Complete Guide To The Otterhound: Personality, Care, Where To Find One And More

Bred in Medieval England, this bubbly, big-haired breed is regretfully rare. Friendly and faithful, the Otterhound’s hunting ability is exceeded only by his sense of humor and plentiful charm.

Ranked as the 176th most popular breed by the American Kennel Club, it’s likely you’ve never seen an Otterhound before. Let’s take a deep dive into this breed so you can be fully informed if you are considering acquiring one.

How Big Do Otterhounds Get?

Male27″ at the shoulder115 lbs
Female 24″ at the shoulder 80 lbs

What Do Otterhounds Look Like?

Otterhounds tip the scales at 80-115 pounds. Swathed in a coarse double coat, pendulous ears frame an aristocratic muzzle and dark, deep-set eyes. Their large head and rectangular frame are substantial yet balanced, offset by a curved, upswept tail.

Colors include:

• Black
• Black and Tan
• Gray
• Tan
• Liver and Tan
• Blue and Cream
• Wheaton

Black, white and grizzle markings are common. In the ring, the coat’s texture mattes more than color. From his acute sense of smell to his broad webbed feet, he should appear work-ready.

Muscular but surprisingly graceful, the Otterhound is light-footed and confident with an alert, engaging expression. In the right shades, these English natives are easily mistaken for the French-bred Briard.

What Is The Personality Of An Otterhound?

Otterhounds are even-tempered but spirited. You won’t find them warming the sofa when there’s something fun to do. Adventure-ready, they’ll thrive with an active, outdoorsy family.

Affectionate with children and friendly toward strangers, making new friends is a priority over protecting his territory. Lock your doors — Otterhounds are poor guard dogs.

They’re also vocal with a pleasant but loud singing voice that puts most hounds to shame. But it also puts neighbors off, so give your Otterhound a rural or suburban home. Early training and socialization tame nuisance barking, but apartment living isn’t for him.

How Much Exercise Do Otterhounds Need?

Otterhounds need less vigorous exercise than the typical hunting dog — they’re as happy to walk as run. But be prepared to keep them physically and mentally active. A 30-60 minutes hike on an outdoor trail will satisfy their need for fresh air and sunshine.

They also enjoy swimming and excel in canine sports from agility to lure coursing. Responsive to training but stubborn — obedience activities provide both exercise and positive reinforcement. Games that engage their prey drive are favorites. Always keep a ball in your pocket.

How Much Grooming Do Otterhounds Need?

Otterhounds have a thick, weather-resistant double coat that protects them from the harsh conditions encountered on a hunt. To maintain their working dog appeal, the AKC prefers show dogs to retain a natural look. The good news is that their coat’s coarse texture also resists dirt and shedding.

Weekly brushing with a slicker removes outdoor debris. Use a medium steel comb to thin the undercoat. An occasional bath with a gentle shampoo is all they need to stay fresh — Otterhounds aren’t known for doggy odor.

Pet dogs may benefit from light trimming. Their ears and beards are a magnet for food and water. Try a snood — a wrap that keeps their ears and chin protected while eating — or trim the hair around their chin and mouth regularly.

The Otterhound’s long ears are prone to infection and need monthly care. Clipping the hair under the pinnae allows air to circulate better, discouraging bacterial growth. Follow up with a pH-balancing rinse.

Although most Otterhounds get enough exercise to keep their toenails short naturally, long hair on their feet tends to wrap around overgrown nails, causing pain. Trim them every few weeks to be on the safe side, checking the fur beneath their pads for a build-up of mud, snow or road salt.

What Kind Of Dog Food Is Best For Otterhounds?

Otterhounds don’t tend to need any particular type of dog food. They’re pretty easy to feed.

Please don’t listen to the folks at the pet store trying to convince you to buy a grain-free diet for your dog. There’s zero science behind that and vets are actually seeing diseases now related to feeding grain-free foods.

Best Puppy Food For Otterhounds :

Best Adult Food For Otterhounds :

How Long Do Otterhounds Live?

10-13 years according to information from the AKC

What Health Problems Do Otterhounds Have?

The Otterhound is a relatively healthy breed but there are a few concerns that are detailed in the breed statistics page for the Canine Health Information Center. Specifically, the two issues are:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Glanzmann’s Thrombasthenia

Hip Dysplasia

One of the most common orthopedic conditions found in dogs, I’m very concerned about how common hip dysplasia was on the breed statistics page for Otterhounds with the Canine Health Information Center.

Otterhounds are really difficult to find in this country and their small numbers can make some diseases more rare (by being able to screen out breeding dogs who carry the gene for any specific disease) or far more common (due to the low numbers of breeding dogs, any abnormality can be multiplied across blood lines).

This is what has happened with the Otterhound. Of 542 evaluations done to evaluate hips in adult Otterhounds, roughly half of the dogs actually graded had an abnormal result. That is extraordinarily high and speaks of a problem within the breed.

So – if you want an Otterhound, how do you go about trying to get a healthy one? Every breeder of an Otterhound needs to have OFA records for every breeding dog that have ever had as well as any dogs that they have bred their dogs to.

Trace the bloodlines of the puppy you are interested in and look for whether Abnormal (anything but “Excellent” or “Good” grades) grades were given for any of the dogs used within two generations. If the hips passed for all of the dogs involved, then that’s as good as you can do to ensure a healthy puppy.

If one or more of the closest two generations (parent and grandparent dogs) have abnormal results, I would recommend against getting that puppy unless you are willing and able to pay for the care of that dog down the line.

As a veterinarian with over 20 years of experience, it’s my recommendation that doing your due diligence with this breed is a must.

Glanzmann’s Thrombasthenia

This complicated-sounding disease is fundamentally a bleeding disorder. Platelets are unable to clump together which can lead to excessive bleeding during surgical procedures or trauma.

This is a rare disease, but it’s most commonly found in Otterhounds than in any other breed of dog. Dogs can be genetically tested (including yours as a puppy) with VetGen.

Other issues that Otterhounds, like any other dog, can have include:

Make sure that your breeder is doing the recommended testing to ensure that you get the best possible (and healthiest) puppy possible!

Where Can I Learn More About Otterhounds?

Otterhound Club of America

AKC Breed Page

Where Can I Find An Otterhound?

Start with the breeder referral listings with the Otterhound Club of America

Looking for a Rescue? Start here!

Interesting Facts About the Otterhound

Otterhounds have an intriguing history.

Did you know?

They Were Bred to Hunt Otters

Few people are comfortable with the idea of hunting otters. Cherub-faced mammals, they’re admired for their intelligence and ferocity.

But in medieval England, river otters competed with villagers for fish — devouring human meals. Considered pests, they were hunted using dogs for the better part of seven centuries. The practice was banned in 1978.

They’re Close to Extinction

Otterhounds are rarer than Giant Pandas. Hunters without a mission, interest in breeding them waned in the latter part of the 19th century. With fewer than 1000 examples worldwide — just 350 in North America — they’re considered endangered.

Cousins to the Briard?

The Otterhound was first referenced in England in the 1100s, but like most dogs, it changed over time with selective breeding. With their pendulous ears and one of the best noses in the business, it’s not surprising that Bloodhounds are part of their lineage. But several rough-coated French dogs are also included, possibly explaining their resemblance to the Briard.

Keep a Napkin Handy

Perhaps it’s their breeding — hunting prey in water. But Otterhounds are among the few breeds that don’t lap water from the top of their bowls. Instead, they submerge their faces, pulling from the bottom, so keep the napkins handy.