Dog trains man

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Wild Thing And The Distinguished Gentleman

When Tilde and me were driving on our way to meet Baxter the Hovawart I was filled with anticipation. Baxter would be one of the few 13½ year aged Hovawarts I would have the privilege of meeting face to face.
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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Wizard Update From Susanne: The Problemsolver

Hovawart Wizard Susanne just send me an update I would like to share. Last time Susanne wrote something about her boys Mammoet and Rico, Rico was undergoing some, well, growing pains.

We actually met the boys and Susanne at the end of last year, for a beach walk with Tilde in Holland - see the picture on the left. 
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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Tilde's Sister Tulle

Tulle is Tilde's sister, and unfortunately up for adoption again. We visited her earlier today in the shelter from "Dyrenes Beskyttelse" in Roskilde to say hello. She is a kind and beautiful young Hovawart lady, full of life and very affectionate. Next month she will be two years old.

Tilde was a little too overwhelming for Tulle in the beginning. But after a long walk together, it was Tulle's turn to invite Tilde for some rough play, like I like to think only Hovawarts can. Tilde was ecstatic about our visit, not only did she meet Tulle again, but also the shelter people who had cared so well for her in the past. Especially when she saw Mie, Tilde went through the roof.
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Friday, September 19, 2014

The "Shitbag" Checklist

If you have been reading Jan's Chickenshit post, well, Tilde wasn't finished with us yet. And this time, she was caught on camera.

I was looking forward to the weekend, and also to meet Emil in person - as Jan mentioned in her post, we were spending a weekend with friends we know for quite a while from FB - I always followed Emil's story on Dina's FB page, and watched him grow from a shy and insecure puppy mill dog, into a happy and thriving Hovawart.
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wizards Susanne and Frederik, and their Hovawarts, Mammoet and Rico

I am very excited to introduce you to our latest Hovawart Wizards, Susanne and Frederik!

Susanne shares great photo's and daily tidbits on Facebook of her journey with a very special Hovawart, that truly is a "gentle giant". And not just because of his name.

Thank you for participating in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry!

Hovawart Wizards: We are Susanne and Frederik. I, Susanne, was born in the suburbs of Hamburg, Germany. Frederik was born in Maartensdijk, near Utrecht, the Netherlands. We are living in Rotterdam at the moment. Frederik is finishing up his master of mechanical engineering and I, Susanne, am running my own doggy day care center at our house. It’s not very big. I only take care of 4 dogs total at once, including my own. Me and the boys really love it, we’re having doggy friends over almost every day.

Hovawarts: I’m the proud owner of 2 beautiful Hovawart boys. Mammoet ("Mammoth"), a black male of 3 years and Rico, a charming young boy of just 12 weeks. We bought both of our Hovies from a breeder. Mammoet comes from a breeder in Gouderak, a small village nearby. Rico we bought a few weeks ago from "Hovawarte aus der Zauberkuhle" in Burscheid, near Cologne, Germany.

First love Kessie (left) - Anton (right)
When I was about 13 years old I began to walk some dogs in the neighbourhood. One day, when I went by a house right next to the park where I always went a women called me and asked if I would like to walk her dogs as well. She had a gorgeous Hovawart girl and a black Terrier mix. I had seen those dogs quite often and always wanted to walk them but never dared to ask, because I figured that they wouldn’t let a “little” girl like me walk those big dogs. So I happily said yes, and that was the beginning of my Hovawart obsession.

I was deeply in love with Kessie, the Hovawart girl. She was my best friend and felt what I felt. I walked her for 6-7 years, until I moved to the Netherlands.

First after I had gotten married, had finished my animal care studies and was working at a dog walking service, we finally were in the position to get a Hovawart of our own. When we visited a breeder a puppy got on my lap and I was asking him: “are you Mammoet?” and he looked up right in my eyes like he was saying: “sure I am! Can’t you see?!” And that was the beginning of my second big Hovawart crush. Since then Mammoet and me are inseparable. He feels what I feel and I feel what he feels.

When we, at the end of last year, decided to have a look for a second puppy, I wanted the second Hovie to be more mellow than Mammoet, because he has quite some energy and temperament, and we found "Corvin aus der Zauberkuhle", now called Rico.

As I said, I work at home so I have a lot of time to enjoy my lovely boys. Except of the three mornings per week when I help other people with their household. In the morning we usually go to the park or to the forrest so they can run and play. Mammoet has a rubber ball on a cord which he loves. I throw the ball for Mammoet and little Rico jumps along with him when he comes nearby. So Mammoet gets his exercise and little Rico can’t overdo it.

On Saturday mornings I take the boys to the dog school. Rico just started his puppy class and Mammoet now started his third course of Agility, which he loves. Every now and then me and the dogs visit my sister, who lives in Amersfoort. She has 2 Bernese mountain dog girls. One of almost 2 years and one of 4 months, so they are great playmates for my boys. Rico’s sister lives nearby in Zeeland, so occasionally we go and visit her.

I love about my boys that they love doing things with me. Mammoet is very smart and able to learn new things and tricks very quickly, and he loves doing it. He is doing so well that we were offered a spot in the competition group of the dog dance class in the dog school. Although we never practiced dog dancing before. I’m so proud of my little champion.

Mammoet is just my best friend, I can take him everywhere and wherever we go I get compliments about him, how beautiful and how well behaved he is. He’s just a great guy and such a big help to me. He helps with the day care dogs that come here.

We have a coffee table right at tail wagging hight. So we taught him to clean up his own mess. When ever he wags something off the table like a remote control he instantly turns around, picks it up and gives it to me. He can even pick up playing cards and give them to me without any damage to it. He also brings me kiwis every now and then when my husband gives them to him in the kitchen and tells him to bring them to me. I can also send him to get my husband when he’s sitting in his room studying. He just stands whining in front of his door and hitting it with his paws until Frederik comes out and then he takes him to me.

Rico is of course still small, so he can’t do as many great things as Mammoet. But he’s getting there. He already listens very well for a 12 week old puppy and mimics Mammoet at a lot of things. When Mammoet sits at the edge of the sidewalk before crossing the street, Rico goes and sits as well. The same when we came in from a walk. He already lies quietly at Mammoet's side in a restaurant until we leave again. He’s really a great guy, he’s smart, and is already trying to outsmart us. We try not to let him. He’s a thinker. Quite often you’ll just see him sitting there looking, thinking. With new stuff he needs his time. He first wants to look at it and sniff it thoroughly before he trusts it. And he’s very strong headed.

Both my boys are great with people. Rico still has to learn not to walk up to everybody we meet. Mammoet is also really good with children, even though he didn’t grow up with them. He’s very careful and nurturing. I think he just senses that they’re fragile and you have to be careful around them. Rico also loves children. A little too much at the moment. He loves jumping up against them very happily. We’re still working on that.

Mammoet likes to sneak up on dogs. Sheep herding dog style. Until we’re close to them, then he walks normal again. I would like him to stop that, but how to try and convince him. He loves Labradors. You could even say he’s obsessed with them. He runs after them whining and squealing and licking their you know what when he gets the chance. Doesn’t matter if they’re male or female. Silly dog!

