Saturday, May 24, 2008

Toys for Smart Tots: Interactive toy review

For T-Bone and all the other smart pups out there, here's a review of some of my favorite toys. 

General toy note: Rotate 1-3 toys at a time to avoid overload. You generally want a variety of textures and types - a harder chew, a noisy/squeaky thing, and a stuffed chew toy. Stuffed chew toys can be interactive or just have holes or cavities where kibble or peanut butter or cream cheese can be smushed in to add flavor (like the Kong - I have the King Kong, hee hee - or a sterilized beef bone). I prefer the interactive ones. Unfortunately, my toys are always the large size, so they are expensive.

Hol-ee Roller Ball - $5-$10, depending on size - Uncle Boo, may he rest in little pieces, left me this, so I have the red medium size one. Mommy used to stick a medium-sized Greenie** in it and Boo would chase it down and pull the Greenie out and eat it. That was a little too easy for me. I figured out how to get the stuff out really quickly, which leads me to the pros and cons of the Hol-ee Roller:

Pros: Quiet when it rolls, durable (though Biggie has finally managed to rip it)
Cons: Holes are a little too big to fit too many interesting things inside. 

One-sentence review: If you have a ball dog, this is a quiet ball to play indoors and the holes mean you can fling it from a stick if you don't want too handle too much slobber. 

Plush Puzzle Toys (Plush Puppies Hide-a-Bird) - $10-$12- I really like plush stuff and squeakies, and this has the best of both. Plus they are very colorful. The basic premise is that there are 3 small plush squeak toys that fit inside a larger plush container, and I am supposed to pull them out. But I'm a smart pup - smart enough to know what "premise" means - so I pretty much knew what this game was about, and it's not that hard to pull stuff out of a hole. It's sort of like super-easy hide-and-seek. One thing I do like about it is that you're supposed to store the little squeaky birdies in some super-smelly human places so they smell like your people before you put them in the plush birdhouse, and that does make it a little more fun. I especially like it when the birdies have been living in the laundry basket or the ski boots for a while. Then they taste almost as good as socks!

Pros: 4 toys in 1; squeak + smell + hide/seek = a lot going on
Cons: Little squeakies can get lost easily; one-trick pony - once you've figured out the object of the game, it's not that exciting.

One-sentence review: This is a fun toy to bring out once a month or so.

Everlasting Fun Ball - balls $7-$10, chew treats $6-$10 -These jelly-like rubbery balls roll in slightly wobbly ways, and they have a whole game system (sort of like Nintendo for dogs!) so you can make the toys more fun. There are hard interlocking chew treats that you thread a central piece through the ball and screw ends onto; there are also smelly soft treats sized just right for putting in the ball so they roll out of the holes at random times. But the hard interlocking chews don't screw on very easily, and they break pretty easily if the ball bounces on a hard surface or if your Momma gets a little - ahem - frustrated trying to screw the treats on. The package says to practice screwing the treats together without the ball first, but this is a lot harder than it sounds. And these chew treats are no match for kuvasz jaws. I pretty much break them off and then crunch right through them, and then Mommy has to come take it away from me because I'm eating the treat too quickly in too-big pieces. (Once you break one end off, the whole thing comes apart pretty quickly.) The smelly little treats are pretty fun to roll around and the rubber bounciness is sort of fun too. 

Pros: Irregular bounce, tough ball part, several variations.
Cons: Chew treats are a pain in the butt to get on and break too easily.

One-sentence review: This was a good idea but the actual toy falls a little short: if the chew treats lasted longer, weren't so brittle and were easier to screw on, this could be an ideal toy.

Kong Roller (Kong Stuff-a-Ball)- $7-$10 - Sort of like the Everlasting Treat Ball, but with grooves on the outside for putting Kong Stuff'n (doggie cheez whiz), and a large and small hole at the ends. My Momma puts broken up dry biscuits of different sizes inside, and then threads a pizzle through the holes. The little hole is pretty tight, and that ends up plugging up the holes so I have to chew the pizzle, pull it out and THEN roll it around to make the treats fall out. Hours of doggy fun. 

Pros: Lots of stuff going on and lots of variety possible. Dishwasher safe. 
Cons: Rolling it around can bother the downstairs neighbors; Kong Stuff'n rolled around can get all over the floor and make a mess; not all pizzles fit. Highly susceptible to getting stuck under furniture. 

One-sentence review: This is one of my favorite toys, used for special occasions, like being left alone all day.

Busy Buddy Twist-n-Treats- $7-$13 - Recommended by Biggie's trainer, these flying-saucer-like toys operate on the same principle as the Kong Stuff-a-Ball. The biggest advantage is that the two halves screw together so you can adjust the size of the openings to fit different size treats or kibble, and you can make it easier or harder for treats to fall out. My Momma sometimes screws a pizzle into this one, too. The shape makes it roll around in very strange ways, but it also makes it a little noisier than the Stuff-a-Ball. I love it. 

Pros: Adjustable size openings; dishwasher safe; irregular shape moves in unexpected ways.
Cons: Noisy; also highly susceptible to getting stuck under furniture (attracts mice).

One-sentence review: This is my other favorite toy. 

