The Hungarian Vizsla
A Brief Description of the Breed
An ancient breed derived in part from the Turkish Yellow Pointer and the Pannonian Hound, the Hungarian Vizsla is first and foremost a hunting dog and anyone seeking to own one of this beautiful breed should bear that in mind as to ignore it could be a recipe for disaster!
The Vizsla is described as a medium sized 'many-sided' hunting dog, a description of its capabilities as an all-purpose gundog - one of the HPR (Hunt, Point, Retrieve) breeds. The breed has a reputation for being easy to train and affectionate but don't get the idea that owning one will be a picnic! They need careful management and clear and concise direction if they are to become a valued family member. Their merits as working dogs are well known so I will confine myself to comments regarding their role as a family pet since a %age of all litters are destined to fill that post. Temperament is paramount and as a breeder of over 20 years standing, this is still my most important quality. After all, a dog may be the most beautiful one of its kind but, what good is he if you cannot live with him?
The Vizsla is a dog which thrives on human companionship, he loves to be 'counted in' as part of the family as many owners will testify. However in order to become so, he has to know his place. This is so, of course, with all dogs but experience has taught me that the Vizsla can outdo many other breeds for cuteness, cleverness and downright cheek! He is NOT the dog for you if you go out to work (no dog should be!) and left alone under those circumstances his intelligence will quickly come into play as he re-designs the legs of the furniture, cupboard doors - those he cannot open and empty - and those little knick-knacks which are in reach of his ever-searching gundog nose, not to mention that toilet training will take for ever - if indeed he learns it at all! If, however you are at home with him during those early, formative weeks and months, then you and he together will have untold fun as you realise his potential and capacity for learning and develop the rapport that forms an unbreakable bond. (Incidentally the first word any of my pups learn is 'NO!') I should, perhaps sound one small note of warning here. The Vizsla is a very clever dog, quick to pick things up (mentally) but he can easily forget lessons which have not been thoroughly taught and, as he loves to please, can get very upset when he does things wrong. Therefore 'make haste slowly' should be the watchword when carrying out your training lessons. Remember the three 'R's, Routine, Repetition and Reward. Make the sessions short and interesting but be sure each lesson is fully digested before moving on to other or more advanced things. Vizslas are (usually) food orientated and training will be more fun and more successful if food rewards are used. Above all if you are clear and concise with your instructions there should be no need to shout, smack or use any other form of punishment other than with-holding the reward.
Amongst the Vizslas other attractive qualities is his coat, not only for its beautiful 'Russet Gold' colouring but also because, being short-coated, keeping him clean is relatively simple compared with some other breeds. When he's wet, a quick towel down will leave him almost dry, whereas if he's muddy, somewhere warm and comfortable to lay - perhaps on newspaper - will see most of the mud drop off when it is dry. To keep his coat gleaming a brush down daily with a 'velvet' grooming glove will work wonders. In the spring he will start to shed his winter coat - often a lighter colour - to reveal the lovely rich colour coat he wears in the summer and a daily brush with a horse (or human) brush will help the metamorphosis. Claws need clipping too on a regular basis. Personally I find it is easier to learn to do it yourself as (in my opinion) vets never take off enough. The old adage about claws being worn down by walking on pavements etc doesn't always work. The Vizsla should have thick fleshy pads which mean that his claws can grow too long if they have to touch the ground in order to be worn down. So, continue the nail clipping (your pup's breeder should have started) on a weekly basis so that he becomes used to the routine and will sit quietly as you do it. If he struggles, you may cut too short and make the claw bleed. This is painful and will lead to the pup refusing to let you clip his claws again. The final part of the early learning process is lead training. This should be done in the garden while his vaccinations are taking effect and he should never be dragged by the lead. Remember that all training must be a positive and happy experience so, if he digs his heels in and refuses to move, don't forget the food! A piece of cheese will work wonders!
So what should you look for in a Vizsla puppy. Firstly, lets backtrack and say that before you look at ANY pups you MUST go to a reputable, recognised breeder who you can trust to provide an 'after sales service', not one who will just take your money, hand you the pup and shut the door! There are now so many different ways of 'advertising', be it by breed lists from the KC, phone-in breed lists - usually provided by breed clubs - or newspaper adverts. The one thing none of these mediums do is to give any guarantees since they are all available to anyone for a price. So it is up to you the buyer to be careful where you go for a puppy. London has 'Discover Dogs', an 'exhibition' of most of the different breeds of dog in the UK and this or one of the big Championship shows is the place to meet successful breeders who are proud of their chosen breeds and are keen/willing to talk and answer questions. Remember, once you first clap eyes on that delicious little golden bundle, YOU ARE LOST! So, do your homework before you look at puppies.
