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Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Huntaway
Average Cost to keep/care for a Huntaway
Breed Specific Buying Advice
The Huntaway is a New Zealand treasure having been originally bred to work large flocks of sheep without the need of a shepherd being around. They are renowned for their intelligence, reliability and trustworthiness being kind and even tempered in any environment. With this said, they are what is often referred to in NZ as being “no nonsense dogs” that like to be given lots of things to do.
With this said, a Huntaway is a highly adaptable kind of dog and providing they are given enough daily exercise combined with a ton of mental stimulation, they are just as happy living as a pet in a home environment as they would be working alongside man herding and driving flocks of sheep. Huntaways have always been highly prized in their native New Zealand, but they have also found a large fanbase in other countries of the world including the UK.
The Huntaway’s origins remain a mystery although there are many theories as to how the breed first came about. They are also known as the New Zealand Sheepdog and have been a firm favourite when it comes to managing and driving extremely large flocks of sheep in their native New Zealand. These intelligent dogs were bred to drive sheep with or without having a handler around and they were trained to gather a flock together using their voice.
They were given their name “Huntaway” because their owners and handlers in NZ would take their dogs to sheep herding trials which are known as “Huntaways”. When sheep were first introduced to New Zealand, collies were used to manage smaller flocks, but as the number of sheep increased, they were not longer capable of herding, driving and managing such large flocks finding it that much harder to cope. Along with the larger numbers a collie had to deal with, their longer coats and their method of silently working the sheep went against them.
As such, NZ stockmen and shepherds set about developing a shorter coated dog that would be able to cope with the warmer and one that would also be able to deal with large flocks of sheep which in short, meant the dogs needed to have a tremendous amount of stamina and determination.
It is thought that the breeds used to create the Huntaway were Beaucerons, German Shepherds, Labradors, Rottweilers and for their barking abilities, Bloodhounds were introduced into the mix. However, there are no records of just what breeds were used to develop the breed which dates back some 100 years or so.
As so the Huntaway was born and although not a recognised “breed” as such, they are what the New Zealanders believe to be a “true” working breed whether a dog is long-coated or short-coated. Today, the Huntaway has found a large fanbase with farmers and stockmen the world over thanks to their intelligence, herding skills and reliability. They are also finding a large fanbase in a home environment because of their kind, placid and devoted natures.
Height at the withers: Males 61 - 66 cm, Females 56 - 61 cm
Average weight: Males 30 - 40 kg, Females 25 - 35 kg
The Huntaway is a robust dog being well-balanced and nicely put together. Their skulls are flat with a moderate width between a dog’s ears before gently tapering towards their eyes. Their heads are broad, being nicely in proportion to the body and they have a slight stop. Cheeks are neither full or prominent.
Muzzles are moderately long and taper to the nose never being snipey in any way and whatever a dog’s coat colour happens to be, their noses must always be black. Huntaways have powerful jaws with a perfect scissor bite. Their eyes are extremely expressive showing intelligence and alertness. They are medium in size, being set obliquely on a dog’s face, almond shaped and brown in colour.
Ears are moderately wide at the base and set on top of a dog’s head. When at rest a Huntaway carries their ears well back, but forward when alert and semi-erect with the tips folding over forwards.
Their necks are extremely well-muscled and powerful being of a nice length which dogs hold slightly arched. Their front legs are muscular and straight showing plenty of bone. A Huntaway’s body is powerful and strong with ribs being well-sprung. Chests are deep and broad behind the shoulders which are stooped. Their loins are incredibly powerful and muscular.
Hindquarters are strong with a dog’s back legs being well muscled at the thighs yet sinewy below their hocks. Stifles are well bent showing a good length between hock and stifle. Feet are oval shaped with well padded soles and nicely arched closed toes with a dog’s back feet being slightly less arched than their front ones.
Huntaways have moderately long tails which they carry low when relaxed, but higher when working or excited, but they never carry their tails over their backs.
