Menu toggle icon.
Menu toggle icon.

Correct Feet Form the Base for the Well-Moving Otterhound



Correct Feet Form the Base for the Well-Moving Otterhound

One well-known Otterhound breeder/owner of the past would go over dogs and comment that the dog had really nice feet. Thinking this comment was made because she couldn’t think of anything else positive to say about the dog, I thought she was dismissing the dog as an “also ran.” Many experienced breeders mentoring me spent a great deal of time looking at and commenting on the feet of puppies when gathering to go over a litter of puppies. As a beginner, I couldn’t envision what they were talking about. With more experience of the breed, I have come to realize good feet are one of the most important features leading to the success of the dog in his ability to do the work assigned to his ancestors and in the work they are capable of today. A big strong dog needs big strong feet.

The Breed Standard of the AKC states: “Both front and rear feet are large, broad, compact when standing, but capable of spreading. They have thick, deep pads, with arched toes; they are web-footed. (membranes connecting the toes allow the foot to spread).”

The Otterhound Club of America Inc. Illustrated Standard goes on to say: “The substantial legs are supported on VERY THICKLY padded, large feet, the toes of which are well arched with strong nails. Providing support on marshy ground and efficiency when swimming, these broad, webbed feet are a necessity. A splay, thin or hare foot is very undesirable because they would never tolerate a hard day’s work and are susceptible to injury.”

As breeders begin examining their litters, so many features are under consideration for rating puppies. Thinking of the adult dog in the field, however, requires reflection of whether puppies will have those strong feet for adventures with their owners when walking on the road, covering ground in any terrain, or wading in rivers, lakes or streams; even beginning to swim and spread those big feet propelling them in water. For judges observing the breed, be sure the foot is not an afterthought. Look for those arched toes and well-groomed, short, strong nails. In judges education, we recommend examining the foot last. Reaching down behind the foot will allow you to feel for the thick pad without lifting the foot, but if done, lifting the foot must be done carefully to observe the pad and avoid upsetting the hound. All Otterhounds will have webbing between the toes.

Otterhound feet and movement
Thick pad, well arched toes, strong nails


Illustrations by Stephen Hubbell, from the OHCA Illustrated Standard of the Otterhound

Returning to the AKC Standard of the Otterhound:

“The Otterhound moves freely with forward reach and rear drive. The gait is smooth, effortless, and capable of being maintained for many miles. Characteristics of the Otterhound gait is a very loose, shambling walk, which springs immediately into a loose and very long striding, sound, active trot with natural extension of the head. The gallop is smooth and exceptionally long striding. Otterhounds single track at slow speeds. Otterhounds do not lift their feet high off the ground and may shuffle when they walk or move at a slow trot.”

Be aware there is often not enough room at dog shows for rings large enough to accommodate the needed space to show the true gait of the Otterhound. At a show with a larger number of the breed, it helps to reduce the number of dogs in the ring at a time for the movement portion of the
judging procedure.

The Otterhound Club Illustrated Standard describes the movement very clearly:

“The Otterhound must be considered a movement breed. It was developed for a specific job, and that job requires strength, stamina, and agility. A hound that does not possess sound movement is incorrect, no matter what the other attributes. To lose the qualities that make the breed a tireless hunter, is to lose the true Otterhound. Because the Otterhound will cover many miles in a day’s work, he should move freely and easily with some flexibility, giving the impression that he could move thus for a long period of time. A well-constructed Otterhound will move well, for, in the matter of gait, function follows form. Balance and symmetry equal effortless movement, capable of high performance. A smooth, lithe gait is essential, the stride should be exceptionally long with plenty of reach, the moderate angulation fore and aft allows for optimal balance and drive.

“Evidence in lack of balance may be indicated by the hound that sidewinds, crabs, or moved with an exaggerated kick behind, all being faulty. Loose, long stride is not to be confused with wild, erratic movement. A prancing hound, though showy in the ring, is incorrect, as this is a wasted, inefficient, tiring motion. Even though the Otterhound should not be asked to move at excessive speed, question the hound who cannot increase to a moderate gait without galloping.

“The Otterhound should be shown on a loose lead so that he may extend his neck and thereby move in a natural manner. The so-called Otterhound ‘shuffle’ is observed when the hound is moved in a walk or slow trot. Some Otterhounds will occasionally pace when starting to move, or when moving slow in a restricted area, this is a relaxing gait, and should not be penalized as long as they hit their stride when moving into a faster gait, resulting in the strong, active trot.

“The Otterhound must stand with width both fore and aft to properly support the deep, strong body. It is advisable to have a hound walked out to stand naturally, then observe how he places his legs under his body, as well as the angulation of the stifle and hock. Walking slowly, he will move rather wide. As his speed increases, the legs will converge under the body. Going away, the hocks are parallel, the rear driving. Cow hocks, hocks rubbing, or hocks crossing behind are serious faults. Approaching, the legs should be well extended with only minimal in-turning of the feet. There should be no looseness of pasterns causing paddling and/or winging. The elbows are free, neither tight and pinched, nor ‘flying.’ All action must be free flowing, powerful, and driving.”