Quite a while ago on the blog, I wrote about dog breeds that have gone extinct, or are on their way out. One of the dogs I mentioned was the Otterhound. At the time, there were reports that fewer than 600 of these dogs remained in the world. While today, that number has climbed to about 800, the Otterhound is still considered one of the most endangered dog breeds in the world – it’s even more rare than the Giant Panda!
I’ve never seen one of these dogs in person, but everything I’ve read about them says that they deserve a fighting chance to stick around. Other breeds have been brought back from the brink of extinction before, so why not this dog? Here’s what you need to know about this amazing breed.
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History of the Otterhound
Otterhounds are an incredibly old breed by today’s standards, dating back to the 1100s. At this time in England, fisherman had a serious competitor in the water: otters. These creatures were fast, hard to catch, smart, and very good at stealing fish. In order to combat these pests and save the fishing industry, dogs known as the “otter dogge” were bred to hunt in packs together. They were a combination of the feisty terrier-type dog, with its incredibly strong prey drive, and the dependable hound-type dog, with its advanced sense of smell. By the time the 14th century rolled around, these dogs were an established breed all unto themselves.
It became a sport to hunt with this dog, and even Queen Elizabeth I was known to enjoy her pet Otterhounds. The dogs were commonly crossbred with other dogs, so the general makeup of an Otterhound will be familiar to dog lovers. They have the scruffy coat of Griffon dogs, and the build and demeanor of Bloodhounds. In 1907, the dogs became popular in America, and the AKC recognized the breed in 1909.
Otter hunting became illegal in 1978 in England, which meant that the packs of Otterdogs once prized in the fishing industry were no longer needed. They were used for a time in mink hunting, but the population dwindled sharply. The dog now ranks close to the very bottom of the AKC’s popularity list.
Appearance of the Otterhound
The Otterhound is a large dog, weighing between 65 and 125 pounds, and standing 26 inches when fully grown. They also have webbed feet that helps them swim, and a rough coat that sheds water. Overall they tend to have a shaggy, bushy appearance, with heavy eyebrows and a beard. They have a strong, square muzzle with deep set eyes, which gives them a somewhat manly look This dog comes in all sorts of colors, but the most common are black and tan. They have long ears that hang like a blood hound, and a long tail.
Personality of the Otterhound[easyazon_image align=”right” cart=”n” cloak=”y” height=”250″ identifier=”B000JJDI0G” locale=”US” localize=”y” nw=”y” nf=”y” src=”https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51T-LRNfEYL.jpg” tag=”natur0da-20″ width=”203″]
The Oterhound personality can be summed up as fun, exuberant, and talkative! This is an extroverted dog that loves to be around people and other dogs. They are full of energy, always wanting to play. In fact, they are known to be a bit klutzy because they are just so excited and ready to have fun. They are messy dogs, that eat and drink with abandon (be prepared for water spills). They like to get muddy and wet, they like to roll around in things, and they like to get a bit rambunctious. In other words, if you aren’t prepared for the goofy, messy, playful dog stereotype, this is not the dog for you.
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Here are some things to know about the Otterhound personality:
- They are incredibly friendly. They love people and other dogs.
- They can be independent. As hound dogs, they like to explore and enjoy new sights and smells.[easyazon_image align=”right” cart=”n” cloak=”y” height=”250″ identifier=”B00JAEKHOG” locale=”US” localize=”y” nw=”y” nf=”y” src=”https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51ulObtQAoL.jpg” tag=”natur0da-20″ width=”250″]
- They talk a lot. They will grunt, moan, bay, bark, and vocalize every chance they get.
- They get into everything. You have to be careful to block off rooms with [easyazon_link identifier=”B000JJDI0G” locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”natur0da-20″ cart=”n” cloak=”y” localize=”y” popups=”n”]gates[/easyazon_link] if you don’t want this dog going into a specific place.
- They are incredibly food-motivated. Give this dog a [easyazon_link identifier=”B00JAEKHOG” locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”natur0da-20″ cart=”n” cloak=”y” localize=”y” popups=”n”]treat[/easyazon_link] and he’ll do just about anything for you.
- They can get a bit stubborn, so training from an early age is necessary.
- Despite being rambunctious and ready to play, this dog does calm down as he gets older, and can chill out when he’s had enough exercise.
- These dogs can be good watch dogs, despite their friendliness. Be aware that if they do get to the point of being provoked to violence, their terrier nature will have them fighting for all they are worth.
Think of all the dog stereotypes that you’ve ever heard – messy, playful, friendly, doesn’t know its own strength – and you’ve basically summed up the Otterhound.
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Otterhound Health[easyazon_image align=”right” cart=”n” cloak=”y” height=”239″ identifier=”B016MY21XG” locale=”US” localize=”y” nw=”y” nf=”y” src=”https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51eYrZN-K-L.jpg” tag=”natur0da-20″ width=”250″]
Compared to other purebred dogs, the Otterhound is at risk for relatively few diseases or conditions. Like all large breeds, they can have problems with hip and elbow dysplasia. This can be helped by adding [easyazon_link identifier=”B016MY21XG” locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”natur0da-20″ cart=”n” cloak=”y” localize=”y” popups=”n”]joint-supporting supplements[/easyazon_link] to their diet, and being sure your vet is keeping an eye on their joint health. They are also prone to epilepsy, which can be treated medically.
These dogs are definitely prone to bloat, a condition in which the stomach twists on itself if a dog eats or drinks too quickly. This is a life-threatening problem, and there are several things you can do to prevent it. First, don’t feed this dog one big meal per day. Try two or more smaller meals per day so that they can’t eat so much that it impacts their stomach. Second, consider using a bowl that makes them eat slower. These bowls have mazes that the dog has to work around in order to eat, which makes them go slower.