Because of all the dogs that come into our house, also dominant intact males sometimes, Mammoet learned not to start trouble with other dogs, but to ignore it. So he would never start a fight with another dog. He’ll just defend himself if necessary. Rico is great with all dogs. Just a little too enthousiastic sometimes. But well, he’s still a puppy. They’re supposed to be that way.

If you want to get a Hovawart of your own, make sure that you know as much as you can about training strong dogs, the nature of dogs and why they do certain things. If you are able to understand your Hovawart very well you will be able to train him better and you’ll have a great friend for the rest of your life that wants to spent time with you and will help and protect you in any way he can.

***

Hovawart Wizards, like Susanne and Frederik, try to provide real life information for Muggles - those not yet touched by the Hovawart's magic - to learn more about Hovawarts in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. A place where Muggles can read how we play, what kind of training and activities we undertake. What makes Hovawarts special to us, and how they made us into Wizards. The role they came to play in our lives. And the hard times we shared. Helping Muggles to make the best choice possible if a Hovawart could be the Magical Creature for them, or at least what to expect.
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Monday, February 4, 2013

Celebrate Life With Cliff

Today I hand the blog over to Thomas, as promised in last week's Hovawart TV: Cliff's Smile. Thomas' Hovawart Cliff suffers from degenerative myelopathy. and they share their story on how they continue to fight back, and celebrate life against all odds. 

***

"Take him back!"
We always had dogs in our lives. Akki, a Siberian Husky. Mickey, a cross between a large and small Munsterlander. The story of Cliff the Hovawart actually starts with Pepper, our Dalmatien. Pepper was incredibly lively and couldn’t do anything at a walk – his slowest gait was a trot. In 2003, when Pepper was 6 years old, we got Cliff.

My daughter and I wanted to have a second dog, although my wife was not so sure about this. Our vet’s wife raved about the Hovawart breed and so we searched the internet for information before deciding that a Hovawart it would be. We preferred the black and tan markings and we definitely wanted a male. Finally we found a breeder in Saxony-Anhalt. There were two males still available – the strongest of the litter, a black one, and the slightly smaller blonde one, Cliff, who immediately pounced on my wife before she could even take her coat off. Who picked who? Four weeks later he moved in with us.

Young Cliff at 2 years old
Pepper was not so amused, his eyes said: "Take him back!" But after three days, they bonded and became firm friends. From the start, Cliff was very eager to learn and he has always been a wonderful dog – even as a young dog, he wasn’t particularly naughty. He has been content with his status as "beta" dog, and that only changed when Pepper was no longer so good on his feet and going a bit senile.

In the summer of 2011 we noticed that Cliff’s rear right leg wasn’t quite right. His claws seemed to be dragging on the floor at times, and they were shorter than those on his left foot.

Our vet found nothing, but as a precaution, he took an x-ray – everything was okay – no hip dysplasia, no spondylosis, nothing obvious could be identified. Then we noticed the dragging was getting worse, and when standing still, he would stand on the toes of his right foot rather than on the pads. The vet now referred us to a clinic for a CAT-scan and further investigation. Again all seemed well, and in the recovery room the vet confirmed that they could find no hip dysplasia, no herniated disc, no spondylosis – we breathed a sigh of relief. Then, the bombshell.

Because he was showing these symptoms, with no obvious cause, there was a high probability that Cliff had degenerative myelopathy. The vet's description of this condition didn’t fill us with hope, and when we went home and researched the internet we could only reach one conclusion. Shit! Shortly after the CAT-scan, Cliff’s foot drag even caused a claw bleed – he was very sore, very sad and his eyes said “I’m not moving now”.

We found a company called SABRO and ordered their Toffler Paw Protection Shoes. Two days later, they arrived – Cliff gave the shoe a thorough examination while we told him he would be able to run better with it on. He looked at us and I swear he understood every word. We put the shoe on his right foot – he looked at it once and that was it – “Yippieyeah! I can walk again!“

It didn't last long. Seven or eight weeks later, he had problems getting up, he could walk a few steps, but then his right hip would collapse, his right foot would cross over to the left and he fell over. He could no longer lift his leg to pee and reverted back to a puppy position for that.

In early January 2012, I therefore became more and more interested in buying a “dog wheelchair“. I found the German forum for disabled dogs “Behinderte Hunde Forum” which is well worth reading and I highly recommend it. All disabled dogs are represented – blind, deaf, three legged, dog in wheelchairs.

I found that the wheelchairs were expensive at 400-800 euros so I spoke with a friend, showed him some photographs and we decided to build a Dog Ferrari ourselves. Take a look at the photos and video to see the result.

During the building of the cart, Cliff had to have fitting sessions to make sure it was exactly the right size and shape for him – he was never scared by this strange thing, and in the middle of March, it was ready. We went out with Cliff into our courtyard and sat him in his “driver’s seat“. My wife, daughter and I were very excited at what he would do. He stood still, looked around at us, and I swear we saw him smile before setting off on his own exploring and sniffing every corner of the courtyard. An hour later we had our first little walk with him out in the fields. Once again he was a happy dog, free to go and sniff wherever he wanted.

Since March 2012, Cliff has gone everywhere in his wheelchair and we have only had one negative comment from a woman who had a hovawart girl and had to let her go due to her age. She said she would not do that to her dog. Everyone else so far has been very positive. Other dogs look suspiciously at the wheelchair at first, then sniff the tires, and that’s it!

Peeing and pooing whilst in the wheelchair is so easy for him too – he discovered he can just keep walking and his “trademark” is now a zigzag line on the road!!! Then in September /October 2012 his right rear let began to drag on the ground so we tied that leg up with a cord and he continued to walk in his cart with three legs. Then his left one also began to lose power and at the beginning of December 2012, we started to tie his left leg up too. Sadly, he is now unable to wag his tail...... We had reached the stage of needing to help him around the house.

He cannot use his cart indoors as he is unable to lie down when it is attached. I started to look for a harness for helping disabled dogs. After much research I found one in the deep depths of the internet, in the USA. It is called a Hartman’s Harness. He can wear this harness all day and it has a handle above the hips, rather like the handle of a suitcase. So, we can carry his back end while the front end is running – and I mean running!

He had to learn the meaning of the word “slowly“! Most of the weight of a dog is at the front, but the back end of a 40kg Hove is not exactly light – and 15 kg is a heavy load when it is moving forward at speed!

In summer 2012 I was looking for a second dog again, a while after Pepper passed due to old age. When I saw Cooper I fell in love. It took some persuasion to get my wife even just to go and see the puppies. It wasn’t that she didn’t want another dog or a puppy, but she was very worried that she would not be able to care properly for Cliff and also look after a new puppy, and make sure that neither were neglected in any way. It was a huge comittment and we had no guarantee that Cliff would be able to cope, either.

