Wetterhoun: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners


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Originally bred for hunting otters, the Wettherhoun is a breed that makes both a fantastic watchdog and family pet. They are an energetic, strong-willed dog that excels in a variety of dog sports, but they continue to remain a coveted breed for their abilities as both a retriever and gun dog. They are known for their coarse, curly coats and active, independent personalities, and they love to spend time with their families.

Breed Overview

Group: Gundog (UKC)

Height: 21-23 inches

Weight: 33-44 pounds

Coat and Color:  Thick, coarse, curly coat in black and white, liver and white, solid black, or solid liver

Life Expectancy: 12-13 years

Characteristics of the Wetterhoun

 Affection Level  High
 Friendliness  High
 Kid-Friendly  Moderate
 Pet-Friendly  Moderate
 Exercise Needs  Moderate
 Playfulness  High
 Energy Level  High
 Trainability  Moderate
 Intelligence  High
 Tendency to Bark  Moderate
 Amount of Shedding  Moderate

History of the Wetterhoun

The first thing to know about the history of the Wetterhoun is that the breed almost became entirely extinct during World War II. This is a large part of the reason that they remain such a rare breed to this day.

The Wetterhoun's name comes from the Dutch for “water dog"; they were first developed more than 400 years ago in Friesland, a province of the Netherlands. They are sometimes referred to as the Otterhound or Dutch Spaniel (even though it is technically not a type of spaniel). Throughout its history, the Wetterhoun has been relied upon as not only a water retriever but also a trustworthy and efficient gun dog and watch dog.

The Wetterhoun is believed to have descended from the now-extinct Old Water Dog, and some believe it may have also been crossed with an indigenous Frisian breed. Thanks to careful and meticulous breeding practices, the breed was successfully saved from near-extinction during World War II.

The Wetterhoun is not currently recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), however it is recognized by the Federation Cynologique International (where it is included as part of the water dogs group) as well as by the United Kennel Club (UKC) in the gundog group. The Wetterhoun is recognized a a rare breed by many smaller clubs and registries, as well.

Wetterhoun Care

Because its coat is naturally oily (and therefore somewhat waterproof), the Wetterhoun is a breed that will not require frequent bathing or extensive grooming. They do have a thick coat of coarse, curly hair that covers their entire body, though it is a bit shorter on the legs and head.

Like most breeds, the Wetterhoun will require daily exercise for both the breed's physical and mental well-being. As a hunting breed, they are fairly active dogs so you'll want to aim for about a 30-minute walk each day as well as plenty of outdoor play time. As a water dog, they will be more than happy to take a dip in a pool or lake with you at any time, and are sure to enjoy pretty much any activity involving water. They tend to not do well as apartment dwellers and will be happiest when living on plenty of land to run around and play.

They can learn to be tolerant of children if properly socialized from a young age, however it's imperative that your children are taught how to properly care for and respect the Wetterhoun—they will absolutely not tolerate harsh treatment. These dogs have natural guarding abilities and are considered to be somewhat reserved, and because they generally are not aggressive dog they can make a fantastic watchdog and family pet.

Although they can be stubborn and strong-willed, the Wetterhoun is not a breed that tends to be purposely disobedient. You'll want to start their training as early as possible. Because of their headstrong personalities, the breed is both intelligent and watchful, so they are fast learners but do still have an independent streak. They can definitely be trained but steer clear of punishment or other harsh tactics; breed can be sensitive and will respond much better to positive reinforcement-based methods. Because of their strong history as a gun dog, the Wetterhoun is a breed that thrives when given a job to perform (which is why they typically respond quite well to training).

Common Health Problems

Though it's considered to be a fairly healthy breed (even with its small population), they have been associated with hip, elbow, and other joint issues (such as hip dysplasia and patellar luxation), as well as Severe Combine Immune Deficiency Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that can lead to death in certain breeds. As a result, the NVSW (Dutch Association for Stabij- and Wetterhoun) has introduced efforts to introduce more genetic variety into the breed.

Diet and Nutrition

Whether their food is commercially prepared or cooked at home (with your veterinarian's supervision and approval, of course), the Wetterhoun should do well on any high-quality diet. However, due to the fact that the Wetterhoun is a hunting breed with lots of energy, you may want to opt for a dog food that's formulated for active breeds in order to ensure their nutritional needs are met.

  • Lots of energy to play

    Requires minimal bathing/grooming

    Excellent watchdogs

  • Can be stubborn and strong-willed

    Doesn't always tolerate children

Where to Adopt or Buy a Wetterhoun

Generally speaking, if you want to bring home a Wetterhoun you may have quite the search on your hands. As a rare breed whose numbers have dwindled since World War II, it's pretty unlikely that you'll find these dogs in a rescue center or shelter. There are also no known Wetterhoun rescue organizations. You'd be most likely to stumble upon this breed in the Netherlands.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

When determining if the Wetterhoun is the right dog for your family, be sure to research all aspects of the breed and consult other Wetterhoun owners to try to learn more. In the meantime, you can also check out these other similar dog breeds:



Spanish Water Dog

Portuguese Water Dog

There's a wide array of dog breeds out there. With a little research, you can find the right match for your family.