The Vizsla is a hunting dog that comes from Hungary. They are easy to train and make excellent hunters, and also great family companions. The name ‘velcro dog’ is sometimes given to them because of their devotion to their family and habit of following them around everywhere. They are affectionate and gentle with children, although they do have a high prey drive so must be trained and socialized.
Male adults reach a height of 22 to 26 inches, and females a height of 20 to 24 inches. Males weigh 45 to 60 pounds at maturity, and females 40 to 55 pounds.
In 800 A.D. the Magyar tribe came from Russia and raided many places in Europe. They rode on horseback, and speed was very important to them, so they bred speed, agility and endurance into both their horses and dogs. The Magyars settled in Hungary, and their dogs were guarded and refined by warlords and the aristocracy. These ‘yellow-pointers’, which we now know as Vizslas, were used primarily for hunting. They were versatile enough to work in water, fields, and woodland.
In 1950 a U.S. State department employee managed to sneak a Vizsla out of Hungary to America. They quickly became popular because of their ability to excel in sports and also be a devoted family companion. In 1960 they were officially recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club. With their ability to be trained and sniff things out, they have been used for search-and-rescue, drug detection, guide dogs and service dogs. In 2011 they were used to help find missing people at Ground Zero in New York, after the attacks on the Twin Towers.
The first American Kennel Club champion of five different competitions was a Vizsla named ‘Chartay’. She won titles in Obedience, Conformation, Agility, and two different Field Trials, demonstrating the breed’s versatility.
Vizslas are very affectionate – they love people and bond closely with their owners. This probably dates back to when they were hunting dogs and had to stay by their owner’s side all day. Unfortunately this does mean they develop separation anxiety easily and will whine or cry if they are left alone for too long. If you are gone from home most of the day then this would not be a good breed choice for you. They can be excellent guard dogs if they are trained, and they are instinctive hunters.
Vizslas are great swimmers. They may need a little persuasion to first enter the water, but once they get used to it they generally love it. Their coats are short-haired, and they have a lean and muscular build. The most common type of coat color is a solid golden-rust. But there are also some dogs that have a solid rust color. White markings can sometimes be found in some areas on their body, such as their tail and neck.
This breed might not be the best choice for apartment dwellers because they tend to be quite verbal – barking, howling and moaning. They also need extensive exercise of about an hour a day, and don’t like to be left alone for very long. Vizslas shouldn’t live outside because they have a short coat which doesn’t protect them very well from cold weather, and they like to be with their family. They do tend to be sensitive, so should be trained gently and not harshly.
Vizslas get on well with other dogs and pets as a general rule. Because of their hunting instincts, smaller pets such as birds might not be safe around them. They are affectionate and gentle with children if socialized and trained well, but can be a bit too enthusiastic for young children. Children often act like prey without realising it, so some training may be necessary on how your dog should treat them, and how the children should act with your dog. They can be protective and will probably bark at strangers, but they are very affectionate with their families.
Vizsla dogs don’t tend to give off any doggy odor, other than a slight smell if they’ve been swimming in a lake or river. Baths can be given rarely, when necessary, and many owners wipe them down with a damp cloth to keep their coat shiny. Occasional brushing helps with shedding and a healthy coat. They do shed, but not heavily. Toe nails should be trimmed regularly and ears checked and cleaned frequently. Regular brushing of their teeth is also recommended.
One of the reasons Vizslas do so well in all kinds of dog sports is that they are highly trainable. They are intelligent and curious and enjoy training. Some dogs may tend towards stubbornness or manipulation though, so it is important to start training them early and be consistent and firm. They are exuberant and energetic so training is vital, otherwise destruction may result. They should be kept in a fenced in yard and walked on a leash, because they have a high prey drive and may run off after small animals.
These are active dogs, and were bred for hunting all day, so they do best with a job to do. Active exercise is important – at least 30 minutes a day, but preferably an hour. You should build in some opportunities for them to run without a leash, and games of fetch are always popular. Vizslas will also enjoy running or jogging alongside you, but they shouldn’t run long distances until they are around 18 to 24 months old. Canine sports that they excel in include field trials, hunting, agility, dock diving and scent work.
Like all dogs, Vizslas should be fed a high quality diet, and fresh water should be available at all times. This will pay off in a healthy dog, with a shiny good looking coat. Some owners prefer to feed their dog raw food, or make it at home. This is OK too, but you need to make sure you research it well, so that your dog gets all the vitamins, minerals and nutrition he needs.
Puppies can feed freely until they are around 4 to 6 months old. After that, food can be divided into two meals every day which helps them with housebreaking, and helps you have control over how much they eat.
Most Vizslas are not picky, and will do well on any high quality food. Some owners like to create variety by adding table scraps to their dog’s meal, but you do need to watch out that you don’t feed them too much. Allergies and skin problems can occur, so if you see itching or an upset stomach you will want to try and find out what is causing the problem. If you suspect a food allergy or intolerance, then a veterinarian will often recommend switching to a very simple diet for a few weeks to see if their symptoms clear up. If they do, then you can gradually introduce ingredients to try and diagnose what is causing the sensitivity.
Recommended daily feeding amount: 3 to 4 cups of high quality dog food, divided into two meals daily.
Individual dogs will vary quite a lot in how much food they need. If they are very active they will need more. If they are less active, or older, they will need less. Dogs that have been spayed or neutered often need fewer calories.
Common Health Concerns
Vizslas are a healthy breed, but as with all dogs, some health problems may present themselves. As with many other breeds, parents should be tested for Hip Dysplasia before breeding, to help prevent the condition being passed on. In Hip Dysplasia, the thighbone doesn’t fit properly into the hip joint and can cause lameness and pain. It is hereditary but can also develop as a result from injuries or growing too fast at an early age. A cancer that may be found in these dogs is Lymphosarcoma. However this can be treated with chemotherapy.
Epilepsy may occur – this causes seizures, and cannot be cured. However it can be managed with medication. Vizslas may also be prone to Progressive Retinal Atrophy, where the retina of the eye gradually deteriorates. This starts off by causing night blindness, but it eventually progresses to daytime blindness. Dogs can live a relatively normal life with this condition, so long as you don’t move the furniture around.
Vizslas are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Vizslas in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don’t see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a Vizsla rescue.