So you have found your breeder and they have puppies available. They show you the bitch with ALL the puppies and the sire (if they own him too) and you can see their temperaments and how they are with visitors . Now to the pups. Do they all rush to greet you? Are they outgoing or do they sit in the corner very apprehensively? Given time, well adjusted puppies will soon be thrusting little wet noses into your hands to see what you have/smell like. Without exception good breeders' puppies should be like this. If they aren't then I would be very wary. Pups which are raised indoors soon accept things like the hoover, washing machine, the 'pinging' of the microwave etc.
Pups who spent their first few weeks shut in a kennels with no experience of the outside world and little human contact can be that much harder to socialise.
The breed standard calls for dogs to be between 22 1/2" and 25" and bitches 21" to 23 1/2" at maturity and you will get a good idea of how big your pup will grow from seeing its parents. Most responsible breeders will put their dogs through the various health schemes set up by the KC and the BVA and, although there are no widespread problems within the breed at present, we have had the odd case of HD (Hip Dysplasia) and entropian. The former should not be a problem if breeding stock is hip scored - although low scores in parents are no guarantee of the offspring not developing the affliction. The risk is, however, significantly reduced if all stock is scored and records kept. Entropian - where the eyelids, normally the lower one - turn in and cause the eyelashes to irritate the eyeball - can usually be seen in pups before they are ready to go to their new homes.
Because the Vizsla is a working dog, generally speaking it should have good quality, medium sized bone in order to be able to do the job for which is was bred. It is easy to pick out the pups who tend to be finer boned and again a look at the parents will tell you what the pups are likely to end up like. However, if your pup is to fulfil the role of a family pet, don't be put off by size. As I said, temperament is the most important aspect and, providing you don't intend to breed from him/her, (and you should not consider doing so unless you are going to 'prove' your Vizsla in show ring or field) then slight 'imperfections' or deviations from the standard in this respect are not going to make any difference. Similarly white markings - up to 5cms allowed on chest, white toes allowed but not really desirable - do not affect the potential of the pup as a pet and should not be held against it.
The Vizsla head and bearing should be of 'elegant nobility'. The ideal head is neither a heavy 'Labrador' type nor a snipey 'Whippet' type. Remember that what you see in the adult parents gives a rough idea of what you will eventually see in your pup at maturity. As a working gundog the Vizsla needs a deep chest with plenty of heart and lung room, well laid back shoulders and an upper arm equal in length to the shoulder blade in order to attain the desired reach and 'daisy cutting' action (hackney or 'choppy' flapping action is indicative of a short upper arm) . Similarly the length of the body from breast bone to rear of hindleg just below the level of the tail, should be slightly more than the measurement from the withers (top of shoulder blades) to the ground. Hindlegs should be moderately angulated to give a good bend of stifle. A dog which has straighter angulation in front or behind, will not cover the ground in the desired fashion. Similarly a dog too short in body proportions/overangulated behind will overreach his front legs and move sideways - crabbing.
Front assembly is all important in the show/working Vizsla and pups who appear noticeably 'bandy' in front, will probably not end up with the strongest of fronts. The standard calls for the front legs and pasterns to be straight, turning neither in nor out, with elbows close to body. 'Easty-westy' front feet are a weakness and, although they may not be obvious in the young pup, if they are seen in the sire or dam there is a good chance that some if not all of the pups will have the same fault. However, I re-iterate that the most important thing is temperament and although the breed standard is there for a very good reason, if you are looking for a family pet, don't let looks put you off. Some of the most affectionate family dogs wouldn't get a look in the show ring!
Finally, whether you buy for pet, show or work you should receive a pedigree (at least 3 generations) signed by the breeder, a KC registration certificate - or at least something in writing to say that registration has been applied for if the reg.cert. is not to hand when you take the pup - and a diet sheet giving clear feeding instructions and details of what food the pup has been used to. Please remember NOT to change the diet for the first few weeks. If you must change after that, it should be done very slowly, mixing the new food in with the old in small amounts at first, then increasing the new/decreasing the old until the changeover is complete. If you do it too quickly you will have a puppy with a very upset tummy!
So go out, find yourself a good breeder, buy your pup and HAVE FUN!