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The Vizsla: A Guide for Owners

Larry Slawson received his Master's Degree from UNC Charlotte. He has 15+ years of experience with dogs and various pets.

The Vizsla: A Guide for Owners.

The Vizsla: A Guide for Owners.

Throughout the world, there exists only a handful of dog breeds that can be consistently described as intelligent, playful, and praiseworthy. One of these dogs is the Vizsla.

Although originally bred in the Middle Ages for the purpose of pointing and retrieving small game, this breed is now favored for its companionship qualities and capacity for family life. This work examines the Vizsla and provides an in-depth analysis of the animal’s behavioral patterns, temperament, and general traits. This includes a general discussion of the Vizsla’s personality traits, health concerns, grooming and exercise needs, as well as feeding requirements.

It is the author’s hope that a better understanding (and appreciation) of this remarkable breed will accompany readers following their completion of this work.

Woodrow Wilson Quote on Dogs

“If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.”

— Woodrow Wilson

Scientific Classification

  • Common Name: Vizsla
  • Binomial Name: Canis Lupus Familiaris
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Canidae
  • Genus: Canis
  • Species: Canis Lupus
  • Subspecies: Canis Lupus Familiaris
  • Other Name(s): Hungarian Vizsla; Magyar Vizsla; Hungarian Pointer; Drotszoru Magyar Vizsla
Vizsla posing for the camera.

Vizsla posing for the camera.

History of the Vizsla

  • Life span: 10 to 14 years
  • Group: Sporting
  • Area of origin: Hungary
  • Date of origin: Middle Ages
  • Original function: Trailing; Falconry; Pointing
  • Family: Hunting Dog; Gundog; Pointer

Origins

Occasionally referred to as the Hungarian Pointer, the Vizsla is believed to have originated in the Middle Ages from Magyars in modern-day Hungary. Although little is known about their ancestors, it is currently believed that Vizslas descended from a variety of hunting breeds. Through selective breeding, breeders desired a dog that excelled at both pointing and retrieving. The end result was the Vizsla.

Much of the historical records pertaining to the Vizsla indicate that this breed was a favorite of nobles during the Middle Ages; accompanying both barons, warlords, and various members of the aristocracy on a variety of hunting excursions.

The breed survived well into the 20th Century, where it was almost pushed to extinction during the First and Second World Wars. Nevertheless, the Vizsla endured and was eventually brought to the United States during the waning years of WWII. From here, the breed was officially recognized by the AKC on 25 November 1960.

Function

A favorite of early nobles and members of the Hungarian aristocracy, the Vizsla was primarily developed as a hunting breed that could both point and retrieve small game (such as squirrels, birds, and hares). Breeders also had water-retrieving in mind when developing the Vizsla, as the dog excels at swimming.

While still favored for its natural hunting and retrieving abilities in the modern age, the Vizsla’s role has shifted dramatically in the past few decades as its gentle nature and affectionate demeanor have now made it a favorite of families with children.

Young Vizsla spending time outdoors.

Young Vizsla spending time outdoors.

Appearance

Body

  • Weight: 45 to 65 pounds (male and female)
  • Height: 22 to 24 inches (male); 21 to 23 inches (female)

The Vizsla possesses a muscular body that is well-proportioned throughout. The overall length of the Vizsla is slightly longer than height, but still manages to give the breed a “square-like” appearance when viewed from the front (akc.org). Likewise, the backline is relatively firm, whereas the croup follows a slightly rounded appearance. Completing the body is a broad chest with well-sprung ribs.

Head

The head of the Vizsla is generally described as lean, muscular, and wide. Overall muzzle length is typically equal to the skull’s measurements, and follows an upward slope from the nose to face.

Eyes are usually medium in size, and sit deep within the skull. Irises, in turn, follow the same coloration of the dog’s coat. Completing the skull is a pair of thin (silky) ears that are long and possess rounded ends. The Vizsla’s ears usually hang quite low, reaching close to the dog’s cheeks when standing still, and are renowned for their “leathery” feel.

Forequarters

The Vizsla possesses both wide and long sloping shoulder blades that are proportionate (in length) to the dog’s upper arms. Forelegs are generally straight and muscular in appearance, with elbows sitting relatively close to one another (when viewed from the front).

Completing the forequarters is a series of cat-like feet that are both round and compact, and which possess a series of thick pads to protect the Vizsla’s paws from rough terrain (akc.org). Nails are typically both short and brown in appearance.

