Our Sweet and Crazy Coonhound ...

Our Sweet and Crazy Coonhound ...
Run Free: birthdate unknown - Oct. 17 2008

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Coonhound Theme Music

This is great! Booker wants to go visit! He thinks he recognizes a relative ... we will bring a dish (something that smells good!) ...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Leash Issue

Training a dog is always a work in progress. We've made pretty spectacular strides in the the four months that Booker has lived with us. He arrived via Delta Air Cargo from Birmingham Alabama on January 26th - that would have made his four month anniversary a couple days ago.

Accomplished so far:

  • Completely housebroken (no marking, etc)
  • Trustworthy out of kennel for extended periods unsupervised (except for a couple instances of stolen kitchen items, like a container of Fish Rub)
  • No more bike or motorcycle barking, growling and lunging
  • Completely stopped fence aggression at the dog park
  • Eliminated food aggression (although we have also banished major food treats, like raw bones)
  • Minimized open car door/SUV/truck aggression
  • Diminished toy aggression
  • Controlled separation barking
  • Just about washed out the rusty chain stains from his chest

We have judiciously employed training tools to reprogram Booker, who was a obviously a only recently retired coon hunting dog. The shock collar (which is now sitting unneeded on the kitchen counter) saved our daily outings to the dog park from being an impossibility. A citronella spray collar is reminding Booker to reserve his barking for outdoors. David and Samantha may laugh at me, but I've found the advice and techniques we needed for most of our training challenges.

Our experiences in the condo lobby and elevator, though, are creating some leash aggression in Booker, who is very obviously an alpha dog, but not an aggressive one. He exhibits no submissive behaviors at all with other dogs, rather greets calmly and then continues on his way, fairly aloof, but polite. He will stand his ground in all scenarios, which is very seldom (never?) an issue at the dog park, but is troubling when we are assaulted by a pint size furry terror in the small confines of the building. Booker will let loose with his huge coonhound bark and brace for an anticipated attack. He has begun barking even before a dog barrels impolitely into us, which makes me uncomfortable, which he is obviously sensing. I don't want this to become a bad cycle that feeds unacceptable behavior. I want him to ignore other dogs when he is on leash, and to interact calmly when I give permission.

I think (don't laugh!) that I have found some help again, this time from Canine University. I need to get some really good treats and concentrate on positive engagement with me when we encounter other dogs.

Now what to do with the tiny toothy terrors on zippy-leashes? I may resort to a greeting that adds "Please control your dog" to my usual "hello, how are you?"

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tick Terror

These little things are just disgusting. They are really a problem in South Florida, and definately the terror of the dog park. I keep checking Booker for ticks, but I have been looking for big ones, the kind that I used to pull out of my dog Flagon, when we lived in Paris. They got to be the size of a watermelon seed.

Actually, we used to stick watermelon seeds on our
skin and scream "TICK" ... that's the size of the ticks I am accustomed to.

Here, in south Florida, the ticks - the male ones - are tiny, like a speck of black pepper. Now this presents a real challenge, because I need readers just to see the computer screen. Imagine trying to find a miniscule, insidious tick when you can't see black block letters on a white screen, right in front of your face. Now I have to refine my search, buy the strongest magnifiers, and check for tiny little terrors. I need to stock up on alcohol, hone the tweezers, get a flea/tick collar and make this a daily ritual. I do not want these things in my house. It makes my skin crawl just thinking about them.

Booker is on K9Advantix as prescribed by our vet. But he has had some suspicious bumps. And he continues to scratch, like only a hound dog can scratch. I don't have a problem pulling them out, but I have to find them first. I really am buying stronger readers.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

a little bit of Coonhound history

I find it very intriguing that Coonhounds are a relatively new breed, most dog breeds being recognized by the UKC in the 1940's. All six types share English Foxhound or Bloodhound ancestry. The Treeing Walker shows this very obviously. Coonhounds are truly an "American invention." Black and Tans and Plott Hounds were only recently shown at the Westminster. Watch the Black and Tan judging. Treeing Walkers are considered a rare breed. (Boy, Booker looks skinny five months ago in this photo from the rescue site! Pricey dog food and muscle-toning exercise really make a difference!)

There are six types of Coonhounds: Black and Tan, Plott, English, Bluetick, Redbone and Treeing Walker. Here is a great overview.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tracking Trash

A friend of mine from the dog park grew up in Minnesota, where her brothers, cousins, uncles, etc. had Black and Tans, for hunting raccoon. She is a dog lover; she has the most gorgeous 7-year-old Mastiff, Tinkerbelle, and a gangly German Shephard puppy, Buddy. She is a wonderful dog-person. I love walking with her, I love talking with her. She brightens my day, as do her dogs. Tinkerbelle is so huge that she wears little girls' belts as collars -- sparkly, pink, purple, heart-decorated confections. Tinkerbelle follows us slowly around the park, exasperated but patient. Buddy is a great wrestling partner for Booker.

