A common problem when training coon dogs today is with smooth treeing or creating trees that are empty. However, I am going to give you some tips that I have used to break cooking dogs from smooth wood. For starters, you need to know your coon dog. What I mean is that you need to know how your dog will react to punishment.
If you have an anxious coon dog, please proceed with caution. With coon dogs that have this type of personality I will usually just ignore them when they are smoothing the tree. I just want to go up to the tree and leash them without saying a word. I will then look for a raccoon in the tree. If it’s obvious the tree is slippery, I’ll just untie the dog and walk away from the tree. The most scolding I will do to this dog may be a harsh word.
But for this method to work, you need to do the opposite when they actually thread a raccoon. But always approach them in the same calm way at each tree. Go up the leash and tie them back. After you find a coon, you can release the dog, but keep it on a leash and let it return to the tree. When they are back on the tree, pet them and use an encouraging tone to let them know you praise them.
If you have a stubborn type of coon dog, you need to take a different, more direct approach. This also works on older dogs that need a tune-up. From my experience, young coon dogs will often try to be “lazy” and may look for an easy way out such as pulling short because the track became too tough to work. These coon dogs just need a little reminder sometimes. I recommend you approach the dog exactly as mentioned earlier. After you decide that the tree is empty, find a good switch. You can also use an extra leash if you only use the leather part, don’t hit a cooking dog with the chain. Give them a couple of shots and a few stern “no’s” and immediately walk them away from the tree and recast them.
For this method to be effective, you need to make them a tree. You want to be able to praise them. Eventually they will realize that it is better and easier for everyone if they just try to have the coon when they train. Remember that no dog can ever be 100% accurate when it comes to training. If you consistently train coons over 70% of the time, you are doing well. I’ve had some coon dogs that literally never seemed to miss a raccoon while others were close to fifty-fifty or worse.
I should also mention that bloodlines tend to affect the smooth tree formation as well. I’ve been lucky enough to own some of both, so I can speak from experience. However, I strongly feel that almost any coon dog can be trained to reduce its smooth trees. So I hope these tips will help you as you train your coon dogs.