The Treeing Walker Coonhound is a breed of hound descended from the English and American Foxhounds. They were first recognized as a separate breed in 1945. Thomas Walker had imported the English Foxhound to Virginia in 1742. The breed originated in the United States when a stolen dog of unknown origin, known as the "Tennessee Lead", was crossed into the Walker Hound in the 19th century. The Treeing Walker Coonhound was recognized officially as a breed by the American Kennel Club in January 2012. The Treeing Walker Coonhound was bred to hunt small game, particularly raccoons and opossums. Some hunters use them for large game such as bear. They are a fast, alert, hot-nosed hunter with superb endurance, treeing ability and the desire to perform. They are vocal with a distinctive bay that allows their owners to identify their hounds from great distances. It has a clear, ringing bugle voice or a steady clear chop with changeover at the tree. These hounds are affectionate as family pets and enjoy living indoors, but they were bred for a life of action, and require a great deal of outdoor exercise.
Description The Treeing Walker Coonhound has powerful, mobile shoulders. The ears are large compared to the head. The upper lips hang well below the lower jaw. The forelegs are long, straight and lean. They are medium to large hounds, weighing generally 45 to 65 pounds.
The smooth coat is fine and glossy and comes in a tricolor and a bi-color pattern. Tricolor is preferred by breeders. Although they come in tan and white, they must never be called "red," to distinguish them from the Redbone Coonhound. (The hound pictured at the top of this article has a damp coat that changes the typical appearance.) The hounds are bred for mouth, looks, and ability. They seem to mature more slowly than some breeds, and do not "grow up" until about two years of age. When kept in peak health, they often look younger than their actual age.
Temperament as a pet Treeing Walker Coonhounds are loving, intelligent, confident, and enjoy interacting with humans. They make a splendid companion dog for an owner who understands the characteristics of the breed and is willing to work with their in-bred nature as a hunting dog. On the scent, they are tireless, alert, and intense. At home; they are mellow, sensitive lovers of comfort. They like having their own kennel or other space into which they can retreat at will, if provided with pillows and blankets, as they love to nest. Owners have noted that "getting a Walker hound out of a bed, off a couch or away from a fireplace will be a feat in itself."
Treeing Walker Coonhounds get along exceptionally well with other dogs and with children. Like most hounds, they are even-tempered and difficult to annoy or drive into aggression towards people or fellow dogs. With careful introduction, they will even live in happy harmony with the family cat, despite their nature as a small-game hunter. They are very energetic when young, and some people can be alarmed by their tendency to stand up on their hind legs to pursue their curiosity or to bark urgently out of a desire to meet a new dog. This breed is highly intelligent, and consequently they require absolute consistency of training, as they look for loopholes to exploit. They may attempt to negotiate, responding to human direction by offering an alternative course of action they prefer. They are close observers of human behavior and learn to respond to subtle gestures and a large number of words, though not always in a manner that the human might desire or predict. Their intelligence is thus sometimes underestimated or misunderstood. Because they enjoy interacting with people, teaching them commands and tricks will help prevent the boredom that leads to bad behavior. They have been known to use objects as tools or to manipulate their environment to accomplish a task (e.g., moving furniture to climb over gates, using household objects to manipulate kennel mechanisms, etc.). They prefer complicated toys to simple chew-toys. They are most engaged by toys meant to be taken apart or stuffed with smaller toys, a toy that makes a variety of sounds, or toys with a hard-to-obtain treat inside. Walkers can be highly focused and idiosyncratically attracted to certain toys, locations, people, sounds, or objects. They will attempt to steal attractive items, and females in particular may maintain several caches of licit and illicit items. One recommended training regimen to encourage self-control is to repeatedly give and take back a toy to be held in their mouth, or to make them sit and wait for a treat or their food calmly until told to take it. Because of their nature as hunting dogs, they can become possessive of any human food they manage to steal, particularly raw meat, and rare outbursts of growling or aggression are often associated with the defense of their prize. These hounds respond even more poorly than most dogs to being physically punished, for instance by hitting or grabbing them. Habitual punishment can lead to instinctive trust and personality defects, such as shyness, reclusiveness, or trepidation. Erratic conditioning is principally the reason why these behavioral problems develop, as these dogs are highly perceptive and motivated by pain. For that reason, a static e-collar, particularly the warning tone, is an extremely effective training tool for this breed, especially for off-leash and boundary training. Upon hearing the warning tone they will immediately come to attention, without fail, even while on a scent. With proper training these dogs can be exceptionally obedient and loyal. However, it is important to reiterated that their psyche is as complex and delicate as a human child. For instance, if you call them to come after they did something wrong and they come, you can't get angry at them, otherwise they'll refuse to come altogether. Another example is letting them pull while on a leash, under no circumstance should they ever be allowed to pull on a leash, because it misleads them into believing they are in charge. If this is allowed it will become very difficult to work with them off leash, as they will believe they are pack leader and take point on any scents they find interesting. Much as a child would, they will test limits they don't agree with, like property lines for example. This type of behavior will cease with diligent conditioning, an electronic fence, or even just the occasional use of an e-collar, is all that is needed to reinforce these boundary limits. They are very loyal, can be trusted off-leash, and even trusted to stay within property bounds without supervision if you establish yourself as leader and train them properly.
