The Otterhound is a big, lively and slightly boisterous dog who can make a wonderful family companion for those who can dedicate time to training and exercise. This breed is generally friendly, warm and relaxed. As lovely as they are, they’re not the type of dog who will be glued to your side and they do value independence.
The Otterhound was originally bred to hunt otters, though this has since (and rightly so) been deemed illegal. However, largely due to this ban, it’s estimated that there’s now less than 1,000 Otterhounds in the world.
Key facts about the Otterhound
Life expectancy :
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Origins and history
Otterhounds date back as far as the 13th century, when King John kept an entire pack for hunting. Edward II subsequently became the ‘Master of Otterhounds’ and Elizabeth I the ‘Lady Master of Otterhounds’.
Otterhounds were particularly popular in 19th century Britain, but quickly decreased in number once the otter hunting ban was implemented in 1978. Now, they’re few and far between - there’s thought to be less than 1,000 left in the world!
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 6 - Scent hounds and related breeds
Section 1 : Scent hounds
Physical characteristics of the Otterhound
Female : Between 26 and 30 in
Male : Between 24 and 26 in
Female : Between 66 and 88 lb
Male : Between 66 and 88 lb
All colours are possible. The Otterhound coat can be black, black and white, black and tan, black and blue, liver and tan, red, grizzle or grizzle and white. The most common, though, would be black and tan grizzle.
Type of coat
The Otterhound has a very thick, rough, double coat. It’s extremely weather-resistant, with the hardy undercoat able to absorb an impressive amount of water. The outer coat is dense and rough, though hair on the head is softer.
This breed’s eyes range from hazel to black, depending on, and complimenting, the coat colour.
The Otterhound is definitely unique in terms of appearance, boasting webbed feet, thick, ‘scruffy’ coats and a charming, rustic appearance. This is a large, powerful dog with strong limbs, torso and back.
The head is big (huge, even) while the muzzle is long and wide. The face has long hair dropping off it, adding to the charm. Eyes are deep-set and the ears are long and flop down the sides of the face. The tail is reasonably thick and high-set.
Good to know
Thanks to its oily dress and webbed feet, the Otter Dog can swim for 5 hours in pursuit of prey in the water.
The Otterhound is friendly and warm, but isn’t the type of dog who wants constant cuddles and affection. They love to hang out with their owners and will happily greet them, but will soon go back to doing their own thing.
This breed is known to be quite playful in a goofy, quirky way - they’re guaranteed to have you laughing!
Though generally easygoing and gentle if well-trained and exercised, the Otterhound can be a little boisterous and rowdy in their younger years.
This is a stubborn dog with great abilities.
The Otterhound was bred to hunt otters, so hunting is very much an instinctual part of them. They have strong instincts to chase small animals, so care must be taken when out in public around wildlife or small pets.
Fearful / wary of strangers
The Otterhound may take some time to warm up to strangers, but is generally fine towards them. Well-socialized pups are especially friendly towards new faces.
This breed is independent and enjoys thinking for themselves. However, with an experienced trainer, the Otterhound can learn to listen and obey - consistency is key!
Behaviour of the Otterhound
The Otterhound will tolerate short bursts of time alone. However, if they’re left for too long and feel bored, they’ll find other ways to entertain themselves such as digging, chewing and barking.
Easy to train / obedience
Thanks to the stubborn and independent traits, training the Otterhound can be tricky.
Due to their large size and sheer power, dedicated training is absolutely necessary and may take time. Start young and keep sessions short, fun and enticing by including plenty of rewards and positive reinforcement. This breed is also a good candidate for clicker training.
This breed has a deep, expressive bark or ‘bay’ which is pretty loud and somewhat entertaining. They’re not known to be excessive barkers, but you can hear it from miles away when they do!
Tendency to run away
The Otterhound has an incredible sense of smell and they’re always happy to use it - if they smell something, they’ll try to wander off. They’re hunters at heart, too, so if they get the chance, they’ll run straight after small animals.
The Otterhound isn’t made to be a house pet - they need to run, roam, chase, explore and adventure. If they’re cooped up for too long, they’ll become destructive and restless due to boredom.
Greedy / Gluttony
If there’s one thing that can sway the Otterhound, it’s food. This breed loves to eat and will try their hardest to sneak into the treat drawer or cupboard - be careful!
While the Otterhound may casually alert their family to an intruder, that’s about all they’ll do. A particularly well-socialised Otterhound may just welcome a stranger inside, so they’re not exactly watchdog material. That being said, his sheer presence can act as a deterrent.
We wouldn’t recommend the Otterhound for first time dog owners as they can be difficult to train and hard to handle if training isn’t successful. They also have particularly high exercise and mental stimulation requirements - it’s best to start with a less demanding breed unless you are prepared to put in the effort.
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Otterhound in a flat
The Otterhound will be frustrated in a flat and may become destructive because of this. Ideally, they need a large, secure outside space to roam.
Need for exercise / Sporty
If you decide to adopt this dog, you need to be prepared to give them vigorous daily exercise. They have endless stamina, love to swim and run, and thrive on an active lifestyle. Aim to provide at least 2 hours or more of exercise per day.
Travelling / easy to transport
Travelling with an Otterhound isn’t exactly an easy task. This is a large dog who will chase after anything they see or smell - new environments could quickly become a nightmare!
Otterhound and cats
The Otterhound can get along with a familiar feline if he has learned to rub shoulders with cats from a young age.
Otterhound and dogs
This breed can get along well with other dogs, especially if they’re socialised from a young age. However, they may be tempted to chase small or toy dogs.
Otterhound and children
The Otterhound is generally warm and friendly towards children, but only if they learn to respect him.
Otterhound and the elderly
This breed is likely to be too boisterous and active for an elderly person.
The Otterhound is a rare occurrence these days, so it’s hard to know how much they’d cost in the current climate. You’ll be on a long waiting list to get one - be prepared to part with upwards of £700 for a well-bred puppy.
Looking after a dog of this size typically costs between £60 to £110 a month, including food, medical/insurance, and incidental expenses.
Due to their shaggy, thick coat, the Otterhound should be brushed at least once a week to avoid matts and tangles. Be careful - the Otterhound can quickly become a matted mess!
They’re messy dogs, meaning their beard will need a daily wash to get food and dirt out. However, they don’t need regular bathing - only do so when absolutely necessary.
The Otterhound is a moderate shedder, but regular brushing can help to minimize the mess.
Nutrition of the Otterhound
This is a greedy breed and you’ll need to watch their weight. Don’t leave food out all the time - they’ll eat every bit of it! Instead, keep food in a secure place and measure out each portion to ensure they don’t overeat.
Health of the Otterhound
On average, the Otterhound lives for 11 years.
Strong / robust
The Otterhound is powerful, strong and sturdy, although he does have the usual concerns for a dog of this size.
The Otterhound may enjoy the occasional bout of sunshine but will struggle in extreme heat. Make sure they have access to ice water and a cold room - their thick coat isn’t suited to heat. During warm spells, you’ll probably notice they’re more lethargic.
This breed has an impressively weather-resistant coat and can tolerate damp, cold and windy weather. That being said, he will appreciate warmth during cold winter nights.
Tendency to put on weight
The Otterhound’s great energy will allow him to maintain good form.