A GUIDE TO THE PURCHASE & OWNERSHIP
OF THE HUNGARIAN VIZSLA IN NEW ZEALAND
The decision making processes outlined in this article are based on the opinions of myself and the people who helped me with material in the booklet only. They do not offer any guarantee of finding an excellent pup by following the suggestions in this article or suggest that you may not get an excellent pup from using other processes to make your decisions. It is simply our opinion of processes we feel could be of use while researching the purchase of a pup or dog.
Vizsla – pronounced (Veeshla)
• V pronounced the same as in English
• I is not quite as short as the sound in sit , more like the short ee in feet and meet
• ZS like the s in pleasure
• L pronounced the same as in English
• A hard to describe, but rather like the sound in awe and the British hot
Thanks to Mary K Chelton, Pam Haley, many of my fellow Vizsla enthusiasts in NZ who helped put this together and the members of the international VizslaTalk email list for much of this information.
The Europeans bred a range of hunting dogs they referred to as ‘versatile’ gundogs. They are a single dog that is bred to hunt, point & retrieve both feather and fur game on land and in water and blood track wounded game. The Hungarians also looked for a ‘gentleman’s hunting dog’ that would work moderately close and form a strong bond with their people and they insisted that their dogs looked good and had the temperament that was able to live indoors with the family and sleep with the children. Anecdotal evidence from some of the early Hungarians to escape war and communism say that any Vizsla showing any sign of aggression towards a child was culled (killed) in an attempt to minimise any sign of this trait in the breed.
To find out more about a versatile dog I suggest you visit The Versatile Gundog Home page at http://www.trader.co.nz/versatiledogs/page1.htm and specifically the article entitled Der Jagdgebrauchshund The Versatile Hunting Dog at http://www.trader.co.nz/versatiledogs/articles/derjag.htm.
With this background in mind I developed a personal breeding ethic based on the analogy of the 4 legged table ... a solid table has four equally strong legs; a solid breeding program ensures 4 equally strong legs (the legs being health, conformation, temperament, and working ability). Many people say things like ‘do not buy a show dog if you want to hunt’ or ‘do not buy a hunting dog for a pet’. This attitude will eventually ruin and split our breed as it has many others before. A well bred Vizsla (bred by a caring, ethical breeder who carefully studies the dogs they plan to breed and their relatives and raises the pups with knowledge and care) will not turn out every dog to fit the table analogy perfectly but the litters should be a good representation of the breed – all aspects of the breed, not just one leg.
Why write this booklet? Because not all breeders are equal and not all dogs are equal. Every dog should be the pick of the breed and the best dog in the world in someone’s eye! But that does not mean they should be bred. We all think our dog is the prettiest, the fastest, the greatest hunter … the best. That’s good but it is not a reason to breed. It may simply be a reason to breed that dogs parents again ? or maybe not even that depending on the overall result of that litter.
Some 'breeders' say their dogs are special or rare because they have certain unusual characteristics (extra small, extra large, extra white, overly excitable, long coat etc). They are definitely different because they are WRONG. And the more we make wrong to look right the more we diverge away from our breed being the great dog we love so much.
So with this booklet I hope to give everyone a chance to make a better decision when they are selecting a puppy, a new family member, to spend it’s lifetime with them.
(Thanks to my friend Pam Haley in Hawaii for this section although I have added parts to it)
"The topic came up on one of the email lists - a puppy needed to be re-homed, the owner put a call out to the list for help. "Help me find a new home for my pup" My first thought was WHERE is the breeder? My second realization was that not all pups are born equal, not all pups and there owners have the advantage of linking with a breeder who is "worth salt".
For those of you who are not familiar with that phrase, it stems from Imperial Rome where, soldiers where given an allowance to buy salt. From that stipend, called a salarium, the English word "salary" is derived. Hundreds of years later, in the American Gold Rush days, salt was again used as a measure of the integrity, goodness of character and reliability of an individual. Any person "worth salt" was good and dependable - someone you could count on!
A breeder worth salt
When the chips are down, and there is no suitable resolution to the problem the breeder "worth salt" is the first person you turn to! That breeder will take back a puppy, anytime, under any circumstances. That breeder has a profound respect for the life and well-being of your pup. That breeder wants you do the right thing and will HELP you get through the misery.
