Are you considering getting a vizsla puppy? Or just curious what life is like with one of these high-maintenance creatures? Several years ago, I heard someone describe a vizsla as a lifestyle, not a breed. I think this is a very accurate description. Vizslas are not your walk around the block for a half-hour once a day type of dog. They require a lot more exercise and attention than your average breed.
They Have a Strong Hunting Background
It’s always important to keep in mind a breed’s original purpose. This background often provides a lot of insight into how and why they act a certain way. Vizslas were bred to hunt birds and small game and to work cooperatively with the hunter, who was either on foot or horseback. This means they were doing a lot of running while also using their nose to find birds. Vizslas were owned and bred by Hungarian royalty and at night, the vizslas lived inside and slept in their owners’ beds.
This means that they need a lot of physical exercise, especially when they’re younger. Leashed walks will not cut it. They need to run around off-leash frequently. They also need a lot of mental exercise/training games to keep them from being bored. This often can tire them out more than physical exercise, because they will likely become quite fit the more you exercise them.
Once I started hunting with Zara this year, I noticed that hunting for birds would tire her out more than anything else. This is a big difference between her consciously searching for birds and her being off-leash on a hike in the woods. She would be exhausted after a two-hour hunt. A two-hour hike will make her tired for a while, but she’ll still want to play with her toys and annoy Colombo. I think the combination of mental and physical exercise involved in hunting is what makes it so taxing.
Even if you never hunt with your vizsla, keep in mind that their hunting instinct will likely still be there. This means they will probably be interested in (and want to chase) birds as well as small mammals like rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks. Before she’d ever been exposed to game birds, Zara managed to kill a squirrel and capture two chipmunks!
Hunting woodcock with Zara in January. She wears all her necessary protective gear.
They Are Very Athletic
As mentioned above, vizslas need a lot of exercise due to their background. They are definitely endurance animals. The good news is that they are a great match for people who love running, hiking, swimming, and kayaking. A vizsla is typically up for anything physical. But they do need a lot of off-leash running, which can be a challenge to fulfill depending on where you live. While we used the dog park a lot when Zara was younger, it is not always the best option, especially for an adult dog. You’ll need to find the space and time to run your vizsla almost daily. Even at seven years old, Zara’s capacity for endurance is high. I spend about 1.5 hours per day exercising her. Some days it’s less, some days it’s more.
Sprinting through fields is a universal vizsla pastime.
They Want to Be Involved in Everything
Vizslas are very curious and love being part of the action. If I’m opening a package, Zara is sniffing the box. If I’m assembling a piece of furniture, Zara is checking out the pieces. If I’m folding laundry, she’s next to me on the bed with her toy. Some people may find this annoying, but I (and most vizsla owners) find it endearing. For Zara, I’ve found that she loves a busy household. When we’ve rented vacation homes and stayed with multiple friends and other dogs, there’s a lot of action. She seems to thrive on this. While vizslas are often not recommended as breed to acquire when you have young children, I imagine a lot of vizslas, as long as they are properly exercised and cared for by the adults, would love being a part of a family with school-age children, who run around, play games, invite friends over, and generally are always up to something.
When Zara was a little over a year old, we visited my extended family for Christmas. There were four young children there and ten adults. Zara enjoyed watching my cousins’ children playing a game of poker. She wanted to be right in the middle of the action.
They Can Be Very Needy/Sensitive
Vizslas are known as a “softer” breed, especially among the versatile pointing breeds, which include German shorthaired pointers, German wirehaired pointers, brittanies, and wirehaired pointing griffons. They don’t handle harsh training well. They also like to be next to their humans pretty much at all times. There’s an old Hungarian saying that goes: “If you own a vizsla, it lives on top of your head.” This is why they are described as “velcro vizslas.” They like to sit on your lap and sleep next to you in bed.
While Zara is somewhat independent and does not constantly need to be touching us, she does become very needy at times. For example, she has developed a fear of the the gas stove being turned on because we’ve set off the smoke alarm one too many times while cooking. She also does not like loud beeping, like a truck might make as it’s backing up. When she hears these sounds, she will try to get in our laps to be held. This spring, the city has been doing a drainage project in our backyard which involved A LOT of beeping trucks. Zara was getting in my lap almost daily as I was trying to work. The series below was all taken in the past few months.
They Have Fast Metabolisms and Eat A Lot
Because vizslas exert so much energy running around, they often have a fast metabolism and require more calories than your average dog. Especially when they are young, it can be hard to keep weight on them. We had this issue with Zara starting from when she was about 15 months until we switched her to raw at age 2.5. Even now, she eats a large amount of food during the winter when she is hunting and working harder. This winter, at age seven, she was eating the same quantity of food as Colombo who is double her weight and half her age. This also means you’ll be spending a bit more money on food than you would for a dog with an average metabolism.
They Get Cold Easily
Vizslas do not have an undercoat, like many breeds do. Because of that, they are not suited for cold temperatures. You will likely need a coat for your vizsla as the temperature drops into the 40s or 30s and they will also get cold sleeping at night or during the day. This is why so many vizsla owners buy Snoozer Cozy Caves for their dogs. This ingenious dog bed allows them to “get under the covers” by themselves. We’ve had a cave bed for Zara since she was about four months old and she uses it daily in the winter.
However, she does still sleep in our bed at night and in the winter, she’s typically under the covers. We brought her home at eight weeks in the middle of December. Although we crate trained her, by February, she would cry in her crate in the middle of the night and we eventually figured out she was cold. This is when we started allowing her in the bed. But if you don’t want to have your dog in the bed, fleece pajamas can be a great option (yes, I’m serious). Colombo wears his daily in the winter because he still sleeps in his crate. If our next puppy arrives in the winter, I will definitely buy pajamas so we can continue the crate training without issue.
Zara loves her cave bed.
You Have to Teach Them to Settle
One of the hallmarks of the vizsla breed is their great endurance. These dogs were bred to cover miles and miles while hunting for birds. Therefore, they have a tendency to run or play until they drop. Zara has a habit of bringing us toys or balls to throw for her in the evening, even after she has had plenty of exercise. If a visitor comes over, it’s even worse. She will literally bring a toy to them over and over the entire time they are visiting if we let her. After a while, we have to tell her “all done” or put her on place to force her to stop. Once she’s been told the game is over, she will settle down and usually fall asleep. It’s important to teach these dogs to be able to do this, especially when they are younger, otherwise they may never have an “off” button in the house.
Vizslas Attract A Lot of Attention
Because vizslas are not a very common breed, Zara tends to attract a lot of attention when we are out and about. A lot of people have never seen a dog like her and they are very curious. We also have people come up to us who either have a vizsla or know one and want to say hi. It seems like vizsla owners are attracted to other vizsla owners. If you dislike talking to strangers, keep this in mind before you get a vizsla.
A Vizsla is a Lifestyle
A vizsla can make a great dog, if you are up for the challenge. They are very sweet and loving and their willingness to please makes them easy to train. They do require more attention than other breeds though, so be sure to think about if your lifestyle can accommodate this before you get a puppy. Before we got Zara, I don’t think I fully understood what life with a vizsla would be like. However, I adjusted my lifestyle to make it work. This was somewhat easy to do since we don’t have kids and now I have a very flexible job. I love living with a vizsla and I eventually hope to get another one some day. :)