The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.
Physically, Hovawarts are large, heavy-boned dogs that have been bred to be intelligent guardians of livestock and the home. They come in three colors: blonde, black and tan, and black. They are alert, faithful, trustworthy, extremely intelligent, fun-loving, and stubborn. A Hovawart likes to have a job to do, or he will use his creative nature to find one. They take approximately two years to mature. Currently, Hovawarts in North America are participating in search and rescue organizations, therapy dog activities, obedience trials, agility trials, flyball and service dog training. Owning a Hovawart can be quite a challenge, and they require significant time and attention from their owners, so they are not recommended for first-time dog owners. However, for an owner who is willing to expend the effort to teach their dog appropriate behaviors in different situations, the reward is a faithful companion. The Hovawart is a family dog. It develops a strong bond to its “pack” and must be a part of the family life; it needs to bond closely with the owner/family. If it has been well integrated into the family, it does not mind spending the occasional hour in a kennel.
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You are going to want to feed your Hovawart a formula that will cater to their unique digestive needs throughout the various phases of their life. Many dog food companies have breed-specific formulas for small, medium, large and extra-large breeds. The Hovawart is a large breed with a lifespan of 10-14 years.
What you feed your dog is an individual choice, but working with your veterinarian and/or breeder will be the best way to determine frequency of meals as a puppy and the best adult diet to increase his longevity. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
Because the Hovawart does not have much of an undercoat, it does not need much grooming. Apart from the period of shedding, an occasional brushing will suffice. Beyond this, the occasional bath will keep them clean and looking their best. Their strong fast-growing nails should be trimmed regularly with a nail clipper or grinder to avoid overgrowth, splitting and cracking. Their ears should be checked regularly to avoid a buildup of wax and debris which can result in an infection. Teeth should be brushed regularly.
Hovawarts are a large breed so the more running room they have, the happier they will be. It is preferable to have a large fenced yard, but substitute exercises such as hiking, trips to a dog park, etc. can make up for some lack in this area. It needs at least a one-hour walk, plus 3 or 4 shorter walks to do “its business” daily. Training for dog sports like agility, obedience and rally can also be a great way to give your dog exercise. Apartments are not typically large enough, or have room enough, for the desired activities.
The Hovawart’s guarding instincts are best controlled by socialization and exposure to different situations and stimuli. This will allow the dog to understand how each situation should be approached and utilizes the dog’s intelligence to assure a measured response. Absent directions, the Hovawart will make his own decision, and it may not match what you want him to do. Training is needed so the dog understands how you want it to make decisions and not rely on its instincts. Appropriate guarding instincts are a learned process, and the dogs need to be educated by exposing them to these situations.
It is up to the Hovawart owner to be more alert, intentional, directive, and consistent than his dog. The Hovawart needs a leader it can trust. He does not respond positively at all to harsh methods of training; it is much more important to create and sustain the fundamental trust that it wants to feel toward its pack leader.
Hovawarts are quite healthy and live to a ripe old age. One can expect an average lifespan in the 10 to 14 year range and owners should be prepared to dedicate this amount of time to their care. There are no known issues of breed-specific diseases and hip dysplasia rates have been calculated at less than 5%. For a large breed dog, this is an exceptionally low rate.
The Hovawart is a very old German working dog breed. The name’s origin stems from Middle High German (an old form of German); Hova = Hof (= yard, farm) and wart = Wächter (= watchman). Since 1922 the breeding of this breed, by using dogs similar in type still found on farms, has been restored. Apart from this, in the early years of breeding, crosses with German Shepherd Dogs, Newfoundlands, Leonbergers and other breeds were admitted. Due to the strict measurements taken in selecting the breeding stock, the original working type was attained again. In 1937, Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) officially recognized the Hovawart.
The circumstances of World War II threatened the breed again. It was difficult to keep and sustain dogs. Various groups of breeders tried to revive the breed with the reduced number of dogs that remained after the War. In 1948, the Rassezuchtverein für Hovawart-Hunde e.V. (RZV) was founded from some of these groups in the Federal Republic of Germany and became a member of the Verband für das deutsche Hundewesen (VDH), the German Kennel Club.