Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Hovawart
Average Cost to keep/care for a Hovawart
The Hovawart is native to Germany where they have always been highly prized watchdogs and companions. These attractive dogs are similar looking to retrievers and boast having very kind natures being even-tempered, reliable and adaptable. Often called Hovies, these charming dogs are not as well known in many other countries of the world, but slowly more people are getting to know about this ancient breed although they are still rarely seen here in the UK.
The Hovawart is one of the most ancient breeds on the planet having been bred to guard herds of livestock and castles during the Middle Ages. However, over time the breed became extinct and was only recreated through the hard work of Dr Konig, a zoologist who decided to revive these handsome dogs at the end of the first World War. He found similar looking dogs in the Black Forest and the Harz regions of the country where original Hovawarts were once found and he bred these dogs to German Shepherds, Newfoundlands, Leonbergers, Hungarian Kuvasz and other breeds until he created dogs that looked like the Hovawarts depicted in paintings and drawing from centuries past.
However, there has always been some debate as to whether Konig resurrected the breed or whether he simply created another very similar looking dog. With this said, there are those who believe that Hovawarts did actually survive on remote and isolated farms in the more rural regions of the country and that it was these dogs that Konig had discovered and used as the foundation dogs in his breeding programme. In 1937, the breed was officially recognised by the German Kennel Club.
These handsome dogs were only introduced to the UK in more recent times and are now recognised as a unique breed in its own right by The Kennel Club. However, it is often hard to distinguish a Hovawart from other retriever breeds thanks to the fact they look so much alike. With this said, they are still very rarely seen here in the UK although they remain an extremely popular choice in their native Germany thanks not only to their charming looks, but their placid, kind natures too.
Height at the withers: Males 63 - 70 cm, Females 58 - 65 cm
Average weight: Males 30 - 40 kg, Females 25 - 35 kg
The Hovawart is a handsome medium sized dog and one that resembles many other retriever types which includes the Golden Retriever. They are often referred to as being "naturally beautiful" because they are so well-balanced and nicely put together. They are powerful having slightly longer bodies than they are tall with a noticeable difference between males and their female counterparts.
They have clean heads with moderately broad skulls and clearly defined yet not too exaggerated stops. They have strong, deep muzzles that taper ever so slightly to the nose which boasts well-developed nostrils. Their eyes are a nice oval shape and medium in size being either a dark to medium brown in colour. Dogs always have a keen and intelligent look about their eyes.
Ears are triangular having nicely rounded tips and they hang loosely each side of a dog's head being set moderately high. Dogs carry their ears a little forward when excited or alert. The Hovie has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. They have strong, well-muscled necks with no dewlap. Front legs are powerful and well-muscled with dogs having well laid-back, long shoulders.
They have well balanced bodies and nice, strong and level toplines. Chests are broad, deep and strong with dogs having well sprung ribs and nice deep briskets. Bellies are moderately tucked up which adds to their athletic appearance. Croups are moderately long and slightly sloping. Their back legs are well muscled and powerful with dogs having extremely well-muscled second thighs. Feet are quite compact and round with well arched toes and nice strong, thick pads. Their tails are long and well covered in hair which dogs carry down when at rest, but raised over their backs when on the move or excited.
When it comes to their coat, the Hovawart boasts having a longish, dense close lying top coat that can either be straight or wavy with a slight undercoat. The hair on a dog's head and on the front of their legs is short whereas it’s a long longer on their chests, bellies, backs of their front legs and back of their thighs and tail. The accepted breed colours are as follows:
Hovawarts are known to be outgoing, confident characters. They are intelligent with the added bonus being they like to please which in short, means in the right hands and environment, a Hovie is easy to train. However, they need to be well socialised from a young enough age for them to grow into more outgoing adult dogs, remembering that Hovawarts tend to mature a lot later than many other breeds which is usually when they are around 2 years old. As such they retain their puppy-like traits for much longer which is just one of the reasons these dogs are such a pleasure to have around.
Being so intelligent, the Hovawart learns new things very quickly, with the downside being they are just as quick to pick up "bad" habits too. They are known to be energetic and have a natural curiosity about everything that goes on around them. They are also very quick witted which is one of the reasons they need to be taught the "basics" when they are young. Once a puppy has been fully vaccinated, it's a good idea to enrol them into puppy classes which is a great way of starting their training in earnest with the added bonus being they get to meet lots of other dogs and people which goes a long way in socialising these highly intelligent and quick witted dogs.
They are a good choice for first time owners as long as people have enough time to dedicate to such a high energy and smart canine companion. Once a Hovie forms a strong bond with their family, they remain totally devoted to them and will not hesitate in protecting them and their property if they ever feel it necessary to do so. There is a downside to this which is that they do not like to be left for too long on their own preferring to be in the company of their owners. As such they are a great choice for families where one person usually stays at home when everyone else is out of the house.
They tend to be naturally wary of people they don't know, however, rarely would a Hovie show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards a stranger, preferring to keep their distance until they get to know them. However, if they feel threatened in any way, they will stand their ground and protect their families and their property.
Hovawarts are intelligent and they like to please which means in the right hands and with the proper socialisation, they are easy to train and enjoy nothing more than the attention they are given during training sessions. The key to successfully training one of these quick witted dogs is to start their training as early as possible beginning with the basics before moving on to the harder things.
It pays to keep training sessions short and as interesting as possible so that dogs remain focussed and therefore stand a better chance of understanding what is being asked of them. Longer, repetitive training sessions do not work with Hovies because they get bored so quickly. It’s also important to bear in mind that they mature a lot slower than many other breeds which means it can be hard to keep them focussed when anything else is going on around them.
They do not respond well to harsh correction or heavy handed training methods because they are quite sensitive dogs by nature. They do respond extremely well to positive reinforcement training methods which always brings the best out of these smart, quick witted dogs.
Hovies thrive in a family environment and more especially in households where the children a slightly older and who therefore know how to behave around dogs. As such any interaction between toddlers and a dog should always be well supervised to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous which could result in a smaller child being knocked over, albeit by accident.
When well socialised from a young enough age, they generally get on well with other dogs they meet. They are also good around smaller animals and pets especially if they have grown up in the same household, and this includes family cats although a Hovie might enjoy chasing off the neighbour's cat whenever they get the chance.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Hovawart is between 10 and 14 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Hovie is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Hovawarts need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Hovies have moderately long and thick top coats with a slight undercoat that's softer than their outercoat. They shed quite a lot throughout the year, only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent grooming is usually necessary to remove dead and loose hair. However, at other times of the year all they need is a brush two to three times a week to prevent any matts or tangles from forming, paying particular attention to a dog's chest, their belly and the backs of their legs and tails where the hair tends to be that much longer.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
The Hovawart is a high energy, intelligent dog and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. As such they need at least 2 hour's exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Hovie would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these high energy dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Hovie puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a Hovi puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be fed a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs are given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Because Hovies have been known to suffer from bloat, it is really important for them to be fed twice a day instead of giving them one large meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand for their feed bowls which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks to reach their food. Dogs should never be exercised just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more at risk of suffering from gastric torsion.
If you are looking to buy a Hovawart, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £600 for a well-bred pedigree puppy.
The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Hovie in northern England would be £22.01 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £50.37 a month (quote as of July 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £40 - £50 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Hovawart and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Hovawart would be between £70 to £110 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree or other puppy.
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