Dog trains man

Sunday, September 1, 2013

What Every First-time Hovawart Owner Should Know: Guarding Instincts

This is the kick-off of a series of blogs about "What Every First-time Hovawart Owner Should Know", in which each subject is selected - and contributed to - by Hovawart owners.

A Hovawart's Guarding Instincts

You could be actually reading this because you have just run into a beautiful dog, that looked a lot like a retriever.

Maybe you had a talk with the owner, who explained it was not a retriever, but a ... what was it she said ... a Hover...What? ... ah yes, a Hova...Wart.

She told you they are actually quite different from retrievers, as they are the descendants of an ancient guard dog breed from Germany.

Boy, am I glad you are here. You decided to dig a little deeper first.

Most people would have trusted their first impression - they do look cute like retrievers and don't have that fierce look we associate with guarding dogs - and combined with the story of a rare ancient breed, already went shopping for one. They will be in for a big surprise.

A Hovawart has a huge guarding instinct. Like all dog breeds that were bred for a purpose, either herding, hunting, or guarding, it is that genetic baggage they take with them in our modern society. And while society has moved on and has changed the criteria and expectations for our dogs, the dogs are roughly still the same. Therefore we still have to acknowledge where they come from and what they were wired to do, if we want to live together in harmony.

Barking and guarding is, if we want it or not, part of the Hovawart package:

Björn S.: "A hovawart will bark and guard, the thing is to make it sensible and make sure you do fun things together to activate them in general so they will bark less."
Verena S.: "people should be able to handle the fact that he protects his territory (loud and with power)..."
Mary A.: "the dog will consider your home, property, and even the various member of the family as his to guard."
Africa: "It is both a good and bad thing. I can always sleep in peace no matter if it's in my own apartment or in a ferry's lobby, thanks to my personal body guard. But then I also have to deal with often unnecessary barking and suspicion. "

It is not all bad, as the barking and guarding can lead to funny situations, at least if you have a good sense of humor and are not easily embarrassed. And there is something we can do to take as much as possible of the unnecessary barking away.

Try to think as a Hovawart when you are out together. Notice anything slightly odd or unusual. Sometimes also sudden things. Study your Hovawart to know what sets him or her off.  If you can keep one step ahead of them you can reward them for noticing the "threat", just before the bark starts. They'll love that game, and you would earn quite a lot of respect with them as well.

And if they bark, pretend you check out with them what the threat is, and reward them first when they stop barking. You can then attach a "Thank you" cue to this reward, to teach them, at least, to stop barking after they started.


Coming up next: Not A Retriever, Still A Family Dog!

A big thanks to Africa, Jan Wolfe, Evelyn B., Peggy S., Yvonne B., Anna N., Katja K., Sascha L., Björn S., Loes K., Flora B., Verena S., Heini A., Dave H., Maria E., Judith L., Lone A., Mary A., Hester O., Ine C., Min I., Silvia I., for your contributions in selecting and contributing to the subjects.


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