**A note on Greenies: Most dogs adore them. They are like doggy crack. But in recent years there have been some instances of dog deaths and injuries from eating Greenies, either by choking or by dogs breaking off too-big chunks and then getting bowel obstructions. In response, Greenies has changed its formula to make it more soluble and easier to break into small pieces. Boo the Pesky Eskie ate the old-formula Greenies every day when he was an adult and was fine; I gave Biggie a Greenie and he broke off huge pieces and tried to wolf them down. Ultimately, every dog is different and any time your dog is chewing something that can be broken into pieces, he should be monitored carefully. Read more about the Greenies controversy (both pro and con), here, here and here.

Friday, May 23, 2008


... T-Bone the Kuvasz

This little guy (at least, we think we know which one he is) is so ahead of the game that he has a blog even before he goes to his Forever Home! 

P.S. Please don't call him a labradoodle. We kuvasz are a little sensitive about that, especially if we're one of the curly ones. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Guest Blogger: Anonymous Dave!

Anonymous Dave's comments on some of my earlier posts about Kuvasz temperament and being guarded by a kuvasz led to more comments, traffic and email on this blog than any previous entry. Pictures in this post are of Biggie, but the words are all Anonymous Dave. What I find amazing is that despite Anonymous Dave's rural setting with his boy, and my urban one, there are many similarities in temperament and behavior.  So without further ado, Anonymous Dave:

Our background: We got our Kuvasz to guard our house while we lived in a suburban area of Reno, NV in 1996. As he grew into adulthood, we came to realize that everything people who know something about livestock guardian dogs is true, in abundance.

In 1999, we bought a hay farm in central Nevada, where the population density is about one person for every four square miles. Coyotes are in great abundance, red foxes are common in areas near agriculture and mountain lions can and do some down out of the mountains (which range from 8,000' to over 10,000 feet above sea level) during periods of heavy snowfall during the winter.

The Kuvasz is one of several white, large flock guarding dog breeds; the Great Pyr, the Maremma, Akbash, Polish sheepdog, Kommondor, etc. Some of what our hostess has said about Kuvaszok applies to these other breeds; I believe that the Kuvasz is more intelligent and harder than most of these other white flock guarding breeds. Most Great Pyrs used for guarding sheep by the few remaining sheepmen running bands of sheep in the intermountain west are cross-bred with Akbash, Kuvasz or Maremmas to "harden" the Pyr up a bit. The Pyr adds size and mass to the other breeds. The Pyr is a bit more stout, more like a Newfie in proportions than a Kuvasz. The Maremma and Akbash aren't as large as the Kuvasz or Pyrs.

All these dogs were bred to guard sheep. All of them do this with success. The breeding you see most in modern guard dogs out on the open range is a mix of Pyr, Maremma and Akbash. The Kuvasz is used by some sheepmen up in Wyoming, where they also have to deal with wolves
and bears.

We own a Kuvasz to guard our house and yard. As a result, we never really worry about locking our door(s).

- So just how big is a Kuvasz?

In his prime, our Kuv was 29.5" to 30" at the shoulder and 120lbs in top physical condition. There was no fat on him. When I say "in top physical condition" I mean he was able to run on level ground at speeds in excess of 35MPH for a quarter mile and over 30MPH for a mile. A greyhound can run at speeds of up to about 45MPH, to put this into perspective. I know our dog could do this because I clocked him while riding an ATV - this isn't some wild exaggeration or boasting on my part. My ATV tops out at about 40MPH. I was once worried I wouldn't catch up to him before he took down an intruding dog from a neighbor.

- How strong is a Kuvasz?

Well, I'm over 6' tall and about 200lbs. When I used to play tug-of-war with him when he was younger, he could yank me off my feet and onto my face with a lunge backwards and a seemingly effortless flip of his snout.

- How smart is a Kuvasz?

The drive of a Kuvasz to run down something he wants to attack should never, ever, be underestimated. These LGD's don't run for the fun of it - they run because they want to teach something in their domain to "respect my authority!" Their domain can expand to multiple square miles. In my experience, LGD breeds want to roam over about a four square mile area unless you restrain them. We restra roam over about a four square mile area unless you restrain them. We restrained our dog, but our neighbors who were running Pyr/Akbash crosses with their sheep did not.

The most fundamental difference between a guarding breed and many of the other working dogs is this: the guarding breeds were and are bred to guard. Period, end of discussion. Not herd. Not fetch birds or balls. Not work your cattle, or act as a guide dog for the sight-impaired. Bred to identify threats without guidance, determine the response to the threat and respond without any command or human interaction. It takes brains to determine what a threat is, and the Kuvasz has brains by the bucketful.

They might and will do non-guard things, but they tend to get bored with these other activities quickly because they master them so quickly. These dogs were bred for their strength, their intelligence, their ability to bond to the owners or their flock. They won't fetch more than a few times for you. They're not going to amuse you with tricks. As an example: our Kuvasz will play fetch with you twice. Exactly twice. You throw the ball the first time, he brings it back - as quickly as any Golden Retriever might. You throw the ball the second time - now he looks at your for a moment before he takes off to get the ball and bring it back. You toss the ball the third time. He now looks you up and down pretty closely, takes off at a trot (not a run any more), gets the ball, brings it back halfway, drops it, and sits down. His expression is one of "Hey, you're not going to get me to keep doing all the work. It's your fault you keep losing this stupid ball. You want it? You come meet me halfway now." This carries forward into what you must do to train them - once they figure out what you want to do, they'll do it a couple/three times and then you'd better mix up the training if you want to retain their attention. If you bore them with repetition, you'll lose their attention quickly.

