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Anita Peeples, Animal Photography
The Redbone Coonhound is a strikingly attractive dog who takes his name from his deep, rich coloring. He is one of the more laid-back Coonhound breeds, but he is still best suited to a rural home where he can hunt and howl to his heart's content. His short coat is easy to groom, but he sheds moderately.
The man who did the most to develop the breed was named George E. L. Birdsong, a well-known fox hunter and dog breeder who lived in Georgia.
The Redbone Coonhound is a mighty handsome dog, with his dark, rich, mahogany-red coat. He descends from Foxhounds, Bloodhounds, and possibly Irish hounds, from whom he likely takes his striking color. You may know of the breed if you’ve read Where the Red Fern Grows; Little Ann and Old Dan were both Redbones. Here’s what you need to know if you’re interested in acquiring one of these sociable, interesting dogs.
Merry and gentle, Redbones are probably the most laidback and easy to handle of the Coonhound breeds, although there’s no denying that they have an independent hound nature and a strong desire to tree furry animals. They make good companions, being friendly and loyal, and they have a talent for providing comic relief. Like most hounds, they are original, creative thinkers and have perfected a look of innocence when caught doing something they shouldn’t.
A Redbone can be a child’s best friend, but if you have toddlers, consider adopting an adult dog, who will be less rambunctious than a puppy.
Redbones can get along well with other animals, cats included, especially if they are brought up with them. That said, their desire to chase cats and other small furry creatures means caution is warranted. The Redbone has athletic ability to spare and (overall health permitting) his exercise needs are met with a couple of long walks or runs daily. A Redbone will also appreciate the opportunity to run in a safely enclosed area once or twice a week and is an excellent water dog.
Always walk your Redbone on leash to help 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. He loves to hunt and will go off on his own if given half a chance.
Redbones can adapt to living indoors or outdoors, but they appreciate soft furniture and air conditioning just as much as anyone else. They also love their people and will pine without 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 Redbone needs plenty of companionship and activity to be happy. Even if you don’t hunt him, consider getting involved in tracking or search and rescue. He’s also a great hiking companion, able to navigate any kind of terrain, from swamps to steep, rocky ground.
Depending on gender, with females being smaller, the Redbone stands 21 to 27 inches tall. He has a smooth, easy-care coat that needs only a weekly brushing with a rubber curry. The only other grooming he needs is regular nail trimming, ear cleaning, and tooth brushing.
Be aware that scenthounds such as the Redbone can have what is often described as a musty scent. Regular baths can help keep the odor under control, but it’s something you should be prepared to live with.
The drawbacks? Redbones can be loud and stubborn. To people who love him, the Redbone has a sweet, musical voice, but it carries. Unless you live about five miles from your nearest neighbors, they’re going to hear your Redbone when he gets excited about finding a good scent.
As far as training, hounds are independent thinkers and like to do things their own way. They have a short attention span because their interest is always being captured by a scent they’d like to check out. Assume that if your Redbone’s nose is down, his ears are closed. Begin training early, keep training sessions short, and use positive reinforcement techniques, never force. The Redbone especially appreciates food rewards.
The Redbone is one of the breeds that can be labeled “Made in America.” Like most of the Coonhound breeds, the Redbone descends from Foxhounds, Bloodhounds, and possibly Irish hounds. The man who did the most to develop the breed was named George E. L. Birdsong, a well-known foxhunter and dog breeder who lived in Georgia.
Many early Redbones had a black “saddle” over their back, giving rise to the nickname “saddlebacks.” As breeders selected for a solid red color, the saddleback eventually disappeared. The United Kennel Club registered its first Redbone in 1902. It was the second Coonhound breed recognized by the UKC, after the Black and Tan.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Redbone in 2009. The breed ranks 122nd among the dogs registered by the AKC.
The friendly Redbone may well be the most laidback of the Coonhounds. He’s often just as much a house dog as he is a hunting dog. He’s pretty easy to train — for a scenthound — and he’s easy to handle. A Redbone can be goofy one moment, then disarm you with his empathy and intelligence the next. He does everything with gusto, from lying on the sofa to demanding attention to focusing intently on the scent of his quarry.
A Redbone can be great with kids, although he might be a bit too rambunctious for toddlers. He can get along with other pets such as cats if he’s raised with them, but be aware of his proclivity to chase cats and other small animals.
Train a Redbone with plenty of patience and positive reinforcement. Food rewards will definitely get and keep his attention. He has a short attention span, so keep training sessions short and fun. Try not to let him get away with anything you don’t want him to do; once he learns something, good or bad, it’s difficult to dislodge it from his brain. And you will often find that he is creative in his interpretation of commands; hounds are known to put their own special twist on obedience or other activities.
Redbones are typical scenthounds. They love to find a good scent and follow it, so it’s essential to have a securely fenced yard to keep them from wandering off and going hunting on their own. They enjoy long, meandering, on-leash walks that give them plenty of sniffing time. At home, a Redbone will be happy to share your sofa or bed with you as you watch the big game or your favorite reality show. Be sure you don’t leave food out within his reach, or he’ll snarf it before you know 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 Redbone will test you to see what he can get away with.
If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, 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 Redbone, 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.
The good news is that Redbone Coonhounds are generally healthy and have a long lifespan, but a few have been diagnosed with hip dysplasia. More likely, they may sustain injuries in the field while hunting. Even raccoons are capable of doing some damage to a dog. An eye condition called progressive retinal atrophy has also been reported in the breed.
They can be prone to ear infections. Check the ears weekly, clean them if necessary, and keep them dry to help eliminate the warm, moist environment in which yeast and bacteria thrive. This breed is also prone to obesity, so take care not to overfeed them, which can exacerbate joint problems and contribute to other medical issues.
Choose a breeder who can provide you with written documentation that both of a puppy’s parents had hip radiographs (x-rays) that received scores of fair, good or excellent from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. A bonus would be a clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Having dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.
The Redbone has a flashy, dark-red coat that’s short and smooth. Weekly brushing with a hound mitt or rubber curry brush will keep it clean and shiny, as well as remove dead hair so it doesn’t land on your floor, furniture or clothing.
Bathe your Coonhound as needed. He may have a bit of a “houndy” odor, which some people love and others hate. Bathing can help reduce the smell if you don’t like it, but it won’t take it away completely or permanently.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails every week or two, and keep the ears clean and dry. Brush the teeth regularly 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.
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. Look for more information about the Redbone and start your search for a good breeder at the National Redbone Coonhound Association's website.
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 new best friend 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 Redbone 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 and conformation (show) and, ideally, field titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Redbone 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 Redbone 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 Redbones 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 Redbone. 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
Most people who love Redbones love all Redbones. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The National Redbone Coonhound Association can help you find a rescue dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Redbone rescues in your area.
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 Redbone 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 Redbone, 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 Redbone 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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