When it comes to their coat, the New Zealand Huntaway boasts having a short, medium or long dense coat that's naturally very glossy or they can be rough coated. Dogs can be bearded or rough with some dogs having an undercoat whereas others do not. The typical breed colours are as follows:
When a Huntaway moves, they do so with an easy gait and covering a lot of ground when they do. At the gallop, they have a “lolloping” stride that’s distinctive of the breed showing a tremendous amount of stamina and endurance.
Prospective Huntaway owners should be wary of any puppies or dogs that show any sort of exaggeration whether in their looks or conformation. A responsible breeder would always ensure that puppies they produce are of a good size and conformation. Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums.
Huntaways are known for their kind and even temperaments. In New Zealand they are referred to as being “all bark and no bite”. They are a “no nonsense” type of dog that has always been highly prized for their intelligence and the fact they can work alone without the need of a handler to guide them. Although bred to work, the Huntaway makes for a wonderful companion and family pet because they are so reliable and trustworthy in a home environment. However, being so intelligent, these hardworking dogs like to be given a job to do which means they are better suited to people who lead active, outdoor lives and who need a loyal and devoted canine companion at their side.
They have a tremendous amount of stamina and drive which means they must be given a ton of daily physical exercise combined with a lot of mental stimulation for them to be truly happy dogs. If not given enough to do, a Huntaway would quickly get bored and find their own way of entertaining and amusing themselves. They benefit from being able to roam around a secure back garden whenever possible so they can really let off steam, but once they have done so, a Huntaway quickly relaxes and is happy to settle down again.
They are very social by nature which means that they will say hello to strangers with no trouble at all. As such, they are not the best guard dogs, but a Huntaway would always protect an owner if they feel they are being threatened in any way.
The Huntaway is a good choice for first time dog owners providing they have the time to dedicate to an extremely intelligent dog that needs a tremendous amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation. Huntaways are sometimes too smart for their own good and can quickly get the better of an owner who is not consistent and confident around them which is when a dog might show a more dominant side to their natures.
Huntaways have quite a high prey and herding drive which as previously mentioned are traits that are deeply embedded in their psyche. The good news is that being so highly intelligent, they can be taught not to chase everything that moves. However, care should always be taken as to where and when a Huntaway can run off the lead more especially if there is livestock close by.
Huntaways have a very playful side to their natures and enjoy playing the clown when the mood takes them. They learn new things incredibly quickly which includes all sorts of games like “fetch” which they thoroughly enjoy although some dogs decide to go off with the ball when they have had enough.
Huntaways are better suited to people who have secure, well-fenced back gardens a dog can roam in whenever possible so they can express themselves as they should. They are not well suited to apartment living being happier when they can spend as much time in the great outdoors as they can.
Although Huntaways form strong ties with their families, they are independent by nature and as such they generally don’t mind being left to their own devices, providing it is never for too long. Any breed of dog that’s left on their own for extended periods of time would show how unhappy they are at the situation which typically sees them developing some unwanted and destructive behaviours around the home. This could include barking incessantly to get someone’s attention.
Because the urge to “bark” is deeply embedded in a Huntaway’s psyche, having been bred to be a “barking-herding” dog, some dogs can be quite vocal, but the good news is that because they are so highly intelligent, they can be taught not to bark unnecessarily and to only do so on cue. Other Huntaways can be quieter, keeping their “barks” for when they are asked to work.
Most Huntaways like swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Huntaway off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they cannot get out of the water on their own.
Huntaways were originally bred to work alone herding and driving sheep by using their voice. However, they are not very good watchdogs being far too social and friendly by nature, but this is not to say a Huntaway would not be quick off the mark to let an owner know when something they don’t like is going on around them.
Huntaways are incredibly intelligent and are quick to learn new things which makes their training a pleasure. With this said, consistency is the key to successfully training a New Zealand Huntaway, but once a dog understands what is expected of them, they never forget what they are being asked to do when given any sort of command.