Hindquarters

Similar to the forequarters, the Vizsla’s hindquarters are well-developed and muscular in appearance. Thighs are well-angled, with hocks running parallel to one another. Rear feet are the same as the front, with a series of cat-like paws accentuated by thick padding and short brown nails.

Tail

Tails on the Vizsla are usually docked a third of its overall length, and sit just below the croup. Tails are also quite thick at the base, but become narrower down its length. The tail should also be carried horizontally and not vertically (i.e. not curled over the back or between the legs).

Coat and Coloration

The Vizsla possesses a short, close-lying coat that is renowned for its density. Generally speaking, the Vizsla’s coat is described as a “golden rust” coloration, with lighter shades occurring along the neck and shoulders. Darker colorations are usually viewed as serious faults with this breed, although white marks on the forechest or toes are acceptable.

Aside from its companionship, the Vizsla makes for an excellent hunting dog with a specialization in pointing and retrieving.

Aside from its companionship, the Vizsla makes for an excellent hunting dog with a specialization in pointing and retrieving.

Is the Vizsla Right for Your Home?

General Characteristics

  • Energy Level: 3/5
  • Exercise Needs: 3/5
  • Playfulness: 4/5
  • Affection Towards Owners: 5/5
  • Friendliness Towards Other Animals: 4/5
  • Training Difficulty: 2/5
  • Grooming Level: 1/5

Note: Scale of 1 to 5 (1=Lowest, 5=Highest)

Temperament

The Vizsla is a moderately energetic breed that requires regular exercise. This breed is often described by experts as gentle and affectionate, making it an ideal pet for families with children (of all ages). The Vizsla is renowned for its companionship qualities, as well as their sense of loyalty and dedication to owners.

Despite these positive traits, owners should note that the Vizsla can also be quite shy and stubborn at times. Nevertheless, with proper guidance, the Vizsla responds well to a variety of commands over time due to their alertness and sensitivity.

Vizslas generally do well with strangers and other animals due to their gentle demeanor. As with all dogs, however, owners should exercise extreme care when introducing their Vizsla to new people, situations, and other pets for the first time.

Is the Vizsla Good With Children?

Yes! In fact, the Vizsla regularly makes the top 10 list of “best dogs for kids” as they are an incredibly playful and sweet-natured dog. Vizslas require a great deal of playtime, attention, and affection from their owners. As a result, children are highly suited for meeting these needs on a daily basis.

Although their high-levels of energy and rambunctiousness can be a bit overwhelming at times, this breed is incredibly sensitive and gentle towards others (especially children). As a result, they make for an excellent dog for families with children of all ages. Children will also love the fact that Vizslas are highly-trainable and intelligent with the capacity to learn a wide array of tricks in their lifetime.

How Smart Is the Vizsla?

The Vizsla is an incredibly smart dog breed renowned for their capacity to learn new tricks and commands with ease. And while this breed doesn’t make the “top 10” list of smartest dog breeds, make no mistake, the Vizsla is highly-trainable and adaptive to a wide variety of roles. As a pointer and retriever, it should be noted that this breed is extremely sensitive and attentive to their owner.

As a result, training should be conducted with both gentleness and positive reinforcement. Failure to heed this warning will result in problematic behaviors with the Vizsla, as harsh owners that rely on physical correction will only hamper training. Consistency is also key with this breed, as they tend to learn by repetition (and can be quite stubborn at times).

Beautiful Vizsla resting in the Sun.

Beautiful Vizsla resting in the Sun.

Grooming and Training Needs

Grooming Requirements

Due to their short coat (absence of an undercoat), the Vizsla is extremely easy to maintain. Weekly brushings are usually enough to maintain the Vizsla’s coat, along with regular baths using a rubber grooming brush to remove excess dirt and hair. Regular nail trimmings are crucial for this breed, however, as long nails can catch on carpet or other objects causing serious injury to your dog.

Ear and teeth cleanings should also be followed on a regular basis to prevent infections. Owners should check their Vizsla’s ears daily for excess dirt, earwax, or debris (such as the accumulation of hair that follows regular shedding). Prompt removal of these substances will go a long way in preventing infections and sores within the ear canal. Likewise, owners should (ideally) clean their dog’s teeth on a daily basis to remove food-based substances and tartar buildup. Failure to do so can result in gingivitis, gum disease, and tooth decay.

