REARING AND CARE By Joyce Smith Actaeon Hounds

There are no hard and fast rules, the best way is that which achieves your desired results and which is appropriate to your lifestyle. For the breeder, puppy-rearing will have been a full-time occupation, but on leaving the nest puppies adapt to varied household regimes.

Feeding should be spread over as many hours as possible and split into several small meals - 6 per day at 8 weeks preferable to the often-recommended 4 (puppies nutritional requirements are huge, their stomach capacity tiny), reducing gradually over the months until 12 months of age when 2 meals per day should suffice. The top-of-the-range complete feeds take the guesswork out of rearing, the packaging giving directions for quantity of food to bodyweight. I find the suggested quantities on the mean side but that is probably because I prefer puppies with more bodyweight than is desirable to the scientific nutritionist. These foods are as they claim - complete.

With everything in balance there is no need for additives. Flesh- and biscuit-fed puppies will have been given various supplements so follow the breeder's recommendations. Food requirements vary with individuals and circumstances. Winter puppies often need extra rations to provide sufficient energy for warmth as well as for growth. Parasites, internal and external, inhibit maximum benefit from food. Puppies are wormed at 2, 5, 8 and 12 weeks, usually thereafter at 6 or 12 monthly intervals. Modern products, usually available only from your vet, are more expensive but are also more effective against a broader range of parasites, inhibiting their development rather than merely destroying the adult worm or flea.
The other vital factor in achieving growth potential - and this costs nothing - is sleep. Puppies must have their own refuge for peace and quiet. Otterhound’s are by nature friendly and boisterous, surrounded by young children they will play until they drop, so please ensure long periods of undisturbed sleep on a thick soft bed to alleviate pressure on growing joints. On awakening, puppies immediately need to relieve themselves, as they do after eating, so quickly take them outside. Summer puppies are easier to train when doors can be left open without discomfort to humans.

Lots of praise when puppy does it in the right place is preferable to a telling-off for an accident. Please bear in mind, puppies have little control over bowel or bladder and need to relieve themselves many, many times a day. There is no point in yelling 'WAIT', they CAN NOT!!!

Pre-vaccination puppies must not mix with other dogs, or exercise in areas which may be contaminated. Otterhound puppies are rather too active to carry around on trips to town. Should you be convinced of the need of early socialisation invite well-scrubbed people round to meet the new arrival on his home ground. Car rides would get him used to unexpected sights and sounds as well as helping to overcome any tendency to motion sickness. These early weeks, whilst you are confined to your home ground are a good time to introduce a suitable collar. Lightweight half-checks with a buckle are good, giving a snug fit whilst being expandable. Let the puppy wear the collar for short periods at first while his attention is taken up with food or a game, he will quickly get used to the strange feeling around his neck and you can then attach a lead which he can trail around. Counter attempts to chew the lead by distraction not chastisement. Take up the end of the lead and follow him, not allowing the collar to tighten.

With encouragement, praise and treats you will soon both be going in the same direction, which will be the one of your choice. By the time the vaccination programme is complete you are ready for the great outdoors. Well, not that great, as a couple of hundred yards on a lead is quite fare enough. Short periods of free exercise on soft ground are best for the first few months. Gardens must be securely fenced. Otterhound’s are agile; they go under, over, through or round. Pay special attention to the bottom of fences, this breed are efficient earth movers. They are keen gardeners, especially enthusiastic about transplanting.

Between 3 and 6 months of age puppies gradually shed their first teeth, replacing them with permanent, adult teeth. The first to appear are the two front teeth in the upper jaw, the last to appear are the upper and lower canines. Occasionally the permanent canines are in place alongside the puppy teeth which gradually loosen and eventually fall out. Teething is not usually a painful process for dogs although they may experience a little discomfort. During the teething process puppies will chew anything and everything. Wait until the chewing stage has passed before buying his good-sized, comfortable bed. Make sure it is big enough, remember, he will soon be fully grown. By 6 months of age an Otterhound would probably manage say half an hour lead walking progressing to at least one hour of strenuous exercise a day for an adult, preferably in two sessions. Please remember your puppy will try to keep up with you. Should you walk too far and tire him he is, by now, too big and heavy to carry home or back to the car. When running free he will do 3 or 4 times the distance you walk. Do not exhaust him. Gradually increase the exercise until he reaches adulthood when he will be the one who gallops on and on whilst you may be exhausted. Being a scent hound he is not brilliant at recall. It is a strange phenomenon that when the nose goes down to the ground the hearing system shuts off. Patience on the part of the human helps - just wait until he has fully investigated the scent, call him when he lifts his head and always reward his return. The time to start grooming Otterhound’s is before they need it. Place the puppy at a convenient height; grooming tables are ideal, with your equipment to hand. Gently brush and comb body (not forgetting underneath), legs and head. Clean ears with baby oil and soft cloth, even if they are not dirty. Inspect teeth, brush if you wish. Feel between the toes, impacted mud or ice may cause discomfort at some stage in his life. Trim nails if necessary. The idea is to get the puppy to accept handling. The correct adult coat (see Standard) is easy to care for; a thorough weekly combing will keep it matt-free. Softer coats are prone to matting, especially after getting wet. Matt’s can be cut out but the blunt ends to the hairs will show.

If possible, pull the matt apart with your fingers and gradually ease it out, or use a de-matter with replaceable blades, these must be used with care, always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

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