Treeing Walker Coonhound
Nobody wants a dog known for barking up the wrong tree, so maybe you should adopt one whose breed is best known for barking up the right tree: The Treeing Walker coonhound.
Beloved by hunters, Treeing Walkers—who "tree" their prey (usually raccoons and other smaller mammals) by chasing them up a tree and then barking to let the hunter know where the animal is—can also make loyal family pets.
But Treeing Walkers are so versatile that you don't even need to live next to a woodsy acreage (though your pup certainly wouldn't hate that). The medium-sized hounds will be plenty happy simply spending time with you and your family. Just ask Tricia L. Snedegar of Stackem Up Kennels; she's bred the dogs for decades, and her family helped usher the breed into popularity.
"They bring joy to my life," she says. "They're funny, they're active, they're smart, they're obedient. They're just an all-around good dog."
Treeing Walker coonhounds are medium-sized dogs who look almost like bigger versions of a beagle. On average, they'll weigh somewhere between 50–70 pounds, with the male dogs usually weighing more, according to the National Treeing Walker Coonhound Association (NTWCA). They measure around 20–27 inches in height.
Their tricolor fur—black, tan, and white—sets them apart from the other coonhounds, Snedegar says. The colors usually come in bigger spots or blotches rather than ticking (small specks of color) on the fur. Their fur is short, about half an inch long, and harsh to protect their skin when they head into the woods to hunt. Their coat sheds mostly in the spring and fall, Snedegar says.
Treeing Walkers also feature a square head and big, floppy hound ears you'll need to keep clean. A long tail matches their long legs, and don't forget those soft, lovable eyes!
Your Treeing Walker will get along with just about anyone in your house, whether that's adults, playful kids, or senior folks. Like other dogs, they'll tend to match your activity level, Snedegar says. If it's time to read a book or watch TV, they'll lay or sit with you. If it's playtime, they'll be up for that, too.
"They just kind of roll with it," Snedegar says.
These smart, eager-to-please dogs are happy to live with bigger families or just one other person. However, Treeing Walkers, especially when they're puppies, will benefit from structure in their lives, very much like our human children, Snedegar says. That means establishing a loose schedule for meal times, playtime, and any other time you spend together in your dog's first year.
"They will go from needing everything out of you because they're a baby to getting into trouble, chewing on a shoe, or getting into the garbage," Snedegar says, adding that they usually will calm down before they turn 2 years old.
Because they're so smart, Treeing Walkers are easy to train. For instance, one of Snedegar's clients managed to teach their hound how to ring a bell at the door to let the family know she needs a bathroom break. They'll also respond well to crate training. These dogs thrive with consistency, positive reinforcement methods, and sticking to a schedule.
"Get a schedule, keep the schedule, live by the schedule," Snedegar says.
If you live near other houses or in an apartment building, you should know Treeing Walkers have a tendency to be pretty vocal. (After all, they need their unique barks when they're hunting or competing!) If too much barking is a problem, there are ways to train your dog to be quieter. But if you live in a rural area, your coonhound sounding off each time a door opens or door bell rings can be a useful alarm system.
Treeing Walker coonhounds are so adaptable that you don't have to live in the rural, woodsy setting they're most associated with. Your suburban house will do just fine, and you can even live with one in a city apartment.
Of course, if you do live in an apartment, you'll need to make sure your dog gets enough exercise outside. The good news is, you won't have to wear yourself out: 20–30 minutes of daily play and activity will suffice, Snedegar says. That can be a walk around the block or playing in a fenced-in yard or at the dog park.
While they are more than capable of co-existing with other pets, you should still make the effort to socialize your Treeing Walker puppies. It'll make your and their lives easier in the long run.
"The more that you do introduce them to the good things in life, the better they will do down the road if they need to be introduced to it again," Snedegar says.
Good news on the grooming front: Treeing Walker coonhounds are relatively low maintenance. In the summer, Snedegar will give her dogs baths every other week or so. They're what she calls a "wash and wear" breed, meaning you can just let them go after bathtime, no need for a brush or blow-dry.
In fact, you're mostly excused from brushing a Treeing Walker altogether because their hair is so short, but you do want to keep an eye on those floppy ears. You don't want wax to build up and cause an infection. Even a quick wipe with a tissue will help them stay clean.
With that in mind, the NTWCA recommends evaluating the dogs' hips, elbows, eyes, and thyroids. As always, make sure you ask your breeder as much as you can about your puppy's health and that of her parents.
Treeing Walker coonhounds were developed in the U.S. during the Great Depression era (in the 1930s and '40s). One of the breed's pioneers was Indiana farmer Lester Nance, Snedegar's grandfather.
At that time, fox hunters on horseback preferred Walker foxhounds who would detect and chase foxes for hours and miles, Snedegar says. Some of those Walkers, however, would abandon the fox hunt for another scent—varmints in the forest who would try to escape by climbing a tree.
That's the kind of dog Nance wanted, and in 1932 he had his eye on a Walker hound named King who showed promise at treeing raccoons. The cost was $25 for the dog, but he only had $13 to his name during the Depression. So he paid with cash and two 100-pound sacks of Peet's pig feed to purchase King, who would be the "foundation" of the Treeing Walker coonhound breed.
With King and other hounds, Nance was able to help get the Treeing Walker breed off the ground. Rather than breed for physical characteristics, he looked for dogs with the smarts and ability to hunt.
"His biggest trait was they had to have a brain," Snedegar says.
And while you might not see Treeing Walker coonhounds as a dog park staple, they remain immensely popular with hunters to this day.
- The American Kennel Club only recently recognized the Treeing Walker coonhound in 2012. Compared to some dog breeds that originated in ancient times, Treeing Walkers are relatively new.
- At the nighttime coonhunts, Treeing Walkers will have two hours to locate and tree as many raccoons as they can. The dogs earn points for finding the trash bandits but can lose points if the judge and hunter arrive to see no raccoon in the tree.
- Treeing Walkers employ different kinds of barks, including one to let their owners know they've treed an animal, Snedegar says. They can be loud, long, and booming or short and high-pitched.