There are thousands of Vizsla breeders world wide with thousands of adorable little red-pups to charm you and melt your resolve. You must decide if it is smart to wait for a breeder who is worth his/her salt, decide if you want someone with integrity and reliability as a member of your extended family. It is one of the most important choices you will make for your pup and your family."
Some things to take as warning signs of a breeder maybe not worth salt:
Should a pup be Kennel Club registered? YES!!
Some people equate kennel club papers to being a mark of quality. It is NOT. It is simply an acknowledgment that both parents (whatever their quality) were registered with the kennel club and the breeder paid a fee to become an official breeder and to reister the litter. Some breeders brag that they have exported – in some cases it is simply because the reputable ones would not. Some make no endorsements sound good .. but can mean they simply do not care beyond the sale.
HOWEVER DogsNZ registration is the best (only) option we currently have to put some guarantee on to say that this really is a pedigree dog. Down the track it may also be that an owner wants to compete in various sanctioned events. If they decide they want to compete in conformation shows or field events they will not be able to if the dog is not DogsNZ registered. If they decide they want to breed they will never be able to register pups. If they have the ‘best dog in the world’ no reputable breeder will ask to use him as they will not be able to register the pups.
NOT registering pups leaves doubt in mind as to true pedigree and also closes many doors before people can decide if they actually want to open them.
Please read the article I wrote, 'Just a Pet' to give you some idea of the importance I place on pets :) http://trader.co.nz/dogtrain/jap.htmto understand more about how breeders should socialise and raise pups correctly to optimise the chance of their becoming great family members.
Articles of interest about the Vizsla (a couple written by me and some by other NZ owners) can be seen at http://www.trader.co.nz/versatiledogs/vizind.htm and http://www.trader.co.nz/versatiledogs/tales.htm .
Sometimes people get pups within a very short time; sometimes they have to wait a year or more. Since there are only a very few reputable Vizsla breeders in NZ it is sometimes simply a matter of waiting.
Each breeder has their own system for potential puppy people – for example I do not 'number' people on my list but like to find out as much as possible about them (preferably meeting them and letting them meet my dogs en masse) and when I have pups I try to match the pups to the best possible homes putting the future welfare of the pups as my prime concern. My way is not the right way - it is just my way.
This section is assuming a caring, responsible breeder. And if it is not a caring, responsible breeder maybe you should look further afield to find one.
For many years people (breeders) sent pups to new homes at 5 to 6 weeks old. The reasoning appeared to be that the pup could bond to the people better at this age.
However pups were losing their ability to bond with and interact with other dogs. Along the way the idea of 49 days (7 weeks) arose as being a great age to five more time in the litter to learn dog communication but still go to a new home young enough to bond.
We have a critical development window with pups. Between the age of 3 weeks and 12 weeks (some people say 14 weeks) they need to be people socialised (and for those breeding cats this window is 2 – 7 weeks). Maybe this is part of why the idea of younger homing happened. People felt they needed this critical time to bond. However by looking at adult dogs in rescue and being rehomed for other reasons we know that this is not correct Most of these adult dogs bond with their new owners every bit as strongly as the 6, 7 or 8 week old pup.
Up to 5 weeks old very little will be feared by the pup. Fear period sets in from 5 – 10 weeks (varies in length and level between individual pups) and again this is CRITICAL to a pups development. All new experiences should be positive at this time.
One very important thing they need at this time is lots of interaction with people. A pup that learns to like and trust people during the 3 – 12 weeks age will later bond easily to new people. A dog that is not well socialised with people during this age will always have trouble forming a bond with them later. Therefore it does not really matter if the pup is older before going to its new home – 12 weeks or even 20 weeks or adult would be fine as long as the breeder raised the pup correctly. (One small point is that if pups are kept beyond 3 months it is vitally important that they have quality one on one time with the humans and are not left to bond primarily to the other dogs … especially Dam and any other siblings left).
