Treeing Walker Coonhound
Treeing Walker Coonhound – General Description
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 of 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 fast, agile, and tireless in pursuit. They are vocal with a distinctive bay that allows their owners to identify their hounds from great distances.
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.
Classification and Standards
- AKC FSS (The AKC Foundation Stock Service (FSS) is an optional recording service for purebred dogs that are not yet eligible for AKC registration.)
- UKC Scenthound Group
Coonhounds are an American style of hunting dog developed for the quarry and working conditions found in the United States. Coondogs are highly valued.
In the colonial period, foxhounds were imported for the popular sport of foxhunting. Various breeds of foxhounds and other hunting hounds were imported from England, Ireland, and France, making up the initial composition of the dogs that were later known as Virginia Hounds.
Foxhounds were found to be inadequate for hunting animals that did not hide near the ground, but instead took to the treetops to escape, such as raccoons, opossums, bobcats and even larger prey like cougars and bears. The dogs were often confused or unable to hold the scent when this occurred, and would mill about.
The name is derived from their original use in hunting raccoons.
Treeing dogs were developed, chosen for a keen sense of smell, the ability to track, chase and corner any manner of animal independent of human commands, and, most importantly, to follow an animal both on the ground and when it takes to the trees. A good coonhound will bark and keep its prey treed until the hunters arrive. Bloodhounds specifically were added to many coonhound lines to enhance the ability to track. Some dogs have webbed toes to deal with the rivers and swamps so common in their hunting grounds.
Coonhounds can hunt individually or as a pack. Generally, hunters do not chase their quarry along with the hounds, unlike organized foxhunting, but wait and listen to the distinctive baying to determine if a raccoon or other animal has been treed. Besides raccoons, coonhounds are excellent at handing all manner of prey if trained properly.
Other Coonhounds include:
- American Black & Tan Coonhound
- Bluetick Coonhound
- English Coonhound
- Plott Hound
- Redbone Coonhound
Character & 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 struck, and although grasping the scruff of the neck and firmly asserting control may be required at times, any physical punishment is likely to damage their instinctive trust and to cause personality disorders such as shyness or unpredictability.
A Treeing Walker Coonhound exhibiting “treeing” behavior (the dog pictured is outfitted for a walk, not hunting)
Treeing Walker Coonhounds are not for owners without substantial time for exercise and training. If the hound is kept as a pet and not been trained for hunting, 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 are 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.
Diet and Housebreaking
Treeing Walker Coonhounds are generally refined in their eating and housebreaking habits. If there are no other dogs to disturb their food, some may prefer to graze rather than eat the entire meal at once. 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.
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. If these are withheld, the problem usually resolves itself, as Walkers are otherwise not prone to health problems. They are extremely attracted to human food, but a consistent 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.
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.
Historically, the words cur and feist were used in England to refer to small hunting dogs, where “feists” were the smaller dogs and “curs” were 30 lbs or larger. The Elizabethans may have used the word “cur” to denote “terrier”.
Size & Appearance
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.
Health & Maintenance
No unusual health problems or claims of extraordinary health have been documented for the Treeing Walker Coonhound.
Work & Activities
Tracking & Hunting
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.
Walker Coonhound chasing after a small animal
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.
- AKC – http://www.akc.org/breeds/treeing_walker_coonhound/history.cfm
- “Treeing Walker Coonhound,” Official UKC Breed Standard – http://www.ukcdogs.com/WebSite.nsf/Breeds/TreeingWalkerCoonhoundRevisedMarch12009
- American Kennel Club, Treeing Walker Coonhound page – http://www.akc.org/breeds/treeing_walker_coonhound/index.cfm
- Ahring, Curt. “Treed.tv”. 314-315-6650. – http://www.treed.tv/
- Kingkong954 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- mclondicek [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Jayaebee (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Albatrosses (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Atkineve on en.wikipedia (“This is my dog, picture taken by me.”) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Gorman (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Esturcke (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Hollakr (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Animal Planet – Breed All About It: Coonhound
Treeing Walker Coonhound
The Treeing Walker was developed from certain strains of English Walker Foxhounds. The credit for the development of the Walker Foxhound goes to two men – George Washington Maupin and John W. Walker. Both men were from Kentucky.
Before that time, Thomas Walker of Albemarle County, Virginia, imported hounds from England in 1742. George Washington, who was an avid fox hunter, also imported several hounds from England in 1770. These dogs became the foundation strains of the “Virginia hounds”, which were developed into the Walker hound.
