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Anita Peeples, Animal Photography
The Plott is first and foremost a hunting dog who specializes in big game or anything else you want him to go after. For the person who can satisfy his desire to hunt and be active, he can be a wonderful companion and watchdog, well suited to family life. His short coat is easy to groom, but it sheds.
The mountains of western North Carolina are the birthplace of one of America’s few homegrown dogs.
The Plott Hound is a cunning and confident big-game hunting dog with a fierce and tenacious nature on the trail and an even, affectionate and loyal temperament in the home. He hails from the mountains of western North Carolina and is the only coonhound breed not descended from the Foxhound. He stands out for his speed and spirit. If you want a dog that can hunt anything from raccoon to bear, the Plott is for you. If you want just a pet, he might be a little more than you can or want to handle. Here’s what you need to know if you’re interested in acquiring one of these striking, hard-working, protective dogs.
The Plott is first and foremost a hunting dog, but if those instincts are fulfilled, he’s happy to spend the rest of his time being a protective and affectionate family dog. He generally gets along well with children — although a puppy can be too rambunctious around toddlers — and other dogs. If Plotts are brought up with cats, they can get along with them, but they may view outdoor cats as something to chase up a tree.
Bear in mind that the Plott is more gung-ho than some other Coonhound breeds. He’ll need a couple of long walks or runs daily. He’ll also appreciate the opportunity to run off leash in a safely enclosed area once or twice a week.
Always walk your Plott on leash to ensure that he doesn’t run off after an interesting scent. He also needs a securely fenced yard to keep him contained when you’re not home. Plotts can adapt to living indoors or outdoors, but the most important thing to know about them is that they need human companionship. There’s no point in having a Coonhound if you’re just going to stick him out in the backyard all by his lonesome.
A Plott needs plenty of companionship and activity to be happy. If that activity involves following some kind of scent trail, so much the better. Even if you don’t hunt him, consider getting involved in tracking or search and rescue. He’s also a great hiking companion with a high level of endurance and the ability to navigate any type of terrain. You’ll be ready to stop before he is.
Depending on gender, with females being smaller, the Plott stands 20 to 25 inches tall and weighs 40 to 60 pounds.
Many people are attracted by the Plott’s distinctive coat, which can be any shade of brindle, black with brindle trim, solid black, or bucksin, an unusual coloration that can be red fawn, sandy red, light cream, yellow ochre, dark fawn or golden tan. Some Plotts have a double coat, with short, thick hairs serving as insulation beneath a longer, smoother and stiffer outer coat. The smooth, fine but thick coat is easy to care for, needing only a weekly brushing with a rubber curry to keep it gleaming. The only other grooming the Plott needs is regular nail trimming, ear cleaning and tooth brushing.
The drawbacks? For one, Plotts can be loud. Unless you live about five miles from your nearest neighbors, they’re going to hear your Plott’s chop mouth, a loud, staccato, ringing bark.
As far as training, all hounds are independent thinkers and like to do things their own way. Plotts, in particular, are legendarily stubborn. That said, they are amenable to training and can learn many different tasks. For best results, begin training early, keep training sessions short, and use positive reinforcement techniques, never force.
The mountains of western North Carolina are the birthplace of one of America’s few homegrown dogs: the Plott Hound. He’s unique among coonhound breeds for his German heritage. The Plott’s ancestor were five Hanoverian schweisshunden — a type of Bloodhound — that accompanied German immigrant Johannes Georg Plott to western North Carolina in 1750. From those five dogs, plus maybe the mixing in of some other breeds, including curs, Plott and his descendants bred a line of dogs to hunt bears and other big predators.
The early Plott dogs had multiple jobs: besides hunting, they protected the home, drove livestock, and kept an eye out for the safety of the family children. These days, they continue to be employed in a variety of ways. Some are search and rescue dogs, some track cougars so they can be tagged by wildlife agencies, some continue their heritage as hunting dogs, and some have even entered the show ring. In 1960, the emperor of Japan brought in some experts to rid the countryside of bears that were terrorizing villagers. Their “equipment” consisted of 10 Plotts.
