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Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Otterhound
Average Cost to keep/care for a Otterhound
Breed Specific Buying Advice
Otterhounds are large and impressive looking dogs that boast a rather rugged look about them. They were originally bred to hunt, but over time they have proved themselves to be a great choice both as companion dogs and family pets, especially for people who lead active, outdoor lives and who live in the country. Otterhounds are quite high-energy characters and they love nothing more than being kept busy in the great outdoors. Because they shed quite a bit and can leave muddy paw prints around the house, they are therefore not the best choice for anyone who is remotely house proud. Sadly, Otterhounds are one of the rarest of our native breeds with only very few puppies being registered with The Kennel Club every year and as such they have been placed on the vulnerable native breed list.
The history of the Otterhound can be traced way back to the 12th century although much of the breed's origins remains a bit of a mystery. What is known is that these charming, handsome dogs are considered to be one of the oldest British hounds on record. It's thought the breed evolved by crossing 3 other hound breeds, namely the old Basset Griffon Vendeen, the Southern Hound and the old St Hubert Hound.
Throughout history, Otterhounds were highly prized for their hunting skills and more especially for their ability to track down otters which were considered a pest at the time. In times long past, otters caused a lot of havoc with fish stocks in rivers throughout Britain and Otterhounds were used to keep their numbers under control. They were bred to be strong and extremely agile so they could take on a quick moving and heavy otter, even in the water. Otterhounds are very strong swimmers and more than capable of taking on otters weighing anything up to 35 lbs.
However, the Otterhound we see today is a descendant of hounds that were around during the 1700’s with a record of a rough-coated dog have been the preferred “type” right up to the 1800’s. There are records of the breed having been exhibited at a dog show in Leeds in 1861. However, it was not until the beginning of the 20th Century, in 1910, that the Association of Masters of Otterhounds was founded with the hounds being depicted on their flag at a show that took place in Rugby.
In the early seventies, the number of otters found in rivers throughout the UK fell dramatically low and as such a conservation order was drawn up to protect them. In 1978, otter hunting was banned in England. Two years later otter hunting was banned in Scotland too. With this, the two remaining Otterhound packs united to ensure that the breed did not vanish altogether because their numbers had fallen so low, Otterhounds were on the brink of extinction.
Today, although these handsome hounds are not as popular as they once were and the breed has been placed on The Kennel Club's vulnerable native breed list, enthusiasts are making sure that Otterhounds will find new tasks apart from being wonderful family pets and companions which includes working as drug detector dogs amongst other things.
Height at the withers: Males 69 cm, Females 61 cm
Average weight: Males 52 kg, Females 36 kg
The Otterhound is a large and impressive looking dog that boasts quite a rugged appearance about them. Their heads are clean cut and quite imposing being rather deep and not that wide. Dogs have nicely domed heads and a well-defined stop. Muzzles are deep and strong with a nice wide nose and nostrils. Otterhounds have lots of lip and flew and their entire heads, with the exception of their nose, are covered with rough hair which is finished off nicely with a little moustache and beard on their muzzles.
Their eyes are quite deeply set with dogs boasting an intelligent expression in them. The colour of their eyes matches their coat which sees blue and tan coated hounds having hazel coloured eyes. Their ears are a unique physical trait for the breed, being long and pendulous, set in line with the corner of a dog's eye and having a characteristic fold in them. Ears are well covered and fringed with hair. The Otterhound has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.
Their necks are long, powerful and flow smoothly into a dog's well laid-back shoulders. Dogs are allowed to have a slight dewlap. Their shoulders are well laid back and their front legs are straight, nicely boned and strong. Their chests are deep with dogs having well sprung and fairly deep, oval ribcages. Their body is strong with a level topline and nice broad, powerful back with short, strong loins.
Back legs are extremely strong and well-muscled with dogs boasting well-muscled thighs and second thighs. Feet are round and large being well-knuckled and thickly padded. Their back feet are a little smaller in size than their front ones, but all four feet are nicely webbed. Tails are set high and dogs carry them up when excited or alert, but when relaxed, their tails droop down. The hair on the underside of their tail is longer and a lot more profuse than it is on the top of it.
