Today there are many rewarding,fun and challenging activities in which owners can participate with their Otterhounds. This chapter will discuss the Otterhound in: Conformation, Obedience, Rally Obedience, Tracking, Agility, Therapy Dog, Canine Good Citizen, Meet the Breed, Search and Rescue, Junior Showmanship, K-9 Nosework, Barn Hunt and even Lure Coursing.
The sport of showing dogs originated as a way to evaluate breeding stock. Your dog will be judged on its type, structure and movement. You should become familiar with the Official Standard of the Otterhound (see Resources at the end of this Guide), which is the Standard by which all Otterhounds in the United States are judged. There is no perfect dog.
If you are planning to show your Otterhound, consult with your breeder fairly regularly regarding the development and training of your hound as he matures. Your puppy should be evaluated by your breeder from time to time to make sure that it still has the merits of a show dog. Otterhound structure can change quite dramatically (and not always for the better) as they get older.
A show dog should be well socialized, well-trained, well-groomed and well-presented. If you’ve not shown a dog, it is easier to start with one that is trained. Practicing with a trained dog will help you learn the proper way to present your dog in the ring. You can also learn more by attending conformation classes and working with your breeder or other breeders in your area. You not only need to learn to “stack” your dog correctly but to gait him as well. Your Otterhound will be better able to cope with shows if he is comfortable traveling and eating in his crate.
More Otterhound National Specialty Winners
Attend dog shows in your area and watch not only the Otterhounds show but also other breeds as well. It will be much less intimidating to walk in the ring the first time if you are familiar with the procedures. Join the Otterhound Club of America to find others that share your interest in this breed. There are a number of educational opportunities at their events which may be of assistance as you pursue your goal. Prior to entering an AKC Show, you might wish to try a few puppy matches to gain a little experience.
Prospects in Training
National Owner Handler Conformation
Most people showing Otterhounds are owners who have taken classes to learn ring procedure and some of the techniques needed to show their own dogs in the conformation ring. There is a special class in conformation at some dog shows called amateur owner handler for those people who have never shown a dog to a championship. The National Owner Handler series is a very popular way to participate in competition with other owners showing their own dogs and in the Otterhound breed, this is gaining a good deal of interest. For more information on this series, please go to: www.akc.org/events/nohs/ The video below shows an owner handler taking her dog out for the first time. It's harder than it looks!
It’s easy to become so enchanted with your own Otterhound that you become “kennel blind” and unable to be objective about the faults that your dog possesses. Remember, there is no perfect dog.
Through the diligent efforts of Leonard Brumby, Sr, a well known professional handler, the first Children’s Handling class was held at the Westbury Kennel Club Dog Show in 1932. Mr. Brumby, and many other dog fanciers felt that a “handling competition” for children would be both educational and interesting for them. Junior Showmanship has evolved over time to what it is today. Juniors are judged on their ability to exhibit their dog. Although the dog itself is not judged, it must be eligible to compete in conformation classes at an AKC show.
Juniors compete in either open or novice classes, which are divided by age, 10 to 14 years of age, and over 14 to 18 years of age. Juniors are very important to the future of the sport of dogs. Through Junior Showmanship competition, children will learn the correct way to handle the breed that they own, learn the importance of good sportsmanship, and learn about responsible pet ownership. The National Junior Organization was begun in 1997 by the American Kennel Club to encourage the participation of Juniors in AKC events. Additionally, they offer a scholarship program.
All Otterhounds, due to their size and nature, should know basic obedience commands for safety as well as being good house partners. By nature Otterhounds are independent, but through consistency and short training sessions you can have an obedient hound. Formal AKC obedience involves performing certain exercises during which your dog is scored numerically.
For Novice competition, exercises include: Heel on Leash and Figure Eight, Stand for Examination, Heel Free, Recall, Long Sit and Long Down. Exhibitors start with 200 points and deductions are made for errors. 170 is a qualifying score. Open and Utility classes have additional challenging exercises including retrieving dumbbells and finding scent articles. For Utility your dog will also need to learn hand signals.