Finally, you can also consider asking your vet to discuss a preventative measure known as a gastropexy. This surgery attaches part of the stomach to the abdominal wall so that it cannot twist on itself, and is extremely effective.
Otterhounds may also be prone to a bleeding disorder that can be fatal. Unfortunately, it is not something that can be tested for. The best way to ensure that an Otterhound is healthy is to find out if the parents were healthy. Being that there aren’t that many Otterhounds in existence, anyone who owns one of these dogs is almost sure to be able to identify its parents.
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Caring for an Otterhound[easyazon_image align=”right” cart=”n” cloak=”y” height=”250″ identifier=”B06XFKCG3P” locale=”US” localize=”y” nw=”y” nf=”y” src=”https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41lxPXbTqpL.jpg” tag=”natur0da-20″ width=”250″]
Let’s start with grooming the Otterhound They have a rough, oily coat, but it can still shed a moderate amount. It’s best to [easyazon_link identifier=”B06XFKCG3P” locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”natur0da-20″ cart=”n” cloak=”y” localize=”y” popups=”n”]brush[/easyazon_link] this dog every week to prevent hair from being all over your house. Because they can be messy dogs, you’ll likely want to give him regular baths as well, but you only need to do that when he’s dirty. However, it’s a very good idea to have some cleaning wipes on hand to clean out this dog’s beard after he eats. This will help prevent him from smelling like dog food all the time. Like all dogs, a weekly brushing of his teeth, and keeping his nails trimmed, are necessary grooming activities for the best health possible.
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You do want to make sure you dry this dog extremely well after getting wet. Get into all the folds of skin, under the ears, and anywhere else. This helps avoid skin rashes and musky smells. The only other major thing to consider is twice-yearly stripping, a process of actually pulling out dead hair so it doesn’t’ go everywhere. If you don’t really want your Otterhound to have that traditional rough texture, you can also clip the coat short, exposing the soft undercoat.
This dog has a high need for exercise. They have all that energy that they need to get out, or else they’ll get destructive fast. Long daily walks, lots of play time, and even some strenuous activity on [easyazon_image align=”right” cart=”n” cloak=”y” height=”250″ identifier=”B07F3J4GS7″ locale=”US” localize=”y” nw=”y” nf=”y” src=”https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41DM1qO37XL.jpg” tag=”natur0da-20″ width=”250″]a regular basis, is important for this breed. Consider having a dedicated game of fetch with a ball cannon, or signing this dog up for some canine sports, to ensure that he gets all the exercise he needs. This is not the right breed for someone that wants a lazy dog, or a laid-back dog.
Because of their history, this dog loves to swim, and it’s a great way to keep them healthy. Invest in some [easyazon_link identifier=”B07F3J4GS7″ locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”natur0da-20″ cart=”n” cloak=”y” localize=”y” popups=”n”]floating dog toys[/easyazon_link] and go out on the water to play regularly. It will help wear this dog out if you teach them to fetch in the water.
Remember that they are a bit stubborn, so they need routine training as early as you can start it. They also need to be in an area with a very solid fence. They can get out of electric fences, and won’t be kept on a simple lead for long if they get the urge to wander.
Keep in mind that highly athletic dogs need high-quality food with lots of protein for energy. Animal protein is the best source of energy for dogs, and you should avoid food with grain fillers. Dogs don’t need these to be healthy, and Otterhounds can be prone to overeating, leading to obesity. Grain fillers will just add to that. Be sure to keep an eye on the calories your dog is eating so that they stay healthy – and don’t forget that those training treats add to the daily caloric intake.
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Otterhounds With Kids and Other Pets
Because they were raised to be pack hunters, Otterhounds have a strong affection for other dogs. They are great in multi-dog households. They are also wonderful with kids, loving to play and get the attention. Because of how boisterous they are, they may not be so great with small toddlers – Otterhounds tend to not know their own strength. But with older kids, this dog will be a best friend for life.
Rescuing Endangered Dog Breeds
The only way to help save breeds that are nearing extinction is to adopt through specific breeders. You likely won’t happen upon an Otterhound in a dog shelter. Because designer breeds are so much more desired these days, you’ll also have to do some research to find a breeder.
Once you do find a breeder, be prepared to be heavily vetted. In order to save endangered breeds, good breeders look for owners that are not only extremely responsible and knowledgeable, but that may also be interested in becoming breeders themselves, to help save the population. Expect to go through interviews, home checks, and several rounds of phone calls or emails, before you are approved to adopt one of these dogs. You should definitely be very prepared with lots of information about the breed. Don’t just show up with basic dog care tips. Learn everything you can about Otterhounds and discuss with the breeder how you intend to meet all their needs.
It’s definitely worth it in the end – helping to save an endangered breed is incredibly rewarding. But if you don’t like the sound of a lengthy process where you need to prove that you’re a good owner, you may not be right for a breed such as this one.
Be aware that you are interviewing the breeder as much as they are interviewing you. Ask lots of questions about the health of the parents, how the dog has been socialized or trained up till now, and his energy levels. This will help you find the right dog for your lifestyle and desires.
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The Final Word
Wondering if you’ll be a good owner for an Otterhound? Here are some things to consider: Has anyone ever told you that you have too much energy? Do you have a great sense of humor, and not mind a bit of a mess? Do you love life, love meeting new people, and love going on adventures? If all this sounds like you, you’re probably the right kind of person to own an Otterhound. This dog will definitely need an experienced dog owner who knows how to train dogs and isn’t afraid of lots of exercise. In the end, you’ll have an incredibly friendly and fun companion.