When it comes to their coat, the Otterhound has a double coat that consists of a rougher, dense and harsh topcoat that's extremely waterproof being slightly oily in texture and which has a broken appearance. The undercoat is much softer and has a slightly oily feel to it. The hair is softer on a dog's head and on the lower part of their legs than it is on the rest of their body. The accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
It is worth noting that the accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration can differ from those set out in the breed standard. All hound colours that are recognised are permissible which are as follows:
A dog’s pigment should match their coat colour although not necessarily and a slight butterfly nose is allowed under the breed standard.
The colours that are not permissible under the Otterhound Kennel Club breed standard are as follows:
When an Otterhound moves, they do so with a loose, shambling gait at the walk which quickly turns into a springy gait when they pick up speed, taking long strides and covering a lot of ground when they do. At the gallop, their gait is very smooth.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a dog can be a little lighter or heavier as well as slightly taller or shorter than set out in the Kennel Club breed standard which is only given as a guideline.
Otterhounds are known to be friendly and affectionate, although at times they can be a little boisterous especially when they are puppies or going through their adolescent stage. They love being in a home environment, being part of the family and becoming valuable members of a household. They are generally good around all people and children although their sheer size means they might accidentally knock a toddler over and frighten them. With this said, Otterhounds are known to be even-tempered and placid dogs that are a joy to be around. Much like other hounds, the Otterhound does have bit of a wilful streak in them which means their training has to start early and it has to be consistent from the word go right through a dog's life in order to get the best results.
Otterhounds are not the best choice for first time owners because training them requires a lot of patience and understanding which is best left up to people who are familiar with the needs of an intelligent, independent thinking scent hound that likes to be kept busy. They must be socialised, handled and trained by people who understand the breed’s needs when it comes to mental stimulation and daily physical exercise. They are not the best choice for people who are very house proud either.
Otterhounds do not “chase” things, but they are always willing to “investigate” anything that crosses their path more out of curiosity than anything. As such, they do not have a high prey drive unlike sighthounds that will chase anything that moves.
Otterhounds have a very playful side to their natures and love to entertain and be entertained more especially when very young. They are known to be a little mischievous when the mood takes them and being so clever, an Otterhound quickly learns how to please an owner and how to get their own way when they want something.
Otterhounds are better suited to people who have large, well-fenced, secure back gardens a dog can safely roam in whenever possible to really let off steam. They are large scent hounds that need enough space to express themselves both indoors and when they are outdoors in a garden.
Although Otterhounds form strong ties with their families and love the company of people, they are not typically known to suffer from separation anxiety, providing they are not left to their own devices for too long.
Otterhounds have a lovely deep, impressively low bark, but they are not known to be “barkers” and will only voice an opinion when asked or when they find themselves in the company of other Otterhounds when they will happily join in a howling chorus being careful to stay in tune with each other as they sing along.
Otterhounds love being in and around water thanks to their breeding. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking an Otterhound off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they cannot get out of the water on their own.
Otterhounds are not natural watchdogs although this is not to say a dog would not be quick off the mark to let an owner know when there are strangers about although they would rarely do this aggressively, preferring to keep their distance, stand their ground and voice an opinion with their deep and impressive barks.
Otterhounds, like many other scent hounds are known to be very sensitive by nature and they have an extremely strong sense of hierarchy when it comes to their “packs”. As such, without the right kind of direction and guidance, an Otterhound is very likely to assume the position of top dog. With this said, being so intelligent, Otterhounds are quick to learn new things with many taking part in agility and obedience because they are such “all-rounders”.
As such, in the right hands and with the right amount of early socialisation and training, Otterhounds are quite easy to train. However, like many other hounds, they are known to be sensitive dogs by nature and as such they do not answer well to any sort of harsh correction or heavy-handed training methods. They do, however, respond well to voice and positive reinforcement. With this said, their training has to be consistent and always fair in order to get the best results.
