KUVASZ AS PETS

    For whatever reason there is a real bias against female dogs. This may be the only time you will find all feminine instead of all masculine references. 

    I was ambivalent about gender before I adopted my first Kuvasz. At present I have a sweet tempered and clever male named Triumph, and a smart loving young miss called Phantom. 

    My big boy will be registered in the annals of history as the very first cyberspace Best of Breed winner, due to his victory in the inaugural Virtual Dog Show. My pretty girl placed third. I love them both and they love me, but some days that guy can be very frustrating. 

    It is a generally accepted fact that males will test your authority all of their lives. Males are also larger, they are more prone to roam, and to fits of machismo with other dogs. Each of my female Kuvasz has been easier to train, more attentive and affectionate, as well as more subtly protective. Show people tell me the gender bias extends into the ring. I guess if you are planning to show a male is in your future, if not ...

    Kuvasz pets are what you make them. They are extremely intelligent and learn very quickly. However for centuries they have been independent and in charge while fulfilling their roles as flock and livestock guardians. Therefore it is imperative you teach a puppy what NO means. Do not allow a Kuvasz puppy to do anything at eight weeks and fifteen pounds, that you won't be comfortable with when she's seven months and ninety pounds. Be firm, fair, consistent and patient. When you get to know your pup's personality you will know whether a harsh word is enough, or a scruff shake is required. You must be decisive and confident so the pup understands you are her leader, and that she is your subordinate.

    You should begin to handle the puppy as soon as you bring her home. Lie her on her side, put one hand on her to keep her from squirming away, and hold on to one of her front paws for two minutes with your other hand. When you open your hand she should leave her paw there for ten seconds. Repeat this process with a back paw. Then massage her gums with your finger. Initial resistance is normal but you cannot allow biting. These exercises should be accomplished a few times a day. Have people into your home to perform them, especially children. Kuvasz need to learn they must submit to everyone, and that they are even beneath the goldfish in your pack. If she is a very tough customer you may have to don protective clothing and lie down on the floor with her bundled up in your arms until she tires. When she does finally submit, pet and praise her. I have always enjoyed the kisses I get then instead of bites with those needle teeth.

    SOCIALIZE! SOCIALIZE! SOCIALIZE! You can never socialize a Kuvasz too much. This must be a LIFETIME process. Fill your pockets with treats and take her out to meet the world. Initially I use school bus stops. I give every man, woman, and child a treat to give the pup. When my grown Kuvasz are with me, and especially when they are with Karen, they are friendly with most people but discriminating with the wolves. These are very intelligent dogs with amazing powers of intuition. Have confidence in them and they will have confidence in themselves and you. They are supposed to be guardians not attack dogs. The difference is, Kuvasz should ward off until they have no choice but to fight. Let me assure you, a fighting Kuvasz is very unpleasant.

    Search out loud noise and confusion. The more your Kuvasz sees and hears at a very early age, the less likely she will fear thunder, fireworks, trucks, traffic, hot air balloons, and home appliances like vacuum cleaners etcetera. 

    Once the puppy has had all her puppy shots, take her places where there are many other canines. If you do this when she is small she will learn to play properly with all dogs. Consequently they and their owners won't be afraid of her when she grows to be very large. Moreover she can learn from these playmates. Kuvasz supposedly don't like water, but each of mine were taught to swim and fetch, and even learned some obedience basics by watching other dogs.

    If you live in a cardboard box your Kuvasz pet doesn't care as long as she can be with you. Kuvaszok should not be tethered or chained. As often happens with other dogs, especially guardian type dogs, it may frustrate them and make them very aggressive. However they should always be safely contained either by adequate fencing or even fencing combined with hot wire if necessary, to keep them from roaming and getting into trouble. But don't leave them in the yard or field all of the time, they don't like to be isolated either. Despite what some breed experts will tell you, they do not always need to be outside. Sometimes they like to be inside with their family.

    WHAT FOOD IS BEST? That question has certainly been one of the most worrisome I have had to consider. Despite asking veterinarians, breeders, trainers, and a multitude of other dog business professionals which food was best for my Kuvasz, I was never really totally comfortable when the typical answer included processed dog food. In part that was because there are just so many differing opinions about the value or harm in feeding food out of a bag or out of a can, even if it is advertised as premium, quality, balanced, natural, and the choice of top breeders or veterinarians and so on.

    The presence of chemical preservatives in dog food bothered me from the very beginning. When I attended dog shows and similar canine events, the many dog food manufacturers and other caring nutrition hucksters didn't ever allay my fears. In fact, sometimes as I would trudge from kiosk to kiosk they would assure me their food was the best and only food I should feed my Kuvasz, and that everyone else's food would probably make them sick or kill them.

    During the course of my ongoing research and scrutiny of dog food, I did find a consensus: many breeders, the dog food industry, and veterinarians suggest that large breed dogs should not have puppy food, unless it is specially formulated puppy food for the larger breeds. That is so their already rapid growth won't be accelerated. I also discovered several small meals per day is preferable to reduce the likelihood of bloat. The same as for people, the small meals method has several health benefits including the stabilization of weight.

