The Hovawart is a dependable and strong guard dog, which was developed from the ancient German working breed in the early XX century. It inherited multiple talents from its ancestors and today this canine is utilised in search and rescue operations, tracking and as an excellent watcher. It won’t make an ideal choice for a first time dog owner since obedience training and vast socialisation is a must for this breed.
The Hovawart traces its origin to a very old German guard dog, which was widely spread throughout the Harz and Schwarz Forest regions of this country as far back as the XIII century. It was held in high regard by commoners as well as the Barons of Germany. In 1473 Henrich Mynsinger portrayed this dog as one «The five Noble Breed» because it was frequently used by local police force in tracking thieves and other criminals. Nonetheless the primary function of the breed was guarding of the flocks, castles and farms. In fact the name «Hovawart» consists of two German words: «hof», which is translated as «a yard», and «wart», which means «a watcher».
In the XIX foreign breeds were imported in numbers in Germany and the popularity of the Hovawart sharply declined. In the first decade of XX century very few pure-bred specimens could be found in this country so the breed seemed to be in one step from full extinction. Luckily several concerned breeders decided to unite their efforts to resurrect this fabulous guard dog. The group was headed by Kurt Friedrich König, a famous zoologist. It remains uncertain whether König and his team located enough pure-blooded dogs to recreate the Hovawart of old or they had to add other breeds to the gene pool to achieve this goal. If that is the case, than the old German Shepherd dog, the Kuvacz, the Newfoundland, the Leonberger, the Bernese Mountain dog and the African Hunting dog were most likely used in the breeding process. In 1922 the first puppies of the revived Hovawart were accepted for registration of the German Breeding Registry.
The Second World War halted the breeding program and lots of individual dogs were killed or became strays during the war years. As the result, the Hovawart once again faced the threat of final demise. In 1947, the breed fanciers organised a club to reconstruct and popularise the breed. It was officially accepted by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 1955. Presently the majority of breed members are still kept for their guarding prowess and the Hovawart’s population is primarily concentrated in its native Germany.
The prominent feature of the Hovawart is its calm and steady temperament, which allows it to serve as an excellent companion animal. This people-oriented breed is prone to choose only one person for the role of a master. At the same time it’s usually endlessly devoted to all family members and will without hesitation lay down its life for the sake of their safety. This breed preserves puppylike playfulness and liveliness until it turns at least two years old. The well-socialised specimen is gentle and careful with children and will never refuse to participate in their exuberant activities.
The Hovawart demonstrates natural suspiciousness of unfamiliar people. However it’s quite able of discerning the difference between a friend and a foe and won’t attack without a serious reason. Thanks to its powerful protective instinct this dog usually becomes a perfect property and personal guardian. It’s also notable for vigilant and attentive disposition so it can be turned into an equally effective watchdog.
In most cases the Hovawart is good with other canines although some specimens can develop aggressive tendencies. It wants to take dominative position among other dogs, which can cause severe confrontation between strange dogs. Such undesirable behavioural patterns can be substantially reduced with spaying or neutering that should be performed when the dog is about one year old. The breed will tolerate other pets (including a home cat) in the household if they have been introduced to each other in an early age.
The most common problems for the breed include:
· underactive thyroid;
· canine hip dysplasia.
The Hovawart is an unpretentious breed when things come to its grooming. The master should brush or comb the dogs’ medium-length coat on a regular basis in order to keep it free from tangles and mats and to maintain it in a good state.
Bathe this dog as rarely as possible so as not to wash off the natural oils of its skin and coat. Other than that this breed requires such standard care procedures as regular nail trimming and teeth brushing. The Hovawart sheds fairly moderately.
The training of the Hovawart is usually a rather challenging task. This independent worker got accustomed to rely only on its own decisions and won’t follow orders blindly. In addition to its natural stubbornness it definitely doesn’t live to please. That’s why the personality of the handler is extremely significant for the success of this breeds training. The owner should possess the character of a leader and approache learning process with enough patience and determination.
It’s essential to stimulate this dog to work only in a positive manner and to avoid any type of rough-housing. With correct training techniques this intelligent breed can achieve outstanding results in agility and obedience competition as well as in other dog sports.
The Hovawart is both tough and energetic breed, which implies that it needs lots of daily vigorous exercise. Ideally it should be regularly released off-leashed in a spacious and safely enclosed yard. Of course it can get by with a brisk walk of at least an hour long but it still needs occasional opportunity to let off steam in a free run or exuberant game. This breed adjusts poorly to an apartment life and fits best to the rural environment.
The specimen, which is treated as a couch potato, will manifest its frustration with such a life by some nasty behavioural patterns including destructiveness, over excitability, on-going barking and even aggressiveness.