9 Things To Know Before Getting A Kuvasz Dog
Are you looking for a truly special dog? A dog that’s big, powerful, smart, and playful but also unique and rare? A dog that requires a capable and experienced owner and isn’t just an overly-obedient servant? Then the Kuvasz might be the right breed for you!
What are the key characteristics that make Kuvasz special?
This ancient Hungarian dog is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. It was brought to Europe by Atila the Hun himself and is credited as the predecessor of other breeds such as the Samoyed, Tibetan Mastiff, Akbash, Maremma, Great Pyrenees, Anatolian Shepherd, and others.
Why is the Kuvasz not as popular as its “child breeds” then?
Largely because the Kuvasz is a bit difficult to train. These dogs are such a great guard breed that they can be a bit too assertive and strong-willed for most dog owners who just want a fun pet.
Additionally, they are rare because the Kuvasz dogs almost went extinct during World War 2. Both the invading Nazi soldiers and the subsequent Soviet occupation forces diminished the breed’s numbers by literally killing Kuvasz dogs in the streets. That’s how devoted and assertive these guard dogs are – they tried to protect their owners and hometowns against invading armies!
After the war, the breed was slowly resurrected in two somewhat separate strains in Hungary and Germany. Today, these dogs are common in Hungary again but are yet to become popular worldwide.
Nevertheless, when trained and socialized properly the Kuvasz can be an exceptionally unique, beautiful, and special dog. You just need to know what you’re doing with this breed.
The 9 things you should know before getting a Kuvasz
1. A phenomenal guard dog
The Kuvasz dogs were bred as flock guards – not as shepherds but as guard dogs from predators. And to this day, they are classified as a guard. You may see them classified as “work dogs'' too but this breed isn’t really specialized for performing work tasks as they are not as trainable as other dogs.
However, the Kuvasz is a phenomenal guard dog. They are very territorial, exceptionally assertive, as well as strong and aggressive toward strangers and perceived threats. So, if you’re looking for a yard dog to protect your property, you can hardly go wrong with a Kuvasz.
What if you want a family pet, however?
This is where things get tricky. The Kuvasz can function as a family pet without a problem but only if the dog has been brought up and trained properly. Most of the qualities that make the Kuvasz such a brilliant guard dog simply need to be tampered with if the breed is to be raised as a family pet.
2. The Kuvasz is a moderately active dog that can adjust to your lifestyle
Guard dogs often fall in this awesome category of being moderately physically active. They are strong and athletic but don’t require several hours of exercise every day to stay healthy. At the same time, they love sleeping in and not doing much but they are not slouches like some other breeds.
What does this mean for me?
It means that your Kuvasz will likely adapt to your lifestyle:
Are you an outdoorsy type who loves jogging in the park or going on long hikes on the weekends? A Kuvasz will love to join you in most such activities.
Are you a more indoor type of person who wants a dog for the excuse of going out twice a day? A Kuvasz will be perfectly happy napping on the couch and playing with toys between the occasional trips outside.
In fact, Kuvasz dogs can even be taken care of in an apartment which is rare for larger breeds. Granted, you’ll need to spend a bit more time outside with them as you won’t have a yard to leave them in. You’d also want to make sure that you train your Kuvasz not to bark but we’ll talk more about that later.
3. This is a relatively intelligent but also self-minded and somewhat stubborn breed
The Kuvasz is quite an intelligent dog for a guard breed. This means that while they’re not quite on the level of most shepherds and retrievers, Kuvasz dogs are more than intelligent enough to be a fun pet. You can teach them tricks, interact with them, and train them to perform various tasks.
Are the Kuvasz easily bored?
One major problem of most highly intelligent breeds is that they get easily bored when they are left home alone. This usually results in separation anxiety, depression, disobedience, and even destructive behaviors.
Not for the Kuvasz, however. As a guard dog breed, the Kuvasz is fine with being alone for a while. As long as you give your dog enough attention when you’re home, you should be fine leaving a Kuvasz to go to work.
That being said, the Kuvasz can be a bit stubborn.
Again, this comes from their guard dog nature. Kuvasz dogs are bred to spend time alone out in the field, to stand their ground, and to protect their territory. This means that, even if your Kuvasz recognizes you as their alpha, they’ll still be stubborn when you want them to do things they’re not interested in.
And if you haven’t trained your Kuvasz properly, then you run the risk of your dog not recognizing you as the pack leader. If this is the case, a Kuvasz can even act out against their owner.