    Over the years I read a couple of books about homemade and natural food diets, and I did add vegetables and such to Triumph and Phantom's dry dog food, but didn't really break from the detrimental processed dog food pattern. Then I saw Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst's book Give Your Dog A Bone discussed over and over on the Internet, read it, and made the decision to completely change Triumph and Phantom's feeding schedule.

    Other homemade and natural food menus can be found in the books; How To Have a Healthier Dog by Dr. Belfield, Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Dr. Pitcairn, Back to Basics by Wendy Volhard, and Dr. Ed Dorosz's Let's Cook For Our Dog. Once again, you can easily obtain the books mentioned on this site and probably almost any other dog or cat related book or video, by phoning the Direct Book Service at 1800 776 2665.

    Ultimately you will have to decide what and how to feed.

    Climatic conditions will partially dictate how long your dog's coat will be, and how frequently you will have to use a slicker and rake for basic Kuvasz care. Use of the former with its wire teeth will deal with the topcoat, and periodic use of the latter on an adult dog will remove unwanted undercoat and make her look fabulous. If you live in a cold region, during the winter months their coats require less maintenance, and Kuvasz love cold weather. Of course wet and muddy conditions will increase grooming requirements. But a little corn starch applied with the soft side of a pin brush and then brushed out, will whiten the coat and neutralize the nasty smell she picked up shoulder rolling on whatever. If you have handled her since you brought her home, brushing, cleaning teeth, and nail clipping etcetera, do not have to be unpleasant experiences for either of you, or the groomer you take her to once a year for a trim. Be forewarned that she will always shed, however cleanup is easily accomplished with a lint brush and a good vacuum cleaner, and her coat won't be quite as hard to pick up as Labrador Retriever or Dalmatian hair. Kuvasz coats are also odorless except when wet, and then they smell like wet wool. 

    You will find a wide variety of grooming, kennel, and other supplies in the catalogues of the following three large American mail order wholesalers. Contact R.C. Steele at 1800 872 3773, J/B at 1800 526 0388 and Dunns at 1800 223 8667.

    It is the rare Kuvasz that is completely obedient. To strive for that goal I would suggest you refer to Good Owners Great Dogs by Brian Kilcommons, and The Art of Raising a Puppy and How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend by the Monks of New Skete. You might also read Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor. That last book resource is touted as a behavioral guide to training dogs, other animals, and people too! However even with the help and advice of the professionals, don't be surprised if your Kuvasz isn't perfectly attentive all of the time. I am not suggesting you don't try to train her or that she won't behave at obedience school. But you must realize despite her size she can sometimes still be a puppy mentally until three years of age. Moreover, when they are working in their livestock protection roles, Kuvasz are in charge and decide for themselves what they should do. Sometimes it's difficult to overcome their natural tendency toward independence.

    I spend the first ten minutes of every single outing practicing the obedience basics; heel, sit stay, down stay, and the toughest of them all, come. I start short training sessions as soon as I bring the pups home, and find treat rewards to be consistently effective. 

    A magical tool to ensure proper heeling is the prong collar. It does not hurt the dog, and is more humane than a choker despite its appearance. Happy users call it power steering for big dogs. There are also Promise Halters and Haltis available as aids in teaching your dog to heel, and for general training purposes. Unfortunately many people think the halters are muzzles, and are initially afraid to meet dogs wearing them. For more information about the Promise Halter phone 1800 666 3647.

    Sadly, Kuvasz are plagued by many of the hundreds of genetic afflictions which haunt all canines. One of the most common is hip dysplasia, the bane of dogs over thirty pounds. Many unfortunate Kuvaszok are also affected by front end problems like Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) which occurs in the shoulders, and rear leg difficulties like knee ligament failure and patellar luxation. Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD) the debilitating disease which affects the bone framework in puppies of the large rapidly growing breeds, and can kill or permanently deform, is present in some Kuvasz lines. Deafness sometimes occurs in predominantly white breeds like this one. Skin problems are very common. There have also been cases of von Willebrand's Disease (VWD), autoimmune illnesses, and eye problems too. But if you are careful to buy from someone who is reputable, competent, and demonstrates confidence in their breeding program by offering a written and fair warranty in case of genetic defect, hopefully the preceding and myriad of other health nightmares won't be factors in your dog's life. 

    In the event of sickness or a problem which is out of the ordinary, I always get opinions from vets at different clinics. I also frequently consult The Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook by Carlson and Giffin. It is a useful lay person's guide to canine health care. You can expect to pay about $100.00 a year for ordinary veterinary maintenance. 

    The PetPlan Insurance Company http://petplan.com/ 
(1800 268 1169 or 1800 661 7699 in B.C.) insures pets in Canada. There are pet insurance companies all over the world which provide similar protection.

    I know from personal experience that accidents can happen to active healthy dogs, and the resulting bills can add to your upset. I heartily recommend pet insurance, so that in the event of illness or injury, you will be able to afford the very best in veterinary care for your Kuvasz. Alternatively, you could make regular deposits to some kind of emergency bank account to cover unexpected expenses.

    Finally, because they are large dogs they don't live as long as we would like. I've been led to believe that good health after ten years of age is a welcome bonus.


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