Our dog knows a huge range of commands - up, down, right, left, heel, Our dog knows a huge range of commands - up, down, right, left, heel, wait, stay, leave it, stop, sit, lay down, here, "go to" some person's name, "go to" a specific place (eg, his pillow, his pillow in the other room, the kitchen), he knows when it is time to eat by what I say, he knows "treat," and "cookie" as well as to relieve himself (#1 or #2) on command - and then specifically what I want him to do - #1 or #2. Oh, and he knows when to shove our cat off chairs or furniture on command. He knows to wait until he's told to eat, he's polite in that he doesn't grab treats out of your hand, he accepts them gently as you give them to him.

But let's be forthright here: these dogs were bred to spot predators at a distance, place themselves in position to repel an attack, or kill the attacker. As such, these breeds react with a ferocity and speed that takes most everyone completely off guard. Only those of us who have owned a Kuvasz or other LGD for a significant amount of time (at least a couple years) know what to expect from them. They'll learn obedience commands so well that you think you have them mastered and under control.

You'd think wrongly.

Our hostess has mentioned how she tells when Biggie-Z is "homing in" on something. This is entirely consistent with behavior we have observed in our Kuvasz and in other Kuv's: we call it "the thousand yard stare" -- our dog stops making noise - of any kind. His mouth closes. His ears come forward. His nostrils flare. His gaze becomes calm, intent and focused "out there." There is no stress whining. There is no stomping up and down. There is no chatter, there is none of this yapping, whining, lunging, stomping behavior you see in other dogs. No, there is just this calm focus and silent intent that comes over him.

At this point, we have about two seconds to intercede. If we do not, he launches at his target with everything he has. He's not going out there to give a big, friendly, tail-wagging "hello." If you're not ready for a dog that launches himself at perceived threats with this intensity, please don't own a Kuvasz.

To give people an idea of the drive of a Kuvasz to guard, allow me to relate what they will do:

- He launched himself through a screen door at a campaigning politician. I was in the basement, heard a knock at the door. I came upstairs to find our Kuvasz looking quite pleased with himself. The screen door was destroyed, there was a campaign button, a red-white-n-blue pen and a business card laying on the deck. The next time I was in the bar in town, said candidate came up to me and said "That's a heck of a dog you have there!"

Remember what our hostess said about their ability to "judge" people? It is true. Someone who isn't afraid of dogs, someone who is friendly and open, they get welcomed by our Kuvasz if we say he/she is "OK." Someone who has body language that betrays insincerity or covert agenda? The dog will spot it faster than you will. You will have to "read" your dog in an instant, because that's how long it has taken him to "read" another person and make up his mind.

- Stray dogs that would come onto the farm would cause him to launch off the deck (5' off the ground) in one leap, running at the fence at top speed. He'd skid to a stop two feet from the fence (digging ditches into the dirt), hit the wire fence, grab the stray dog by the face and try to pull him inside the fence where he was going to deal with him. Elapsed time from first glance to grabbing the other dog: About four seconds to cover about 60 yards. When I'd break off the situation, the stray dogs would never, ever return to our farm. People that would be at the fence or gate would be held there. If they tried to push their way into the yard, they were nipped and pushed out, and the barking was ferociously loud as he did this. It didn't matter how many times these people might have come to visit us. If someone was at the boundary of the yard who wasn't one of "his people," they were not getting into the yard. Period.

- Coyotes are very common in Nevada. People in New York complain about cockroaches. We have coyotes in Nevada. Unlike many other dog breeds, a Kuvasz has excellent long-range sight. Our dog could spot a coyote over a half mile down our field at a glance. Our other dog had no clue what the Kuvasz was looking at. She generally couldn't recognize anything, human or animal, beyond about 100 yards. Our Kuvasz amazed us with his eyesight - he could spot a coyote about the same time I could, and I have 20/10 vision. He would then go quiet for a moment, put on his "thousand yard stare," and then launch down the field at the coyote. If the coyote started running, you could see him compute an intercept vector. He was smart enough to look at me before he'd launch and see whether I was reaching for a rifle - and he knew that
if I wasn't reaching for a rifle, it was because the coyote was out of range and it was then his job to go pin the coyote and wait for me. I never taught him this. He just did it.

- While our dog never killed a coyote, he was plenty happy to hold a coyote in position so I could kill it. He knew that I could and would kill the coyote so that I didn't have to worry about our dog being bit by a possibly rabid coyote. This goes back to how smart they are.

I've seen other LGD's kill coyotes and they do it in a very business-like manner. They simply mob the coyote to the ground, grab the coyote by the neck, pick it up into the air, whip it back and forth to break the neck and then fling it aside. This is their job. They're not bred to just be pretty. There's a reason why the Nazis killed nearly every Kuvasz they met while marching across Hungary, and it wasn't because the Kuvasz just barks.

- What do we mean when we say a Kuvasz is a "hard" dog?

Let's put it this way: You'd better have a real fence between you and the street. If you think one of those "invisible" dog fences with a shock collar is going to stop a Kuvasz at your yard's edge, you're deluding yourself. If you think he's going to come back to you when he sees a rabbit or jogger, you're about to get a really hard lesson.