We talked at length between ourselves and also with the breeder, and finally decided to go and see them. Cliff came with us, and he was the first strange dog the puppies saw. He lay outside the puppy-area, behind a fence and looked at them. He was even nose to nose with one of them, but that wasn‘t Cooper. The next day my wife agreed.

Two weeks later, we drove back down to see the breeder and Cooper came home with us. Looking back, the first six to eight weeks were certainly very hard, but we have all adapted and grown used to one another, and even Cooper is more sensible now! He is very different to Cliff and announced his arrival on the first day in his new home by standing on the stairs outside barking at some pedestrians passing our property.

Cliff sometimes plays a little bit with him and sometimes even licks his nose. But when Cooper gets too wild, Cliff shows him his teeth. At the same time, however, Cooper can be very careful around Cliff. He brings him some toys and wants to play with him.... and Cliff obliges!

I don’t think Cliff loves him much, but he does accept him. For now, Cliff seems content and he is happy when we tie on the Tofflers and go for a walk with his wheelchair. We all hope that his condition doesn’t get any worse.


Degenerative myelopathy is an incurable, progressive disease of the canine spinal cord.

***

Update May 22, 2013:

Late yesterday the news reached us that the lovely and beautiful Cliff passed away. We are so glad to have got to know him - although never in person - and his owner Thomas. For us Cliff will always be the one that taught us to celebrate life, even when it is against the odds. Run free, Cliff. You will be missed and we will always remember you. We wish Thomas Moers all the strength to cope with his tremendous loss.
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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hamlet's Cautionary Tale

Today I turn the blog over to Elizabeth, who has a very heart-felt and impressive tale to tell, how she got Hamlet from the Danish puppy mill.

When I adopted my first Hovawart and named him Hamlet, one of my friends wanted to know if I remembered that Hamlet was, in fact, a tragedy. This story is a cautionary tale, but, for us and for our Hovawart, it ends with “happily ever after. “

I have wanted a Hovawart since I spotted the rare breed in a “What’s the Right Breed For You and Your Family?” sort of book back in the late 1990’s. An early irony in this story is that I felt conflicted about paying for a pure bred dog when there are so many in need of homes or that have been victims of puppy mills. However, I loved the description of Hovis as intensely loyal, protective, yet good with the family.

I contacted the closest breeder to me, a gentleman from Canada, and he and his very kind wife allowed my then fiancĂ© and I to visit them and to pick out a blonde male Hovawart puppy. The puppies were too small to leave their mother, so we returned home to wait for them to grow a bit; this was during 2002-2003. Meanwhile, I was traveling to school, taking many classes to complete my degree while teaching full time, and I developed mononucleosis with complications—after much heartache and debate, we decided against collecting the puppy.

The Canadian breeders were especially kind to us in the circumstances. From this experience, I developed the romantic notion that Hovawart owners, like their dogs, were a special breed: kindred spirits, if you will. I am still saddened to think of that lovely blonde puppy and those kind neighbors to the north.

I waited the eight or nine years until my husband and I had purchased a home of our own, near the school where we worked. I saved money, about $1500, and then I tried to contact the gentleman from Canada, but I didn’t hear back. I was never sure if it was because his contact numbers were different, or if my earlier situation had made them feel as though they could not do business with us, but I never heard back from them. It wasn’t easy to save that money; we have four kids, three in college and I am also in college, working on my doctorate in education.

So, I began to search for a different breeder. I saw Hovawarts from Great Britain, and Hovawarts from many other countries. I emailed a couple of the contacts listed on the sites that were in English and did not hear back. I knew that the Canadians had brought Hovawarts from Europe—was it possible that I had been somehow “blacklisted” after my involvement with the Canadian puppy? Then a different site, www.hovawart-puppies.com caught my attention. It was in English, and it invited email or telephone contact. I emailed sometime in the third week of April, and received an immediate response. A litter had been born April 8, just a week or two prior to my inquiry and there was a little black and tan boy available.

"Helle" [note Kenzo: pseudonym], whom I understood to be the owner of the mother of my puppy, but not the breeder, was a very prolific emailer. I sought clarification on Hamlet’s parentage, and I should have realized that something was amiss, for the responses to those inquiries were somewhat vague, but I was so excited to be in contact with another Hovawart owner. We talked on the phone, finally, and she assured me that these were purebred Hovawart puppies. I was foolishly satisfied, for she sent me many emails about the litter and the particulars of the breed. She appeared to be a very responsible owner who cared deeply for these dogs. I do not know now, exactly, what her connection was to what appears to have been a puppy mill. After what had happened with the Canadians, which I disclosed to her, I offered to send her references, but she also seemed ready to trust me. I realize now that I was so worried that I might have been “blacklisted” in what I thought was the small Hovawart community, that I was not as direct as I should have been about Hamlet’s parents and situation. I was just grateful that "Helle" would trust me with a puppy from this lovely breed.

At one point "Helle" sent me a Google Earth link to her home, and what I understood to be Hamlet’s home as well. Imagine how I feel to see the same house, from a slightly different angle, on Leo’s blog, looking rather more decrepit than it did on Google Earth. I ran the cursor on street view past that house many times, imagining myself visiting Hamlet and picturing him curled up on their floor or couch. Little did I know that he was probably living with his siblings and mother in a very different kind of situation.

On the telephone, "Helle" promised that Hamlet’s papers would be with his shot records and the other papers necessary for him to enter the US. On the appointed day, I traveled to Newark, NJ. I was so excited. "Helle" emailed and phoned me, and I emailed and called her each step of the way, from my cell phone.

Hamlet came in a crate that was very large and very well apportioned. Every care had been taken for his comfort, even to the point of sending me a CD with sounds that would be familiar to him and extra food of his exact brand. There were care instructions down to the minutia of the exact times he was being fed, seven thirty am and noon and four pm, and suggestions for healthy snacks. There was a laminated, 8x10 card taped to the crate with a picture of Hamlet that read:
My name is Hamlet, and I am going on my very first trip out of Copenhagen to my final destination Newark/USA. I am traveling with SAS on flight SK909. Please handle me with lots of careness (sic) and please take me out for bathroom when needed. Tell Mister Pilot that he have a very special Hovawart puppy onboard his flight who is loved by many people.

I have this card next to me right now, and I wonder how so much effort could have been put into this one puppy if this, was, as it seems now, somewhat of a hoax and he was just one more puppy from an active puppy mill. Taped to Hamlet’s crate, there was a doggie “passport,” a very official looking booklet with his shot records and worming records, and I did get a laminated book called “Owner’s Certificate and Book of Health.” Beneath it read, “Hovawart Hamlet.” On the back, it read: “ Continental Kennel Club, CKC International Official Seal. “.

I was so enamored of my puppy that I only glanced quickly at the paperwork. When I went to the vet, however, to have Hamlet checked over, he indicated that there wasn’t a lot of information about Hamlet’s genealogy, and that I would need a lot more documentation. He also agreed that Hamlet had some skin issues, but he prescribed a careful diet, special shampoo and fish oil to help him. To this day, that is how we maintain Hamlet’s itching, although he always has some issues with his skin and an extremely sensitive tummy.

