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otterhound portrait
Dive into the captivating world of the Otterhound, a breed that's as distinctive as it is delightful. With their webbed feet, super-powered sniffer, and a character as playful as an otter itself, this rare breed splashes its way straight into people's hearts!

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Otterhound is perfect for active individuals or families who love outdoor adventures. With their high energy, love for water, and friendly disposition, they’re great companions for hiking, swimming, or simply frolicking in the backyard.


ORIGINUnited Kingdom
HEIGHT23-27 inches
WEIGHT80-115 lbs
LIFESPAN10-13 years
otterhound in a forest
Photo: Boys in Bristol Photography/Pexels


Standing tall at 24 to 27 inches for males and 23 to 26 inches for females, the Otterhound is a large, robust dog. Their weight can range from 80 to 115 pounds, giving them a sturdy and solid appearance. But don’t let their size fool you. Despite their substantial build, these dogs are agile and capable of moving with surprising grace.

Their bodies are covered in a dense, rough double coat that’s designed to protect them from harsh weather conditions. The topcoat is coarse and somewhat broken, providing excellent water resistance. Underneath, they have a wooly undercoat that provides insulation. This combination gives them a slightly shaggy but utterly charming look.

The Otterhound’s head is unique and quite recognizable. It’s fairly large, with a well-defined stop and a square muzzle. Their large, dark eyes exude a warm, friendly expression that can melt hearts. They have an amiable and intelligent gaze, hinting at their playful and eager-to-please nature.

One of the most striking features of the Otterhound is their ears. They’re long, folded, and set low on the head, hanging down to give them a somewhat whimsical look. The ears are covered in hair, which adds to their distinctive appearance.

Their tail, or as dog enthusiasts would say, ‘stern’, is another notable feature. It’s long and thick at the base, tapering towards the end. When the dog is in action, the tail is carried high, but not curled over the back.

Last but certainly not least, their large, webbed feet are a nod to their history as water hunters. These feet, coupled with their strong, muscular legs, make them excellent swimmers.

Overall, the Otterhound is a breed that captures attention with its unique physical characteristics. With their shaggy coats, expressive eyes, and large, webbed feet, they are a truly charming and distinctive breed.

otterhound walking in show ring
Photo: Kyle Reynolds/Getty Images


At first glance, you might notice their robust build and distinctive appearance, but it’s their temperament that truly sets them apart. Otterhounds are amiable, affectionate, and endlessly charming. They’re known for their friendly disposition and are often described as ‘clowns’ because of their playful nature.

Their jovial personality makes them a hit with families. They’re known to be great with children, often becoming their loyal playmates. They can also get along well with other pets, especially when socialized from a young age. It’s not uncommon to see an Otterhound happily coexisting with cats, dogs, and even smaller pets.

Beyond their playful demeanor, Otterhounds are also incredibly intelligent. They have a keen sense of curiosity that can sometimes lead them into mischief. Whether it’s following an interesting scent or exploring a new part of the backyard, these dogs love to investigate their surroundings. But don’t worry, their mischievous streak is usually accompanied by a charming grin!

Despite their size and energy, Otterhounds are surprisingly adaptable. They can be just as happy living in an apartment as they would be in a home with a large backyard, as long as they have plenty of opportunities for mental stimulation. They’re also known to be quite good travelers, so don’t hesitate to bring your Otterhound along on your next road trip or family vacation.

One of the most endearing traits of the Otterhound is their loyalty. Once they form a bond with their family, it’s a bond for life. They’re known to be incredibly devoted to their humans, often forming strong attachments. This loyalty, combined with their protective instincts, can make them excellent watchdogs.

But it’s not all fun and games with an Otterhound. They can also be quite independent and stubborn at times. This independence is a throwback to their days as hunting dogs, where they were required to work at a distance from their handlers. While this trait can be challenging, it also adds to their charm.

Ideal Environment

Imagine being an Otterhound. With your webbed feet and dense, waterproof coat, you’re built for outdoor adventure. You love exploring, sniffing out interesting scents, and are never happier than when you’re splashing about in water. So, what would be your ideal home?