This breed of dog will blow right by that invisible fence, shock collar or not. When they're in defense mode, they simply do not care about pain, and unless you've really worked hard, they don't care what you're saying (or more likely, screaming) at them. "Hard" means that they're not dissuaded from their course of action by your commands, the screaming of someone or something they've latched onto, a shock collar, or you whipping them.

- What of this "loyalty" Kuvasz owners speak of?

Their loyalty is their surpassing virtue. These dogs are ferociously loyal, which is part of what becomes the liability in urban settings. To a Kuvasz, the world divides in much the same way as the US Marines are described: "No greater friend, no worse foe." To a Kuvasz, the world is divided into two sets of people/dogs/cats/etc: Their people, their fellow dogs, their kitties - and everything else, where "everything else" is worthy of at least intimidation, if not outright
attack. Their people, their dogs, their kitties... get nothing but affection and a playful, intelligent dog with a sense of humor that reminds you of a small child. They love getting into mischief to get a reaction out of you. When you're walking a Kuvasz, they often want to be in physical contact with you - this way, they know where you are. They are loyal to a fault, and they don't like it when you leave them behind.

Unless you live with the Kuvasz, you're simply not on the list of "his people." Ever. You simply must be OK'ed and introduced every time by one of "their people" as being "This is Joe, and Joe is OK..."

- I've heard that Kuvaszok kill cats?

Some might. Most don't. Our dog certainly didn't.

Our Kuvasz had "his kitties" and "unauthorized kitties" on our farm.  "His kitties" were never chased; "his kitties" were greeted with affection and a friendly tail-wag. He would allow these kitties to cuddle up to him in winter weather when he'd be outside on the deck. He'd wag his tail to provide "his kitties" with a toy to pounce on. "His kitties" would be allowed to poke their heads into his water dish, or lick on his favorite bone or chew toy.

"Unauthorized kitties" - they got chased up trees. The only way an unauthorized kitty became one of "his kitties" was by enduring a vigorous butt-sniffing. Once kitties were "his kitties," they were defended the same way a Kuvasz defends everything - with a ferocity and speed that takes your breath away. This included leaping on a hawk that tried to take off with one of "his kitties" one day on our deck. If you've ever seen a hawk pounce upon prey on the ground, you know that hawks don't dilly-dally on the ground - they're on the ground for only a moment to kill, get a grip and take off with their prey.

One day, a hawk made the mistake of pouncing on one of our dog's "approved kitties." The kitty screamed. I opened the front door to see what was amiss - and I was blown aside.

That hawk was later found dead, hanging by one talon from a satellite dish, his lung punctured by a Kuvasz fang. The dog blew through me in a partially opened door to make that attack. The door and I were simply slammed aside by 120lbs of mass flying through a narrow opening. Again, I didn't command this response. He just did it.

- What about children?

OK, here's where I have to relate the experience of other farmers/ranchers and their kids & dogs. The Kuvasz is at his most worrisome around kids. Not because he might harm your children, but because if someone who isn't part of "his flock" makes "his children" cry,
whoever made "his children" cry is in very big and very immediate trouble. Sure, you might have been in labor for 12+ hours to give birth to those kids, but guess what? After your Kuvasz moved in and took charge, those are now HIS children. You're his too. If some little twerp comes over and punches your kid in the nose and makes your kid cry, the bully could be seriously hurt by the response of the Kuvasz. The Kuvasz doesn't care about laws, civil liability or anything like that. Your kids are now his kids. Anything that threatens "his kids" is going to get a response.

Don't get a Kuvasz to "play with the kids." A Kuvasz around kids is like nanny sitting up on the porch with a Garand while the kids play in the yard.

- What are they like as an inside dog?

Inside a house, the Kuvasz has an amazing tactical sense of area and approaches. Our dog locates himself inside any dwelling, any motel room, houses in which we are a guest - in such a way that there is no way to approach us without going through him, or being seen by him. He
likes to locate himself in such a way that if you come through a door, you probably won't see much of him before you're inside the house or room, yet all he has to do is stand up and take a step out of a shadow, or out from behind a corner, and your ass is his. Moreover, he will wait until you've entered a room and shut the door behind you before he comes out of hiding. He wants you fully inside to slow your escape.

If you wanted to be as adept at guarding against intruders as he is, you'd just sit down with a shotgun where he wants to lay down and call it done.

If you have a large house and walk from room to room, be prepared for the dog to follow you. Don't be angry about this; it is his job, it is what he has been bred for: To guard. Blame Mattias Corvinus, who brought the Kuvasz in off the steppe into his castle to guard him. The Kuvasz will follow those he is to guard around the house - he will try to put himself between entrances and the person he's guarding. It can seem as tho he is asleep and you sneak out of the room. Don't bother. Within five minutes, he's going to follow you. They spend very little time in true sleep, and ours tends to sleep with his eyes only mostly shut. If you move across the room, he will notice it. The only time ours truly sleeps is if my wife is sitting on the floor with him; he will lay down next to her, with his body in contact with hers, and then he will truly sleep. As soon as she moves and breaks contact with him, he is awake again.

This has been true since he was about 14 months old. We never trained him to do this. He just does it. The fact that he does this in any setting, no matter where we are, that he does this within an hour or so of arriving to spend the night in any setting tells us that this is not random behavior. Our other dog couldn't give a hoot where she sleeps. She cares only whether her bed is properly fluffed up for maximum comfort. When we visit other people with dogs, even dogs that are trained as guard dogs (eg, Schutzhund), the other dogs just kick back and go to sleep and allow the Kuvasz to become the dominant guard dog of the household - within about 12 hours.