What I realize now is that there were no such papers. I called, I emailed, and I felt as though I kind of alienated "Helle" with my persistence regarding the “papers” and Hamlet’s parents. She seemed surprised that I wanted more than the little book and she didn’t seem to understand that I wanted some sort of proof of registration with the Danish “Hovawart people.”

As soon as Hamlet arrived, "Helle" used me as a reference for a caller from South America, either Brazil or Columbia and for someone from Japan, each inquiring about her puppies. However, after I asked again for registration papers, there were no more referrals. I did wonder how there were more puppies already, but I chose not to think about that.

Hamlet is an integral part of our family now. On Facebook, again due to having become friends with "Helle" and then reaching out myself, I realized how many countries have happy Hovawart owners. When I saw Leo’s posts and I realized that we had a part in supporting what appears to be a puppy mill, I was devastated. The skin problem, we dealt with. The concern regarding registration papers, I had decided to put behind me.

My heart breaks, because the "Helle" I know loved Hamlet. She told me she cried when she sent him to me. He did come to me a well-behaved, socialized little fellow. He did immediately seem to understand that he was to love and obey me, and I felt that he had transferred his affections from one lady to another lady who was now his owner. My heart breaks because now I feel as though I might be betraying "Helle", and I am truly saddened by that.

I saw "Helle" in my mind’s eye as an extension of that home that we visited in Canada, so clean, with the responsible owners who shared our excitement for this breed. This, unfortunately, seems not to have been the case with Hamlet, and that’s why I am writing this letter. It’s hard for me to accept that I contributed to the support of a puppy mill. I didn’t do enough “homework,” despite the calls, the emails, the questions and the references. I hope my story helps others to be more careful, and I offer my apologies to the Hovawart community for being careless. I am so sorry for that, and my heart breaks for the dogs who were euthanized and for the dogs who were traumatized—I’m a part of that, like it or not, by virtue of purchasing Hamlet. My husband and I would like to do what we can to make amends; perhaps sharing our story (not as a tragedy, for we love our amazing dog) but as a cautionary tale is a good first step.

Before I finish, however, I want to emphasize that Hamlet is a beautiful, even tempered, well-behaved dog. He is loyal to a fault, protective, absolutely everything that I dreamed a Hovawart would be. He’s definitely my dog and sees me as the top dog in the house, which makes my husband laugh. He’s smart and gets along well with our cat. He isn’t just attached to me, however; he watches our youngest son like a hawk and snuggles at night with whomever will allow him onto their bed. He’s not perfect; he does not always come when he’s called, and he hates busses. When the school bus comes, we must be careful that he is inside or he will stand in its way! He is a character and beloved by our neighbors as well for his beauty and his friendly nature. We are lucky and thankful to have him, and I hope that it makes up a little for the decision we made more blindly than we should have.

***

I can't thank you enough, Elizabeth and Hamlet, for sharing your cautionary tale. I have nothing to add, other than that you are very much part of the Hovawart family. We are sorry too, we couldn't have helped you earlier. We all rejoice, that Hamlet is loved and cared for, no matter where he comes from.

For the latest and how you can help, visit the page Stop Danish Hovawart Puppy Mill.
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Monday, January 21, 2013

Wizard Jan and her Hovawarts, Tussock and River

I am very excited to introduce you to our latest Hovawart Wizard, Jan!

Jan is a repeat offender on the blog, as she wrote Hovawarts On A Raw Diet last week. Today, you can get to know Jan and her Hovawarts a little better.

Thank you for participating in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry!

Hovawart Wizard: My name is Jan and I am the proud guardian of two hovawarts as well as a flat coated retriever. We live on the west coast of Scotland near Oban and I manage a group of holiday cottages on Ardmaddy Estate. I am also a Bowen practitioner. I’m very lucky in that my dogs come to work with me and very rarely are they left at home.

Hovawarts: All my dogs are girls – the eldest is Tussock who is nearly 7, Talulah (the flattie) is four and a half, and River is eighteen months.

My affair with hovawarts began seven years ago – visiting with my husband’s family, we were out walking in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. This wonderful looking dog came into view with its people – large, hairy, handsome, friendly, proud. After a conversation which included the immortal words “a hova...what???” we went away intending looking up this breed on the Internet.

I did so that night – and I loved what I learned.  This was my kind of dog.  On returning home, we set about finding a breeder and came across Min Inches in Scone.  Min was the person who imported the first hovies into the country and she still breeds a litter from time to time.  I struck lucky as she had a litter on the way.  We were asked many questions – why we wanted a hovawart, how strict/consistent we would be, what we would be doing with them, if it would be a companion and not just left alone in the yard and how we would socialise them – very important!

We made the grade in terms of our past dog ownership, where we lived, the kind of life we could give a dog (we already had a collie and a Labrador) and, I think, the fact that Larney, the mother-to-be, decided she liked me by curling up on the sofa beside me – something I don’t think she generally did with strangers.

It was a different matter when we picked up Tussock – Larney looked like she might just eat us given the chance such was her protective instinct for her pups.

Tussock is a kind, gentle, caring, sensitive and intelligent dog – she is very tuned in to my moods and hates if I am upset, or angry. Her favourite games involve tennis balls, sticks, a large basket ball that she plays football with and hunting for hidden treasures. She loves to be brushed, to swim, chase rabbits and to eat. Whilst generally friendly with anyone, she is very protective of her own property. With people she knows and loves – well, her greeting is enthusiastic to put it mildly.

River is a different character all together. She was bred by Val and Steve Shone in Surrey. I originally went down there to pick up and bring home an all black puppy. However, River made the decision for me by swallowing one of my earrings! I did get it back a day or so later!

River being loving to Talulah instead of tormenting her
At only eighteen months, she is still very puppy like – and incredibly cheeky! Her favourite activities are running, jumping, swimming and tormenting poor Talulah. Despite my best efforts to cure her of the last one, I am not succeeding! Yet. When we set off on a walk, she is like a champagne cork out of a shaken bottle. She makes Tussock look like a lazy old woman!

Talulah was my husband’s choice of dog, but on our separation she stayed with me – she is very sweet, and long-suffering of the sometimes brutal play that hovies engage in. She’s a kindly soul, and I have to make sure she gets her share of attention.

All my girls are un-neutered. The cost of having them done is rather more than I can afford at the moment, but whilst it is generally well documented what the benefits of neutering are, the drawbacks and contraindications of having them done are not so well known. My decision now is to leave them as they are – there are risks and benefits with every choice in life. Their seasons are easy enough to manage for me in where I live and my lifestyle.

I chose to buy puppies rather than adopt an older dog as I really love having a pup about the place, and it does bring about a fantastic bond. That said, if an older dog needed a home, and I was able to provide a home, then I would certainly consider it – although the girls may have the last say in such matters!