Ideal Owner

First and foremost, you’d need a pet parent who understands your adventurous spirit and boundless energy. Someone who loves the great outdoors as much as you do, and who doesn’t mind a bit of mud and wet dog smell every now and then. You’d thrive with an owner who appreciates your independent streak and is patient enough to handle your occasional stubbornness.

Other Pets

As an Otterhound, you’re a friendly sort and get on well with other pets, be they dogs, cats or even smaller creatures. You could happily coexist with them, as long as they’re introduced to you properly and early on. A home with children would also suit you well. Your playful nature and gentle temperament make you a great playmate for kids.

Physical Environment

When it comes to your physical environment, you’re quite adaptable. While you’d love a home with a large backyard where you can romp around and follow interesting scents, you can also adjust to apartment living provided you get plenty of mental stimulation and regular outings.

Climate Adaptability

Now, let’s talk weather. Your thick, double coat is designed for cold, damp climates, keeping you warm and dry even when you’re swimming in chilly waters. You’re pretty hardy when it comes to cold weather. However, the same coat can make hot climates a challenge for you. In warmer weather, you’d appreciate a cool, shady spot to relax and plenty of fresh water to keep you hydrated.

In a nutshell, the ideal environment for an Otterhound is one that caters to their energetic, adventurous nature and keeps them stimulated, while ensuring they stay safe and comfortable in different weather conditions. If you can provide this, you’ll have a happy Otterhound and a home filled with joy and laughter!


If you’re considering bringing an Otterhound into your life, get ready to roll up your sleeves and dive into the world of grooming. But don’t worry! While these dogs do have their specific grooming needs, with a bit of patience and the right tools, you’ll have them looking their best in no time.

Coat Care

Let’s start with their most noticeable feature – that shaggy, double-layered coat. This unique coat is designed to protect them from cold water and harsh weather, but it also means they require regular grooming to keep their fur healthy and tangle-free.

A weekly brush-down is usually enough to keep their coat in good condition. You’ll want to use a slicker brush or a rake comb to gently work through their coat, removing any loose hair and preventing mats from forming. These brushing sessions are a great bonding time, and most Otterhounds enjoy the attention!

Despite their shaggy appearance, Otterhounds don’t need frequent baths. In fact, bathing them too often can strip their coat of its natural oils, which are essential for keeping their skin healthy and their coat waterproof. A bath every few months, or when they’re particularly muddy or smelly, should suffice. Use a dog-specific shampoo to maintain the pH balance of their skin.

Ear Care

When it comes to their ears, the Otterhound needs a bit more attention. Those long, droopy ears can be prone to infections if not kept clean. Check their ears weekly, gently cleaning them with a vet-recommended solution and a cotton ball. Be sure to dry their ears thoroughly after swimming or baths, as moisture can lead to problems.

Dental Care

Dental care is another important part of grooming for an Otterhound. Regular brushing of their teeth can help prevent dental diseases. Start this habit early, and your Otterhound will thank you for their gleaming smile!

Nail Trimming

Don’t forget about their nails. Those large, webbed feet come with fast-growing nails that need regular trimming. If you can hear their nails clicking on the floor, it’s time for a trim. Use a dog nail clipper or grinder, making sure to avoid the quick.

Eye Care

Lastly, remember to check their eyes for any signs of redness or irritation. Gently wiping the corners of their eyes with a damp cloth can help keep them clean.


Picture this: an Otterhound, raring to go, eyes sparkling with anticipation. What’s on their mind? Exercise! These energetic dogs have a zest for life that needs to be channeled into regular, fun-filled exercise routines.

Exercise Amount & Types

Otterhounds are an energetic breed and they require a good amount of physical activity to keep them happy and healthy. Expect to devote at least an hour each day to exercising your Otterhound. This could be in the form of a brisk walk, a run in the park, or a game of fetch.

But remember, Otterhounds aren’t just physically active; they’re mentally agile too. They love activities that stimulate their minds as well as their bodies. Engaging them in scent-tracking games or setting up agility courses in your backyard can be a fun way to keep them entertained and mentally sharp.