Because they are so intelligent, it's best to keep their training sessions shorter and interesting so that dogs remain focussed on what is being asked of them. Longer more repetitive training sessions do not work as well because a Huntaway would soon get bored and lose interest in what is going on making a training session that much harder.
Huntaways are sensitive to voice and although extremely tough, they do not answer well to any sort of harsh correction or heavier handed training methods. They respond extremely well to positive reinforcement which always brings the best out of these intelligent dogs.
Huntaway puppies, like all puppies are very cute which means it is all too easy to spoil them when they first arrive in their new homes. It’s important to remember that cute little puppies quickly grow up to be large, adult dogs and as such once a puppy is nicely settled in, owners must start out as they mean to go on bearing in mind that puppies grow into mature dogs all too soon. Huntaways are known to have a more “dominant” side to their natures which means they must be taught their place in the pack and who is the “alpha dog” in a household. Laying down ground rules helps a puppy understand what an owner expects of them and what is acceptable behaviour. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:
The New Zealand Huntaway makes a great family pet because of they have such kind, affectionate and loyal natures. They can be protective of their families MORE.
When well socialised from a young enough age, a Huntaway generally gets on well with other dogs and if they grow up with a family cat in the house, they usually get on well together. However, a Huntaway would be quick off the mark when it comes to chasing any other cats that cross their path. Care must be taken when they are around smaller animals and pets they don’t already know because their prey drive might kick in with disastrous results.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a New Zealand Huntaway is between 12 and 14 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The Huntaway is known to be a healthy dog, but they can 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 handsome dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
Huntaway puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
Like other breeds, some Huntaways gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight, it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Occasionally, a Huntaway may suffer from an allergy and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Huntaway breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
The New Zealand Huntaway is not a Kennel Club recognised breed (February 2018) and as such there are not breed specific breeding restrictions in place. However, prospective owners should always ensure that breeders have had their stud dogs tested for any relevant hereditary health issues known to affect the breed before buying a Huntaway puppy from them.
Currently, there are no Assured Breeder requirements in place for the New Zealand Huntaway because they are not a Kennel Club recognised breed.
As with any other breed, Huntaways 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.
Huntaway puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Huntaway puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out which could end up making them shy, timid and withdrawn.
As previously mentioned, a Huntaway puppy would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
Older Huntaways need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Older dogs change mentally too which means their response time tends to be slower as such they develop the following:
Living with a Huntaway in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include looking at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Huntaways need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older dogs don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
Huntaways have short, smooth, close-lying coats that have a natural sheen to them. They are low maintenance on the grooming front and only need a weekly or twice weekly brush to remove any loose hair from their coats. A weekly wipe with a chamois leather will help keep it nice and shiny. They shed all year round only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing is usually necessary to keep on top of things.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax builds 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 Huntaway is a high energy, intelligent dog that likes to be kept busy 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. They need a minimum of 60 minutes exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible in a safe environment. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Huntaway would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving the stress they may be feeling.
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 must be extremely secure to keep these high energy, active 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, Huntaway puppies should never 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.
Responsible breeders would always give new owners a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. A puppy's diet can be changed, 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 Huntaways 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 be 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.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Huntaway puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
When a puppy is 12 months old, they can be fed adult dog food,
Once fully mature, an adult Huntaway should be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult New Zealand Huntaway can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy a Huntaway, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred every year and you would need to pay anything upwards of £500 for a well-bred, healthy puppy.
The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old New Zealand Huntaway in northern England would be £23,93 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £44.23 a month (quote as of February 2018). 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 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 this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Huntaway 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 £1200 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Huntaway would be between £60 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 well-bred, healthy New Zealand Huntaway puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
Huntaways are hard to come by because, as previously mentioned very few puppies are bred every year. As such, puppies can often command a lot of money which means with New Zealand Huntaways there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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