The Plott has been the official state dog of North Carolina since 1989. The breed was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1946 and by the American Kennel Club in 2006. The Plott currently ranks 134th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
This is one of those breeds where it’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into before you acquire one. Smart and loyal, the Plott loves and protects the kids he’s raised with and makes a great family dog. Sounds good so far, right? Absolutely, but the Plott needs a firm and patient leader to bring out his best. He’s not the ideal choice for an inexperienced dog owner.
A Plott can be stubborn and independent — typical hound traits — and he must be trained with patience and positive reinforcement. And just like kids on summer vacation, the Plott is likely to forget what he’s learned if he doesn’t get regular practice. He learns well through repetition or by following the lead of a more experienced dog.
Always treat your Plott right. He can have a long memory when it comes to people or other dogs who have done him wrong and if given the opportunity may seek to even the score.
Plotts can be noisy, especially if they are bored, have treed a cat or squirrel, or just want to go hunting. Note that one of the traits of the breeds is what’s known as “a big bawl mouth” — a long, drawnout bark. Unless you live quite a distance from your nearest neighbors, they might not appreciate your hound’s beautiful voice.
Plotts are also explorers and excavators. Their excessive curiosity combined with stunning agility makes them excellent escape artists. If a pen or fence isn’t built right or secured well, it’s no trouble at all for a Plott to climb or dig out of it.
This breed needs plenty of attention and exercise. Take him on long walks twice a day so he can shake out the fidgets. Long, off-leash runs in a safe place or strenuous hikes once or twice a week are also good ways to exercise a Plott. And you can always take him hunting. He’ll like that best.
For the most part, Plotts get along with other pets, including cats, if they are brought up with them. Every dog is an individual, though. Some Plotts get along with other animals just fine; others may want to assert themselves, especially with other dogs of the same sex. A Plott’s disposition toward other animals can also vary depending on whether he has been bred to hunt big game (more aggressive) or raccoons (less aggressive).
On the trail, the Plott is fast and tough. You might call him the all-terrain-vehicle of coonhounds. He’s a good water dog and is ready to hunt any type of terrain from swamps to mountains. When the Plott strikes — catches scent of his prey — he starts barking. If the scent is fresh, the hounds are off and running. An older scent will have them barking less frequently as they work it. The closer they get, the more they bark. Each dog has a distinctive voice, and hunters can identify their dogs by it.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 8 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Never wait until he is six months old to begin training, or you will have a bigger, more headstrong dog to deal with. A young Plott will test you to see what he can get away with. Get him to puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, so you can start building a strong working relationship, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.Whatever you want from a Plott, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
Plott Hounds are generally healthy, but they have some health conditions you should be aware of. With their deep chest, they can be prone to bloat, or gastric torsion, what Plott breeders call “twisted gut.” Some Plotts have been diagnosed with hip dysplasia. But for the most part, the biggest risks to Plotts are injuries incurred in the field.
Hunting big game is dangerous, and even raccoons are capable of doing some damage to a dog.
Check the ears weekly, clean them if necessary, and keep them dry to eliminate the warm, moist environment in which yeast and bacteria thrive.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Plott at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Plott has a distinctive coat. It’s smooth and fine, but thick enough to protect the dog as he hunts in cold, wet or rough conditions. A few Plotts have a double coat: a short, soft, thick under coat topped by a longer, smoother, stiffer hairs.
Caring for a Plott’s coat is easy. Groom it at least weekly with a rubber curry brush to remove dead hair and distribute skin oils. If your Plott spends a lot of time indoors, you might want to brush him more often to keep dead hair on the brush and off your furniture and clothing. Plotts with a double coat will shed more heavily and need to be brushed two or three times a week.
Be aware that scenthounds such as the Plott can have what is often described as a musty odor. Regular baths can help keep the aroma under control, but it’s something you should be prepared to live with.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Keep the hanging ears clean and dry to prevent bacterial or yeast infections. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Look for more information about the Plott and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the American Plott Association (AKC) or the National Plott Hound Association (UKC).
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical and should be reported to the American Kennel Club. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your Plott from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Plott puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances. Puppies should be vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Plott might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy.
With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Plott in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Plott Hounds available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Plott Hound. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can search online for other Plott rescues in your area. Most people who love Plotts love all Plotts. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The National Plott Hound Association can help you find a rescue dog that may be the perfect companion for your family.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Plott home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Plott, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, a breeder purchase or a rescue, take your Plott to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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