Dog trains man

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Shameless Sales Pitch For The Hovawart Breed

Actually I want all the Hovawarts for myself. My blogging efforts so far have been mainly about trying to scare you away, which I have not been very successful with. So for one time I will indulge myself in this shamelessly positive sales pitch on behalf of the Hovawart breed.

Photo by Christel Janssen, from left to right, Biko, Lara and Aico

What is it about the Hovawart that hooked me?
It was their personality. A Hovawart has a noble and self-aware aura. They are curious and intelligent. Sovereign and independent. Proud and strong. A prototype of a dog that does not want to please you. It takes more then a treat. Their strong and independent personality thrives on your respect. Your reward is respect in return. Give them consistency and fairness and you will have a unconditional partnership for life. Once you earned their respect you will also find them to be loyal and devoted. Devoted to you. Devoted to your family.


Hovawarts love to learn new things. Repetition bores them. They do a lot of thinking of their own down the road. Like when you are trying your 3rd "fetch it" in a row in the same training session. They will probably start to think it makes no sense doing things over and over again, and find something with more variation to do.

Hovawart "Mammoet"
Their playful nature is your best allied in training. Hovawarts remain playful also at an older age. I have seen a Hovawart refuse a treat, but never a fun tug game, hide and seek, or a squeaking toy. Once you get the hang of it there are no limits. You can teach them anything and even compete with them in obedience trials on a high level.

With the Hovawart you can only use training methods based on positive reinforcement. If training is based on punishment, they will block. They have the ability to think and act independently, and will turn away from you. Punishment doesn't belong in a relationship based on mutual respect. For them it is all about working with you, not for you.


The Hovawart is from origin a guarding dog. They were bred to defend, not to attack. They have been used and bred as working dogs, but were replaced by German shepherd dogs, Malinese, etc., as these dogs are easier to train and mature earlier. Hovawarts actually mature very late. First at an age of three years, a Hovawart is considered mentally "fully grown".

Indy the "reading" Hovawart
Nowadays the Hovawart is mainly bred as a family dog. Family dogs or not, they are still born with an exceptional nose, and you will find Hovawarts in Europe that are used as tracking and search-and-rescue (SAR) dogs, among others.

Actually, they are quite versatile and you'll find them participating in most types of sport, or "jobs", for dogs. Hovawarts are even used in different types of therapy work, like visiting the elderly or mentally disabled people, or supporting children with reading difficulties as reading-dogs.

If you are looking for a sport for your Hovawart to do and don't know where to start, consider anything that has to do with some type of nose work, they will love it. And they will love your for it.

And for the guarding dog part, you will not have to do anything for that, it comes with the package so to say.


Did I mention they are cute? It is difficult to pass by people and kids when you have a Hovawart, everybody wants to come over and hug that cute teddy bear you have on your leash.

Tilde and Kenzo
They come in three official colors. Blond, black and mixed black/blond, the so-called "Schwarzmarken". But there are Hovawarts in other colors like grey and brown. Not according to the official FCI standards, but Hovawarts nonetheless.

Blond Hovawarts are difficult to distinguish from golden retrievers. As black Hovawarts look almost the same as flat coated retrievers. General rule of thumb is that they are higher, have slimmer muzzle and are not as round headed as retrievers. So if you meet a big retriever, maybe you are looking at a Hovawart!

Breed history

The Hovawart is an "old" and a "new" breed at the same time. Their ancestors come from medieval Germany, where they were used as rural guard dogs. They almost became extinct twice, but the last remaining individuals where saved and used to re-establish the breed. Being a newer breed, is thought to contribute to the fact they are not as prone to genetic diseases like other breeds, although also the Hovawart does have its issues.

Wait a minute

Before you are rushing out of the door to find yourself a Hovawart. Remember this:
  1. Take a leap of faith and check for adoptable Hovawarts before getting a puppy. There are always Hovawarts pups for adoption on "Hovawarte In Not"
  2. The Hovawart breed is not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). To find a responsible breeder, you are on your own. Edie Jarolim wrote an article with some great tips on how to make sure you do just that: How to recognize a good dog breeder. And to add my own golden rule to Edie's tips: "Any doubt is out"
What do you think? Does it make any sense that I have fallen for this breed?


The original article was from October 2010, and updated in February 2017.



  1. I'm sold -- they seem like wonderful dogs and they are definitely lookers! Frankie has said he doesn't want a friend, however.

