- Dog Breeds
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The name of this German utility dog breed reveals that the Hovawart originally served as a court guard. In Middle High German, “hova” means court and “wart” guard. The Hovawart has to the present day not lost its qualities associated with the role, but is now also popular as a family dog.
As a former home and court guard, the Hovawart innately possesses enviable self-confidence and a strong protective instinct. This doesn't mean that it pounces on anyone who approaches its terrain; for all its watchfulness, the Hovawart is on the contrary considered a very even-tempered and nerveless dog that also has a sensitive side and a need for close contact. Despite its strong personality, it needs a close connection to its family. These large, affectionate dogs absolutely love spending time with their family – especially if cuddles are involved. Their intelligence and great willingness to learn allow their innate protective characteristics to be steered in the desired direction. With the right training and kept in appropriate conditions, the Hovawart will make an incredibly good-natured family dog that also gets on well with children. Hovawart owners must definitely hear compliments about their well trained dogs more often than complaints about inappropriate aggression.
Nevertheless, the Hovawart isn't the right dog for beginners with no experience. This self-assured dog requires an equally self-assured handler whose judgement it trusts. A true Hovawart will initially thoroughly put to the test whether its handler is at all suitable to be “leader of the pack”. If the owner isn't confident, the Hovawart with its strong character prefers to take the reins itself, which certainly won't be in its owner's interest. As a result, it can be the case that the Hovawart falsely interprets its owner's clumsy handling as fear, suggesting that danger is afoot and demanding aggressive and intimidating behaviour in response. On the contrary, if the owner gains respect as the “leader of the pack” and gains their dog's trust first off, they will have a loyal and vigilant dog as a companion that will only put its protective instinct to use when its owner considers it necessary. The extremely close relationship that a Hovawart constructs with its human family, representing a kind of “substitute pack”, is remarkable and is even mentioned in the FCI's breed standard. This “special connection to its family”, combined with a friendly character, high resilience and good sense of smell makes the Hovawart both an excellent guard dog and an outstanding companion, rescue and sleuth dog.
As a highly versatile utility dog, the Hovawart is a very powerful and active dog that moves at an incredibly quick pace.
Its medium-sized body is gently elongated and covered with long, slightly wavy fur.
The strong head with a wide, arched forehead and very straight nasal bridge is much slimmer for female than male dogs. When it comes to head size and weight, female dogs are visibly different from males. At a height of 58 to 65cm, bitches are around 5cm shorter than males, generally 63 to 70cm in height. Whilst males weigh around 40kg, females merely reach approx. 30kg. What both genders do have in common are dark brown eyes with a trusting gaze and beautiful triangular lop ears.
The Hovawart's eye-catching coat comes in three colours: black, blond and black-and-tan.
Black and tan: The base coat is black and shiny with medium-blond markings that are clearly distanced in all sections. On the head, markings begin underneath the nasal bridge and reach around the flews to the marking of the throat. Punctiform markings above the eyes are also renowned features of the breed. Further medium-blond markings appear on the front and rear legs (up to the abdominal wall), as well as on the underside of the tail.
Black: The coat of black Hovawarts is entirely black and shiny. However, small white marks on the chest, toes and tip of the tail are permitted.
Blond: Blond fur is shiny and medium in shade, but light on the stomach and legs. As with both other colourings, individual white marks on the chest along with a few white hairs on the toes and tail are allowed.
The name “hovawart” or “hovewart” for home and court dogs can be found in writings from as early as the Middle Ages, such as the Survey of Saxon and Swabian Law. However, court and farm dogs were referred to with this term regardless of their appearance until the 19th century. Only at the end of this century was the name “Hovawarth” limited to home and court dogs that looked similar to the famous pedigree dogs of the present day with long, shaggy fur and lop ears.
In 1922, Kurt Friedrich König and his father Bertram König made the first attempt to breed these dogs. The objective was to breed dogs that innately possessed the desired characteristics of guard dogs. By doing so, the Königs went against the practice that emerged after the First World War of merely training dogs for guard duties. The Hovawart already inherited a strong protective instinct, intelligence and the ability to react to different situations appropriately and independently. In order to further develop these characteristics, König crossed breeds such as shepherd dogs, Newfoundlands, Leonbergers and Kuvaszs. In 1937, these instinctively capable guard dogs that boasted both a well-balanced nature and protective urge were finally recognised as an independent breed called the “Hovawart”.