During this socialisation period, and in the relative care and safety of the breeder, Dam and siblings, pups should be introduced to a wide range of people – big people, tall people, short people, small people, people of a range of colours and ethnic backgrounds, people in hats and glasses, young people and old people, people in coats, people in dresses, every imaginable person the breeder can find to come and play gently with the pups!
During this time pups need to also be socialised to environment. A bit like when our children are at school, the days lesson is not always the main lesson. The main lesson is that the pup is learning to accept new situations .. and is learning to learn.
So the pup needs (again in its secure environment of breeder, Dam and siblings) to get experience of the environment. They need noise (music, radio, TV, vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, vehicles, people talking and even shouting at times). They need tactile stimulation – a range of different surfaces building up from whatever is in the whelping box (including a wide range of toys) and on the floor in the whelping room (carpet in my case) to as many more types as possible. Surfaces include carpet, lino, tiles, wood, concrete, rubber, dirt, grass (long and short), weeds and other plants. They also need the physical contact with non surface things – pots, chairs, toys, plants, sticks, hard objects, soft objects, furry objects, objects that make noises, things they can climb over, under and through, things that roll, safe things to put in mouths, things they can interact with with another pup etc.
They need time alone with the breeder and other time with their litter mates. Age 6 – 8 weeks (and preferably up to at least 10 weeks) is absolutely critical to be with the litter still. The play, rough housing and other interaction between siblings and between pups and Dam is the solid basis for the pup learning how to communicate properly with other dogs. Many cases of dog aggression or excessive dog submission can be traced back to a pup going to its new home at 6 weeks old. Breeders are sending their pups out into the world before they have learnt to ‘talk dog’ and yet it is so easy for them to take the bit of extra time and care to ensure a properly developed pup.
During these weeks (after 6 weeks old) the breeder can be working on basic house training and crate training. Things are so much easier when it has been a normal routine in the litter. New homes and new ideas all thrown at the pup at once in the middle of a fear period of life are simply setting pup, new owner and new home up for failure!
One point to consider here is that pups raised in the home are much more likely to be getting better socialisation than those raised in kennels and sheds. But even then make sure that the breeder is going the extra mile and ensuring the pups get the variety of stimulation required.
So what age is best? In my opinion 10 weeks and upwards although I do admit to letting pups go at 8 weeks on occasion (usually to an experienced home with other dogs).
Suitable breeding lines are of course very subjective. It is fine that people do not always agree with each other concerning type, but it is not fine if breeders are mating their dogs without strong knowledge of the lines they are using. Those who breed carelessly may be doubling up on known problems within the breed. In New Zealand we have had a range of conditions including epilepsy, hip dysplasia, OCD (Osteochondritis dissecans), heart defects and head defects (incorrectly formed muscle tissue). It is important to know these things as a breeder.
As well as knowing what has occurred within the lines, all breeding dogs should have hip and elbow scores done by a properly trained and acredited vet prior to being bred. The results will sometimes mean that the dog should not be bred. Hearts need to be checked by vets and, if any question is raised, by a specialist. Any person breeding a Vizsla, or any other breed, should be striving to produce the best of all the 4 legs in my earlier table analogy.
While getting a title in the show ring is not critical if you truly have the knowledge to see if a Vizsla is conformationally correct, showing is a good way to get an impartial opinion and acquire an understanding of conformational soundness. But do not take a title as a sign of quality - remember that not many dogs are shown in New Zealand and one who may have taken several years when they were not up against any competition needs to be looked at closely.
Field trialing and hunting are ways to prove working ability but sometimes simply exposing the dog to the environment and seeing how they act can also show this. The VHDTA(NZ) holds Natural Ability tests to assist breeders and owners in evaluating pups & breedings - http://www.nzvhdta.co.nz/. While not necessary, tests in tracking, obedience and/or agility help show the intelligence and trainability of the dogs.
Temperament is critical. A dog that is nervous, shy, aggressive or showing other not acceptable temperament traits should not be bred even if everything else is great.
