Wetterhoun: A Guide to the Otter Hunting Dog

The Wetterhoun is a rare purebred dog and a fiercely loyal companion.

Also known as a Frisian Water Dog (Friesischer Wasserhund), Dutch Spaniel, or Otterhoun, this breed makes fantastic watchdogs with sharp instincts.

It’s no surprise that the Wetterhoun is a skilled swimmer as its name translates to ‘Water Dog’ in Dutch.

Adorable Wetterhoun looking up with a lake behind
An adorable Wetterhoun dog on the green grass with a lake behind

Find out everything you need to know about the breed in this guide.

Where did the Wetterhoun originate? 

The Wetterhoun dog breed is around 400 years old and originates from Friesland, Netherlands. The breed is rarely found outside of the Netherlands (Nederland) and is not very common within the country either.

There’s no documentation of the breed’s development, so it’s not certain which breed line was used to create the Wetterhoun.

Many assume that the Old Water Dog, spitz-type farm dogs, and gypsy dogs were the Fresian Water Dog’s early ancestors.

Like many breeds, the Dutch Spaniel was threatened by extinction due to World War II. Thankfully, Dutch breeders such as Jan Bos worked hard to keep the breed in existence.

The creation of the breed was for the benefit of fishermen. They used the Wetterhouns for hunting and killing otters.

These fish-stealing otters posed a headache for fishers. But the Wetterhoun is a skilled hunter and swimmer, and they protected the fishy loots. 

Otters became more manageable over the years, thanks to the Wetterhoun in part, but the breed proved itself useful in other ways. 

A talented guard dog and hunter, farmers used the breed to protect farmsteads and hunt small mammals and waterfowl. Today, some people still use the Wetterhouns as a gun dog and as a skilled watchdog. 

Watch this video to learn more about Wetterhouns:

The American Kennel Club does not currently recognize the Dutch Spaniel. However, The Dutch Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1943, and in 2006, United Kennel Club recognized the breed.

According to Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) classification, the Wetterhoun is in group eight of retrievers, flushing dogs, and water dogs.

What does a Frisian Water Dog look like?

Frisian Water Dog strutting on grass with yellow flower

Wetterhouns are rugged and sturdy canines, with a powerful and wide head. Keeping up with its strong appearance, the muzzle is straight, features a broad bridge, and well-developed noses.

They’re stockier-than-average, well-balanced dogs with a wide, powerful chest.

Hunters should look fearless, and the slightly slanted eyes of the Wetterhoun gives that look. Some may describe it as ‘grim,’ but that’s not a fair representation of Wetterhoun’s character.

How big does a Wetterhoun dog get?

A medium Wetterhoun dog running
A medium-sized Wetterhoun dog

These sturdy dogs are a medium breed, with an average height of between 21 to 23 inches (53 to 59 cm). However, their hefty build lends to a heavier weight (gewicht) between 50 to 77 pounds (23 to 35 kg). 

Female and male Wetterhouns do not differ much in size and reach their full measurements at around 18 months. 

Wetterhouns are not only unsuitable for apartment living because of their size, but they are also very active dogs with a love of the outdoors. This breed will become very distressed if cooped up inside. 

A Curly Waterproof Coat

Picture a Spaniel with a perm, and you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head. 

A Wetterhoun’s coat is one of its most defining features. The hair on the body and ears is tightly curled and dense, with smoother fur over the head and paws. 

Staying true to its water dog nature, the Wetterhoun’s fur is waterproof. This gives it a slightly greasy feel, yet it’s essential for the type of work and lifestyle this breed has. 

Wetterhoun playing on the water

Their most common coat colors are solid brown or black, white with black, brown, or roan patches with or without ticking marks.

Temperament: Is a Wetterhoun a good family dog?

Despite being quiet and reserved, Wetterhouns make exceptional family dogs. They’re also sensitive and gentle, fiercely loyal, and very protective over their humans.

However, they are NOT suitable for first-time owners. Because while they are intelligent, they are also stubborn and strong-willed.

Wetterhouns are very affectionate dogs and like to be close to their companion or family. They are gentle with children, and the risk of a Frisian Water Dog biting someone is low.

They are not an overly playful breed but still love being active and have the energy and patience for young children. 

Black Friesischer Wasserhund dog standing and wearing dog harness
Image source

Of course, this breed is a remarkable watchdog. Their intelligence, protectiveness, and alertness make them perfect for the job. Wetterhouns are a rare mix of an excellent guard dog and the loving family dog. 

They require an owner or handler with experience and perseverance to train this breed.

Because of their sensitive nature, you should never use harsh training methods that involve the use of fear, pain, or threats.

They respond well to positive reinforcement and reward-based training methods from an early age. Be sure to use plenty of treats and praise. 

While they are not willfully disobedient, Wetterhouns are strong-willed.

There will be times in their training that you will simply have to wait for the dog to return to the task at hand, rather than punishing it for taking too long. 

Wetterhouns are often aloof with strangers and are not overly friendly with new dogs.