Training and Exercise Needs

The Vizsla requires an exceptional amount of exercise on a daily basis due to their original role as a hunting and retrieving breed. Without physical exercise, the Vizsla will become easily bored, leading to destructive behaviors (such as chewing, digging, and excessive barking). For these reasons, potential owners should plan to devote at least 60 minutes a day exercising with their dog. This includes playtime, walking, jogging, and off-leash activities (such as running or playing fetch).

In regard to training, the Vizsla is incredibly intelligent. However, they are quite stubborn and easily distracted by various sounds and scents. For these reasons, training requires an exceptionally patient owner willing to devote his/her time to teaching on a daily basis. Reward-based instruction (such as dog treats) is a great motivator for the Vizsla, as well as positive reinforcement (i.e. affectionate praise and belly rubs). Consistency and repetition are also key components to Vizsla training that should be utilized whenever possible.

As discussed above, however, it is crucial for owners to understand the sensitive nature of this breed and to avoid being harsh or angry with their pet when training. As a highly receptive dog, such behaviors on behalf of the owner can result in serious issues for your Vizsla such as shyness and timidness.

Nutritional Needs

As with most breeds, high-quality dog food should always be the number one priority for your pet. These meals can be prepared by a manufacturer, or at home following the guidance and supervision of your dog’s veterinarian (owlcation.com).

And while table scraps may seem appropriate for your dog, owners should always avoid giving their Vizsla human-based foods. These foods often contain harmful substances and toxins that are detrimental to your dog’s overall health. The following list details 10 foods you should avoid giving your dog:

10 foods that are harmful to the Vizsla.

10 foods that are harmful to the Vizsla.

How Much Food Should a Vizsla Eat pper Day?

As with all dog breeds, feeding requirements vary significantly with every pet and depend greatly on your dog’s weight, energy level, and age. For this reason, owners should work actively with their veterinarian to establish a feeding cycle that fits their dog’s specific needs.

Generally speaking, however, the average (adult) Vizsla requires approximately 3 to 4 cups of high-quality dog food on a daily basis (divided into two separate meals). More active dogs will require slightly more food to replenish lost calories, whereas less-active dogs will require slightly less (to prevent obesity).

Water Needs

Maintaining proper hydration is also extremely important for the Vizsla. Nearly 70-percent of a dog’s body is comprised of water. Therefore, owners should pay active attention to their dog’s water needs throughout the day as their requirements can change in response to both outside temperatures and their daily activity levels.

As with most breeds, standard water requirements are usually determined by your dog’s weight. For every seven pounds of weight, a Vizsla should consume approximately 6 ounces of water per day. For example, a 56-pound dog would require 40 ounces of water in a day’s time. These are only minimal requirements, however, and should be tailored to your dog’s particular needs.

As with feeding requirements, more active dogs will require more water (in the vicinity of 70 to 80 ounces a day), whereas less-active dogs will require average hydration on a daily basis.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration in the Vizsla.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration in the Vizsla.

What Type of Home Is Good for a Vizsla?

The decision to buy a Vizsla is a major commitment that should be evaluated carefully. With an average lifespan of nearly 12 to 14 years, potential owners should understand that this breed requires a great deal of time, energy, and attention to live a satisfying life. As a hunting breed, this means that your Vizsla will require daily exercise (rain or shine).

Moreover, their sensitive nature and need for attention mean that individuals who are gone most of the day (for work or school) are probably not suited for this particular breed. And while this breed does well indoors, life in the city offers a unique challenge for this breed as it is difficult for owners to spend quality time outdoors with their pet. As such, urban-based dwellings are generally not recommended for the Vizsla.

Are Vizslas Good With Other Pets?

Yes! Generally speaking, the Vizsla often does well with other animals. This is true for both dogs and cats, alike. However, early socialization is key to ensuring positive relationships between your Vizsla and other animals.

A Vizsla raised with cats and dogs from their puppy years will be more likely to associate with other animals than an older one that lacked these early interactions. Nevertheless, it is important to note that smaller pets (such as gerbils, rabbits, and guinea pigs) are not suitable for this particular breed.

Due to their natural hunting and retrieving instincts, the Vizsla can cause serious harm (or death) to one of these animals. And while they generally get along with cats, owners should always closely monitor their Vizsla when in the presence of smaller animals. This helps to ensure that positive interactions are taking place in your absence.