At least one major outcross was made in the 19th century that was to forever influence the breed. Strangely, the outcross was with a stolen dog from Tennessee of unknown origin, known as Tennessee Lead.
Lead didn’t look like the Virginia strain of English Foxhounds of that dog, but he had an exceptional amount of game sense, plenty of drive and speed, and a clear, short mouth.
Walkers were first registered with UKC as part of the English Coonhound breed. Then in 1945, at the request of Walker breeders, UKC began registering them as a separate breed – first as Walkers (Treeing) and then later as Treeing Walkers.
The Treeing Walker is a well-balanced, symmetrical, graceful hound well known for his ability to run and tree a variety of game on varying kinds of terrain.
Energetic, intelligent, active, courteous, composed, confident, fearless and kind. This breed has a super abundance of sense and is capable of great endurance. Excellent trailing, hunting and treeing instinct and ability. Voice is preferably a clear, ringing bugle or a steady, clear chop. Noticeable change in voice at tree.
Head is in pleasing proportion to the body. Skull is broad and full, slightly rounded, with a prominent occiput. Muzzle is rather long, tapering slightly to end, medium square, with flews sufficient to give a rather squared off appearance. Nasal bone is straight. Stop is medium, defined but not abrupt.
TEETH – Scissors bite preferred, even bite acceptable.
EYES – Moderately large and prominent, and set well apart in skull. Color is dark, brown or black, giving a soft, open expression.
NOSE – Rather large and prominent, with black pigment preferred. White or pink spots inside the nostril or on the outside of the nose are acceptable. A slightly sloping nostril is not objectionable.
EARS – Medium length and set moderately low, the ears hang gracefully, with a tendency to roll when the head is raised. Slightly round or oval at the tip, and soft and velvety to the touch.
Neck is medium in length, strong yet graceful, rising freely from the shoulders to carry the head well up. Throat is clean and free from folds of skin; however, a slight wrinkle below the angle of the jaw is allowable.
Forelegs are straight, with a fair amount of bone and a short, straight, slightly sloping pastern. Length of leg from elbow to ground is approximately one-half the height at the withers. Shoulders are sloping and cleanly muscled without a heavy or loaded appearance.
Chest is deep rather than broad, giving lung space. Ribcage is well-sprung and long, extending well back. Back is moderately long, muscular, level and strong. Loins short, broad and slightly arched. Tuck-up moderate. Overall proportion (measured from point of shoulder to point of buttocks and withers to ground) is square or slightly longer than tall.
Hips and thighs are strong and well muscled, for an abundance of propelling power. Stifle and hock joints are strong and firm, with moderate angulation. Legs are straight from hip to foot when viewed from behind. Dewclaws removed.
Solid, compact and well padded, with a cat-like appearance. Toes are well arched with strong nails.
Strong at root, moderately long and tapering, without flag. Set rather high and carried free, well up and saber like with a graceful forward curve.
Smooth, glossy and fine, yet dense enough for protection. A close, hard, hound coat.
Tri-colored (white-black-tan) is preferred. White may be the predominant color, with black spots and tan trim; or black may be the predominant color with white markings and tan trim, such as saddle back, or blanket back. White with tan spots, or white with black spots is acceptable.
Any other color combination is to be penalized in the show ring.
SIZE AND WEIGHT
Height at withers for adult males, 22 to 27 inches. For adult females, 20 to 25 inches. Weight should be in proportion to size and working condition.
The Treeing Walker moves with good reach and drive, showing good balance. Hackney (high stepping) movement is a fault.
(A dog with an Eliminating Fault is not to be considered for placement in a bench show/conformation event, nor are they to be reported to UKC.)
- Males under 22 inches or over 27 inches.
- Females under 20 inches or over 25 inches. (Entries in Puppy Class are not to be eliminated for being undersize.)
(A dog with a Disqualification must not be considered for placement in a bench show/conformation event, and must be reported to UKC.)
- Undershot or overshot.
- Unilateral or bilateral cryptorchid.
- Viciousness or extreme shyness.
Working dogs are not to be penalized under any conditions for scars or blemishes that are due to hunting injuries. Females that have raised several litters and show dropped udders are also not to be penalized.
Note: Spayed and neutered dogs may compete in all UKC Licensed Coonhound Events, including bench shows, nite hunts, water races and field trials.
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