Training a coonhound is a simple task, but it requires patience. Like most dogs, coonhounds require attention and stimulation, but the end result is a well handled companion that will provide years of stable hunting where it will pay for itself time and time again. Training begins at the earliest stages of life with stimulation, and ends with a functioning coonhound with many steps in between. If an owner dedicates 20 minutes to puppy training then successful results will occur.
Almost out of the womb training begins with stimulation. It is essential to capitalize on the neurological growth of the puppy by using stimulation drills at key points in the puppy's development. The more neurological connections the dog has the more intelligence the trainer will have to work with later in the puppy's life. Simple problem solving drills at an early age will get a puppy headed in the right direction. Things as simple as holding your puppy upside down, or placing them on a wet towel will allow your puppy to begin to understand how to improvise and adapt to situations. Dogs that lack this pressence of mind are referred to as being "cage dumb." Military research of canines suggest only 30% of a puppy's potential is due to genetics and breeding. That being considered early stimulation is the first step in puppy training. Don't be afraid to test the limits of your puppy's intelligence. It costs as much to feed a "cage dumb" hound as it does a smart well stimulated one.
As an adult your puppy will travel miles in a single night acrossed many obstacles in search or trailing racoons. If the owner intends to keep its dog for any length of time it is crucial to create a bond with the dog. Bonding with your puppy is not difficult. Puppies have an innate bond with humans. Simply playing fetch or calling your puppy often by its name will be adequate attention for now. A puppy should come to its name by 10-12 weeks of age. From the time the dog is 3-4 months of age is the best time to teach your dog handling procedures. Not only does this give the ownner a time to guage the puppy's intelligence, it will also create the bond that is needed for a lasting partnership. This is also a good time to throw articles of clothing into the dog pen or let it sleep on your old shirt for a bed. This act may seem crazy, but it helps bond the puppy to the owner, and if the puppy ever gets lost the trainer may simply throw down a garment near your exit to give the puppy something to find when it decides to come home. It is not uncommon to find your lost puppy sleeping back where the garment was left. At the end of this period your puppy should come by name, heel, sit, lead, and hunt (just general sniffy curiosity) without the use of an e-collar.
By the time the puppy is 4 months old the introduction of a coonhide should occur. This should be introduced as a fun and rewarding task. Problem solving and finding the coon hide should be rewarded. Coonhounds have a period of stimulation when they become weary of most anything so to avoid giving a puppy the wrong idea of hunting, it should not be introduced to a live coon until it is bold enough to handle it. The last thing a trainer wants is to instill fear into the puppy's mind. I would simply start off by rewarding the puppy interest in the coon hide. Dogs have an instinct to hunt, they do not pocess the instinct to hunt racoons. The trainer must build the connection that it is racoons that is desired to be hunted. The trainer must have the dogs undivided attention at this point. Short sessions of 20 minutes should help the trainer and puppy stay interested in the training. To have the full attention of the puppy place it on a zip-line , training table, or isolated area (such as the hallway in ones home). Start off by rewarding interest in the coon hide. A sniff or a nible is sufficient interest to rate reward at this point. The desired hunting response the trainer is looking for is the simple following of the "line." The line is the actual path that the racoon traveled. To simulate this the trainer must simply ensure that puppy uses its nose to find the hide. There are many different techniques to teach a puppy to follow a line. A simple method, especially if the trainer has associated the coon hide game of hide-and-seek with a command (e.i. "go hunt" or "go gettum"). So a simple command that indicates to the puppy that it is time to hunt for a coon hide, combined with dragging and placing a hide under a bucket or up on a table should at this point lead to the puppies search of a coon. After the puppy learns to use its nose to find the hide, through repition and reward, simply keep expanding the line and the complexity of the line until your puppy become a proficiant tracker. This can start with a 4 feet line and should end with the puppy following a line up to 80 feet. Try to exude excitment as an owner. Excitement to the puppy will cause the dog to "sound-off," which is simply barking while on the line or in the pursuit of the racoon. A puppy that does not learn to voice its find is usless as a hunting hound.
After the puppy has mastered the art of trailing and finding hides by following the line it is time for the introduction of the live racoon. There are some key aspects to this step and the owner should think this process out and plan before engaging. Depending on the season, but ideally I would catch a newly weened racoon in a live trap. There are plenty of pesky racoons presenting a nusiance to people year-round, so capturing a live one is not difficult nor will it affend too many people. Simply bait with whatever the racoon has been feeding on. Almost anyone with a chicken house would gladly allow trapping, and would probably already have a freshly slain chicken as bait.
After the racoon is in the live trap it is time to setup a mock hunt. Go to an area with a young growth of trees (preferably where the release of a live racoon is accepted). Tie the puppy up on a short leash and place the caught racoon in front of it. A trapped racoon is fierce, but not near as fierce as one that just fell out of a tree, so let the now 6 to 8 month old pup sniff and size up its target. There will be some gnarling and hissing on behalf of the coon, but continue to encourage the pup to engage until it is desensitized. This could take up a couple a training days. After the puppy has aquired the interest it is time for the release. Leaving the dog on a leash release the racoon, a training companion is advised at this time. After the racoon travels a fair distance chase it up a small tree. Racoons are great climbers, and as a defense mechanism, it is generally easy to get them up a tree. Upon release the puppy should be adequatly trained to follow the line to the treed racoon. As a safety, the trainer may want to keep the dog leashed so that it can be made clear to the puppy that it is to follow the line in pursuit of the treed racoon. After the puppy learns to follow the line, sound-off, and work a treed racoon through repition and reward it is time for a hunt. If the racoon is chased up a small enough tree, with great care it may be released and chased up many trees in one training day.
Now it is time to polish the puppy's hunting skills. I prefer at this point some type of apprenticeship with an older hunting dog. But choose carefully and be sure the dog you are hunting with has the desired traits that you wish your puppy to have. Continue to hunt with your puppy until it reaches the ability to hunt on its own. The mock hunt should be performed if at any point in time your puppy loses the desire to hunt or is not performing according to your desires. Any time a puppy makes even the smallest step towards becoming a hunting hound it should be rewarded with a pet from the handler.
This should act as a guide to training a black and tan coonhound. Remember all dogs are different and progress at different steps. Never rush a dog into hunting too soon, and never over train a puppy. Stimulation to different activities can never be overdone, but over training may lead to burnout. As a handler it is crucial to go in steps. Do not rush past any, and do not skip any and you will have trained a life-long companion that will successfully lead to nights that will bear many hides.