Our daily routine does vary depending on what job I have to do that day. If I am cleaning cottages, the girls can play in the garden. If I am gardening, then they “help”. If it’s paperwork day, they just sprawl around all day. Whatever the day is though, they have a good walk everyday – they can run free, swim, play, chase balls, generally letting off steam and releasing energy. They are generally obedient, but a bit more training wouldn’t go amiss! That is my intention for this year. Tussock loves to work with a clicker, and you can see her brain working.

What I love most about my dogs is their loyalty and their wish to be with me – and that feeling is quite mutual! It doesn’t matter where I go, they want to go too. So, if I have to go upstairs, or to the loo, I am usually accompanied by at least two of them. I also love that they are friendly with people whilst still looking after me. They are great with other dogs, too, although occasionally Tussock has flattened one that has obviously said something rude. She never hurts them, but she can make a lot of noise! I am fairly tuned in to her body language and can judge whether she is likely to have a go. She does NOT like dogs that run around yapping.

Hovies are special dogs. They are intelligent but it is a thinking intelligence. They are obedient, but not push-button. They are tremendous all rounders and continually amaze me in how they learn a new job very quickly. I feel safe with them and trust them. They are my friends and companions and I cannot see a time when I won’t have at least one hovie in the house.

***

Hovawart Wizards, like Jan, try to provide real life information for Muggles - those not yet touched by the Hovawart's magic - to learn more about Hovawarts in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. A place where Muggles can read how we play, what kind of training and activities we undertake. What makes Hovawarts special to us, and how they made us into Wizards. The role they came to play in our lives. And the hard times we shared. Helping Muggles to make the best choice possible if a Hovawart could be the Magical Creature for them, or at least what to expect.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Wizards Marc and Cheryl, and their Hovawart, Kaspar

I am very excited to introduce you to some very exotic Hovawart Wizards, Marc and Cheryl!

I first met them through Facebook as they stood out from the "usual" Hovawart crowd, because of the place they live: Bangkok, Thailand. Truly a Hovawart family in paradise.

Thank you for participating in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry!

Hovawart Wizards: We are Marc and Cheryl, and live with our three boys, Andrew, Jonathan and Matt, in Bangkok, Thailand.

Hovawart: Kaspar is our Hovawart, and luckily for Kaspar our family lives just outside Bangkok in an area where there is plenty of space for him to run free. There are birds to chase, other dogs to play with and various sized monitor lizards from 2 feet to 8 feet! It is very hot in Bangok, but Kaspar finds cool places in the crosswind, and can usually be found in any air conditioned room. Kaspar was born in May 2009 and is an unneutered male.

Marc spends lots of time through his job visiting farms around the world. While in Germany a few times, he came across farms with Hovawarts and really liked these dogs. he mentioned this to one of his German colleagues and due to German efficiency, the next thing we knew Kaspar was in Frankfurt waiting for his flight to Bangkok. He arrived when he was 5 months old. He is now 35kg and very active.

Kaspar is an excellent family dog. He likes being around us. Although he is quite big, he is very quiet. He only barks if someone is at the front gate or walking too close to the front gate. We have a swimming pool but he prefers the dirty canal and has only jumped into the pool once. Sometimes he will sit on the step at the edge of the pool so only his feet are wet.

He likes to wrestle with Marc and loves being brushed and tickled by Andrew. Although Kaspar is rarely leashed, he keeps close to us during his walks and will generally listen to our calls to heel. We notice that as Kaspar gets older he is more interested in being with us and less interested in chasing other animals around.

Kaspar has been on holiday with us to the beach. We enjoy having him with us, but it is a challenge because there are many stray dogs in Thailand, and the culture of having pets inside is not present. However we have found some hotels that allow us to have him with us. At the beach Kaspar likes to sit at the edge of the water. He finds spots under shady trees and most of all he likes being with us. 

If we go away and leave Kaspar with someone he does not know, he will not eat until we get back.  Recently we went on a trip to a national park and only realized once we got there that a new regulation meant no pets were allowed in the national park (which was an island about 2 hours away by speedboat).  We had to leave Kaspar on the mainland with someone he did not know at all. The carer told us that on the first day when she took him for his walk, he broke free and found a spot near our car. He did not move for 2 days, did not drink water or eat any food.  At the other end we were also worried and cut our island holiday short so we could retrieve him.

That was an eventful holiday – we drove down the road to Phuket (about 3 hours) and the next day we were on the top of the mountain waiting out the tsunami warning. Kaspar met another Hovawart at the top of that mountain. He was a black dog about 10 years old. His owner was a German long-time resident of Phuket.  We heard that during the Tsunami recovery in 1996, Hovawarts were flown in to find people in the debris. I would really like to know if somebody reading this could confirm if that was the case?

We like Kaspar because he is intelligent, loyal and protective. He treats each member of the family different, based on their age. We figure that on his list we rank in this order: Marc, Cheryl, Andrew because he spends lots of time with Kaspar, Sita (our maid) because she looks after him a lot, then Matthew the littlest and Jonathan.  Marc encourages Kaspar to jump up and kiss up, but Kaspar never jumps up on little Matt and is always calm and gentle with him.

Kaspar's daily routine looks like this: he wakes up around 5am and goes for a 5 - 7 km run with Cheryl. It is cooler in the early morning while it is still dark. On his run Kaspar greets his other friends, sometimes has a play and is home about 40 minutes later. He runs free without a leash because the compound is enclosed and there is not very much traffic. There are many fields and little canals that he gambols through. The rest of the day is meant for relaxation.

Kaspar eats some breakfast (dry dog food) and then spends most of his day sitting near Cheryl (or in any aircon room if available!) or catching the crosswind by the front door. He gets another walk in the mid afternoon after 3:00. The children come home from school starting at 3:30 and Kaspar is there for a jump, pat and a lick. Kaspar has dinner after the family at 6:30 pm. For dinner he has meat with carrots, greens and rice specially prepared for him. Between 7 and 9 he goes for his last walk of the day. Our house has quite a big garden, so he is free to roam around during the day. Sometimes if he is eager to see his friend he will jump over the back wall (only about 2 feet) and sneak out. But he is soon back and waits patiently for someone to open the front gate.

***

Hovawart Wizards, like Marc and Cheryl, try to provide real life information for Muggles - those not yet touched by the Hovawart's magic - to learn more about Hovawarts in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. A place where Muggles can read how we play, what kind of training and activities we undertake. What makes Hovawarts special to us, and how they made us into Wizards. The role they came to play in our lives. And the hard times we shared. Helping Muggles to make the best choice possible if a Hovawart could be the Magical Creature for them, or at least what to expect.
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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wizard Deanne and her Mystery Hovawart, Gus

I am very excited to introduce you to our Hovawart Wizard, Deanne!

Deanne is actually not sure Gus is a Hovawart. He is a Mystery Hovawart. You'll have to decide for yourself. He sure looks like a Hovawart to me.

Thank you for participating in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry!

Hovawart Wizard: I'm Deanna in Port Townsend Washington. I'm a nurse in a small community hospital.

Hovawart: Gus is my Hovawart, although I actually don't know his breed but he sure has the look of a Hovawart. Gus is about 1.5 years old. I chose St Valentine's day as his birthday because he is a sweetheart.

