A weighted vest has been the most important tool to turn my coonhound’s behavior around and change my life and his for the better. This is the story of Rusty.
I adopted Rusty when he was 6 weeks old. Now 6 years old, he's 3/4 Treeing Walker and 1/4 Bluetick. We have a very calm, quiet home. I’ve raised puppies before but never a hound; and Rusty was a handful. In addition to being a very stubborn puppy, he has always been possessive of his food and toys. Rusty has a very big personality and has always wanted to be in charge of the pack, which includes me, my 9 year old Labrador Retriever Leroy, and my roommate.
Rusty just takes his job of being a hound very seriously and is always on patrol. He is very sensitive and intelligent; when you speak to him calmly and gently; he seemingly understands your words and sentences. He’s extremely loyal and a velcro dog. Rusty loves to help, no matter what you’re doing, and will sit by you and protect you as you do your tasks. He’s goofy and submissive most of the time -- all the typical sweet coonhound qualities. It’s just this ONE flaw that he has: too much energy and anxiety, which turns into aggression at times.
We live on an acre of fenced yard, so Rusty has plenty of space to sprint and soar around the property and get some of his energy out. I couldn’t live on a smaller property with him; he would go insane, and I know his aggression and anxiety would be much much worse. The size of my yard and the space we have for him to run around really helps.
In place of the vest, I looked for a backpack that would be a snug-fit to his body and sit comfortably on him. I found an Arcadia Trail Dog Backpack for only $30 from PetSmart. The improvised vest was our last resort, so once we got it I was super excited to try it.
First he walked for a night with the empty backpack; then we added about 5% of his body weight and later upped it to 7%. You can go up to 10%, but this was enough for Rusty to be worn out but not strained. For weight, I used uncooked lentils in a ziplock bag, one on each side of the backpack. Dry beans or rice would work as well. I put the backpack on him inside the house before getting into the car or leaving the property for a walk. Rusty is kind of a maniac in the car, but the vest helps keep him calmer and in place compared to when he is not wearing it. He loves his backpack now and gets excited when he gets to wear it.
The weighted pack has calmed some of the tendencies in Rusty's DNA that he can’t always control. With Rusty, working on our verbal communication with meaningful eye contact helps a lot, but he still has days where he’s a handful. I try to just accept him for who he is and keep working on his more obnoxious behaviors while enjoying his loving and sensitive coonhound qualities. He’s a nightmare on the leash when cars pass us; that’s our biggest issue right now, but he’s getting better. He’s just so protective and serious about his job that he can’t resist.
If you decide to try a weighted vest, keep it on them in the car and for any and all outings. Have patience ... it took Rusty until he was 6 to chill out and accept that he is a pet hound and not a hunter. I hope using a weighted vest to exercise high-energy, anxious dogs helps other hound families!
The opinions expressed in this guest blog are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily endorsed by Coonhound and Foxhound Companions.