Are Vizslas Good Guard Dogs?

No. While the Vizsla often makes for a great watchdog due to their tendency to bark when intruders are near, their natural friendliness and sweet disposition are not good traits for guarding. In spite of this, it is important to note that the Vizsla can be extremely protective of their family when danger is near. This is particularly true with children, as the Vizsla is known to actively defend their family members from harm. However, for owners seeking a guard dog, you will likely be better served by a breed such as the German Shepherd or Doberman Pinscher.

Health Concerns

Recommended Medical Tests and Evaluations for the Vizsla:

  • Hip and Elbow Evaluation
  • Thyroid Function Test
  • Eye Exam

Owners will be pleased to know that the Vizsla is an exceptionally healthy breed with few health issues. Nevertheless, seasonal allergies, ear infections, hip (and elbow) dysplasia, and eye disorders can be major concerns for this breed. Epilepsy and cancers (particularly in mixed breeds) can also be problematic, along with hypothyroidism and dwarfism.

For these reasons, owners should establish routine visits with a qualified veterinarian to establish early testing and dietary plans for their dog’s particular health needs. Early detection of diseases (and health issues in general) can go a long way in helping your Vizsla maintain a happy and prosperous life into adulthood.

With adequate nutrition and exercise, owners can expect their Vizsla to live upwards of 10 to 14 years, with some even living 15 years or longer.

Signs and symptoms of illness in the Vizsla.

Signs and symptoms of illness in the Vizsla.

Pros and Cons of the Vizsla

Pros:

  • Gentle and sensitive
  • Extremely affectionate and even-tempered
  • Playful breed with lots of energy
  • Great with children and other pets
  • Minimal grooming requirements

Cons:

  • Requires a great deal of exercise and attention on a daily basis
  • Prone to jump on individuals
  • Suffers from “separation anxiety” when left alone for too long
  • Can be extremely stubborn at times

Concluding Thoughts

In closing, the Vizsla is an exceptional pet due to its playfulness, affectionate qualities (particularly towards children), and undying devotion towards its owners. Although stubborn to a fault and easily distracted, owners will be hard-pressed to find another dog that is as loving, sweet-natured, and intelligent as the Vizsla. It is for these reasons that the Vizsla will remain a favorite of dog owners for the foreseeable future.

Works Cited

  • American Kennel Club. The New Complete Dog Book 22nd Edition. Mount Joy, Pennsylvania: Fox Chapel Publishing, 2017.
  • Coile, Caroline. The Dog Breed Bible: Descriptions and Photos of Every Breed Recognized by the AKC. Hauppauge, New York: Barron’s Educational Series, 2007.
  • Dennis-Bryan, Kim. The Complete Dog Breed Book. New York, New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2014.
  • Larkin, Peter and Mike Stockman. The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Dogs, Dog Breeds, & Dog Care. London, England: Hermes House, 2006.
  • Mehus-Roe, Kristin. Dog Bible: The Definitive Source for All Things Dog. Irvine, California: I-5 Press, 2009.
  • O’Neill, Amanda. What Dog? A Guide to Help New Owners Select the Right Breed for their Lifestyle. Hauppauge, New York: Interpret Publishing Ltd., 2006.
  • Schuler, Elizabeth Meriwether. Simon and Schuster’s Guide to Dogs. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster, Incorporated, 1980.
  • Slawson, Larry. “The Top 10 Smartest Dog Breeds.” (PetHelpful). 2019.
  • Slawson, Larry. “The 10 Best Dogs for Children.” (PetHelpful). 2019.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Larry Slawson

Comments

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 09, 2020:

The Vizsla is a beautiful dog, Larry. I wanyone think anyone would love this god as it has so many great qualitites. This dog would be great for a family. This article is so well-written and it gives us all the information we might want to know about this type of dog.

Lorna Lamon on July 09, 2020:

This is a beautiful dog which seems to tick all the right boxes. I did think it was a Pointer when I first saw the photo, however, it's from the same family. I imagine it would need a great deal of exercise and like collie's they probably become bored if not active. As usual your articles are so well written and such a joy to read. Take care my friend.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 09, 2020:

Larry, this dog is for my family. His characteristics and care are so inline with us.

(Just a note I do not think I related; your articles are articles of loving care from which I extrapolate concepts for life. Including the eccentricities of animals like man)