I found Gus abandoned on the road in new mexico at about 6 weeks old. I took his picture when I felt he would make it. He was pretty dehydrated when I found him and the vet thought he had distemper.

Gus has a grouchy older sister, a Catahoula cross named Zoe and 2 new kitten friends, Halvor and Magnus. Gus lets Magnus "nurse" on him, and he and the kittens sleep together most nights.

Our first year was rough. Gus was not well behaved and I was at a loss as to what to do. We met a bouncy Newfie pup at the dog park and his owner got us in touch with a trainer, Tim Reiber, who has made a huge difference in our lives. We are taking advanced obedience classes, possibly trying for BH and schutzhund in the future. We have started tracking as well.

Our days always have a long walk/run in them, some obedience work and maybe a practice track. We live near both the beach and the dog park so we usually go one or the other several times in the week. Zoe is 14 and not so much fun to play with- from Gus' perspective. The kittens are fearless and he plays very nicely with them, most of the time.

I love Gus' big brown eyes. His playful yet gentle nature. I doubt that he really has any Hovawart in him, but he sure looks like one and his personality and nature certainly fit everything I've been learning about Hovawarts since I found out about the breed.

Gus is friendly to other dogs, gentle with puppies and likes to roughhouse with other big dogs. He is often very shy with new people and does not readily allow strangers to pet him. He will often put himself in front of me when another dog approaches.

My best advice: train. These dogs are so smart but also willful.

***

Hovawart Wizards, like Deanne, try to provide real life information for Muggles - those not yet touched by the Hovawart's magic - to learn more about Hovawarts in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. A place where Muggles can read how we play, what kind of training and activities we undertake. What makes Hovawarts special to us, and how they made us into Wizards. The role they came to play in our lives. And the hard times we shared. Helping Muggles to make the best choice possible if a Hovawart could be the Magical Creature for them, or at least what to expect.
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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Wizard Astrid and her Hovawarts, Ayda and Zerline

I am very excited to introduce you to a very versatile Hovawart Wizard, Astrid!

I first met Astrid on Twitter and have always been amazed by her energy and the diversity of the activities she undertakes with her Hovawarts. From any kind of training to Search-and-Rescue (SAR) work, and everything in between. You name it: Astrid, Ayda and Zerline do it.

Thank you for participating in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry!

Ayda, Astrid and Zerline
Hovawart Wizard: My name is Astrid Reijerkerk and I live together with my partner René Berendse and our two at home living kids, daughter Caitlin ( 22) and son Brendan (14). We live in Purmerend, a village near Amsterdam, Holland. I have a website, and we are on Facebook and Twitter as well. Recently I also started my own dog training school: "De Spoorlijn" (in English: "the tracking line")! I didn't thrived anymore on the local school where I was giving classes and it was always one of my dreams to have my own dog training school.

Hovawarts: We have 3 dogs, a female mixed dog from 16 years old and our two female Hovawarts, 10 year old Ayda, "Ajonja von der Tegelkuhle", and 3½ year old Zerline, "Dratini’s Bayleef". I got both as a puppy from a breeder. Ayda comes from a breeder in Germany and Zerline from a breeder in Norway. Ayda and Zerline are related to each other, Zerline's father is Ayda's half-brother.

Zerline discovering "Treibball"
Ayda is spayed but Zerline is not. One of my other big wishes was to let one of my dogs to have a litter. We therefore got Zerline checked for hip-dysplasia (HD), had her eyes tested, passed a mental-test, a Canine Good Citizen Test+, and showed her. This is all required by the Dutch Hovawart Club. Finally, in March last year, Zerline became the mother of 8 puppy’s! We are still in touch with all the families and have regular "family reunions".

The daily life of my dogs starts with a walk in the morning before I go to my job and in the afternoon we walk again. During the week we train with them as well, I train obedience and my daughter trains agility. Every Sunday we have SAR training and sometimes we have to search for missing people. We have even been on missions abroad in Spain and Norway.

Ayda and Astrid (right) on a SAR mission in Norway,
courtesy of www.reddingshonden.nl
Both dogs are trained SAR dogs and we volunteer for the biggest rescue organization in Holland. Unfortunately Ayda cannot join me anymore because her vocal cords had to be surgically removed. But Zerline is still with me on missions. Like last week, when we had to search for a missing person, together with other rescue groups. The dogs seem to know when it is for training and when it is for real. We always start by letting the dogs take the scent of all the people in the group so they know their scents can be discarded. The missing lady was found very quickly though by another group, and we let the dogs find one of the handlers instead. Zerline deemed this to be very odd and tried to convince me this was a real search and she was certain this person was part of the group before!

Both dogs are kind with other people. Where Ayda only really cares for the people she already knows, Zerline just likes everybody. Zerline likes other dogs as well and always wants to play with them. Ayda needs her space: she barks at other dogs and she doesn't want to interact with them.

Ayda on tracking training
I love the breed because they enjoy doing things with me. We have developed such a deep bond together during the years of rescue work. It is difficult for me to describe in words what they have come to mean to me.

Especially Ayda. She really is my best buddy, we share such a strong and deep bond. In a way I think it was Ayda that picked us instead of the other way around. When we couldn't find a puppy in Holland, and drove to the breeder in Germany - a 10 hour car trip - to "just have a look", we decided to stay and played with the puppies the entire weekend. During that weekend Ayda just picked us, and she was the one to drive home with us.

My message to future Hovawart owners would be that with a Hovawart respect is key. But it doesn't come for free, you have to show respect for your Hovawart before you can receive their respect in return. This means to stand side by side, and not above, your Hovawart. To be consistent yet always fair and gentle. To never shout but to reward good behavior. Preferably with a lot of treats, the love of a Hovawart goes through it's stomach!

***

Hovawart Wizards, like Astrid, try to provide real life information for Muggles - those not yet touched by the Hovawart's magic - to learn more about Hovawarts in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. A place where Muggles can read how we play, what kind of training and activities we undertake. What makes Hovawarts special to us, and how they made us into Wizards. The role they came to play in our lives. And the hard times we shared. Helping Muggles to make the best choice possible if a Hovawart could be the Magical Creature for them, or at least what to expect.
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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wizards Kelsey and Nolan, and their Hovawart, Ethanah

I am very excited to introduce you to our very first Hovawart Wizards, Kelsey and Nolan!

Kelsey and Nolan became first-time Hovawart owners just recently, after a long and thorough search for the right breed and breeder. They stopped by on this blog as well during their quest, and without them knowing it, were thereby one of the first to inspire me to start the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. Their Hovawart puppy, Ethana, is growing up to become a wonderful dog. What strikes me with Ethanah are those amazing eyes. What else is there left to do than melt.

Thank you for participating in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry!

Hovawart Wizards: We are Kelsey and Nolan. I'm fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom to two wonderful children and step-mom to two teenagers. Nolan works in healthcare. We live in the U.S., in Washington state on a small acreage.