    Thanks for the link to my good breeder post.

  2. Great post... thanks for all of the info!

  3. I love @Edie's post on dog breeders! (Okay, don't comment much...never have time...still loved it!) I actually followed her protocol (which is also my behaviorists') when I got Koda. =]

    @Kenzo. Great always. I love the Hovie breed. I want one, but much though I adore the breed, I must be wary because I don't know that their temperament is suited to me or mine to them. We both seem like very strong willed creatures. I won't go out and buy one, but if I ever come across one that needs a little rescuing, well, I will toss out my princess dress and get my shiny armor!

  4. And here I thought this was a wart you got on your hova appendage!

    I have only heard of this breed since I began to follow your blog. You have 3, right ... pictured above? The one in the middle is a stouter, longer haired version of Buster, our GSD. Easy to see why you want them all for yourself!

  5. @Edie
    Frankie cannot be bribed and he is so stubburn it makes a Hovawart jealous. Glad you liked them, Frankies does too, he just want to make sure he has your full attention :)

    Your welcome, glad you liked it!

    In your case I would'nt worry to much, they need strong-willed people, just not harsh. Its an important point you make there. Temperaments should match. Now I am preaching for the choir I know: always meet the dog (or at least the parents) and talk with the owners how they are like to see if you are compatible. Make sure the dogs activity level and needs could fit into yours.

    Usually I quickly browse comments of the blogs I read if there is one of those fun comments of you :) And now I have one myself. You really cracked me up, I never heard that one before, usually Harry Potter ("hogsworth") jokes and a Hova-"what?"

    Only the last picture on the bottom is one of my own, Kenzo.

  6. I really don't consider myself that funny?! How heavy (lbs, not kg) does a male/female get?

  7. @Rod
    We can ask Mel (@MelzPetPals) to get an objective opnion on how funny you can be :)

    The weight varies a lot. The average female is 80 lbs, a male 90 lbs. Have met males that are even 100 lbs (and he was not overweight).

    Kenzo (male) and Viva (female) are coincidentally exactly the same, they both weigh 86 lbs. And they are not thin or thick, it fits their height and structure. Viva was very overweight when we got her, she was 100 lbs. A lot for a female.

  8. That top photo with three dogs really helped me get a better idea of the breed. It's also good to know their original purpose because that tells me a LOT about the breed's personality and such.

    You're right, though. Seeing a blond one or a black one ... I would indeed thing golden or flatcoat.

  9. I am looking for a quality Hovawart breeder ih N America or europe.Preferably during the Holidays!

  10. For a quality breeder I would contact both the American Hovawart Clubs:

    the Hovawart Club of North America
    the American Hovawart Club

    But I doubt a quality breeder would give a puppy for the holidays. Giving a puppy as a Christmas present is never a good idea.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Hi.
    While reading your blog, the picture on top of this page really surprised me. I know exactly where it is taken, as I have pictures of my own Hovi from when he was just three months old, till he was one year (last month).
    Still is a beautiful picture. It is still used by the Dutch and the International Hovawart Federation.

  13. Hi L.K., glad you know, where was the picture taken?

  14. That photo was taken in front of Kasteel Staverden, in the smallest city in Holland. Just a few miles from my home.

  15. Nice to see my dog in your blog!!
    Its the blond mail in the first picture.

  16. I just happen to own a dog that resembles a Black and Blond Hovawart. I happened to own it by accident, as someone sold it to my wife for a Labrador. Imagine this! Initially I thought it was a Mutt, probably a mix between a Black Retriever and a Rottweiler. After a few searches on the net I came across the Hovawart breed, but I neglected it because it did not resemble dog, as it was furrier. My dog looked like a Rottweiler with a Black Retriever's head.

    But, about a month ago, someone suggested I looked at the Hovawart breed, and to my surprise, I found quite a lot of similarities. Specially when it comes to temperament and learning. You are right by saying that sometimes they refuse treats, but never play time.

    They are actually very smart, and learn very fast. My dog was 6 weeks and already knew the sit, down and come commands, using positive re-inforcement, of course. She just refuses any punishment, and thankfully, when I started searching for ways to train my dog, I found Karen Pryor's book. It is so much better than the traditional training methods.

    She is looking more and more like a Hovawart, and if she is one, I am totally bought into this breed. I also own a Cane Corso puppy, and I love both breeds.

    Thanks a lot for sharing all these infos.



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