Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Otterhound
Average Cost to keep/care for a Otterhound
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.
Today, these handsome dogs are not as popular as they once were and have been placed on The Kennel Club's vulnerable native breed list with very few Otterhound puppies being registered every year even though they are a brilliant choice for people who live active, outdoor lives and who reside in the country.
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 include every recognised hound colour which includes the following:
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. These hounds 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 breed or this type of large, independent thinking hound. They are not the best choice for people who are very house proud either.
Thanks to their breeding, Otterhounds love being in and around water which means care has to be taken when walking them anywhere near any dangerous rivers, streams, ponds or other watercourses just in case a dog decides to jump in.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 £25.57 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £64.18 a month (quote as of May 2016). 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 or not they have been neutered or spayed.
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 all 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 pedigree puppy.
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