The Vizsla is a versatile, red-coated gundog built for long days in the field. For centuries, these rugged but elegant athletes have been the pride of Hungarian sportsmen and their popularity in America increases with each passing year.
The first Vizsla to come to America in 1950 was smuggled out of Communist Hungary with the help of a U.S. State Department employee. Fifty years later, a Vizsla named Chartay became the first dog in AKC history to earn championships in five different sports, a quintuple champion. It’s no wonder that the words “versatile” and “Vizsla” so often appear in the same sentence.
Vizslas are 21 to 24 inches tall and weigh 44 to 60 pounds. They are robust but lightly built being a hunting dog of distinguished appearance and bearing. They are a medium-sized, short-coated, hunting dog easily recognized by their sleek golden-rust coat with lighter shading over the sides of the neck and shoulders giving the appearance of a “saddle” are common. The long, silky ears frame a facial expression that is sensitive and loving. Vizslas have a short, smooth, dense and close-lying coat with no wooly undercoat. They don’t require complicated grooming. They do shed, and occasional brushing with a rubber grooming brush is helpful. When they get especially dirty (or when they roll in something smelly), they will need a bath with lukewarm water, a good-quality dog soap, and thorough rinsing. It is important to keep the toenails short, either with a clipper or with a grinding tool.
Vizslas life expectancy is 12 to 14 years. Athletes of many talents, Vizslas excel at various sports and activities. They are eager, graceful, and strong trotters of great stamina, making them ideal jogging or biking companions. People who like to be out in nature, or to go walking, jogging or running are good matches for this breed. Vizslas need many hours of off-leash running per week, which is very difficult to fit into the busy schedule of a household with kids, or a home where the owners are not home for most of the day and cannot get home early enough to take the dog for a good long run. You need to be willing, and eager, to spend at least 7 hours per week going on long hikes at remote natural areas far from traffic.
They love people and other dogs. Because of their strength, they will easily knock young children over. They are also a hunting dog that likes to retrieve and chase, and if not well trained may nip children in play. They will pull on the leash when walking unless trained not to do so at a young age.
Vizslas are needy, stubborn, and sensitive. They have been nicknamed the Velcro Dog because of their need to be with you all the time, preferably stuck to your body somewhere. This means that they want to be on your lap, in the bathroom with you, on the sofa with you, and just generally in your face all the time.
Caring for a Vizsla
Next, we’ll go into how you should care for a Vizsla.
The Vizsla should do well on a high-quality dog food. Most Vizslas are good eaters, and there is considerable variation in individual dogs’ caloric needs; a young, active dog may require four or five cups each day of a high-calorie food, while older or less active dogs may need less than half that quantity. Some dogs are prone to becoming overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level; too many treats can cause obesity. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet.
Vizslas were bred to be active hunting dogs, and they need both physical and mental exercise. Individual dogs’ needs vary, but, in general, owners should plan on a minimum of 30 minutes of active exercise daily and some dogs will need more than that. In addition to leash walks and games of fetch, most Vizslas need opportunities to run hard off-leash on a regular basis. Vizslas can be excellent running or jogging companions, with the caveat that young dogs should not run long distances until they reach maturity at about 18 to 24 months. Older Vizslas typically remain active and playful.
Vizslas need consistent, positive training, starting in puppyhood. They are highly intelligent, curious, and sometimes manipulative, so owners need to establish solid communication and teach good behavior. Untrained Vizslas are hard to live with. They can find many creative ways to get into trouble if they don’t have a “job.” Fortunately, they typically love training and thrive on the attention they receive. This is a sensitive breed, so early and ongoing socialization is important to make sure the dog has the confidence to enjoy various activities. With good socialization and consistent training, there are countless ways to have fun with these versatile dogs.
Vizslas are generally a healthy breed. but like all breeds, they’re prone to certain health conditions, including the following:
- Epilepsy: This seizure disorder has been noted in some lines of Vizslas and can be treated with medication. There is no cure.
- Bone and Joint Disorders: Hypertrophic osteodystrophy, osteochondritis dissecans, and canine panosteitis. These conditions can be diagnosed and treated to prevent pain and suffering.
- Dental Disease: Dental disease is very common in all dogs and unfortunately, Vizslas are more likely than other breeds to develop the condition. Gum disease occurs when tartar builds up and begins to infect the gums and roots of the teeth. If it’s not prevented or treated, your Vizsla may lose his teeth. Additionally, when bacteria from the mouth enters the bloodstream, dogs are at risk for damaging their liver, kidneys, and heart. To keep teeth and gums healthy, regular cleaning is recommended; use toothpaste formulated for dogs (not human toothpaste).
- Eye Problems: Glaucoma, canine cataracts, distichiasis, and canine entropion. Some of these diseases can cause extreme pain, impaired vision, or even blindness if they are not treated in a timely manner. Have your dog’s eyes checked regularly and always be on the lookout for infection.