- So just how fanatical are they about guarding? What is their threat threshold?

At about three years of age, our Kuv once took to barking at the front door of our house about three hours after dark without regard for our commands to stop. It finally reached a point where I decided that there was no way to get to sleep until I took him outside to investigate.

So I took a pistol and the dog on a flexi-lead (with pinch collar on his end) out into the dark. I figured it would be something like a coyote in the yard.

We got about 10' outside the front door. He stopped, cocked his head, launched about three feet into the air and came down with his two front paws together.

In the dirt & leaves, under the creeping vine ground cover, was a now completely flattened deer mouse. That mouse was d-e-a-d, dead - like roadkill dead. Our dog looked up with glee on his face and immediately returned to the house. No more barking.

Their tolerance for small things like this increases with age, but if there comes a time they're barking without stopping when commanded, you'd best take their advice. There is likely something wrong.

- What about the hair?

Resistance is futile. They produce more hair than you can possibly believe. They never stop shedding. The shedding is worst twice a year when they blow their winter and summer coat, but there is shedding year-round. Since they like to lean up against you to show you how loyal they are, prepare to be covered in fur.

One of the upsides of the Kuvasz is that they do not smell when wet. If you've ever been around something like a wet lab or golden, you know what I mean - that "wet dog funk" smell. The Kuvasz has none of that. They're very well mannered inside a house after they "grow up" and they're often content to sleep on the floor, between your bed and the door. Just don't beat on the dog for leaping at the front door if someone knocks - that's what they were bred for.

If you want to do something productive with the hair, leave it outside where birds can get to it to use for nesting material, or go buy yourself a spinning wheel. I've seen the hair spun into some pretty nice yarn.

Some people might perceive that I'm simply bragging on the ferocity of my dog. This is not the case. I've seen several male Kuvaszok in the last 12 years and our male (who was neutered at six months) isn't special. He's quite normal within the breed in size and behavior. He's harder than a Great Pyr, about the same as a Kommondor, and Akbash and Maremma could be as hard, harder or softer than a Kuvasz, depending on breeding.

Uncut males are the most ferocious, followed by cut males, then females.

I'm simply advising people who might think about owning a Kuvasz to please, please - do not own this breed of dog unless you're willing to recognize what changes are necessary from you, both in how you handle dogs and how to socialize the Kuvasz properly. These are guard dogs.
If you're thinking that having owned some toy breed prepares you for owning a Kuvasz, you're simply wrong, and this will soon be be proven to you in a horribly tragic way. Owning something like a Mastiff will have taught you about size and strength, but not the guard instinct or hardness. What you have here is size, strength, hardness and ferocity
all in one package.

The point I want to drive home to people is that the breeds people think are "guard dogs," eg, Rotties, GSD's, Dobies, large sheep dogs, etc - they're fundamentally herding dogs, not guard dogs. They can be taught/trained to exhibit guard behavior on command - through training
like Schutzhund, etc. Regardless of how much training these herding dogs have to turn them into guard dogs, they're not and never were/are guarding breeds. They're working breeds that have a moderate level of aggression that can take guard training.

The Kuvasz needs no training. He comes with a 1,000 years of breeding built in to do what he does. He will guard whether you want him to or not. He will bond with those in your family he determines are least able to defend themselves - your wife or your children. He will act in ways you find inexplicable - until you think about how you'd live your entire life to respond to an attack in less than five seconds. The description of the livestock guarding breeds as "hard" means that they really don't care what you say. They really don't. They know what their job is, and they don't need to hold a confab with you, the human, before they do their job. If you want to own one of these dogs, you have to be able to break through this hardness to get them to listen to you when they revert to type.

If you're not ready to be guarded by a dog such as this, please, I implore you, do not own a Kuvasz. Our hostess does realize this and is not telling wild tales about her dog.

They're a beautiful, loyal dog. Their "IQ" is higher than any other dog breed I've ever seen - and I've been around a lot of dogs. They have actual problem-solving logic going on in that fluffy head of theirs. They have a sense of humor and a personality far in excess of any other breed I've seen. Their beauty and cute face (and they know how to turn the "cute" up to "11" when they want) makes getting attention from women in Petsmart or out in a dog park about as
sporting as shooting fish in a bucket with a shotgun. It is effortless to get a cluster of women from eight to eighty around you when you have a Kuvasz at your side.

But think of them as a Marine in dog form: Forever loyal, ready to respond with overwhelming force at the drop of a hat, and you'd be close to understanding what they are.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Birdday Balloons

All right, fine, my Birdday turned out to be a little more fun than I expected. Even though Mommy wasn't feeling so great, she did spend the whole day at home with me and she let me guard her and all that good stuff. So it wasn't too bad even though it was rainy and dreary.

First I showed her my Birdday balloon and how pretty it was tied to my collar.

Then I tried doing a little dance to cheer her up.

Sort of like Salome and the dance of the 7 veils, but a little different.

Finally I decided it was fine to just guard her decoratively while she snored in the background.