Socialization of your Frisian puppy is essential from an early age and onwards. They are adaptable dogs and can become used to canine and other animal interactions. 

This breed has a high prey drive, so you should remain aware of smaller dogs and animals and keep your Wetterhoun on a leash in these situations.

How to care for your Dutch Spaniel

Don’t let the magnificent coat fool you. Wetterhouns are low-maintenance when it comes to grooming. However, they are incredibly active, task-focused dogs. They thrive in an outdoor environment with loads of activities. 

If you are an active person with outdoor hobbies, your Wetterhoun will love joining you on all of your adventures. 

Wetterhoun leaping and jumping high
Image source

Exercising your active Wetterhoun

Working dogs, such as Wetterhouns, need a lot of exercises. As a general rule, you should aim for 60 minutes of walking time a day or 10 miles per week.

They also need some time off the leash to express their curiosity and awareness of their surroundings. 

But walking or running is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exceeding these dogs. Remember, they are Otterhouns, not to be mistaken with Otterhounds, so a frequent swimming session is in order. 

Grooming: Do Wetterhouns shed?

Remember, the Wetterhoun coat is water-resistant to some degree because of the natural oils that the dog produces.

While you may want to chuck your puppy in the bath after every outdoor excursion, avoid frequent bathing. Too much bathing can strip the natural oils.

Aim for a good bath a few times a year, and the coat will do the rest for you. 

Wetterhouns are moderate shedders, and their coats aren’t prone to tangling. A simple brush once or twice a week will keep your pup’s coat shiny, healthy, and tangle-free. 

Wetterhoun Feeding and Food Consumption

Black Wetterhoun laying down while eating
Image source

Wetterhouns need 2.5 to 3.5 cups of high-quality dog food per day. Ideally, give this serving in two daily meals – in the morning and evening. 

This breed is not highly susceptible to obesity. But you can control their weight with daily exercise and nutrient-rich dry dog food

What kind of health problems do Wetterhouns have?

You can expect between 12 to 14 wonderful years with your Wetterhoun. These years may include a couple of visits to the vet, but this breed is quite hardy. 

The most common health concern with Dutch Spaniels is hip dysplasia. This means that instead of a smooth ball and socket movement in the hip, the bones grate against each other.

It causes inflammation and pain and can turn into arthritis. 

A Wetterhoun dog sleeping
Image source

Other common health issues that Wetterhouns experience:

Frequent cleaning and checks of the eyes and ears can help to prevent infection. Similarly, vet check-ups are always a good idea for preventive measures. 

How much does a Wetterhoun cost?

Remember, this is a rare breed, so even finding Wetterhoun puppies may prove difficult. When you do find one, it will set you back between $500 to $700.

A black and white Wetterhoun puppy

Wetterhoun dog breeders

Supporting reputable breeders is important to ensure ethical breeding. It’s also important if you want a Wetterhorn with excellent genetics who won’t be prone to health issues. 

Your best bet is to check out the Nederlandse Vereniging Voor Stabij en Wetterhounen organization page.

This organization provides details and contacts for breeders in the Netherlands, North America, Scandinavia, and the UK.

Wetterhoun dogs for adoption

As Wetterhouns are rare breeds, it is unlikely that you’ll find this breed in a rescue center up for adoption. There are no dedicated Wetterhoun rescue organizations.

If you find yourself in the Netherlands, you may come across a Wetterhoun in an animal shelter, but this would be pure luck. 

Rare Dutch Dogs: Stabyhoun vs. Wetterhoun

Stabyhouns are another breed that originates from the Friesland and is one of the world’s top five rarest dog breeds.

This breed shares many similarities with the Wetterhoun, but there are distinctive differences. Historically, these two breeds were often interbred. 

A black and white Stabyhoun laying and looking left
A black and white Stabyhoun dog

The Stabyhoun is a tiny bit smaller and resembles a Spaniel even more so than the Wetterhoun, with a sleek rather than curly coat.

While the Wetterhorn is stout, the Stabyhoun is narrow and slight. They are both great family dogs and very active. Stabyhouns are less stubborn and easier to train and are lower maintenance. 

Their personalities are very different. Compared to the quiet and reserved Wetterhoun, Stabyhouns are much livelier. 

Stabyhouns are a more popular breed, and therefore, population numbers are higher. 

Who should get a Wetterhoun dog?

A Wetterhoun wearing a lime green collar looking on right
A Wetterhoun dog wearing a lime green collar – Image source

Wetterhouns are not a good option for new dog owners. They are stubborn and strong-willed and need a lot of exercises. They can become destructive and badly behaved if not trained and exercised properly.

However, for experienced dog owners with active lifestyles who love cuddles, Wetterhouns will make an amazing best friend.

Your dog won’t leave your side. It will love swimming, running, hunting, and fishing with you and spoil you with affection. 

Have you ever owned a Wetterhoun? We would love to hear about your experience with this interesting, rare dog. Comment below and share your thoughts. 

Further reading: Similar maintenance breeds to Wetterhoun

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