The Otterhound is a rare and seldom-seen dog of unknown breed origins. He was developed in England to rid the streams of fish-depleting otters, plunging into icy water to follow an otter into its den and hold it there until the hunter brought in a terrier to kill the otter.  It is well-documented that in 1212, King John kept a pack of Otterhounds…With his rough, heavy coat and large webbed feet, the Otterhound is a born swimmer. In the early days of this breed, otter hunting was not a sport, but a necessity; a den of otters can wipe a stream clean of fish in a week, and then move on. Fish was a food staple in the 11th and 12th centuries; the poor and nobility alike needed a swimming dog who was not deterred by cold water or wiley escape-artist otters. Then - and now - the Otterhound swings into action just at the sight and smell of a lake or stream! He was brought to America in the early 1900’s and recognized by the AKC.

Today, the Otterhound’s original function is unnecessary, and although he still retains strong hunting instincts, he is primarily a companion dog. His shaggy black and tan coat, large, square head and muzzle and long, low-set ears are not particularly handsome, but his appearance, especially his large, deep-set eyes, often creates in people a desire to give him a big hug! Because of his love of swimming, he doesn’t do well in apartments or city life. If you live in a rural area near a pond or stream and hear a gigantic splash, it’s very likely to be your Otterhound entertaining himself with a little swim.

In temperament, the Otterhound is calm, extremely affectionate, and friendly with strangers, other pets, and children. This is a dog that likes everybody! While he may bark at approaching strangers or the sound of the door bell, he has no protective instincts. His quiet demeanor, welcoming expression and gently waving tail makes him a very desirable companion dog. On land, his webbed, hairy feet make him a bit clumsy, but he doesn’t seem to mind; grace and agility are not his strong points. Although the Otterhound is very bright, he’s also playful and funny, always enjoying a good time.

Although he is no longer used to hunt otters, the Otterhound will still give chase to rabbits, squirrels, and raccoons. Once he catches a scent, he will follow it single-mindedly and is difficult to call back. Despite his amicable disposition and hunting instincts, he has a stubborn streak and is a challenge to train in obedience. He should begin obedience and socialization training as a puppy, and with a firm hand. A 115-pound Otterhound who is undisciplined and disobedient can be a real handful.

The Otterhound is a generally hardy dog, with primary health concerns of hip dysplasia and gastric tortion. His shaggy, waterproof coat needs frequent brushing, and many owners trim his hairy feet so that he won’t track mud and brush through the house. His bushy muzzle and long ears collect all sorts of debris, from food to dust and dirt, so he needs a “face bath” about once a week. He isn’t a tidy dog, but doesn’t mind being washed and brushed; he actually enjoys the attention of being touched.

For rural landowners, the Otterhound is a great companion dog with a mild, friendly disposition and a strong affection for his family. If you like to swim, he’ll be very happy to join you!

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