Later that night P-Daddy played Dumbchuck (tm) with me and, since I think I can be a service dog, I did some Physical Terrorpy on Mommy's other shoulder. (I didn't hurt either of them, I swear!) After biting the first two balloons, I'm making this one last. So far, 4 days later, it's still alive and worth playing with even though they don't fly as much any more. Mom left the sound in to show you how loud I can be with my paws.

Friday, May 16, 2008

My how I've grown! (birdday photo post)

Last weekend we tried recreating some of my baby pictures, with limited success:

Because I would rather be playing like so:

Happy Birdday to ME!!! (for real)

Today is really my birdday but I have been having a Boring Day. Yesterday my mom had Splurgery and so she and P-Daddy were all fussing about her. They did give me a treat but I wasn't sure if I should eat her or play with her:

LOLdogz, just kidding. I played with her. Her name is Lucy.

But today has been pretty boring. It's raining here, I  haven't been to the dog run, and all Mommy is doing is lying around and taking drugs. I have been guarding her and checking on her and keeping her in my sight, but it's been a pretty boring job (she's not moving much and there aren't many threats here in Apt. 8A.). Then when I bark at noises in the hall she gets annoised because I woke her from her nap, and if she has to get up to get me she gets really, really tired.

I'm also pretending to be a service dog.  P-Daddy was in the bathroom and Mommy was calling him but he couldn't hear her.  I was standing and watching the door because I didn't think Daddy should be shutting the door like that because what if Mommy needs something? (Now Mom says she was calling his name so he'd see the funny look on my face.) So I ran over to Mom with a very concerned look on my face to see if she was ok. She sat up to pet me, which showed me she was ok, so then I went back to my post between them.

Later, Mom had to get up to go potty and P-Daddy wasn't paying attention so I got up and walked her to the bathroom. I stayed real slow next to her and she leaned on me. Then she left the door open so I watched and waited until she was done and helped her back to the couch. She didn't ask me to do this, I just thought it would be a good idea. 

Turning 1 is not all it's cracked up to be. I have sooo much more responsibility.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tub Time

These are some old pictures from bath time, because now I would fill the whole tub. Anyway, I got a really terrific comment from an anonymous kuvasz owner that everyone should read, and it couldn't have come at a better time, because Mommy and I had an Incident last week and she had to show me who was Boss. (Guess what? It's not me.) 

We came home last week from a muddy morning play session at the dog run and I was gray and brown. Instead of making me sit at the door and taking my leash off, Mommy walked me toward the bathroom. I decided to pull a Gandhi and sat down and then lay down in the middle of the room. Mommy coaxed, she commanded, I refused to budge. She grabbed me around my chest and hoisted me up and marched me toward the bathroom. I flopped down again and made some growly noise. She made a bigger growly noise back and I couldn't look at her. She made me go in the bathroom. 

Then she shut the door and got some treats. She tried to hoist me in the tub or put my paws on the edge of the tub but I didn't really want to do that. Mommy usually never lets me put my paws on anything, so this was sort of confusing. Then she wrapped her arms around my chest and started dragging me toward the tub. That's usually P-Daddy's job but Mommy decided she was gonna wash me herself. I REALLY didn't want to go. This was not part of our normal routine! So I growled again and she still wouldn't stop. So she grabbed me again and then --

-- I put my mouth on her hand to tell her I didn't want to move any more. 

You have never seen the Wrath of Mommy until you put your mouth on her like that! Wow. I did put my teeth on her a little hard but I didn't break her skin or anything, because I just wanted to show her NO, but still, I got in SO much trouble. I got a shakedown and then she stared and growled at me until I apologized. That's when I realized that I don't ever get to tell Mommy "no." She just stood there and pointed at the tub and told me to get in, and I got up and walked over. I still needed a boost to get over the edge, but then we had a very nice shower together. 

That day I learned that when Mommy says, "jump," I don't say "no." I say "How high?" It is much better for everyone that way. 


Ed. Note: When I say a kuvasz will test you, this is one of the ways. And this from a pup who has been taught since he was teeny (see below) to accept our alpha status with pleasure. If you are not prepared to be a strong leader with your kuvasz, do not get one.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Vermont is for (Dog) Lovers

Public Service Announcement:

Yesterday was a great day. We got off to a late start for the planned activities and Mommy learned to Practice What She Preaches. Because it had been a while since we had been up to Vermont, I started the morning on an extensive off-lead patrol.  No one was here because it is still Mud Season (the season between Hiking and Swimming Season and Ski and Snow Season), so I thought this would be an opportune time to expand my estate. None of my buddies, dog or human, were here, so I had to patrol their areas too. I checked out 2 ponds on my estate, ate some sticks, and stretched my legs a little. P-Daddy and I played chase in the woods while Mommy drove the car around looking for me. We finished the game in a great big dog run that had lines painted on it, but no dogs in it. 

Speaking of dog runs, we then went on the first planned excursion of the day: to donate money to the Manchester Vermont Dog Park! This didn't sound like much fun for Addled Less Sense like me (thanks, Mango, for the new vocabulary), until I found out that it was at the Orvis Flagship Store as part of their Orvis Spring Days! (Though I was not allowed inside to pick out a Birdday Toy because my parents were still a little annoyed at my Canine Bad Citizen behavior earlier.) The Manchester Dog Park is about 2/3 of the way to its goal and P-Daddy and Mommy made a special trip to give them enough money for a plaque. But P-Daddy only put the human names on the plaque and NO PLAQUE FOR BIGGIE! Harrumph. 