Hovawart: Our Hovawart is Ethanah (Thana for short), a 7-month old female. I've tried and failed at keeping up with a blog. But you can find me on Facebook!

We got Ethanah as a puppy and as a confirmed shelter-dog advocate, this was a decision I struggled with greatly. We browsed Petfinder for many months and visited local shelters. There were many wonderful dogs, but none that we felt would be the right fit for a family with a toddler and a baby.

We decided a puppy would be best and spent several more months researching dog breeds and finally decided we'd like to meet a Hovawart. A certain blog post, “A shameless sales pitch for the Hovawart breed” on Kenzo's blog was key in our decision!  We spoke with every legitimate Hovawart breeder in the U.S. When I spoke with Susan Garka, I knew we'd met the right one! Our first phone call lasted over 2 hours and ended with an invitation to meet her Hovawarts. And obviously you know how we felt about that first meeting!  Though she had no planned litter at that time, we decided we would be patient and hope for a puppy within a couple of years. I cannot say enough wonderful things about Susan. She is truly a passionate advocate for not only her own dogs, but also the Hovawart breed. She's the secretary of the American Hovawart Club and their Chair, Breedwarden. And if that weren't enough, she's also a fantastic cook and a great friend! See her website for more details:  Hovawarts Vom Treuen Freund.

Thana is our first dog as a married couple, though my husband and I both grew up with dogs, including a Basset Hound, Saint Bernard, Weimaraner, and variety of mixed-breeds, all shelter dogs or strays!

As for daily life with a Hovawart, it goes something like this:  About 5am, we start hearing the high-pitched whine and yips – the ones she knows hurt our ears and spur us into action. By 6am, my stalwart husband takes her to the park for an hour and a half long off-leash walk. There are a few “regulars” there each morning and she enjoys playing with the young Newfoundland, but somehow knows to not engage the older German Shepherd that suffers from cancer. Every other dog is fair game, however, so we frequently have to leash her before we approach certain dogs, or intervene when the play gets too rough. If you've never seen a Hovawart play, it is quite a terrifying sight! They leap, jump, chase, body-check, tumble and are generally relentless – for hours! When she isn't playing, she loves to use her nose to find a hidden hat or person. We are beginning to see her protective nature emerging. Upon approaching something new, she stops, looks alert, walks slowly forward and circles around. One person commented that it's like being stalked by a lion! The moment she finds there is no danger, she is back to her happy, friendly self.

After the park, it's breakfast time, which for Thana is a raw-food diet. By then she's ready for a nap in her exercise pen, while we get ready for our day. If we have errands to run, she often relaxes in her car crate, just happy to be with us for the ride. Other times, she'll stay home in her 48 inch crate (the one that takes up half our bedroom!), while our cat taunts her from her safe spot under the bed. If we're home and I can supervise her, she'll relax with us around the house – as long as we keep dolls, stuffed animals and crayons out of her reach! Thana tries to get the cat to play by pouncing down in front of her and woofing her deep woof, but the cat is never amused. She greets everyone with friendly nudges and kisses, but often curls up off to the side of the room just to keep an eye on all of us. We must be within her line of sight, but she is not a dog that needs constant pats and tummy rubs. We try to get out for some playtime in the yard after lunch and again for playtime or a leashed walk through our neighborhood around dinnertime. In the late evening, she mellows and becomes a “sofawart”! Sometimes she'll curl up with Nolan or I for a few minutes, but likes to have her own space and moves off to her own couch.  When we go to bed, she curls up in her own bed too. We hope one day to not need the crate, but at 7 months, she's a bit of a menace to anything she can fit in her mouth to chew!

I absolutely love that Thana is friendly to every single person and dog we've encountered – maybe overly friendly! There's not a person that can resist that smiling face and her kind eyes. She's not only beautiful, but she just exudes intelligence, self-assurance and fun. Most of all, I love how my little girls adore her and how Thana adores them. She enriches our lives immensely and keeps us laughing and smiling every day.

Thana is currently enrolled in her third round of puppy classes with Northern Tails Dog Training. I think these classes have been key in developing Thana's friendly acceptance of all dogs and people. Though she's a bit distractable and gets bored with repetition, she does great with basic commands. She is not highly motivated by treats, so it's a bit of a challenge to find what motivates her. Squeaky toys and squishy balls are top on her list, but getting her to "leave" those is another challenge altogether! Our 5-year old enjoys working with her, especially fetching her favorite ball, or hide and seek. She listens as well to her as she does to Nolan or I!

If I can offer any advice to Muggles considering Wizardry themselves, it would be to learn as much as you can about these amazing dogs - not theories but real-life experiences. Meet a Hovawart, or two or three! Hovawarts are very special, but they are not for everyone – they are a “lot of dog!”. Kenzo and Viva's blog is a must-read! Here are a few questions to consider. Are you willing to spend 2+ hours being active outside, every day, rain or shine?  Can you handle a very physical, strong, exuberant dog – a dog that other dogs and particularly their owners may find intimidating? Are you the kind of person who needs a dog to obey you “because I said so” or can you work with an intelligent, free-thinking dog who loves you, but prefers to make their own decisions? Are you okay with a dog who wants to be near your family, but also desires its own space? But, most of all, are you ready to share your life with a furry friend who is more partner than pet? If yes, then a Hovawart might be for you! 


***

Hovawart Wizards, like Kelsey and Nolan, try to provide real life information for Muggles - those not yet touched by the Hovawart's magic - to learn more about Hovawarts in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. A place where Muggles can read how we play, what kind of training and activities we undertake. What makes Hovawarts special to us, and how they made us into Wizards. The role they came to play in our lives. And the hard times we shared. Helping Muggles to make the best choice possible if a Hovawart could be the Magical Creature for them, or at least what to expect.
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Friday, January 27, 2012

Calling all Wizards To the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry

Do you think they come and play?
The Hovawart is a Magical Creature. And in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry we study how it is like to live side by side with a Hovawart in our Care for Magical Creatures class. What does a Hovawart need and expect from Muggles - those not yet touched by the Hovawart's magic?

Unlike the school with the name that sounds a lot like ours, we do welcome Muggles! We invite all Muggles to come and hear the tales of the Wizards - those that have been touched by the Hovawart's magic.

After all, the choice for a particular Magical Creature breed requires a good match with the Muggle, in life style as well as temperament, and real-life info from Wizards is of key importance for Muggles to choose the right Magical Creature breed. A good match makes happy Hovawarts and happy Muggles!

We are calling all Wizards to the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. Maybe once upon a time, when you were a Muggle yourself, you found it difficult to find stories about Hovawarts, as compared to other Magical Creatures? I did. And I felt a little like going in way over my head when we got Kenzo as our first Hovawart, solely based on the recommendations of a friendly - and competent - breeder, together with the occasional Wizard's blog/website and the obligatory breed encyclopedia.

What I would like to achieve together with you Wizards, is to provide real life information for Muggles to learn more about Hovawarts. A place where Muggles can read how we play, what kind of training and activities we undertake. What makes Hovawarts special to us, and how they made us into Wizards. The role they came to play in our lives. And the hard times we shared. Helping Muggles to make the best choice possible if a Hovawart could be the Magical Creature for them, or at least what to expect. What do you think? Shall we help them?