Titles that can be attained include Companion Dog (CD), Companion Dog Excellent (CDX) and Utility Dog (UD). Obedience is a partnership between human and hound. Information on rally and obedience can be found on the AKC Website at http://www.akc.org/events/obedience/
Otterhounds in Rally Obedience
Rally is a relatively recent addition to AKC events, and provides a wonderful bridge for individuals moving from the Canine Good Citizen program to the more exacting world of Obedience or the more energetic world of Agility.
Rally is a fun, energetic sport, requiring teamwork between the Otterhound and its handler. It is a great event for the average pet owner, as well as the more experienced competitor.
To enter an AKC Rally trial a dog must be either an AKC registered dog, or a dog listed in the ILP program. Information on obtaining an ILP number may be found on the AKC website. Dogs must be six months or older. A typical rally course follows a predetermined route through 10 to 20 “stations”. Located at each station is a sign which gives the competitor instructions on which skill is to be completed.
Unlike regular obedience events, the handler may encourage the dog while competing, and repeat commands or signals as he or she feels necessary. The handler and the dog move at their own pace.
Rally is meant to encourage handlers to train their dogs to be good citizens in their community and to behave in both public areas and at home. It also gives valuable experience to those considering going further in obedience as well as a rewarding time for both dog and handler alike.
Titles that can be attained include AKC Rally Novice (RN) AKC Rally Advanced (RA) AKC Rally Excellent (RE) and AKC Rally Advanced Excellent (RAE).
Tracking tests are a noncompetitive demonstration of the Otterhound’s ability to follow the trail of human scent. Otterhounds have keen noses and can follow trails on land and water; after all they were bred to hunt river otters. They can excel in AKC Tracking and several of them have been certified Search and Rescue dogs. Although they inherit their noses from their Bloodhound, Nivernais, and Foxhound ancestors, they do need to be trained. Otterhounds walking around with their noses on the ground are not tracking but just checking out their environment. Once they are taught to follow a specific scent and ignore any others, humans must learn to read their dogs. Tracking/trailing involves many hours together as a team. This is one time humans must depend on and trust their Otterhounds.
The ‘track’ for a TD (Tracking Dog) test is laid thirty minutes to two hours before the test and includes three to five turns and is 440 to 500 yards long. The dog wears a tracking harness with a very long lead. The Otterhound must find a scent article (usually a glove) at the end of the track. The owner must hold their line no closer than 20 feet back for both TD and TDX (Tracking Dog Excellent) titles.
The test begins at the first flag. To pass his test, the Otterhound must follow the track and either retrieve the scent article, or indicate that he has found the article. If at any time the dog stops working, he fails the test. Though hound and handler work as a team, the handler must not attempt to guide the dog. Judgment is pass/fail only.
There are several levels of tracking. Dogs can achieve their TD (Tracking Dog), TDU(Tracking Dog Urban), TDX (Tracking Dog Excellent) or VST (Variable Surface Tracking). The difficulty of the track becomes greater with each level of testing. If you enjoy the outdoors and teamwork with your Otterhound, tracking is a great activity. If you are interested in tracking, it is advisable to seek out those who participate in these activities.
Otterhounds are becoming competitive in agility. Agility is recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), the North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC) and the United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA).
Agility is a fun sport where dogs, at the direction of their handlers, run through an obstacle course off lead as part of a team. Events are timed, with jump heights based on the height of the dog at the withers. There is a maximum time allowed and deduction of points for errors or faults.
There are a variety of jump types and other obstacles, which can include a Dog Walk, A-Frame, Tunnels and Weave Poles.
While not all Otterhounds may be suitable for agility, many enjoy this fast paced endeavor as a team with their handlers. Dogs should be healthy, have sound structure and be at their correct weight. Puppies under 18 months of age should refrain from jump and weave training. Both you and your hound will be encouraged to stay physically fit for this sport. An added benefit to agility training is to provide your dog with good basic manners, training techniques for you and time together bonding as a working team.