The New Zealand Kennel Club (NZKC) offer a system of endorsements that some breeders use. Personally I feel that these are a great help to reputable breeders and those who do not use them are doing the breed no favours. It is advantageous to endorse all pups "Not To Be Bred From". Breeders concerned with education rather than control will look at lifting endorsements when the dogs reach 2 years old and have been proven in the 4 legs to the breeders satisfaction. Some breeders endorse that the dog is not to be bred from until hip scores are done and certain minimum standard results returned. These are seen as controlling by some buyers and they are – but the control is because of a love of the breed rather than a desire to limit competition (as is often charged). It is simply a way to ensure people do their homework and understand what they are doing before they breed.
Tired puppies are much less trouble than puppies who are full of the devil! Regular daily exercise, off the lead so your pup can tear around, will help a great deal in keeping your house and your life more puppy-proofed.
BEWARE! Vizsla pups NEED this exercise-without it they will use your house as a race track and actively look for trouble! Start looking now for parks and fields where you can SAFELY run your pup in completely fenced areas with substantial acreage and no vehicles, and plan to train your pup to the COME command immediately. For the next few years you will be spending an hour a day minimum (!) tiring out your little puppy, so find a variety of places to exercise off leash. You will be out, rain or shine, for at least one major off-leash run a day, SO BE WARNED!!! A small fenced-in backyard is insufficient space for a Vizsla to really stretch. In young puppies, moderation is advisable because of the risk of damaging growth plates in their legs. Adolescent puppies are another story!
It is difficult to raise a puppy when no one is home during the day, and house training becomes much more difficult. Puppies need a mid-day meal and to potty frequently. If your pup will be home for extended periods of time, you will need to have a plan for the pup's care such as using neighbours, friends, relatives, paid pet sitters or puppy day care. Many breeders recommend crating your puppy when the pup is not being supervised for both the safety of the pup and your house; however, most agree that puppies should not be crated for more than a few hours at a time without being taken out for toilet and play.
Vizslas are very smart and trainable, and eager to please. In fact, they need training to be good companions so all that mischievous energy gets properly channeled. They are sensitive dogs who usually do not respond well to harsh training methods, and since they mature slowly, they often have short attention spans and get bored easily during training sessions when young. The rule of thumb is not to let a puppy do anything you wouldn't want a 20 - 28kg adult dog to do, and never to continue with a trainer whose methods make you uncomfortable. See the list of books at the end for more information.
Vizslas are generally very good with children; HOWEVER, NO YOUNG CHILD SHOULD BE LEFT UNSUPERVISED WITH ANY DOG, and all children should be taught how to interact with the dog. Puppies tend to mouth and bite small children, steal their toys and knock them down, and you and the children need to be learn how to handle these situations calmly. The immediate reaction of many children is to start screaming and running, which just exacerbates the problem. Children should also be taught that the puppy's crate is off limits; it is the puppy's safe haven….
Parents should be aware that, as pack animals, puppies may attempt to move up in the (family) pack, particularly over young children. Be alert for any challenge by your puppy against your child (e.g. a growl or grumble); if there is a challenge, the puppy should be dealt with immediately. Often a well timed "NO!!" will be sufficient. If properly handled, there is rarely more than a couple of such challenges. It is important to involve your children in the puppy's care (feeding, walking, and training). Be constantly aware that your puppy must be taught that he or she is at the bottom of the pack (e.g. puppies who sleep in the adults' bedroom sometimes develop a sense that they are over the children in the home; children should be taught not to roll around on the ground in a subservient position to the puppy, etc.).
Vizslas are NOT dogs that can just be ignored and left in a yard. They were bred to be affectionate house dogs as well as hunting and field dogs, and they want to be WITH their people. They will follow you from room to room, including the bathroom, sleep next to you or at your feet, etc. Left to their own devices without human companionship, they will become lonely, bored and destructive. People who expect dogs to raise themselves by themselves will not like this breed.
Vizslas do shed, but unless you are allergic or obsessive, it sort of blends in with the decor. You can control this by rubbing the dog with a non-cotton sweater to pick up loose hairs.
Questions to expect from breeders for your puppy enquiry would be similar to:
• Where you heard about Vizslas.
• Why you want a Vizsla, as opposed to another breed or a mixed breed and what do you want one for i.e. pet, hunting, show?.