Here is how Wizards can participate. We are excited to hear about you and your Hovawart!

Coming up soon ... the first installment: Wizard Kelsey and her Hovawart Ethanah!

***

Last but not least, a big Thank You to AJ from I Still Want More Puppies, for being the creative mastermind behind the whole Harry Potter pun.
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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Shiloh adopted after 2 years

Maybe you remember Shiloh the Hovawart? She featured on this blog during Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week and before that, we raised the funds for her second FHO hip surgery.

I am so thrilled for Shiloh. An elderly couple from Idaho adopted her. They owned a Hovawart before and found Shiloh on Petfinder. They flew to Charlotte (NC) together with their Yorkie and met with Shiloh. Fell in love, and rented a car for the trip back home. With Shiloh on the back seat.

Sometimes there seemed to be no hope. More than 125 people tweeted about Shiloh, some daily in more than a year. Bloggers wrote about her. She featured as Pet-of-the-Week on NC's local TV station. As it seemed, to no avail. But finally, after more than two years, Shiloh has a family.

In all that time Shiloh was in the care of the no-kill rescue project HALO, and in particular Shiloh's foster dad, Tim Roney. They are the real heroes in this story. Please pay a visit to their website of like/leave a note on their FB page. I am sure they will appreciate.
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hovawarts To The Rescue

This week I turn my blog over to Caroline Dunn - dog trainer, Search and Rescue handler, and Hovawart enthusiast - to provide us with a peek in the exciting world of scent and how you and your dog can do nose work too.

Venka, the Search and Rescue Hovawart, courtesy of MindYourDog
How did I get involved with Search and Rescue (SAR) and the wonderful world of nose work? Well, it all started with a Hovawart. A hov… what!? I hear you say. No, nothing to do with the famous school for witches and wizards. Although I think I may have been struck by a spell for luck the day I came across this rare German breed.

The Hovawart is a versatile general-purpose working dog from Germany, calm in the house but full of energy outdoors. They have been known since the middle age as faithful protectors of their families, watching the livestock and their master’s property, while also being excellent at tracking criminals.

Venka, courtesy of MindYourDog
Ours is called Venka. She has been working as an operational lowland SAR dog since she qualified with NSARDA in 2007. Many people have met our bouncy girl. She will lean on you for a cuddle at any opportunity. But nobody really knows Venka until they have seen her searching. Working with a Hovawart is a fantastic experience. It is all about respect and teamwork. They work with you, not for you. They have an excellent understanding of their task, great focus, but still retain a sense of initiative.

A lot of SAR handlers work border collies, some have spaniels or labradors. We have no reason to envy them. Hovawarts are amazing working dogs. To be fair though, many canines have the potential to be great for the job. Most of the breeds from the gundog, pastoral and working groups could do it, apart from those at the very end of the scale in term of size and weight. Having said that, I knew a SAR Newfoundland and once he had picked up scent, he was unstoppable. Mongrels don’t have to stay on the "back bench" either. We have a fantastic rescued boy called Red currently training in our unit, who is believed to be a collie x staffie. I will be very surprised if he does not pass with flying colours before the end of the year.

You may wonder what SAR dogs do exactly. Most use a technique called air scenting to find vulnerable missing people. They analyse scent that is being carried in the air. Many elements such as temperature, wind and terrain will affect how scent travel and a real partnership between the dogs and their handlers is necessary to ensure success. The dogs cover vast area off the lead, following directional commands from their handler and constantly checking and reviewing scent. Once they identify human scent, they will pinpoint the source, alert their handler, usually by a bark, before taking them to the location of the person.

You don’t have to join a SAR unit to have fun with your dog though. Getting started with scent work is easy. Here is a simple and fool proof method to teach a basic game at home, without any special equipment and whichever breed your dog is. You will only need a helper to get you started.

Start in a closed room, hold your dog and ask your helper to show them a "prize" such as a dog biscuit or a favourite toy. If needed, they may tease by shaking it in front of your dog's nose and talking to them in an exciting manner. Then, they should place the prize just out of sight, for instance behind a box or a piece of furniture, and take a few steps back. Release your dog saying "go search". As they have seen where the prize was placed, they should go straight to it. When they do, praise them. Play with them for a short time if the prize was a toy. Repeat this once or twice, not necessarily with the prize in the same place.

The next step is slightly different.  Your helper should still place the prize just out of sight. But then, instead of releasing your dog, either cover their eyes or turn them towards you so they can’t see what is happening. Your helper should then as quietly as possible move the prize a little further. Keep it simple at first, the prize should be on the floor and within a relatively short distance. When you release your dog - remember to say "go search" - they should go straight to the place where they think the prize is. They will be surprised that it is not where they though and start searching. Unless the dog stops searching or looks too confused, don’t repeat the command. I see many people who think they are encouraging their dog, while they are actually distracting them. SAR dog handlers direct their dogs during searches, but they also know when to shut up and let their dog work. Well, have you ever try to concentrate on something while your colleague is speaking loudly on the phone or your teenager has put the volume up on their stereo? And dogs are not always a lot better at multi-tasking than men… come on guys, you know you can't talk while you're shaving!

Coming back to our scent game, once you have done this a few times in different locations in the room, your dog should not need to see the helper place the prize to a "dummy" location first. Instead, cover your dog's eyes or turn them towards you from the start, have your helper hide the prize and then send your dog with a "Go search". Always use the same cue when releasing the dog.

The dog will very shortly understand the game enough so that you won’t need a helper anymore, simply place your dog in one room, close the door and hide the prize in the next room. Open the door saying "Go search" and watch your dog go.

Then the limit to how far you take this game is only your imagination, you can make your dog search one room, the whole house, the garden, the dog park… If you do not always use the same prize, then make sure that the dog is shown it first and has a chance to sniff it. Otherwise, you may be surprised what your dog will find for you!

There are many more scent games you can play with your dog. Air scenting is just one aspect, then there is trailing, tracking, scent discrimination, etc… Why not check if your local club offers any scent activities or join a nose work boot camp? All dogs love scent work, it is suitable for all size and breed. Learn the techniques and take your relationship with your dog to a whole new level. People who have dogs who always seem to want to do more will get the added benefit of finally finding an activity that will tire their dog out. Scent games can even help with dogs who bark or get destructive when bored.

About Caroline Dunn
Caroline lives in Kent with her family and their hovawarts. She is the head trainer at Mind Your Dog, where she create happy relationships between pet dogs and their owners. Caroline and her husband James are also members of NSARDA Cantech, a charity which provides SAR dog teams to assist in locating vulnerable missing people.

For more information about Search & Rescue dogs visit the NSARDA and the Air scenting search dogs websites.

For more information about Mind your Dog events, including their scent workshops, visit the Mind Your Dog website or follow Caroline on Twitter.

This story was first published on Safe Pets UK.
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