I like to write, so it makes sense that I’d appreciate the name of the breed known as the Plott or Plott Hound. Yet, once I began to learn about this lesser-known breed, I appreciated it for much more than its literary sounding name.
The state dog of North Carolina, it was officially recognized by the AKC in 2006 and is described by the organization as “loyal, alert and intelligent…rugged, relentless…mellow” and yet they are also described as “friendly, relaxed, athletic, eager to please,” making them perfect family dogs, even though they are part of the AKC Hound group. In that manner, they are noted as scent hounds, both fearless and bold, with an appealing coat and build.
Unique among the AKC coonhounds because it is NOT a descendent of the English Foxhounds, the Plott is actually of German extraction and originates with the Hanover Hounds, also called Hanoverians. They get their name not from any interest in penning novels but from the German family credited with creating the breed. Johannes Plott arrived in the United States around the mid-1700s and settled in North Carolina with his five Hanoverian hounds he’d brought from his homeland.
NOTE: The AKC has this to say of the Hanoverians, they are “a brindle red big game tracker developed by crossing an ancient, huge, trailing hound…with a lighter and faster hound, and it is still a favorite with German gamekeepers.”
Living in the mountains, Plott needed dogs to help with hunting. Since they were not tackling ordinary prey, but instead going after full-grown bears and wild boars, the dogs needed both size and courage, and so Plott chose to breed his Hanover hounds with local hounds and was able to create a “big game hunter” that was first referred to strictly as the Plott Hound and then simply the Plott.
Incredible hunting dogs, they are also fiercely dedicated protectors of their families. As one expert said of the breed, “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.” As noted, the Plott became eligible to compete in the Hound Group in 2007 but was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1946 and the AKC in 2006, and it remains a popular breed among hunters in North Carolina.
Large and strong, the Plott hound has average heights of 20-25” for males and 20-23” for remales. They weigh from 50-60 pounds for males and only slightly less at 40-55 pounds for the females. With a familiar hunting hound appearance, they are noted for their beautiful brindle coats and muscular bodies.
As one vet notes, they stand out for their speed and spirit, and yet many are drawn to the coats, “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.”
Unlike many other scent hounds, the coat of a Plott is never loose or sagging, and the ears are not as long. Their tails are long and carried in a saber-like position, and they have a strong, well-muscled silhouette.
Experts are fast to point out that you must know what you are getting into before adopting this breed. This is because they are extremely smart and even cunning. They develop near-instant loyalty to their family and can be trusted with even younger kids. However, this breed is noted for being very stubborn AND independent. If you are not adept at training dogs, this is not a good breed for you to adopt.
Even more interesting is that Plotts can easily forget training if it is not persistently reinforced, and this should be no problem as the amount of exercise they need each day is a perfect time to do refresher courses on their training. However, they have no memory problems when it comes to someone who has done them wrong, and whether it is a cat, squirrel, child or adult, they are noted for “keeping tabs” and waiting for a chance to “even the score”.
Adept at climbing and exploring, they are famous escape artists, and there is no guarantee that they will remain inside a shabbily constructed pen or fence. They will either mount it, going up and over the top, or adeptly and quickly dig their way out. This is not a breed for leaving in a run or fenced yard, as they will vocalize their disapproval.
They are noted for their “chop”, which is commonly used when tracking or treeing prey. They also have a distinct bawl, and as one vet noted, “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.” They can be noisy if bored or if on the prowl, and all of this is why early training is so essential to the happiness of a Plott.
As noted, they bond closely to their family or pet parent, and within that group the Plott Hound is incredibly affectionate, playful, loyal and gentle. They should always be placed early as it becomes incredibly difficult for owners to train them to get along with smaller animals, particularly cats, in their adulthood. Many Plotts get along just fine with all other pets, but some will try to assert themselves with dogs of the same sex, and their level of aggression actually varies based on the game they are trained to hunt with more aggressive tendencies emerging in those trained in larger game.
Keep in mind, though, that Plotts usually like being part of a pack of dogs as this is what the breed was created to do, forming tight bonds with other canines – even in the face of periodic squabbles. The one thing that has to happen, though, is that the human owner is established as “top dog,” and remains in that place.
