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Ron Willbie, Animal Photography
The Kuvasz is a livestock guardian breed from Hungary. The Kuvasz makes an excellent watchdog and guardian, but he's not much of a playmate for children. His coat sheds heavily.
The name Kuvasz is thought to derive either from a corruption of the Turkish word Kawasz, meaning “armed guard of the nobility,” or the Arabic word kawwasz, meaning “archer.”
The Kuvasz is gentle with people, children, and other pets in his family, but he’s not a lovey dovey kind of dog. Strangers will not get a warm welcome, and he can be aggressive toward dogs he doesn’t know. He may also misunderstand children at play and take steps to protect them. Always supervise children and Kuvaszok (the plural of the breed name).
Early, frequent socialization is essential to prevent a Kuvasz from becoming overly suspicious or fearful of anything new or different. Purchase a Kuvasz puppy from a breeder who raises the pups in the home and ensures that they are exposed to many different household sights and sounds, as well as people, before they go off to their new homes.
Continue socializing your Kuvasz throughout his life by taking him to puppy kindergarten class (when vaccines are current), on visits to friends and neighbors, and for outings to local shops and businesses. This is the only way he can learn to be discriminating, recognizing what is normal and what is truly a threat.
The Kuvasz is active and needs a long daily walk or a chance to run in a safe, traffic-free area. Given his predatory instincts, though, the park is not a good choice. If you love the outdoors, a Kuvasz will be a good hiking companion, but he should be kept on leash. Until he physically matures at two years of age, avoid letting him play too hard, climb stairs frequently, or run on slippery floors, lest he develop skeletal problems in his formative years.
This is a giant breed unsuited to condo or apartment life. That cute little white ball of fluff will grow up to weigh 70 to 115 pounds. Be sure you are prepared to live with and care for a dog of that size. He is best suited to a home with a large yard surrounded by a solid fence that is at least five or six feet high. Do not rely on an underground electronic fence to keep him contained. The shock it provides may not deter him from leaving the yard if that’s what he wants to do.
Like any dog, Kuvasz puppies are inveterate chewers and because of their size can do more damage than puppies of smaller breeds. Don’t give them the run of the house until they’ve reached trustworthy maturity. And keep your Kuvasz puppy busy with training, play and socialization experiences. A bored Kuvasz is a destructive Kuvasz.
Begin training as soon as you bring your Kuvasz puppy home, while he is still at a manageable size. Use positive reinforcement training techniques such as praise, play, and food rewards. Be patient. The Kuvasz will respond to kind, firm, consistent training but he won’t put up with force or cruelty.
Kuvaszok will bark at anything that might be a threat. Teach them to be discriminating in their warnings or you will likely get complaints from neighbors.
While you might think of him as an outdoor dog, nothing could be farther from the truth. Kuvaszok are guardian dogs, devoted to their people. Chaining a Kuvasz out in the yard and giving him little or no attention is not only cruel, it can also lead to aggression and destructive behavior. He should have access to a securely fenced yard, but when the family is home, the Kuvasz should be with them.
This is an old flock-guarding breed that originated in Hungary, although his distant ancestors were probably mastiff-type dogs from Tibet. Stud books for the Kuvasz date as far back as the mid-15th century, when the dogs were bred for guardian work and hunting on great estates. King Matthias I of Hungary -- whose reign (1458-1490) occurred during a turbulent period in Hungarian history -- kept a number of Kuvaszok as personal protection dogs. Matthias’ kennels at Siebenbuergen produced many excellent dogs, and puppies were often presented as gifts to favored nobles or honored guests.
For a long time, ownership of the Kuvasz was restricted, but eventually they were used by herdsmen as flock guardians. That's the work for which they are known today. The dog’s white coat allowed the shepherd to easily distinguish him from a wolf while still blending in with the flock.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Kuvasz in 1931. The breed ranks 144th in popularity among the dogs registered by the AKC, recognition that they are suited to a highly specific lifestyle and environment.
If you are the right person for this breed, you will find him to be assertive, brave, curious, determined, and loyal. The Kuvasz is a working dog who is serious about a job: protecting his family. As such, he’s not especially demonstrative, but never doubt his gentle and patient devotion to the family who treats him as one of their own. He’s ready to protect them with his life. On the flip side, neglect, teasing, or harsh punishment will eventually be met with aggression.
