By GREGORY BARRETT (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)

Kuvasz are what you make them. They are extremely intelligent, and learn very quickly. However, for centuries they have been independent, and in charge, in 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.

When you bring the puppy home, handle her. 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. Do this a few times a day. Have people come to your home to do it, 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.

It is the rare Kuvasz that is completely obedient. Good Owners Great Dogs by Brian Kilcommons, The Art of Raising a Puppy, and How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend, by the Monks of New Skete are pretty good training sources. But don't be surprised if your Kuvasz isn't perfectly attentive all of the time. I am not suggesting you don't try to make her perfect, or that she won't behave at obedience school. Just don't forget, despite her size, she can still be a puppy mentally, sometimes until three years of age. Also, in their natural livestock protection role, Kuvasz are in charge and decide for themselves what they should do. I spend the first ten minutes of every single outing practicing the basics; heel, sitstay, downstay, and the toughest of them all, come. I start short training sessions as soon as I get the pups home and find treat rewards to be consistently effective. Another book I suggest you read, is Livestock Protection Dogs, by David Sims and Orysia Dawydiak. It will give you insight into Kuvasz and there various cousins in their working roles.

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 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 an early age, the less likely she will be fearful of things like thunder, fireworks, trucks, hot air balloons, etcetera. Once the puppy has had all its puppy shots, take her places where there are many dogs. If you do this when she is small, she will learn to play properly with all dogs, and these dogs and owners won't be afraid of her when she is grown. Moreover, she can learn from other dogs. Kuvasz supposedly don't like water. Each of mine were taught to swim, fetch, and obey, by watching other dogs.

If you live in a cardboard box, your Kuvasz does not care as long as she can be with you. Kuvaszok do not respond well to being tied or chained. They do not like to be isolated either. Despite what some breed experts will tell you, they do not have to be outside all the time. They like to be inside with their family.

This breed is less likely to cause allergic reactions than most other breeds. The most important grooming tool for Kuvasz care, is the slicker. Drag that little brush with the wire teeth through her coat everyday, and she will look fabulous. During the winter months if you live in a cold region, their coats require very little maintenance, and Kuvasz love cold weather. Of course, wet and muddy conditions will increase grooming requirements. 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 that was. If you have handled her since you brought her home, brushing, cleaning teeth, nail clipping etc., do not have to be unpleasant experiences for either of you. They do shed, but cleanup is easily accomplished with a lint brush and a good vacuum cleaner. Kuvasz coat is not a nightmare to deal with, as is some dog hair, from breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, or Dalmatians.

Kuvasz as a breed are plagued by few genetic faults. The most common of course is hip dysplasia, the bane of dogs over thirty pounds. Deafness occurs sometimes in predominantly white breeds. Skin problems occasionally occur in this breed. Some cases of Von Willebrand's Disease and eye problems have been discovered. For the most part, if you are careful to buy from a reputable breeder, these and the myriad of other canine problems hopefully won't be factors in your dog's life. You can expect to pay about $100.00 a year for ordinary veterinary maintenance. I still haven't found the perfect vet, and for any problem out of the ordinary I always get a second opinion from a second vet at another clinic. The Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook by Carlson and Giffin is a handy lay person's guide to canine health care. Another good idea is to have pet insurance. The Pet Plan Insurance Company at (800) 268-1169 or (800) 661-7699 in B.C., insures pets worldwide. I know from personal experience, accidents happen to active dogs, and the resulting bills can add to your upset. Finally, because they are big dogs they don't live as long as we would like. Generally, I've been led to believe that good health after ten years of age is a welcome bonus.

For whatever reason, there is a real bias against female dogs. This may be the only time you will find totally feminine, instead of all masculine references. I was gender ambivalent before I bought my first Kuvasz. I presently have a sweet- tempered, clever, and healthy male, and a lovely, smart young miss. I love them both and they love me. But some days that guy can be so frustrating. It is a generally accepted fact, that males will test your authority all of their lives. Also males are larger. They are more prone to roam, and to fits of machismo with other dogs. I have found each of my female Kuvasz easier to train, more attentive and affectionate, as well as more subtly protective. Show people tell me the gender bias extends into the ring, so I guess if you are planning to show, a male is in your future. If not ....

I have scrutinized, and continue to research dog foods. My Kuvasz, Triumph and Phantom, are fed various combinations and portions of foods like; ground beef, rice, yogurt, vegetables, cottage cheese, and Iams MiniChunks, three times a day. I also add two large spoonfuls of chopped up Pedigree canned meats, to each of their meals. Among the sources of information, I found Iams, at (800) 525 4267, to be very helpful. The consensus of opinion from breeders, the dog food industry, and veterinarians, seems to suggest, large breed dogs should not have puppy food which will accelerate their already rapid growth. As well, a number of small meals per day is preferable, if possible, to reduce the likelihood of bloat. The same as in humans, this schedule will also help to keep weight down. I try to provide the right amount of protein and nutrition, for the activity levels of my pets. They are not pulling sleds for example, so they don't need high protein foods, but they do need mid range levels to keep them fit, healthy, and in good coat. The preservatives found in processed dog foods concern me. 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, and Let's Cook For Our Dog by Dr. Ed Dorosz. The last author is Canadian, and the book is published by our Pets Inc., P.O. Box 2094, Fort Macleod Alta. T0L 0Z0.

Since there are so few sources of Kuvasz information, it might be a good idea if you joined the Kuvasz Fanciers of America. I have found it to be a very pet owner friendly club, and it can be reached at Box 7115 Mission Hills, CA 91346, Another good source is The Kuvasz Information Page on the WWW. There is also a listserve pertaining to Kuvasz. You can subscribe to this service and receive automatic e-mail that includes discussions of various aspects of Kuvasz ownership. To subscribe to KUVASZ-L simply send an email message to with no/any subject line and in the sujbect area write: subscribe KUVASZ-L Firstname Lastname .



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