If your interest isn‘t to compete in trials you may just wish to enjoy the training process and time learning with your Otterhound. If you do wish to compete, you will need to be familiar with the requirements for trials sponsored by the various agility organizations.
Contact your local breed club, or search the AKC, NADAC or USDAA Websites for contact information to find a club with an interest in Agility.
For many years, lure coursing titles were limited to sighthounds. More recently lure coursing has been opened to other dogs. As of Summer 2016, the Otterhound breed has one titled Lure Courser, GCh. MagicWood Willie Mae CA. Watch Willie on one of her runs below. You can learn more about lure coursing here: www.akc.org/events/lure-coursing/
Otterhounds as Therapy Dogs
If you are interested in volunteer service for your community, participating with your Otterhound in a therapy program may be for you.
In recognition of the physical and emotional benefits of owning an animal companion, the use of dogs to visit patients in hospitals, the elderly in nursing homes or children in school is increasing. Otterhounds make very good therapy dogs, but there are many considerations before deciding whether this is the career for your hound.
Vi goes to the library to help young readers gain confidence.
Finn helps college kids take a break from their study for finals.
What does it take for an Otterhound to become a therapy dog?
Many people feel a good therapy dog is born not made. A gentle and loving disposition is crucial. A good therapy dog must love to meet people more than anything else and be comfortable around people of all ages, sexes, colors and sizes. When assessing your Otterhound for therapy work, honestly ask yourself if your Otterhound longs to meet every person he/she sees and is comfortable in strange surroundings with strange noises. Then ask yourself if the same criteria apply to you. Therapy dogs are a part of a team, and human and canine must love this work.
Training your Therapy Dog
Nature needs help and a therapy dog needs training. They must obey commands like “sit”, “stay”, “come”, “wait”. No one wants to be dragged down a hospital corridor by a 100-pound companion who smells someone’s lunch on a food cart. Therapy dogs often visit fragile older people with paper-thin skin using walkers or wheelchairs. They must never jump on a person or use their large paws to demand attention. A large dog like an Otterhound needs to be especially gentle and calm around excited children.
Joy to Young & Old
Therapy work with an Otterhound is very rewarding.Not only will you bring joy to the young and old you visit who cannot have their own animals with them in a stressful situation, your bond with your hound will strengthen immeasurable.Everyone benefits from a therapy visit, including the team.
Therapy Dog Testing
Therapy Dogs must be tested and certified by an organization established for this purpose. Not only will the test assure you your dog is ready for your visits, but it will provide insurance in case something does happen. Most organizations require a therapy dog to be retested every 2 years, so it is a good idea to keep one’s obedience skills sharp.
Challenges and Rewards
Otterhounds are social and usually love people. Their cute appearance, both noble and silly at times, appeals to others as much as their owners. They make us all smile. They are large and when they sit next to a wheelchair or hospital bed they are at just the right height for arthritic or weak hands to rest on their heads. Older dogs often make better therapy dogs than boisterous youngsters because they are more apt to lie down quietly next to a child who may be practicing reading skills or an older person who doesn’t speak much.
The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Program was developed by the American Kennel Club to promote both responsible pet ownership and well-mannered dogs.
A graduate from training class, this hound will be a good candidate for his CGC!
Participation in the CGC program helps assure that your dog will be a welcome addition to your community. This is a wonderful way to focus on training your Otterhound. Many dog clubs offer a Canine Good Citizen Class which prepares you and your dog for the CGC Test.
In CGC class you and your dog will practice the 10 steps your dog must complete with confidence and control to pass the test.
In CGC class you and your dog will practice the 10 steps your dog must complete with confidence and control to pass the test.
greet a friendly stranger
sit politely for petting
walk on a leash
walk through a crowd
obey the sit, down and stay commands
come when called
behave politely with other dogs
react calmly to distractions such as a jogger running by