She knows lots about Coonhounds. "I'd be embarrassed to tell you how they treat those dogs," she said one day.

Then she shares little factoids.

Working to train coonhounds from trailing deer, which makes them useless as raccoon dogs, hunters fill a bag with deer scent, tie it around the puppies' heads, and then beat them.

I'm serious. Rescue a coonie: American Black and Tan Coonhound Rescue.

Raccoon (AKA "coonhound crack")

Friday, May 16, 2008

Behavior Modification Part II

Well I hate to admit it, but I am resorting to a number of "devices" in the training of Booker. We have the basics well under control, the "sit" "lay down" "shake" "kennel" and all that stuff, and we did those the old-fashioned way.

But this dog has come with some real baggage. Deeply ingrained behaviors triggered by "hunting dog" stimuli, like a pickup truck (or black SUV) opening doors, closing doors and driving off. Or people and dogs coming in and out of the gates at the dog bark. Or the school bus. The baggage is really psycho, jumping, barking, growling, basic dog-freak-out-break-with-reality stuff. I mean, Booker can go totally nuts.

At the dog park, he would run the parking lot length of the 6-foot fence, like a demon dog, trying to
jump or scramble over, in order to join any departing party. Barking, frothing, growling. All the reassurances I offered about there being no gunracks in sight were useless. Discipline didn't work. This dog was a nutcase. I was afraid he would take the fence apart, or clear it in his mania. And other dogs at the park were agitated by his behavior. Twice he was taken by the neck in a motherly calm-your-self-down kind of way, once by a matronly black lab and once by a surly little jack russell. His bad behavior was upsetting the psychic order of the park.

So, upon the advice of a man with a hunting-trained Brittany, I bought a shock collar. And I
used it. For about a month. And then left it on for another month. And now, Booker's dog park demeanor is the picture of calm. His "join the pack and get to the hunt" behavior has been rerouted, deprogrammed, eliminated. He is the the picture of calm, greeting newcomers at the park gate, and he just donates a coonhound bay to announce the departure of his friends. I haven't even put the shock collar on him for the past two weeks.

In the last couple weeks, Booker's separation issues have arisen at home again. Perhaps we
were oblivious all these months, but our downstairs neighbor - a bit of an overly wound hothead - has complained about barking on Saturdays. Actually, he complained about "10 straight mornings of barking," which is impossible, but obviously there is some level of problem. We have done the patient wait outside the door, come back with a spray bottle routine, and are careful not to reward Booker with our attention, and we carefully eased him into our departure each time. We were doing the best job we could of allaying abandonment anxiety.

This sucks. Booker is settling in and he likes his new life so much he doesn't want us to leave him. He is part of the family and he won't lose it. So he is barking now. And driving some neighbors nuts.

To David's fiscal horror, I invested in another doggie device.

A couple days ago, I bought a citronella-spraying no-bark collar.

This morning I left to pick a friend up at the airport, having first strapped the collar around Booker's neck. It was positioned perfectly. Booker was oblivious. I was confident. I called the home phone from my cell, answered, set the phone on the bar counter and walked calmly out the door.

BARK. BARK BARK. BARK. BARK BARK BARK. I listened in horror to my cell phone. It was terrible. The collar seemed to have no effect at all. I drove out of the parking garage, listening. BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK. I pulled around the front of the building, jumped out of my car by the valet stand and took the elevator upstairs. BARK BARK. BARK BARK BARK. I stormed in the door, sprayed Booker with the water bottle, put him in his kennel and left again. This time my phone disconnected in the elevator. Sweet silence.

When I got home from the airport with Vicky, I took off the collar. Booker was unphased. I held it out to show her what had been promised. I blew in the direction of the little microphone. Nothing? No spray, no hiss, no citronella.

Of course, I probably should have turned it ON first.

Fast forward to attempt #2.

Technology works, but only to the competance level of the user.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


This morning I took a walk with Booker. It was intended to be just a quick turn around the block, a one-poo-bag walk. But, I needed to clear my head and center myself.

We ended up in the center of Rio Vista, along a canal that connects to the intracoastal. It was just after 6 am. The sun was rising. It was cool, humid and fresh. We walked for one and 1/2 hours. It was cathartic.

I love having a walking companion. He was compliant, calm, sensing my mood. He walked resolutely beside me, looking up to make certain that I understand how hard he was trying to be well-mannered.

We got home and I got back into bed. I slept for a couple hours, and woke up in a better place. There is a lot of stuff going on, and I can get through it.