Otterhound Dog Breed information and care

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otterhound dogs
Otterhound Dogs

The first time you see the adorably shaggy Otterhound, you might mistake him for a doodle or mixed breed of some sort, but the Otterhound possibly dates back to medieval times in English, where they were prized for their otter-hunting skills. The large and lovable Otterhound is full of energy and always ready for fun. Otterhounds are friendly to all and affectionate with their family members.

Otterhounds were raised to hunt in large packs of dogs. Squabbles amongst pack mates would interfere with getting the job done. Therefore, Otterhounds are even-tempered and tend to get along well with everyone, including people, kids, other dogs and even cats when raised with them. Although Otterhounds are loving and happy-go-lucky, they are also large and strong. Their boisterous nature could lead to them inadvertently knocking over small children, so carefully supervise all kid-and-dog interactions.

Breed Overview

• Group:


• Height:

24 to 27 inches tall at the shoulder

• Weight:

80 to 115 pounds

• Coat:

A dense, rough, coarse and crisp outercoat, with a short, wooly, slightly oily undercoat.

• Color:

Any color or combination of colors.

• Life Expectancy:

10 to 13 years


Affection LevelHigh
Exercise NeedsHigh
Energy LevelHigh
Tendency to BarkHigh
Amount of SheddingMedium
Otterhound Dogs

History of the Otterhound

In 18th century England, hunting with hounds was a big pastime. Although fox hunting was the most popular, otter hunting was also common. This type of hunting was born of necessity as river otters could decimate fish populations, which were a valuable food source for the people. Later, otter hunting, like fox hunting, became prevalent as a sport. Noblemen and royalty, including Queen Elizabeth I, raised Otterhounds. Otter hunting was banned in England in the 1970s because otter populations were severely depleted.

Today’s Otterhound is thought to have a variety of breeds in its background, including Bloodhounds and various shaggy French hounds. The Otterhound is very rare. According to the Otterhound Club of America, there are fewer than 800 Otterhounds in the entire world; most of them are in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Otterhound Care

The Otterhound’s medium-length, tousled coat is a trademark feature of the breed. It doesn’t require trimming, but weekly thorough brushing is necessary to keep the coat from matting and to cut down on shedding (luckily, Otterhounds shed only moderately). Otterhounds have an oily undercoat, which helps to waterproof the coat, but can also lead to a greasy-feeling coat or coat that smells “doggie.” Some Otterhounds have more oil than others; how often they need to be bathed depends on how the coat looks, feels and smells. The shaggy beard collects water and food, and can also develop an odor if not kept clean. The fastidious Otterhound owner should dry the beard frequently, or even wash and dry it if it’s becoming odoriferous. The Otterhound’s big, hairy paws may also track in dirt and mud, so it can be worthwhile to keep a towel handy near the door to wipe them down before coming inside. Trim the nails weekly and check and clean the ears as needed with a pet-safe ear cleaner.

The Otterhound needs plenty of exercise to keep him happy and well-behaved in the home. The younger an Otterhound is, the more exercise he needs. Long walks, hikes or jogging (after the age of 2 when the bones and joints have finished growing) are good options, as are swimming and fetch in a safe, enclosed area. Otterhounds should never be allowed to roam off-leash as they tend to follow their noses when the catch a great smell, turning a deaf ear to your calls and blind eye to dangerous situations like oncoming traffic.

Otterhounds can be challenging to train. This is not because they aren’t smart—you just need to figure out what motivates yours. Otterhounds can be sensitive, so gentle, positive methods like clicker training work best. Otterhounds really respond to praise and especially food rewards. Start training young before your Otterhound gets big and strong enough to pull you off your feet. Keep sessions short and upbeat, and provide lots of consistency in what you expect of your Otterhound and he will grow up to be a well-behaved adult dog.

Common Health Problems

The Otterhoundis fairly healthy, but like most purebred dogs is predisposed to developing certain hereditary health conditions. Many large- and giant-breed dogs are prone to hip dysplasia and the Otterhound is no exception. The Otterhound is also prone to gastric dilatation volvulus (bloat), a life-threatening condition that causes the stomach to fill with air and twist on itself. A potentially fatal bleeding disorder called Glanzmann thrombasthenia (GT) is known to affect Otterhounds; however, genetic testing and responsible breeding has drastically reduced incidence in the breed. Reputable Otterhound breeders test their dogs’ for hip dysplasia and GT before breeding them to avoid passing on these problems. When buying a Otterhound puppy from a breeder, be sure to ask for paperwork confirming these tests were performed on the parents.

otterhounds as pets illustration
Otterhounds As Pets Illustration

Diet and Nutrition

Feed your Otterhound on a schedule (morning and evening for adults) and measure out precise amounts of food with a measuring cup or scale. Free feeding (leaving food out all day) can cause weight gain, which can contribute to hip dysplasia, which the Otterhound is prone to, and also lead to other serious health conditions like diabetes. For help determining the best food to give your Otterhound, or how much you should be feeding for optimal weight, consult your breeder or veterinarian.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Otterhounds are great family dogs. They can be a little messy, so they might not be the best breed for the clean freaks, but if you can live with a little mud, hair and drool, the clownish Otterhound will make you laugh and be your constant companion. Because the Otterhound is a rare breed, it can be hard to find one. Responsible breeders of Otterhounds don’t breed often, so they typically have a waiting list for puppies that might be years long. Sometimes adult Otterhounds might be available, either retired show dogs or dogs that find themselves in need of rescue for one reason or another.

If you like the Otterhound, you might also like these breeds:

Catahoula Leopard

Old English Sheepdog

Portuguese Water Dog

Otherwise, check out all of our other dog breed articles to help you find the perfect dog for you and your family.