Otterhounds (Hunterhounds)? Linda Schrader, an Otterhound breeder since 1981, has kindly agreed to answer our questions to tell us more about this rare breed.
Q - How did you get to know about Otterhounds?
We first learned about Otterhounds in 1973 while in college. An Otterhound was brought to the vet school and then abandoned when the owner learned he had hip dysplasia. One of the vet students took him home and he roamed the neighborhood where we lived. His coat was always a mess so he was generally known as Mop. When the vet student graduated he couldn't take Mop with him so we took him. He told us Mop was an Otterhound and that was the first we had heard of the breed. We began looking up Otterhounds to learn more about him but there wasn't a lot of information about Otterhounds then.
Q - Why did you decide to breed them? How long have you been doing it?
In 1978 Mop was killed in a car accident. He had been such a good companion for our daughter we wanted to get another Otterhound. We began searching for a puppy and discovered that Otterhounds were very hard to come by. During our search we learned of the Otterhound Club of America. We contacted a bunch of people and finally adopted a one year old male, Follyhoun Frisbee. He fit into our family like he had been born there and we decided we would look for a female for breeding our own Otterhounds. We got a female pup and named her Hunter's Pretty Lady. This was the beginning of our kennel name. In 1981 Lady presented us with our first litter of eight Otterhound puppies. There was not much demand for Otterhounds and we ended keeping six of the pups. We didn't try breeding again but we continued to own Otterhounds. Then in 2005 we got a show quality female pup and decided to try breeding again. With Lady we had no problems but with our new girls we have come to learn they have their own schedule about coming in heat. So we wait on their cooperation. We had a litter born on June 24 of 2009 and hope to have a litter this spring. That depends on when our girl comes in heat.
Though there were always dogs at our house the main one was a cocker spaniel. The first dog that actually belonged to me was a cocker mix. My husband had cockers as well. When we were married I had a cocker mix and he had a lab mix. We took in a basset mix, a terrier mix and Mop the Otterhound while in college. Since then we have taken in a German shepherd, three Rhodesian ridgeback mixes, a Golden retriever mix and a Boxer. We adopted two black and tan coonhounds when we were down to one Otterhound. Currently we have a lab/terrier mix, a German shorthair pointer, a Treeing Walker coonhound and a Redbone coonhound all rescued and our Otterhounds.
Q - How many Otterhounds do you have now?
We currently have eight Otterhounds. Nicky is the oldest. Pris is two years younger and her half sister - same father Aberdeen's Lost in Space. Quick is a couple of months younger than Pris. She is from England and not related to any of the others. Abilene is a year younger and also not related to any of the others. Her brother and Quick are the parents of Barclay, Bonney, Blessing and Blossom. All except Blessing and Blossom are Champions. In our Flickr photostream, there is a set of pictures for Nicky, Pris, Quick, Abilene, Barclay and Bonney. Then there is a set for Quick's litter. Blessing and Blossom are in that set.
Q - Talking about Otterhounds' temperament, what makes them special?
Otterhounds are friendly, cheerful, loving and devoted. They make good companions and are good with children but their exuberant nature can be a problem with smaller children. They can get a long with other animals even cats if they are raised together. They are affectionate, intelligent and independent with a mind of their own. They like to roam and sniff and have a tendency to snore. They have a boisterous and powerful voice that carries for long distances. They are a pack animal, so are very social. They love to meet people. We always take a group to shows and get a lot of comments. People seem to love the shaggy dog look and the dogs love the attention.
This picture was the one chosen for Quick's ID picture. She needed ID pictures because she came from England to get her AKC registration.
Q - What about their health? Is their coat difficult to take care of?
Otterhounds are generally healthy but do have some health problems. Otterhounds like most large breeds have a problem with hip dysplasia. Breeders are working to improve the Otterhounds hips. There is a genetic bleeding problem called Glanzman's Thrombasthenia that occurs in Otterhounds. This can be tested for and by breeding dogs that do not carry the gene it will hopefully be eliminated. There is also some concern about epilepsy and there are currently studies concerning this. As with all dogs with pendant ears they tend to have ear problems. These can generally be nipped in the bud by regular cleaning and drying of the ears.
