Dog trains man

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Moment My Heart Stood Still

I was taken by surprise by the dark man suddenly standing in our back garden. I was occupied with reading a book while enjoying the warmth of the sun, and Kenzo was sleeping beside me. Suddenly the man was there. I looked at him, and as soon as his lips started to move in an attempt to say something, I knew it was too late. At the first syllable he uttered, Kenzo was rising from behind my chair, and I grabbed in vain for his collar.

My hesitant response to the man's greeting was not heard by anybody. Anybody other than Kenzo, who understood immediately the gravity of the situation and sensed my insecurity. He rushed forward towards the man, growling ferociously, turning into a rumbling tank while he was approaching the threat. At that moment I knew, that this time Kenzo was serious. This was such a moment, where the true nature of the Hovawart is revealed. The all-over-shadowing wish to protect his family. The ability to act independently on any threat.

My heart stopped. But not for what would happen to the man. I was suspicious about his intentions still. My heart stopped, because he held the hand of his five year old daughter beside him. And eighty pounds of Hovawart attitude were approaching fast. Kenzo left no room for mistake, and the man realized too he was in harm's way. He shouted for help in English when Kenzo jumped up in front of him, reached eye-height, and barked right in his face. The girl was terrified, and tried to hide behind her father.

I realized I could never control or recall Kenzo. Twenty-five generations of Hovawart ancestors were telling him what to do now. I didn't had a change. At the top of my lungs I shouted the most firm command I ever uttered, but it was not addressed to Kenzo. It was addressed to the man. "Stand absolutely still!". Luckily he complied, trying to shield his daughter, closing his eyes with every bark Kenzo made. It had exactly the effect I was looking for. Kenzo would think he was in control of the situation now and it just gave me the last seconds I needed to grab him by his collar.

I ordered the man to go out of the garden and when we stood outside he tried to explain how he couldn't find the mailbox for the letter he was bringing. "Well, I am going to call the police now, so it is up to you if you want to wait and explain". The magic word was spoken, and he hurried away to continue his "business". I didn't pursue any further, saddened by what happened to that little girl and how the whole episode must have affected her.

This all happened years ago. Kenzo had made his "arrests" before when he deemed the family needed his protection, but nothing could prepare me for the speed and intensity he displayed in this situation. I can only guess if Kenzo would have bitten the man when he would have shown aggression, or decided to run away. Because years have passed, I know this was an incident, just a defining moment where Kenzo took the role of protector with an aggressiveness, I never saw from him again. He also never needed to take that role again. But no doubt in my mind, the dragon is looming in him still, and shouldn't be awakened.

I share the story now, because I am revisiting the reasons why we as a family chose a Hovawart originally, for the book I am writing. Our wish for a family dog with a guarding instinct played a major role in our choice. But basically it is something you never hope to have use for, and our focus has always been our dogs to be family dogs foremost. Kenzo swept me off my feet that day. I saw a side of him I never saw again and I confess I am a little bit in awe. In awe of him for making that decision when it mattered. In awe with the sheer power he displayed that day. And mostly, I am in awe for his decision, not to bite.

We, people with Hovawarts, many times talk about their loud barks, and their guarding nature, and weapon ourselves with humor about these antics. But that day I learned, that nothing could prepare me for how Kenzo acted, on that moment where it really mattered.



  1. Wow. I can imagine that everyone's hearts were racing. All in all, though. Kenzo showed amazing restraint. He made his point, but he didn't use more "force," so to speak, than was necessary.

  2. It's an excellent example of Hovawarts nature - ballanced but still, uncompromising when needed - loving for family and friends, anxious for strangers in neutral ground but gatecrashers - you better watch out... but there are always situations that we cannot predict.


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