If he is brought up with them, the Kuvasz is highly protective of his family’s children. He may extend that protection to very young visiting children. When kids have friends over, though, the Kuvasz should not be left unsupervised. He’s likely to intervene in a misguided attempt to protect “his” children. And an adult Kuvasz who is not experienced with children needs time to get used to their quick movements and shrill voices -- these dogs are not automatically “good with kids.” Teach children never to tease or mistreat the dog. As with any dog, never leave a Kuvasz alone with young children, no matter how well he knows them or how gentle he seems.
The Kuvasz is polite and reserved toward strangers to whom he has been introduced. It may take a bit of time before he accepts them as friends. The Kuvasz is choosy about whom he accepts into his circle and tends to be suspicious of anyone who’s not family.
The Kuvasz was born to work all day over rough ground. Even though most Kuvaszok no longer have flocks to guard, they still have that enduring physical capacity. Active daily exercise is important for their well being. The dog’s agility, speed, and strength suit hiking or backpacking. He will also enjoy long walks and is capable of competing in agility, obedience, and rally events. Work as a therapy dog or visiting people in facilities such as nursing homes and children’s hospitals can also satisfy his need for activity. Check out the Kuvasz Pet Owners blog for more ideas on things to do with a Kuvasz.
This is a smart, independent, strong-willed dog who has been bred to work on his own and make decisions without much guidance. He needs a strong leader who can manage him without resorting to force, physical punishment, or anger. With an owner who is firm and consistent, the Kuvasz responds well to praise and other rewards. He is sensitive and will accept correction if he sees that it is deserved, but it must be fair and it must come from an owner he respects. Corrections from other people will be ignored and may cause the Kuvasz to become resentful. This breed matures slowly, so begin training early and always be patient.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don't wait until he is six months old to begin training, or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed. Socialization won’t turn a Kuvasz into a dog who welcomes everyone, but it will give him experience so that he recognizes what’s normal and what’s not.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from an Kuvasz, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit disease. Run from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed has no known problems, or who keeps puppies isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur.
In Kuvaszok, the most serious health problems include hip dysplasia, osteochondrosis (a joint disorder that damages cartilage and bones), and a propensity for cruciate ligament injuries. An eye disease called progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a potential concern, as is hypothyroidism (a common hormonal disease in dogs in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroxin) and vonWillebrand's disease (a blood clotting disorder).
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it can be hard to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for these defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
The Kuvasz Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center, a health database. For a Kuvasz to achieve CHIC certification, he must have OFAcertification for hips and elbows and an OFA thyroid clearance. Additional certifications that are recommended but not required include Canine Eye Registry Foundation certification that eyes are healthy; and a DNA test for PRA.
Breeders must agree to have all test results -- positive or negative -- published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good, or even passing scores, on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease. But, all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents.
Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. If the breeder tells you tests aren't necessary because they've never had problems in her lines, the dogs have been "vet checked," or offers any other excuses for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away immediately.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas. A puppy may develop one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what are the most common causes of death.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Kuvasz at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of diet and exercise to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Kuvasz has a beautiful white double coat that sheds dirt but also sheds hair. Brush him weekly with a pin brush to remove dead hair and keep the skin and coat healthy. Trim the fur between his toes to keep his feet in good condition. His coat repels water and sheds dirt easily with brushing, so a bath is rarely necessary.
When summer comes along, don’t think that your Kuvasz has suddenly developed a disease that causes hair loss. It’s normal for the Kuvasz to lose most of his long coat during hot weather.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a quality breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out as many problems as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
Reputable breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with. They will come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you plan to provide. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps were taken to avoid them. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Kuvasz and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Kuvasz Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the KCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will clear. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include over availability, multiple litters on the premises, a choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Kuvasz puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Kuvasz might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort. An adult Kuvasz may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Kuvasz in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Kuvaszs available across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Kuvasz. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Kuvaszok love all Kuvaszok. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Kuvasz Club of America's rescue network can help you find the perfect family companion. Search online for Kuvasz rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Kuvasz home for a trial to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Kuvasz, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, a breeder purchase or a rescue, take your Kuvasz to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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