barely ready to keep up that level of focus long enough to compete. I’m positive he’s got a bright future ahead of him as long as I’m patient with his training.
And I’m not alone. Look to the American Kennel Club performance records and you’ll find Redbone Coonhounds with their Master Agility Championships. You’ll also find a pair of Bluetick Coonhounds who have earned their Obedience Trial Championships including perfect scores of 200 out of 200 and High in Trial wins over all the other breeds competing.
Coonhounds just wanna have fun and they’re willing to try just about anything! Keep your training sessions short and fair to the dog. Keep distractions to a minimum when teaching a new skill. And pick something you’ll both enjoy, and I can guarantee they’ll make you laugh and smile.
My big ole hound dog has ears the size of Texas and a melody to his music that makes my heart sing. He’s my lap dog at night. My faithful protector at my side. And my buddy during our fun weekends in the competition ring. As of April 2011, he now has earned his Canine Good Citizen, his Therapy Dog, one leg of three needed towards an American Kennel Club Novice Fast Agility title and one leg of three needed towards an American Kennel Club Novice Obedience title. I hope you’ll be there to cheer us on when we compete again!
~Mary Beth Hall