Sadly, the Otterhound is one of Britain’s vulnerable native breeds. Learn all about the wonderful breed and why it’s under threat in our latest guide.
Height: Male 27 inches, female 24 inches
Weight: Male 52 kilos, female 36 kilos
Lifespan: 10-13 years
Pedigree? (registered with the KC?): Yes, this breed is registered with the Kennel Club.
Positives and Negatives
Check out the below pros and cons related to the Otterhound:
- Ideal for first-time owners
- Easy to train
- Likes to be around water
- Family-friendly dog
- High grooming needs
- Not ideal for allergy sufferers
- Won’t make a good watchdog
- Likes to explore
The Otterhound is a scent hound native to England which was bred historically to hunt otters. As work dried up for this pooch, so did their popularity. Currently, they’re listed as a vulnerable native breed, a category for dogs with under 300 annual registrations of puppies each year.
Otterhounds have strength, stamina, and a highly sensitive nose which allows them to hunt around water. Their shaggy double coat protects them from the weather, whilst their webbed feet help them to swim. Their coats are mostly black and tan but other combinations have also been seen.
This dog’s calm and gentle personality is ideal for elderly owners. Even though they’re large, Otterhounds are fairly easy to train so first-time owners may also consider this breed. An active owner will be needed though as a dog will quickly pick up bad habits if their exercise needs aren’t met.
Unlike other working dogs, the Otterhound hasn’t been as welcomed into family life. There has only been one registration of a puppy by the Kennel Club in the first half of 2020 and 2019 saw only 44 puppy registrations. Otterhounds just haven’t gained popularity despite their kind and gentle personality.
At one time, otters were considered vermin in the rivers. Unlike other game hunted for food and sport, the otter was killed to protect the fish. The first record of otter hunting was registered in the 1100s during the reign of King Henry II.
Scent hound packs were used for the first time on otters. It eventually became enjoyable for some and nobility soon took an interest. The dogs used in the early days of otter killing were believed to be Norman Hounds brought after the Norman Invasion in 1066.
The Chien Gris de St Louis then become a popular hound for hunting otters from 1250 to the 1400s. They look strikingly similar to the Otterhound. They were the first hounds to be documented in France through drawings.
Scent hounds have been in existence for almost a thousand years (to our knowledge). Yet it’s believed the Otterhound appeared as the dog we know today in the 1700s through cross-breeding. They had a good few hundred years of hunting and were popular in early dog shows (the first of which occurred in Leeds, 1861).
Otter hunting was at its most popular during the 1800s and early 1900s and its popularity resulted in a sharp decline in otter numbers. This led to a ban on their killing in England in 1978. Scotland banned otter hunting slightly later in 1980.
In turn, this led to a massive decrease in the demand for otterhounds. For some reason, they haven’t become popular pets and this is why the breed is now vulnerable.
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Friendliness is a common trait in the Otterhound. They’re too nice to be guard or watchdogs. Otterhound puppies are boisterous but as they get older they’ll relax and sleep a lot more. Sometimes this dog may be a little cheeky, especially for food. It will certainly grab their attention, but be careful as Otterhounds are prone to weight gain.
Otterhounds will hold their own special bond with each member of the family. Thankfully, they’re still rather independent so won’t be by your feet for every minute of the day.
Are Otterhounds Good With Strangers?
Yes, this breed is good with strangers. They don’t make great guard or watchdogs and the most they will do is bark. Socialization will still be needed so they won’t feel shy or anxious around people they don’t know.
Are Otterhounds Good With Children?
Yes, Otterhounds are a great match for children. They love to play and receive attention from them. As a large, boisterous breed, the Otterhound may accidentally injure smaller children. This canine is not known to intentionally harm children or hold aggressive traits.
Are Otterhounds Ok With Other Dogs?
Yes, the Otterhound can happily live and get along with other dogs. After all, they were bred to work in packs. The Otterhound will still need socialization to feel completely relaxed. Other household pets such as cats can live alongside this breed provided they have grown up together.
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Set aside at least an hour and a half each day to exercise an Otterhound. Swimming is one of their favorite activities so try and find some time to do this. Strenuous exercise will be needed. This dog can swim for miles and could stay out hunting all day due to their level of stamina.
This breed is a scent hound so they naturally have sensitive noses. If this dog smells prey they will take off. Be sure to keep an Otterhound on the leash at all times, unless in an enclosed space. Otterhounds can jump fairly high so fences must be tall to prevent this dog from escaping.
Be careful not to over-exercise an Otterhound puppy, this could be damaging for the joints. Adult Otterhounds who aren’t exercised enough may face health issues later on in life. Dogs that don’t receive the activity they need will become frustrated. This will result in some bad behavior that could form into habits.
Find out the breed-related health issues of the Otterhound:
- Hip Dysplasia- Poor development of the hip joint causes pain, swelling, inflammation, and lameness. Arthritis will follow.
- Gastric Dilatation Volvulus- The stomach twists trapping gas and food inside, this could be fatal. Seek veterinary attention immediately.
- Elbow Dysplasia- Poor development of the elbow joint will cause your dog to limp. Will eventually cause arthritis.
- Epilepsy- The most common neurological condition affecting dogs. Causes unprovoked seizures from mild to severe.
- Panosteitis- Painful inflammation on the surface of the leg bone. Also known as growing pains occurring in dogs aged 5-18 months.
- Thromboplastic Thrombasthenia– This blood platelet disorder causes excessive bleeding. Otterhound parents can be scanned for this condition.
Intelligence & Training
The Otterhound is highly intelligent and easy to train but unfortunately for them, they can no longer be used for work. The breed can easily be struck by boredom and cheekiness will follow, so it is important to keep them mentally stimulated.
Some Otterhounds have been known to go through cupboards searching for food. Disrespectful behaviors need to be sorted before they become adulthood habits. This breed can become overpowering if they are untrained and have reached their full size.
Training needs to start as early as possible. Ensure your dog has been exercised beforehand to help stop distractions. Respect training needs to be worked on more than obedience. Otterhounds can be naughty and obedience will be incredibly hard to establish if the respect isn’t there.
Be consistent and patient. The one time you let a bad behavior slide, you start right from the beginning. Food is a huge motivator for the Otterhound. It’s the best way to grab their attention but you must keep an eye on their food intake. Otterhounds are prone to weight gain and obesity can cause serious health issues.
Harsh training methods won’t work with this pooch. If you raise your voice too loud the Otterhound may become upset and could completely lose interest in their training. Be patient, stay calm, and keep your training sessions unique and short. Positivity, food treats, and affection will help an Otterhound learn.
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Otterhounds have an oily, thick coat designed for water resistance. This makes hunting in water much easier. It also prevents mud and dirt from getting stuck to the fur. The Otterhound will need their coat to be brushed once a week. Tools that should be used include the pin brush, comb, and slicker brush.
Before bathing your pooch make sure you brush them first. This will remove any mats and tangles which are much harder to get rid of once wet. Some Otterhounds can go on for months without needing a bath. You can determine when they will need one by their smell and the look of their coat.
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Otterhounds collect dirt much quicker when wet. Towel dry your dog and keep them in one area after a bath. If they have gone swimming, give them a quick hose down and keep them in one spot until dry. The Otterhound’s shaggy looking coat is apart of their known features and won’t need trimming.
An Otterhound’s ears are too long to allow decent airflow into the canal. This allows bacteria and debris to build up quicker. Check and clean your dog’s ears twice a week to prevent infections. Brush your dog’s teeth 3-4 times a week, however, vets recommend this is done daily. Trim the Otterhounds nails every 10-14 days.