After all, young Plotts are known to “test” their owners, seeing what they can or cannot get away with, and so you may even want to consider group training early in your dog’s life.Also be sure that ample socialization is part of the dog’s daily life as this too helps the dog to get along far better with other dogs as they age.
As one expert in the breed indicated, it is fine to “Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with.”
And just as is the case with most breeds, find out from your breeder the many details of the pup’s parents and lineage. These dogs are most likely to have descended from pleasant and loyal parents, but it is your responsibility to find out all about the particular dog before adopting.
With a life span of 12 to 14 years, Plotts live longer than many larger dogs, but they need exercise to be both happy and healthy. Bred to hunt, they are naturally active and vigorous dogs. They are a perfect choice for active families, particularly those households with joggers and runners. They are, also, ideal as hunting companions and love to enjoy camping trips. Keep in mind, though, that they are always on their guard and highly attuned to even the smallest sounds, meaning baying and barking may occur.
As the AKC indicates, long walks or runs or play sessions are key to a Plott’s happiness and because they have a very high prey drive, you should always walk them on a lead. Playing fetch is a good exercise for Plotts, and if you fail to give them the physical challenges they need, they can become aggressive. This could be a good reason to allow them an opportunity for training in obedience and agility as well as hunting or trail running.
The American Plott Hound Association was founded in 1987 and can be a good resource if you wish to find such activities and competitions for your dog. There is also the National Plott Hound Association, which is even more active in trials and competitions. Both can be good resources for finding recommended breeders in your area, too.
With that distinctive coat, the Plott is actually quite easy to provide grooming and care for, and they need only a twice-weekly grooming with a traditional curry brush. This redistributes natural oils and removes all the dead hair. Dogs stuck indoors need more frequent brushing, and the Plotts with the double coats are often found to be heavy shedders in need of thrice-weekly brushing.
The dogs are famous for developing a distinctive odor and this is why they may need very frequent baths. Choose a gentle dog shampoo to prevent the loss of natural oils or coat irritation.
Because of their levels of activity, the Plotts may not need a lot of nail care, though most find that they do have to give their dogs a trim once every two or three weeks. Their ears can be prone to year infections or bacterial problems, so keep an eye on them. Also, as is the case with all dogs, it is a very good idea to get them familiar with dental care early in life and to brush a few times each week with a pet-safe toothbrush and paste.
No matter the overall health of any particular breed, dogs can and do suffer from genetic issues to other diseases and health concerns. The best breeders will provide certification that both parents have been screened for specific genetic issues and deemed healthy as breeding partners. Also ask for parental certifications for issues like orthopedic, eye and other potential issues.
However, the most common health concerns known in the Plott Hound breed include:
Additionally, they are prone to field injuries and can be quite stoic about it. Always remember that any hunting dog used for hunting can be gravely injured by even smaller prey. As any vet will tell you, a single raccoon is able to do significant damage to a dog – even mortal damage – so do not hesitate to bring your Plott to the vet’s office if there seems to be any sort of injury after time spent in the field.
Strong, fierce and focused, the Plott is incredibly bright and yet stubborn and independent. They are also incredibly sociable fellows that can do well if introduced early to a wide range of people and animals. If you are an energetic person or part of an active family with older kids, you may find that a Plott is a perfect companion.
Keep in mind that you must be the one to provide stimulation and exercise. Though a Plott finds a way to entertain itself if you are not making such things available, this “amusement” is rarely non-destructive. Be aware of any signs of aggression and seek out expert training to overcome it as this is a breed that has a long memory of even a single instance of negative reinforcement.
Utterly unique and attractive, this very vocal breed is a good choice if you are an admirer of the hounds, like the sounds of their baying and chopping, and enjoy dogs that are incredibly bright and loyal. Available in many colors, you will want to work with a breeder offering the dogs with the personality and looks you desire. Be aware of parental traits and you should find a long-living friend who will enjoy almost any outdoor adventure, active game or interaction with you and your family.