Walker Coonhounds are very rewarding companions with effective training. Substantial time for daily exercise and interaction is also necessary. If the hound is kept as a pet and not trained, even the most loving, well-behaved Walker cannot be allowed off-leash in an area without a high fence. Their "treeing" behavior makes them capable of scaling fences in excess of 6 feet (1.8 m). A secure yard alone will not provide the long walks, intense exercise, and "adventures" they require. Their nature is to run freely and for great distances, and they can be oblivious to commands when trailing a scent, much like a beagle or basset hound. Chasing after them provokes the pack-hunting response, and faster running. Strays are often found to have wandered as much as 50 miles from home in a relatively short time. On-leash hikes in a variety of settings are needed for a Walker kept as a pet, as well as the opportunity to run hard off-leash in a confined space. Personality traits are highly adaptable through classical and operand conditioning. They make excellent alert dogs, as even the smallest female has the vocal presence of a much larger animal. They instinctually bay and growl when they believe their territory is being encroached on, and intruders who have not seen the animal would believe a massive guard dog is within a residence. Even when face to face with an intruder their bay commands respect, and can be heard at great distances. As hunting dogs they are bred to corner game, into a tree, and then alert a hunter, they do not instinctively attack prey or potential intruders, so with modern animal control laws this is very beneficial.
Diet and housebreaking Treeing Walker Coonhounds are generally refined in their eating and housebreaking habits. If there are no other animals to disturb their supply of food, many prefer to graze rather than eat the entire meal at once. They can be free fed, in fact If held in confinement at an animal shelter, their natural tendency to leanness can quickly turn to emaciation. Even in old age, they rarely become overweight, unless fed an inappropriate diet. High quality protein is always the primary requirement, followed by sufficient calorie sources to fuel their activity level. Regardless of how well they are fed they will frequently hoard food, such as bones, by burying them. Their inquisitive nature and powerful nose often gets them into trouble. They will eat anything they find agreeable, such as sweet tasting rat poison or a chocolate bar that was accidentally left out. Just as with a child, care must be taken to prevent them from inadvertently harming themselves with common household objects. They are intelligent enough to open doors to get to food or whatever else they want. Some owners report upsets from typical treats such as pigs' ears, rawhide, and bones, which produce shards that may irritate the digestive system and provoke regurgitation or diarrhea. This is rare however, and rawhides ability to provoke digestive problems is not specific to this breed. If these are withheld, primarily rawhide, the problem usually resolves itself, as Walkers are otherwise not prone to health problems. They are extremely attracted to human food, but a consistent base diet is recommended, consisting of high-quality kibble supplemented by moist food, either canned or home-prepared meats and vegetables. Because of their sensitive digestive system, these hounds may induce self-regurgitation through eating grass or houseplants more often than other dogs. Table scraps can be effectively utilized as treats, and occasionally feeding them human food is largely a matter of personal preference. Although hunting dogs, they are easy to house-train. When healthy and fed properly, they have an exceptional degree of bladder and bowel control, and are fastidious about taking care of these needs at some distance from the area they consider "home". They may require longer walks than some dogs in order to relieve their bowels, and may even withhold a bowel movement in order to prolong a walk, since they love and require exercise.
The breed's strong tracking instincts make them popular as hunting dogs. Carnivore researchers have used a single Walker and handler team to locate cougar-cached carcasses up to several months after the kill date. Hunting singly or in packs of two or more, they are used to track and tree raccoons, bobcats, cougars, and bears. Individual hounds may be adept at catching small rodents such as squirrels, roof rats, opossums, and skunks. Although the Walker is best known as a coonhound, it is not as cold-nosed as other coonhounds. It is therefore an ideal hound for competition hunts, since they excel at following a hot track. A typical hunt starts with getting the dog from the kennel. Since it has been in the pen all day, it is ready to run. Hunting is a hunting dog's exercise. The hound is checked for good health, then put into the truck. The handler then goes to the area where they plan to run the hound, usually next to or within a woods or forest. When the hound is let out of the box, it runs off happy to be free to run and excited to find a raccoon to chase. When it smells a track, the hound may begin to vocalize sporadically with short sounds that develop into longer, more anxious bawls. As the track becomes hotter, the vocalization becomes a louder, more assertive baying.
The hound follows the track up to a tree, stands on its hind legs, rolls over a big whiny bawl as a "locate", and begins a chop bark (a "woof, woof, woof") bark. Meanwhile the handler is standing where he turned the dog loose, listening to all of the different barks, and understanding what the dog is doing and where the dog is going. Once the dog is "treed" with a solid chop the handler walks to the dog's location, looks for the game, and rewards the dog as necessary. This is repeated throughout the night. Some dogs track and do not tree. Other dogs tree and do not track. So, some handlers have one of each and hunt both at the same time. Other dogs do both and can be hunted by themselves. These types of dogs are hunted with other independent dogs, and handlers can also compete against one another, with objectives such as first dog to open bawl on track, first dog to tree, most raccoons found, etc.