Kuvasz, Large Dog

The Kuvasz is a dog breed of ancient Hungarian origin. Mention of the breed can be found in old Hungarian texts. It has historically been used to guard livestock, but has been increasingly found in homes as a pet over the last seventy years.

Kuvasz Appearance

The Kuvasz is a large dog with a dense coat which is usually white in color and can range from wavy to straight in texture. Although the fur is white, the Kuvasz’s skin pigmentation should be dark and the nose should be black. The eyes should have an almond shape. Females usually weigh between 35–50 kg (75-90 pounds) while males weigh between 50–70 kg (100-115 pounds) with a medium bone structure. The head should be half as wide as it is long with the eyes set slightly below the plane of the muzzle. The stop (where the muzzle raises to the crown of the head) should be defined but not abrupt. The precise standard varies by country. (See the Breed Standards for a more precise description.) To a casual observer, the Kuvasz may appear similar to a Great Pyrenees, Akbash, a Maremma Sheepdog, Samoyed or a white Poodle and Labrador Retriever mix. The Slovak Cuvac and the Polish Tatra Sheepdog are versions of the Kuvasz.

As with many livestock guardian dogs, the color of the Kuvasz's coat serves a functional purpose and is an essential breed criterion. Shepherds purposefully bred the Kuvasz to have a light colored coat so that it would be easier for the shepherds to distinguish the Kuvasz from wolves that would prey on the livestock during the night. The Komondor, a cousin of the Kuvasz, has a white coat for the same reason. Traditionally, the Hungarian Kuvasz's coat could be either white or cream colored with a wavy texture. However, there is some debate, particularly in the United States, concerning the appropriateness of "cream" colored coats in show-quality dogs and whether the coat should be straight or wavy in texture. Since washing and brushing out a coat, as done for shows in the US also causes the coat to appear straight, the debate may be circular. Straighter coats may also have appeared as the result of breeding programs that developed after World War II, when the breeding lines in Hungary were isolated from the rest of the world as a result of Soviet occupation. By Hungarian standard the straight coat is not acceptable. There must be special twirls in the coat.

Kuvasz Temperament

The Kuvasz is a very intelligent dog and is often described as having a clownish sense of humor which can last throughout their adolescence and occasionally into adulthood. They are intensely loyal yet patient pets who appreciate attention but may also be somewhat aloof or independent, particularly with strangers. They rank 42nd in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs. They require an experienced dog handler/trainer. In keeping with their origins as a livestock guardian, Kuvasz are known to be fierce protectors of their families. Given their intelligence, constant awareness of their surroundings, as well as their size and strength, they can be quite impressive in this role. A Kuvasz should be courageous, disciplined and stable, while hyperactivity, nervousness and shyness are to be faulted.

The combination of intelligence, independence and protectiveness make obedience training and socialization necessities. Furthermore, despite their intelligence, they should not be perceived as easily trained. Their independent personalities can make training a difficult task which can wear on the patience of even experienced owners. As a result, they are not recommended for novices and those who do not have time to train and socialize them properly. An adolescent Kuvasz dog should be able to learn basic obedience commands and consistently respond to them; however the instinctive need to investigate strangers and protect its owner may cause the Kuvasz dog to act independently when off leash and ignore the calls of a frustrated handler. Finally, a potential owner should refrain from purchasing a Kuvasz if barking will be a problem at the home. While not all Kuvasz dog are prone to barking, many of them fulfill their guardian role by vocally warning off potential threats, both real and imagined. On the other hand, many of these qualities make the Kuvasz dog excellent guardians for sheep or large estates. The Kuvasz dog has a very, special close connection to his owner.

Kuvasz Grooming

The Kuvasz's stiff, dense coat, growing up to 15 cm (6 inches) in length, does not require any special grooming. It needs to be brushed once a week or, better still, every two or three days. For standard grooming purposes, use of a grooming rake or a pin-brush with rounded pins is recommended. To remove stubborn knots, use a curry comb or a large-toothed comb. During the spring and autumn the Kuvasz moults (also known as shedding), and he will lose copious amounts of hair very quickly. Frequent brushing is therefore needed to keep his coat tidy. A Kuvasz should not smell or have an odor; such is usually a sign of illness or a poor diet.

Kuvasz Health

Although generally a healthy and robust breed which can be expected to live approximately 12–14 years, the Kuvasz are prone to developmental bone problems. Accordingly, owners should take care to provide proper nutrition to their Kuvasz puppy and avoid subjecting the puppy to rough play. As with many large breeds, hip dysplasia, a painful and potentially debilitating condition, is not uncommon. Good genetics and proper nutrition as a puppy are key to avoiding these complications.

A Kuvasz puppy should not be fed a diet high in calories or protein as such diets have been associated with the development of orthopedic disorders later in life. The Kuvasz has a very efficient metabolism and is predisposed to rapid growth—vitamin supplements are not necessary and, in fact, should be avoided. Cooked bones should never be given to a Kuvasz or any other dog because the cooking process renders the bone brittle and prone to splintering, which can cause serious injury to the dog's mouth and digestive tract.

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