• Prior experience with dogs/Vizslas, especially training them, and whether you've ever raised a puppy before and if so, what breed.
• How many people live in your home, especially children and their ages.
• About your lifestyle and how the dog will fit into it, especially during the next 2 years, and whether someone is home during the day.
• The particular characteristics you want in your puppy/dog, including personality and gender and why.
• Other pets in the house.
• Whether you intend to spay/neuter or breed your dog.
• To describe where the puppy will live, sleep and stay when you are away.
• What kind of dwelling you live in, if you have a fenced yard and if not, where the dog will exercise.
• To describe the activity level/exercise requirements you have for your dog and how you plan to exercise your puppy.
• Whether you are interested in showing your dog, or co-owning with breeder until show qualities are or are not obvious. (In some cases breeders will look at the possibility of co-owning a bitch and / or a dog from one of their litters to help keep some future breeding lines. They cannot always keep a pup and that is the downside of breeding. If breeders kept everything they want to ... the ones at home would be overwhelmed with no attention.
• Your current veterinarian's name and phone no.
Questions for the puppy buyer to ask breeders would include:
• How is the temperament of the sire and dam?
• What health checks have been carried out with what results on Dam and Sire?
• What were you striving for as part of your breeding programs?
• Do you personally know other dogs in the pedigree of the puppies?
• Are you affiliated with any Vizsla or other relevant dog clubs?
• How do you plan your litters and rate the pups?
• Are the pups handled daily by the breeder?
• Are you going to keep a pup? If not, why not?
• What are the NZKC registered names and titles of the sire and the dam?
• Are you willing to answer my questions after I take the dog home?
• Will you assist me if I cannot keep the dog?
• When can I visit my new puppy?
• What veterinary care will the puppy have had when I take it home?
• What paperwork will I receive with my puppy?
Prices for Vizsla puppies vary. A higher price does not necessarily equate with better quality; many responsible breeders are working to keep prices reasonable in an effort to discourage puppy mill breeders. Ask the breeder of any litter you consider about the goals of their breeding program; ask why they paired the parents of this litter and about titles the parents have earned. Make sure that both parents have been X-Rayed for Hip Dysplasia. When you acquire a puppy from a reputable breeder, you should also acquire support throughout the lifetime of your puppy. Avoid purchasing a puppy from a breeder with whom you do not have good rapport, and absolutely avoid puppy mill and pet store purchases.
The origins of the Hungarian Vizsla date back to the Turkish occupation of the Carpathian Mountain region in the ninth century and are said to be a mixture of several classic pointing dogs with various hounds (including Bloodhound, Balkan Beagle, Greyhound and the ancient Foxhound) giving the aristocracy an all round hunting, scenting, pointing, retrieving and family dog. The dog continued improving in the hands of knowledgeable breeders who were after high performance and excellence in the field. The Vizsla name became common from the sixteenth century onwards.
First and foremost the Hungarian Vizsla will expect to be a member of the family. They are good natured dogs that are very keen to please. They are usually clean and can groom themselves in a similar way to a cat. This breed is elegant and aristocratic in its bearing but has a highly developed sense of play and fun and can correctly be described as an aristocratic clown!
The breed is a very 'touchy' dog. By this I mean that your dog will want to be touching you often and this will include both paws and mouth. The paws are used to grab you around the legs, cuddle round the neck and sometimes just to put one gently on your lap when you are sitting on a chair.
The mouth of the Hungarian Vizsla is an important communication tool. These beautiful and versatile dogs will bark, whine, sing, talk and make a whole range of vocal sounds (this is not to say that the Vizsla is a noisy dog that will keep your neighbours awake, but rather a dog with a host of ways that it uses to 'talk' to you). But when they are feeling very affectionate the Vizsla will often gently take your hand or arm in their mouth as they walk beside you or sit with (on) you. They also love soft toys and many of them regularly are seen carrying their 'teddy bear' wherever they wander.
The Hungarian Vizsla is bred to be a multi-purpose gundog and an integral part of a family representing the best of sporting dog and loving, loyal family member. They are one of the true 'Versatile' breeds. For hunting and field work they are a hunting, pointing and retrieving dog. They can work equally well on fur and feather and will work with all sizes of game up to deer. The Vizsla is bred as a moderately close ranging dog so they very rarely wander and are very focused on their handler’s position even when they are working.