And let’s not forget their love for water. Those webbed feet aren’t just for show! Swimming is a fantastic exercise for these dogs. It’s a great way to cool off during hot weather, and it also provides a full-body workout. Just ensure safety precautions are in place, especially if you’re swimming in natural bodies of water.

Regardless of the type of exercise, remember to keep it fun and varied. Otterhounds are known to have an independent streak and can get bored with repetitive activities. By mixing up their exercise routine, you’ll keep them engaged and eager for their next adventure.

Dog Sports

For those interested in dog competitions, Otterhounds can excel in a variety of canine sports. From obedience and agility trials to tracking events, these dogs can showcase their intelligence, agility, and keen sense of smell in the competitive arena.


Training an Otterhound can be an adventure of its own, filled with laughter, a few hiccups, and plenty of rewarding moments. These dogs are intelligent and capable of learning, but their independent streak can sometimes make training a fun challenge.

Otterhounds are known for their keen sense of smell, second only to the Bloodhound. This means that once they catch an interesting scent, it can be hard to get their attention back. Early training should focus on building a strong recall response. A command like “come” can be a lifesaver, especially during off-leash play.

Socialization is another important aspect of training for an Otterhound. Exposing them to a variety of people, places, and experiences early in life can help them grow into well-rounded dogs. They’re naturally friendly, but socialization ensures they’re comfortable and confident in different situations.

When it comes to teaching basic commands and manners, positive reinforcement methods work best with this breed. Otterhounds respond well to treats, praise, and play. Harsh corrections or repetitive drills aren’t effective and can even discourage them. Keep training sessions short, fun, and full of rewards.

Diet & Nutrition 

Feeding an Otterhound is like fueling up an adventurous explorer, preparing them for their daily quests and escapades! These dogs have a healthy appetite that matches their energy levels, and they need a balanced diet to keep them in top shape.

What to Feed & How Much

When it comes to choosing what to feed your Otterhound, look for high-quality dog food that meets the nutritional standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This could be dry kibble, wet canned food, or even a carefully planned raw diet. The key is to ensure the food provides a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats, and essential nutrients.

The amount you feed your Otterhound will depend on their age, size, and activity level. Puppies generally require more frequent meals – around three to four times a day. As they grow into adulthood, this can be reduced to two meals a day. Always refer to the feeding guidelines on the dog food packaging, and don’t hesitate to consult your vet if you’re unsure.

Keep in mind, Otterhounds are energetic dogs with a love for physical activity. If your Otterhound is particularly active, they might need more food to replenish their energy. On the other hand, if they’re more of a couch potato, you might need to adjust their food intake to prevent weight gain.


Treats can be a great training aid, but remember, they should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake. Choose healthy options like carrot sticks or dog-specific treats that are low in fat and sugar.


And let’s not forget water. Otterhounds should always have access to fresh, clean water, especially after exercise or during hot weather.


When it comes to the health of an Otterhound, there’s a lot to consider. These robust dogs have a life expectancy of around 10-13 years, and while they’re generally healthy, they are prone to certain breed-specific health issues. Here’s a quick rundown:

Hip Dysplasia: This is a common condition in many larger dog breeds. It’s a hereditary disease that affects the hip joint, causing pain and mobility issues.

Gastric Torsion (Bloat): Otterhounds have deep chests, making them susceptible to this life-threatening condition that causes the stomach to twist.

Thrombopathia: This is a rare, inherited blood disorder that affects the platelets, making it difficult for the blood to clot properly.

Epilepsy: Some Otterhounds may suffer from epilepsy, causing seizures that can range from mild to severe.

Elbow Dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, this condition affects the elbow joint and can cause lameness and discomfort.

While this list might seem daunting, remember that not all Otterhounds will get any or all of these illnesses. Regular veterinary check-ups and preventative care can go a long way in keeping your Otterhound healthy. Routine screenings, vaccinations, and a keen eye for any changes in behavior or appearance can help catch potential issues early.

A healthy diet also plays a crucial role in your Otterhound’s overall health. Feeding them high-quality, nutritionally balanced dog food can help maintain their weight, keep their coat shiny, and support their immune system.

