The Kuvasz is a livestock guardian breed hailing from Hungary. These days, he is primarily a family companion or show dog, although some still find employment as flock guardians. The Kuvasz has many good qualities, but he is not the easiest dog to live with. If you want the calm, protective dog that is the Kuvasz at his best, be prepared to do a lot of homework to find him and put in plenty of effort training and socializing him once you bring him home.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The Kuvasz is gentle with his people, including children and other pets in his own family, but he's not a lovey-dovey kind of dog. Strangers will not get a warm welcome from him, and he can be aggressive toward dogs he doesn't know. He may also misunderstand children at play and take steps to protect "his" children. Always supervise children and Kuvaszok (the plural of the breed name).

Early, frequent socialization is essential to prevent a Kuvasz from becoming overly suspicious or fearful of anything new or different. Purchase a Kuvasz puppy from a breeder who raises the pups in the home and ensures that they are exposed to many different household sights and sounds, as well as people, before they go off to their new homes.

Continue socializing your Kuvasz throughout his life by taking him to puppy kindergarten class, visits to friends and neighbors, and outings to local shops and businesses. This is the only way he can learn to be discriminating, recognizing what is normal and what is truly a threat.

The Kuvasz is active and needs a long daily walk or a chance to run in a safe, traffic-free area. Given his predatory instincts, though, a park is not a good choice. If you love the outdoors, a Kuvasz will be a good hiking companion, but he should be kept on leash. Until he matures physically at 2 years of age, avoid letting him play too hard, climb stairs frequently or run on slippery floors, all of which can contribute to skeletal problems during his formative years.

This is a giant breed, unsuited to condo or apartment life. That cute little white ball of fluff will grow up to weigh 70 to 115 pounds. Be sure you are prepared to live with and care for a dog of that size. He is best suited to a home with a large yard surrounded by a solid fence that is at least five or six feet high. Do not rely on an underground electronic fence to keep him contained. The shock it provides is nothing to this tough dog, and he won't let it deter him from leaving the yard if that's what he wants to do.

Like any dog, Kuvasz puppies are inveterate chewers and because of their size can do more damage than puppies of other breeds. Don't give them the run of the house until they've reached trustworthy maturity. And keep your Kuvasz puppy busy with training, play and socialization experiences. A bored Kuvasz is a destructive Kuvasz.

Begin training as soon as you bring your Kuvasz puppy home, while he is still at a manageable size. Use positive reinforcement training techniques such as praise, play and food rewards, and be patient. The Kuvasz will respond to kind, firm, consistent training, but he won't put up with force or cruelty.

Kuvaszok will bark at anything that might possibly be a threat. Teach them to be discriminating in their warnings or you will likely have complaints from neighbors.

While you might think of him as an outdoor dog, nothing could be farther from the truth. Kuvaszok are guardian dogs, devoted to their people. They should certainly have access to a securely fenced yard, but when the family is home, the Kuvasz should be with them. Chaining a Kuvasz out in the yard and giving him little or no attention is not only cruel, it can also lead to aggression and destructive behavior.

The Kuvasz has a beautiful white double coat that sheds dirt but also sheds hair. Brush him weekly with a pin brush to remove dead hair and keep the skin and coat healthy. Clean the ears and trim the nails as needed, and bathe the Kuvasz on the rare occasions that he's dirty.

Health Issues Common to Kuvaszok

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines. Kuvaszok have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren't cautious about whom you buy from. They include progressive retinal atrophy, autoimmune thyroiditis and orthopedic problems such as osteochondritis dissecans, hip and elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation and cruciate ligament injuries. The Kuvasz Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Kuvasz to achieve CHIC certification, he must have OFA or PennHIP certification for hips and elbows and an OFA thyroid clearance. Additional certifications that are recommended but not required are OFA clearances for patellas (knees) and heart; Canine Eye Registry Foundation certification that eyes are healthy; and a DNA test for PRA. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Osteochondrosis Medium $2,000-$4,000
Patellar Luxation Low $1,500-$3,000
Elbow Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$4,000
Cruciate Ligament Injury Medium $1,000-$3,000
Deafness Medium $100-$300

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Kuvasz Puppy

Finding a good breeder is more important than finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. A list of breeders can be found on the website of the Kuvasz Club of America.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Kuvasz aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a Kuvasz can live to be 10 to 14 years of age, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.

Puppy or adult, take your Kuvasz to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues, and in particular to watch out for the early signs of diabetes and skin problems, including ear infections.

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you'll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Kuvaszok

Pet insurance for Kuvaszok costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Kuvaszok are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Kuvaszok are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Kuvasz is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.