And this brings us to the next crucial point:
4. Proper training and socialization are a MUST for the Kuvasz
Kuvasz dogs absolutely need experienced owners and good dog training. There are many good “respect training” books and texts out there but if you don’t have some practical experience in that regard, the Kuvasz breed is probably not right for you.
The average Kuvasz can grow as high as 29 inches (74 cm) at the withers and as heavy as 115 pounds (56 kg). That’s a lot of dog!
If such a large dog isn’t properly trained to respect your authority and obey your command, you’re running the risk of getting in a physical altercation with a giant canine.
Why is the Kuvasz special in that regard?
They are just excellent guard dogs – it’s a feature of the breed, not a bug. They are bred to be assertive and strong-willed so you’ll have to match that with your own will and a lot of training.
5. You need a well-fenced yard if you are to own a Kuvasz
Unlike sighthounds who love to run out of poorly fenced yards to chase squirrels, the Kuvasz has a different instinct – to expand his or her territory and protect a larger piece of land.
An expansionist dog? Really?
In Hungary, Kuvasz dogs were often used and trained to protect entire villages and small towns. So, you can say that guarding a simple backyard is “beneath them.”
The solution to this problem is twofold:
Teach your Kuvasz to know the boundaries of your property.
Erect a tall fence that your dog will have trouble climbing over.
Making sure that your Kuvasz is never alone in the yard is also a good idea.
6. Not the best dog for families with small children or other pets
While the Kuvasz is not inherently bad with children, the breed’s assertiveness can often turn into aggression if the child starts pestering them. This means several things:
The Kuvasz will need to be trained on how to behave around the baby/child.
The baby or child will need to be taught how to behave around the dog – not to torment the dog physically, not to take their toys, not to bother the dog during nap time, etc.
Leaving a Kuvasz with a small child is a big No-No.
Inviting other kids home to play with your child can lead to an accident even more easily.
Other pets such as cats can easily bother the over-assertive Kuvasz to the point of triggering him to act out.
Getting another dog with your Kuvasz is possible but you’ll need to train both dogs to get along.
In general, the best approach is to get a Kuvasz only if your kids are old and smart enough to be instructed how to act around the dog. If you have a baby or a toddler, either go for a different breed or wait several years.
7. Anti-bark training may sometimes be needed too
As a guard dog, the Kuvasz can have some barking tendencies. Not all Kuvasz dogs do this but if you notice your Kuvasz pup barking through the window or the fence, it’s smart to start training that behavior out of them as soon as possible.
8. This breed is 50/50 in terms of health
The Kuvasz used to be an exceptionally healthy breed before its near-extinction during WW2. Since then, however, some health issues have been developed as the breed was being brought back to life. This is normal as the original stock was quite limited.
These problems aren’t nearly as significant as with some other dog breeds but are worth keeping an eye for. Here are some of the more common issues:
- Hip dysplasia
- Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD)
- Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD)
- Some eye diseases and deafness, mostly in German bloodlines
- Gastric dilatation
Being mindful of the early symptoms of these issues is advisable. Equally important, however, is to always take your puppy from a reputable breeder and not from a puppy mill. And – always ask for a health certificate for both the puppy and its parents.
9. Always ask to see the parents and siblings of your future Kivas before getting it from the breeder
Speaking of your future dog’s parents, you should always try to see them too and not just their health certificates. There are two reasons for this:
To make sure that they are healthy
To judge your future dog’s temperament.
It’s especially beneficial to see the pup interact with its siblings. Whenever possible, go for a pup that’s neither too aggressive (and is dominating all its siblings) nor is too submissive (and is getting isolated in the corner). This ensures a well-balanced personality that’s going to be easy and fun to deal with.
Who are Kuvasz “right” for?
In two words – experienced owners.
If you haven’t had a positive experience training another dog before, it’s best to not get a Kuvasz. Also, if you’ve just had a baby or you’re thinking of having one soon, it’s best to get a different breed or to wait for the child to get a bit older first.
Additionally, make sure everyone in your household wants a guard dog and not a more “ordinary” breed – you really want everyone to be on the same page if the training of the Kuvasz is to be successful.
How to prepare for getting a Kuvasz?
All the major preparation you need to do for a Kuvasz is based on acquiring know-how – you really have to know what you’re doing. The toys, dog bed, food bowls, and other inventory are secondary – you have to be ready to train a Kuvasz.
Oh, and – fencing your yard ahead of time is also a good idea.