Otterhounds have a real sense of humour and are known as natural clowns which although highly amusing, it can make keeping them focused on their training a little bit of a challenge which is just one of the reasons they are not a good choice for novice owners. However, even the best trained Otterhound might choose to ignore a recall command if they pick up a more interesting scent and as such care has to be taken as to where a dog is allowed to run off the lead.
Like all puppies, Otterhounds are incredibly cute when young and it is all too easy to spoil them when they first arrive in new homes. As soon as a puppy is nicely settled owners must start out as they mean to go on by laying down ground rules and boundaries so that a puppy understands what is expected of them. It helps establish a pecking order and who the alpha dog is in the household. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:
Otterhounds seem to have an affinity with children of all ages, but thanks to their size care has to be taken when they are around toddlers just in case they knock a child over and it scares them. Any interaction between children and dogs should be supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous.
They will usually get on well with other dogs and animals as long as they have been well socialised from a young age. However, care has to be taken when an Otterhound meets smaller animals and pets because their instincts might kick in with disastrous results. If an Otterhound has grown up with a cat in the home, they will generally get on well together, but these dogs would see any other cats as "fair game".
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of an Otter Hound is between 10 and 13 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Otterhound is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good-looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
Otterhound puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different, and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
As with other breeds, some Otterhounds gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight, it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Some Otterhounds are prone to suffering from allergies and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Otterhound breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
Apart from the standard breeding restrictions that are in place for all Kennel Club registered breeds, there are no other breed specific breeding restrictions in place for the Otterhound.
It is mandatory for all Kennel Club Assured breeders to use the following tests on their dogs and all other breeders are strongly advised to follow suit:
The Kennel Club also strongly recommends that all breeders request the following advice from Otterhound breed club:
It is worth noting that the breed average COI for Otterhounds as stated by The UK Kennel Club currently stands at 17.7%.
As with any other breed, Otterhounds need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Otterhound puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or, so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Otterhound puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out making them withdrawn, timid and shy.
As previously mentioned, Otterhound puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
Older Otterhounds need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Living with an Otterhound in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include looking at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older dogs need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older dogs don't need the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
Although their coats look like they may be high maintenance, keeping an Otterhound's coat looking tidy is quite easy. Having said this, because of the texture of their hair, Otterhounds tend to pick up all sorts of things when out on a walk which includes twigs and thorns which would need to be brushed out straight away. Apart from that, a thorough weekly grooming session is all it really takes to keep their coats tidy and their skin in good condition.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Although Otterhounds are known to be quite laid-back characters by nature, they still need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. As such they need a minimum of an hour's exercise every day and ideally this should be even more because there is nothing an Otterhound enjoys more are frequent, long walks through the countryside or out on the moors. Many owners prefer to keep their Otterhounds on a lead when out walking them, although as a dog matures, they can run free in a safe environment, bearing in mind that when the ground is wet, that’s when an Otterhound will more easily pick up a scent.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these active dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Otterhound puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives. They should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs because this puts too much pressure on their still growing joints and limbs.
If you get an Otterhound puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Because Otterhounds have been known to suffer from bloat, it is really important that they be fed twice a day instead of giving them just one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand to place their feed bowl which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down low to reach their food. Dog should not be exercised just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more a risk of suffering from bloat which could prove fatal if not treated as an emergency.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Otterhound puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 15 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Otterhound should be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult dog can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy an Otterhound you may have to go on a waiting list because not many puppies are registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £700 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Otterhound in northern England would be £28.15 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £66.87 a month (quote as of May 2018). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed amongst other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with an Otterhound and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for an Otterhound would be between £60 to £110 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred, healthy Kennel Club registered pedigree Otterhound puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
It can prove difficult when it comes to finding Otterhound puppies because so few are bred and registered with the Kennel Club every year which means that well-bred puppies can often command a lot of money. As such, with Otterhounds there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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