How to Train a Bluetick Coonhound

The bluetick coonhound is an extraordinary dog with a big engine and a phenomenal sense of smell. Traditionally used to hunt raccoons in the Southeast U.S., coonhound events abound in which they can apply their extraordinary hunting skills and remarkable endurance. The American Kennel Club alone sponsors water races, night hunts, and field trials, just to name a few.

Bluetick Coonhound dog on couch
How to Train a Bluetick Coonhound
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Stubborn or just incredibly driven

A popular T-shirt featuring the bluetick coonhound illustrates the dog's response to five basic commands: "sit," "down," and "come" all show an immobile and oblivious hound. "Fetch" features the same dog facing the opposite direction of the ball. "Stay" is blank, no coonhound.

There's no denying that bluetick coonhounds have a reputation for being difficult to train. They're often described as stubborn and even stupid. Neither is true. You just have to understand how they're wired, what motivates them, and work with that, not against it.

Bluetick coonhound basic training

Bluetick dogs are scenthounds. Once their nose draws a bead on potential prey, they're off. They're fierce and tireless hunters. Bad weather, rough terrain, swamps, rivers, and lakes are not obstacles for the sleek and muscular bluetick coonhound.

Because they're hardwired for the hunt, it's critically important to get your bluetick dog used to obeying your commands when he's very young and not yet completely focused on following his nose. Start with basic obedience training from the moment you get your bluetick puppy. Practice every single day, multiple times per day. Always reward with yummy treats.

While you should schedule time specifically for training, this doesn't mean you can't have fun and relax with your bluetick dog. Reinforce what he's learned by asking him to follow commands at random times. Ask him to sit before you throw a ball. Ask him to stay when you get up to grab a drink while watching TV.

Training for the hunt

Coonhounds already know how to hunt. It's in their blood and they're excellent at it. As your bluetick coonhound matures, so will her nose. Before long you'll see her zigzagging around the yard, nose to the ground, following the path of a rabbit that passed through days ago.

Your job is to channel her obsession with following prey and get her to come back to you when the hunt is over. By now you should have firmly established yourself as the leader. Never waver from that role. Firmness and consistency are crucial.

Long line lessons

Lots and lots of work on an extra long leash, or long line, should be done to teach your bluetick hound to come when he's called. A 15- to 20-feet line is a good start. As you and your coonhound progress, increase the length of the line to 40 or even 50 feet. Decide on a cue like "Come!" or "Here!" and don't change it.

Let your bluetick hound meander around for a bit on his long line so he forgets about being on it. When you call him to come, do it only once and immediately guide him toward you using the long line. Do not jerk or drag him. Think of carefully reeling a fish in.

The moment he gets to you, reward him with a treat and tell him what an incredibly good boy he is in an excited and happy voice. Then do it again, but not too many times. Regular and frequent training sessions of 15 minutes or less is the way to go. Any longer and you'll both be frustrated.

Bluetick coonhound dos and don'ts

Most bluetick coonhounds are very food-motivated, so reinforce correct behavior with treats. But don't forget to include plenty of enthusiastic praise. When you give your bluetick dog a command, do it in a clear, firm, and confident voice at a volume appropriate for her distance from you.

Never scream at a bluetick hound. For all of their boldness and bravery, bluetick coonhounds are extremely sensitive dogs. Their feelings are easily hurt.

Blue tick syndrome

To "blue tick" someone is to read their text message but not reply. You do not want to be blue ticked by your bluetick. If your dog starts ignoring your commands during a training session, stop. If you continue, you'll basically be training your coonhound to ignore you.

Always end on a positive note. Even if the session didn't go well, before you end it, ask your bluetick coonhound to do something easy that you know he's good at, like sit or lie down. Quickly reward him with a treat, pats, and your happy voice. Lesson over.