The Vizsla can succeed in all areas as a total family, sport and working dog. It can be spoiled and sleeping under the covers of the water bed one minute and then will quite happily be taken out to work in the true field, to trial, the obedience ring, the agility circuit or whatever area of interest the owner has.
The Vizsla has an exceptional nose that has been compared to some of the best tracking abilities across all breeds which adds to their hunting and sporting abilities.
Game such as deer will be scented with the nose until its position is located at which time the Vizsla will lock on point. If the deer breaks the Vizsla will be more likely to chase only for a short distance, whereby he will look back to the owner as if to say "Come on, it went this way!". This way of hunting is a characteristic of the breed in that anything the Vizsla does is in partnership with the owner as a team. Of course chasing should be discouraged. The Vizsla will always be aware of the owner as the other member of the hunting team, preferring to hunt with the owner rather than race off on its own.
As well as their versatility in work, the Vizsla is bred to be a true family dog - enjoying the company of both people and other animals. Their devotion to their people means that they are usually very easy to train as they have a high desire to please. They are very rarely aggressive but have a good solid bark and stance that will make an intruder beware. And they have been known to protect their beloved owners in dire need.
The medium size and short hair of the Hungarian Vizsla makes them an 'easy care' option in the grooming area - although they benefit from a regular rub down and often need their nails kept trimmed.
BUT BE WARNED - IT WILL NOT SUIT EVERYONE
While the Hungarian Vizsla may be 'easy care' in grooming, it is the extreme opposite in exercise and amusement. People can be unprepared for the energy levels and intelligence of a Hungarian Vizsla. Also the need for a Vizsla to be a full part of the family not always allowed for. If the Vizsla is bored due to lack of work, exercise and/or time with the family, you are likely to find them thinking up mischief of their own. This is not a dog for someone who wants a part time pet or hunter and is going to kennel them or shut them outside and away from the family for the major part of the day. Often referred to as a Velcro Dog, they expect to be part of the family and will not amuse or exercise themselves if left alone outside. This dog is not for the sedentary owner and does require lots of exercise and activities.
Ideally, because of their need for large amounts of exercise, Vizslak (the plural for Vizsla) like to live somewhere with lots of space. But they will be happy living in town as long as they are an integral part of the family and are still getting good exercise and activities that stimulate their intelligence and instincts.
A Hungarian Vizsla will expect to be part of the family including sharing the house with it's family. Normally they interact very well with any other animals in the house and most Vizslas seem to love children.
Books (borrow from your local library, buy in a bookstore; or buy on the web from http://www.dogwise.com or amazon.com (go to http://trader.co.nz/vizsla/books.htm to access Amazon.com))
Art of Raising a Puppy by Monks of New Skete (also has an accompanying audiotape)
Child proofing Your Dog by Brian Kilcommons
Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson
Dog Training for Kids by Carol Lea Benjamin
Mother Knows Best: The Natural Way to Train Your Dog by Carol Lea Benjamin
Perfect Puppy by Gwen Bailey
Sirius Puppy Training by Ian Dunbar (also has an accompanying videotape)
Versatile Vizsla by Marion Coffman
The Vizsla by B. C. Boggs
NZ Versatile Hunting Dog Trials Association
NZ Vizsla Newzsletter (archives): http://trader.co.nz/vizsla
Ingle and Mead's Vizsla Encyclopaedia: http://www.vizsladogs.com
Vizsla Web-Ring: http:// www.blayne.com
New Zealand Kennel Club: http://nzkc.org.nz
Facebook page of interest
Vizslas are a wonderful breed, but they are not for everyone. Take the time to research thoroughly before buying a puppy. Take the time to find a responsible, concerned breeder. You will find that it is time well spent.
You are welcome to contact me for further discussion if you wish:
Jenny Hawthorn firstname.lastname@example.org
Barat Vizslas - where the showdogs hunt, the hunting dogs show and they all are family members who lounge on the sofa!
Cell Ph 027 4487-866
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