Remember, being a pet parent to an Otterhound means being proactive about their health. Your vet should be your partner in this journey, guiding you through vaccinations, dietary needs, and health screenings. With the right care, your Otterhound can lead a happy, healthy life, filled with many memorable adventures.


The Otterhound, with its distinctive shaggy coat and webbed feet, has a history that’s as unique and intriguing as the breed itself. The origins of these dogs are shrouded in mystery, but what we do know paints a fascinating picture.

Otterhounds trace their roots back to England, where they were bred for a very specific purpose – otter hunting. With their keen sense of smell, webbed feet, and dense, waterproof coats, these dogs were perfectly adapted for this task. They could track an otter’s scent even underwater and had the stamina to chase their quarry over long distances.

The earliest mentions of Otterhounds date back to the 12th century, but it wasn’t until the late 19th and early 20th centuries that otter hunting became a popular sport among the British nobility. Otterhounds were highly prized, and their unique abilities were celebrated in hunting circles.

However, as otters became a protected species in the 1970s, otter hunting was banned, and the need for Otterhounds faded. The breed faced the risk of extinction, but thanks to the efforts of dedicated breed enthusiasts, Otterhounds were saved from disappearing completely.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the Otterhound in 1907, adding an air of official recognition to the breed. Even so, Otterhounds remain a rare breed, both in the US and worldwide. In fact, they’re considered one of the most endangered dog breeds in the world, with only a few hundred new Otterhound puppies registered each year.

Despite their rarity, Otterhounds have a devoted following. Their owners cherish them for their unique blend of characteristics – the independence of a hound, the playfulness of a terrier, and the affectionate nature of a family pet. They might not be the most famous dog breed out there, but for those who know them, Otterhounds are true stars.

Parent Club

The official parent club for Otterhounds in the United States is the Otterhound Club of America, or OHCA. Founded in 1960, the club is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of this rare and unique breed.

They provide resources for Otterhound owners, coordinate rescue efforts, and host events to celebrate these remarkable dogs. You can visit their website to learn more about the breed, find reputable breeders, and become a part of the Otterhound community.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed.

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Otterhound’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).


Bringing an Otterhound into your life is like embarking on a grand adventure! Before you start, prepare yourself for an active lifestyle, and ensure you have ample space for these large, energetic dogs.

If you choose to buy, remember to always opt for reputable breeders. The Otterhound Club of America (OHCA) can help you find one. These breeders prioritize the health and temperament of their pups, ensuring you bring home a happy, healthy companion. However, consider the fulfilling option of rescuing an Otterhound and giving these wonderful dogs a second chance at a loving home.

Whether you buy or rescue, remember that owning an Otterhound is a commitment. But the love and joy these dogs bring make every moment worth it. Welcome to the Otterhound family!


Why are Otterhounds so rare?

Otterhounds are rare because they were specifically bred for otter hunting, a practice that has been outlawed for decades. With the decline in demand for their hunting skills, the breed’s numbers have dwindled.

Are Otterhounds good pets?

Absolutely! Otterhounds are known for their friendly and affectionate nature. They’re great with families and get along well with other dogs. However, they do require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation due to their high energy levels.

Do Otterhounds bark a lot?

Otterhounds can be vocal, but they don’t typically bark without reason. They might bark to alert you of someone at the door or if they’re bored and seeking attention. Regular exercise and mental stimulation can help curb excessive barking.

Do Otterhounds like water?

Yes, Otterhounds love water! Their webbed feet and waterproof coats make them excellent swimmers. Water play can be a great way to exercise and entertain an Otterhound.

How much exercise does an Otterhound need?

Otterhounds are active dogs that require at least an hour of regular physical activity. This can be a couple of long walks daily, playtime in a secure yard, or even swimming sessions.

Are Otterhounds easy to train?

Otterhounds are intelligent but can be independent, which can sometimes make training a challenge. Consistent, positive reinforcement methods work best with this breed.

Do Otterhounds shed a lot?

Otterhounds have a dense double coat that does shed, particularly during shedding season. Regular brushing can help manage shedding and keep their coat healthy.

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