This is going to be a pretty terrific dog run. It's going to be one of the biggest dog runs I have ever seen, and it will have running water and a double gate and grass and gravel and benches to water. Not only that but here in Vermont the Labradudes and Labragals are the little ones, so I will have plenty of big pals to run and play with. 

At the Orvis fundraiser there were free hot dogs - for the people - and lots of dogs. I met Kevin Behan, the Vermont Dog Whisperer, who played with me and fed me treats and pronounced me a "good dog," and I met his dog, Illo, a big German Shepherd who was pretty good to sniff but who didn't really play. Mr. Behan uses some funny terms that I don't really understand to describe how I behave, but his general approach is the same as my Mom's. 

 I also met Brinkley, a sweet golden who pulled a bench over to see me until someone sat on the bench. I collapsed his collapsible water bowl for him and relocated it for him and we had a good time. I also met a crazy hyper yellow Labradude who needed to see the Vermont Dog Whisperer because he was jumping all over the place. He was all like,


and I was like, 

"Dude.   You must chill.   It is too hot out here to be jumping around like that." 

Now this was really funny because P-Daddy thought he was a puppy and he was FOUR! I'm almost ONE but I was pretty calm. I met lots of people who knew I was a kuvasz, which is really pretty cool. I met a lady who makes these (I tried to climb in one of them) and she is looking for a kuvasz puppy (I wish I'd met her a year ago!) and also some other people who almost got a kuvasz. This was great socialization time and I got to see lots of people who liked me and weren't scared of how big I was. Someday I'll get my Canine Good Citizen, but right now I am steadfastly at Canine Mediocre Citizen. Mommy is thinking she should have gotten me tested before I turned Addled Less Sense.

I also met Tracie Hotchner who wrote The Dog Bible. She was raising money for the dog run, too. They were going to give us a copy of her book for donating money for the run, but we already had it. Unfortunately it was in New York, though, so she couldn't sign it. 

Anyway, if you dogz out there are handy with the computer maybe you can give some of your humans' money to this dog run, and come check it out this summer when it is done. Every little bit of money helps and if you give enough you can get a plaque or a bench with your name on it, and I will pee on it for you if you want. Send your money here: 

Manchester Dog Park
PO Box 568
Manchester Center, VT 05255

After all the excitement of the morning, we also climbed up half of Stratton Mountain with me on a Flexi-Lead because P-Daddy said something about "burning my bridges" this morning. Which is weird, because I did not see any bridges on my patrol.

Unfortunately I have no pictures because P-Daddy and Mommy were so tired annoyed from our morning chase that they didn't feel like bringing a camera. So I will leave you with some video of me playing water bowl-o in the New York dog run:

Friday, May 9, 2008

Happy Birdday to ME!!!

All of Mommy's serious posts about training and socializing kuvasz were starting to make my blog seriously UNfun. But she's not always so boring and preachy, she's just like that about 95% of the time.

Today I had a great big surprise. Mom's been saying that next week is my Birdday, but I think it came a week EARLY!
See all those boxes? Not a very green way to package things (P-Daddy is horrified!), but boy oh boy, was there some exciting stuff in there for me. 

Above you see a 10-pound pack of pork riblets and bones, and 3 pounds of fish bones. YES, I AM BACK ON RAW! I had to eat kibble for the entire month of April because my humans were going to Korea for 9 days and it was too long to make all my raw meals. My mom would have had to send almost 30 pounds of raw with me. So I had to make this slow transition to EVO kibble and even though it is supposed to be pretty close to the raw diet, and it tasted OK, it was NOT raw. My humans had many discussions about what business I did on my walks and the state of my poo, which can be summed up as - BIGGER, STINKIER, MUSHIER and A LOT MORE OF IT. And I would occasionally make a stinky fart that would chase my humans out of the room, hahaha. Since I didn't have to chew my food so much, I decided to chew other things. 

It was pretty torturous having to eat kibble. I kept trying to tell Mommy and P-Daddy that kibble wasn't so good for me (as if my poo didn't tell the whole story). First, I did not sit and watch Mommy make my kibble dinner. And sometimes I just refused to eat it. I chewed Mommy and P-Daddy's shoes from Korea because they smelled like all that grilled meat they ate - I wanted some too! Basically I just moped, and I wasn't my usual cheery self.

But when my raw food finally came, it was like Birdday and Christmas and everything all rolled into one! I had to pay VERY close attention in case a chicken leg - OOPS - happened to fall on the floor or something:

Here my Mommy is wearing a shirt she got in the DMZ (people take the weirdest tours; I'd be just as happy running around a pond or up a muddy mountain) and organizing my food - 

30 pounds of chicken leg quarters
10 pounds kosher chicken bones
10 pounds fish bones and pieces (my favorite)
10 pounds pork riblets and bones

2 quarts of plain yogurt

I am SO happy to be back on raw! Back to my old self, Biggie!

Monday, May 5, 2008

So you think you want a kuvasz? (Part 2)

Who could resist such a cute little bundle of fur? Just remember, they get BIG. And even as puppies they are a force to be reckoned with. At 6 months, Biggie was already bigger than many full-grown labs, and about as rambunctious. And that was before the testosterone started flowing:

A kuvasz is just a lot of biomass to handle. Don't encourage your pup to be a lap, couch or bed dog unless you are willing to allow that behavior from a 100-lb. furball. Here, Biggie's littermate Tex, at 7 months and nearly 90 pounds, thinks he is a lap dog.