Their coat should consist of a rough outer coat and a soft inner coat. The double coat helps keep them dry as they were bred to hunt in streams. They like water and have a tendency to get muddy. This results in the Otterhound needing an occasional bath. Generally regular brushing is all that is needed. For show they should be shown with a natural coat. That means no stripping, clipping or fluffing. Just clean and brushed.
Q - Are they easy to train? Do you have any tips for training an Otterhound?
Otterhounds are a stubborn lot and training can be a challenge. The main thing is to convince them they want to do what ever you want them to do. Training must be consistent and firm. It is possible to train Otterhounds for almost anything. They have won almost all the AKC awards: tracking, rally, obedience, good citizenship etc. They have been trained for service dogs and therapy.
We aren't great with training our crew. They have all been through basic obedience and promptly forgot it. They do perform well at shows and in the show ring. We get a lot of comments about them calmly lounging around outside the show ring waiting their turn while other dog are all keyed up.
Q - What was the most memorable story about your Otterhounds?
We had a garden just outside the six foot fence that kept the dogs contained. A neighbor's bull kept getting out and coming up to our garden trampling everything. The dogs would bark and carry on when he showed up until my husband or I would go drive him off. This had been going on for a couple of weeks and the bull always ran off when we shouted and waved our arms. One day he came up and the dogs started barking so I went out to run him off. For some reason he didn't run off. Instead he charged me. The next thing I knew Frisbee had jumped the fence and charged the bull. He caught the bull by the nose and threw him like a steer wrestler. As soon as the bull was down Frisbee let go and came to me. The bull staggered to his feet and ran off and that was the last we saw of him.
Q - What's an average cost of an Otterhound, and what does it depend on? Are they in demand?
The average cost of an Otterhound varies depending on the breeder and/or the quality of the Otterhound. Some have sold pet quality pups for as little as $500 and a show pup for $2500 or more. Some breeders have a set cost for pet or show. I would say the average is between $1000 to $2000.
In personal experience there is a lot of interest in Otterhounds but when it comes right down to it, there is not a lot of demand. We have a questionnaire we ask interested parties to fill out. For our last litter we had 15 questionnaires and most of those were no longer interested by the time the puppies were available. I don't know about other breeders but our girls seem to run on their own schedule and breeding doesn't take place when we plan so we can't say there will be puppies by such and such a date. This discourages some people and they lose interest.
Q - After you've sold a dog, do you usually try to make sure they got into good hands?
We would like to see all our Otterhound puppies go to a show home. The reason for this is that the more Otterhounds are shown the more people will see them and learn about them. However the most important thing is that the puppies go to a loving home where they will be part of a family.
One of the questions we ask in our questionnaire is will the new owner keep us up dated about the puppy. Also part of our puppy contract states that if the new owner can't keep the puppy they are to contact us so we can find a new home for that puppy.
Q - Who should and who shouldn't consider getting this breed of dog, in your opinion?
It states on the home page of the Otterhound Club of America website:
"Otterhounds can make great pets, if
- you have a sense of humor (and a fair amount of patience).
- you aren't obsessed with keeping your house/clothes spotless.
- you have a securely fenced yard.
- you just love that hound voice (and so do your neighbors!).
- you are looking for a pet and watchdog - but NOT a guard dog."
That just about sums it up. Otterhounds are not for some people. They are great dogs but they can be very messy. They can get slobbers all over the place including the ceiling. They like to drink from the bottom of the water bucket and then come lay their head in your lap. They collect things in their fur like sticks, leaves, mud, water, what ever they come in contact with then leave trails of it through the house.
In spite of all that they are loving, loyal, honest and devoted. They can be silly or serious, energetic or lazy, neat or messy. Though there are disadvantages to owning an Otterhound you need only look into those soulful eyes set deep in that silly face to see the advantages - love, devotion and interesting times.
If you wish to know more about Otterhounds check out the Otterhound Club of America website: http://www.otterhound.org or our websites: http://hunterhounds.com and http://hunterhounds.net
People are waiting to help.