Over the course of the upcoming Second World War, the breed animal population at first decreased significantly. After the end of the war, the few breeders were initially left to their own devices, hence different types of Hovawarts emerged depending on the region. In Germany, the Hovawart's country of origin, the Pedigree Breeding Association for Hovawarts (Rassezuchtverein für Hovawart-Hunde e.V., RZV) was founded in 1948 and specified an overarching standard.
Health and Breeding
Nowadays, there are three breeding associations recognised by the VDH (Verband für das Deutsche Hundewesen [German Dog Federation]) in the Hovawart's country of origin: the Pedigree Breeding Association for Hovawarts, the German Hovawart Breeding Community (Hovawart-Zuchtgemeinschaft Deutschland, HZD) and the German Hovawart Club (Hovawart Club Deutschland, HC).
In the 1950s, breeders in other European countries also became aware of the German breed. Especially in Switzerland and the Netherlands, some Hovawart breeders soon came together in state-wide associations. In the 1970s and 1980s, further Hovawart associations were formed in Austria, Britain, France, Italy and the USA. In the 1990s, more clubs emerged in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. The International Hovawart Federation was founded within the FCI in order to exchange relevant information and expertise about the Hovawart breed between the different countries. Present-day members of the IHF are the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Germany.
Thanks to strict rules and regulations breeders and associations are subject to in different countries, it has been possible to breed very healthy dogs with a balanced character. In comparison to other dog breeds of the same size, the proportion of severe and moderate hip dysplasia (HD) is very low amongst Hovawarts. Dogs that show a disposition towards HD, a light form of the latter or other hereditary diseases are excluded from the breeding process. These strict requirements for the health of the breed animals, an extensive database accessible to all Hovawart owners and collaboration with scientists are the reasons why pedigree breed Hovawarts are now in such robust health. Furthermore, the Hovawart's life expectancy of 12 years or above is higher than for many other dog breeds.
It goes without saying that the significant effort responsible breeders put into breeding such healthy and robust dogs doesn't come cheap. Hence, be careful with supposedly cheap Hovawarts costing less than 1000 euros. Any saving on the purchase price can quickly turn sour if you're constantly having to go to the vet or canine therapist with your dog.
Of course there's no guarantee that “expensive” Hovawarts will stay healthy for their entire life. However, responsibly reared puppies with healthy parents simply have the best prerequisites to live a long and healthy life. With the right care and living conditions, you can further contribute to keeping down veterinary costs for your canine.
Care and Living Conditions
Lots of exercise and activity are essential for keeping a Hovawart. Recognised as a utility dog, this breed demands an owner with lots of time and inclination to actively engage with their dog. Along with extensive walks, outdoor excursions, jogging and cycling, canine sports are ideally suited to utilise and boost the Hovawart's physical fitness, innate love of work and intelligence. Be it popular sport or special training for guard, tracking or rescue dogs, target-oriented activity will definitely make you and your Hovawart grow even closer as a “family”, and will help you acquire an even greater understanding of your dog's needs and nature.
Furthermore, physically and mentally stimulated Hovawarts are certainly more likely to listen to your commands than those who seek their own challenges due to boredom. As with all dogs, consistency is the basic requirement for training a Hovawart. Uncertainty and inappropriate severity will definitely not be successful when training these tough personalities. However, take into consideration that Hovawarts are so-called “late developers”, meaning that their character and behaviour are only truly set in stone once they reach the age of three. In order to live in harmony, it's important to be patient and to understand that your Hovawart won't immediately put into effect and assimilate all training attempts.
The dog and its family living in close proximity certainly ensures mutual satisfaction. This of course doesn't mean living in cramped conditions, but rather frequent contact with your pet. Hovawarts are family dogs through and through and develop an incredibly close connection to their “pack”, hence should be closely integrated into family life from the very beginning. Constantly being in a kennel is not suitable at all for such affectionate dogs. In terms of space, these former court guardians are best off with a house with a garden (or better, an entire court), in which they can run around freely.
In contrast to the impression given by the long coat, Hovawarts are fundamentally easy to groom. The fur doesn't tend to felt since the undercoat is not very thick. Apart from during the moulting period, the coat doesn't need to be brushed on a daily basis.
Thanks to these prerequisites, the Hovawart is ideally suited for sport-loving families with experience with dogs. Its loving nature and robust health will certainly make it a loyal and valued companion for many years to come.
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