Of course there are bigger dogs than the kuvasz, and several of these bigger dogs live in the city. But the combination of kuvasz temperament plus his size make him an extra challenge. Not to say it can't be done; it's just a lot of work and a lot more $:

1. Space

Kuvasz are fairly mellow dogs so it's not necessary to have a big apartment (though it helps). However, it is essential to be close to a dog run or other securely fenced area where you can take your kuvasz so he can run and play and get socialized. Even as young puppies they don't get that run-in-circles craziness too often, but when they do, you will need some space where they can stretch their legs if they want to, or else watch vases and furniture get knocked over when your pup realizes he can't corner on hardwood floor as well as he thought he could.

Also, unless you live in Vermont, YOU NEED AIR CONDITIONING.

2. Weather

Remember these dogs were bred to be outside, guarding their flocks, in all kinds of weather. They are impervious to weather conditions that make a normal dog race back in the house. Even as a pup, rain was a novelty, a source of drinking water from the heavens. Snowflakes were to be chased, and hail can be shaken off easily (it sounds like pebbles when it flies off). Put #1 and #2 together, and invest in good waterproof boots and warm, waterproof clothing for those days when you and your pup are the only ones in the dog run and you take cover under a tree while your pup races around trying to get you to chase him through puddles in the pouring rain. Ski wear works pretty well. And forget about using an umbrella while walking a kuvasz. You will need both hands free.

(You could paper train your pup, but that requires him to have really good aim when he gets bigger. And going from a paper-trained to outdoor-potty-only can be really hard. Actually, think about when you'd like to be potty training. In an ideal world I'd want a pup born in February/March or July/August - you'd be housetraining in April/May or September/October, and you wouldn't be doing the hourly 9th Avenue Death March on the hot asphalt in the middle of July, begging your pup to make a potty so you can both get out of the heat.)

3. Dirt

Kuvasz get as dirty as any other dog, but the white fur shows the dirt better. And a dog this big has a lot of surface area, and the double coat is THICK (see #2, above). If you are blessed with a curly kuvasz like we are, you will have many years of brushing ahead of you. The dirtier he gets, the curlier he gets, and a few bouts of wrestling create little mats in the neck fur. So don't go more than 2 days between quick brushings to keep mats from forming.

Paying a groomer is nice if you can afford it, but here in NYC a bath and brushout for our big boy is over $150. Suddenly the bathtub looks a lot more appealing, but you have to be able to get him in it (that's P-Daddy's job, lifting 100 lbs. of dead weight; thank goodness he doesn't struggle), and keep him in it.

Invest in a good rake (we use the T-brush), some good shampoo (guess which size we buy?) and a tough vacuum cleaner (yes, we bought one and it is worth every penny). 

4. Food

Biggie eats 2-3 pounds of raw food a day, or 4-6 cups of kibble, depending on the brand. Price the raw food at $1/pound if you make it yourself, and you're talking $60/month, or more. That's over $700/year. Kibble doesn't necessarily save you money. And remember: what goes in must come out. And be picked up.

5. Training and Socialization

Yes, it always comes back to that. Housetraining a kuvasz pup in an apartment means a rush to get him reasonably reliable before he gets too heavy to carry in the elevator. Biggie started out at near 20 lbs. at 8 weeks and he was gaining as much as 1 lb. a day in his growth spurts. So you had best hope that your pup is housebroken soon.  

Training a kuvasz pup will always be a race against time, because by the time the testosterone kicks in (if you have a boy), he will be 80 lbs. and can easily pull you over if you're off balance and he decides there's something he MUST chase/follow/smell/see/visit. I really do not advocate prong or choke collars with this breed, again because they have an extremely high pain tolerance and were bred to be very independent, so if you decide to have a battle of the wills you risk hurting your pup or yourself, or both. So they have to be at least somewhat responsive by the time they reach adolescence. To make matters more difficult, they don't live to please like a golden retriever or a German shepherd, so they have to *want* to listen to you and respect you.

I've been pulled off my feet ONCE, for a split second of inattention, and I hope it never happens again. Fortunately Biggie had enough sense and was paying enough attention to stop and sit after he pulled his leash out of my hand. He could easily have been hit by a car or just gotten lost if he'd taken off. 

Which brings me to my last point: big dogs are held to a higher standard of behavior. When you walk a 60-pound dog down the street, passersby expect that he is an adult, not a curious, rambunctious, inquisitive 6-month old puppy. Next time you see a yapping mini-dog straining at the end of his leash, barking furiously, imagine a 100-lb bear doing the same thing with a deep, resonant bark. Society does not tolerate that kind of behavior, or anything close to it, from a large dog.  Even when another human is in the wrong, you will get scolded for natural behavior from your dog.  Especially in the city, they have to downright angelic. If you're not willing to put the time and effort into teaching your dog appropriate behavior, do NOT get a kuvasz! In the dog run today, Biggie got scolded by a small dog owner who felt that he was chasing her dog "too close." For every 10 guys who cross the street to avoid walking near your very large puppy, there will be the one dumb shit who gets his kicks out of taunting, startling or provoking your dog, who then covers his fear by shouting things like, "You got a vicious dog!"when your kuvasz reacts protectively instead of fearfully.