Minnesota, USA

Is a Vizsla Right for You?

So, You Want a Vizsla

Adapted from www.grca.org

Predictability of traits is the primary reason that purebred dogs exist. But not all purebred dogs are created equal, and serious hobby/competition breeders offer the highest level of reliability for good health, temperament, and appearance. With breeding programs guided by knowledge, purpose, and passion, these breeders strive to produce puppies that closely match the breed’s ideal trait profile as described by the AKC Breed Standard. That’s the breeder’s responsibility.

But the buyer has an equally important responsibility to carefully evaluate how well the breed’s characteristics match their family’s needs and limitations. Perhaps most critical is to honestly consider whether there may be any significant drawbacks that could cause distress for either the family or the dog. To assist with this, we have compiled here a discussion of some Vizsla traits, puppy requirements, and common scenarios that experience has taught us are difficult for some families to manage. Please consider these points thoughtfully, because these issues can and do cause Vizslas to end up in rescue and cause significant emotional upheaval in families. We want to help you make the right decision up front, and if a Vizsla isn’t suitable for your household, perhaps another breed will be.

Activity Level and Exercise Requirements

Adapted from www.grca.org

Vizslas are a Sporting breed and need regular exercise, and this is most pronounced during puppyhood (up to approximately three years of age). While most Vizslas can adapt to a less active lifestyle once they are mature and trained, puppies and adolescents often have energy to burn. If not given an appropriate outlet, this energy may be channeled into behaviors that are destructive and appear “hyperactive.” And even though the puppy is mentally still a youngster, physically he may be a strong and sizeable dog that can be difficult to manage when energy is pent up. Rule to remember: A physically and mentally tired puppy is a well-behaved puppy!

Appropriate outlets for youthful enthusiasm include brisk walks on lead, off-leash play in a safe area, swimming, chasing a ball in a safe enclosure, play dates with known safe dogs, and even obedience, agility, tracking, and field training sessions. Activities such as jogging and biking with the dog are too stressful for a young Vizsla’s developing joints, and are not recommended until he is at least 12 months of age. Even then, the dog’s veterinarian should be consulted and perhaps a hip x-ray obtained to assess hip joint status, prior to gradually introducing these kinds of activities.

As adults and into their senior years, Vizslas still benefit from regular, vigorous activity to maintain lean body weight, promote physical and mental fitness, and improve longevity. And since most Vizslas are not interested in exercising alone and need their people to accompany them, the bonus is that the whole family can benefit from a commitment to exercising their Vizsla!

About Fenced Yards A fenced yard (barrier or electronic fencing) can be a relatively secure place to allow a Vizsla to run, play, and retrieve when a member of the family is outside with him. It can also provide convenience and safety for dogs that are let outside briefly to eliminate, usually with the owner watching from a window and then bringing the dog back inside when he’s finished.

However, Vizslas are not self-exercisers, so a fenced yard will not by itself meet a Vizsla’s exercise needs. Further, barrier fences are rarely completely safe from a determined or simply bored dog that may dig, chew, climb, or jump out. Electronic fences can be breached from the inside by an excited dog (chasing a squirrel, perhaps), and from the outside by wildlife, other dogs, and dognappers.

Shedding and Grooming

Vizslas have a short, sleek coat with no undercoat, so they don’t require complicated grooming. They do shed, and occasional brushing with a rubber grooming brush is helpful. When they get especially dirty (or when they roll in something smelly), they will need a bath with lukewarm water, a good-quality dog soap, and thorough rinsing. It is important to keep the toenails short, either with a clipper or with a grinding tool. Ears should be checked frequently for dirt, wax build-up, or signs of irritation. Regular use of a mild ear-cleaning product will help prevent problems. To keep teeth and gums healthy, regular cleaning is recommended; use a product formulated for dogs (not human toothpaste).

Vizslas and Children

Adapted from www.grca.org

Vizslas are have earned a reputation as being wonderful family dogs and excellent with children. That makes it all the more sad that families who are drawn to Vizslas because of small children in the family, can sometimes encounter difficulties raising a puppy. So why does this happen?

First, adding a new puppy to the family is very much like adding a toddler in terms of the time and attention required, and commotion that may ensue. For a family that may already have one or more preschoolers, this mix may simply stretch the parents’ energy so thin that something has to give. Unfortunately, this may result in not investing the time and effort needed to provide enough exercise and to teach the puppy good manners.

Second, interaction with young children can excite and confuse a puppy. Puppies naturally chase, jump, and bite (as they did with their littermates), and the sounds and movements that children make can incite this normal but rough puppy behavior. The success of relationships between puppies and children depends almost entirely on supervision by the parents, and without this, mishaps are bound to occur.

Worst of all is when the new puppy repeatedly misbehaves because it is not getting the time, exercise, and training that it needs, and then ends up banished to a garage or yard or crate. This creates a sad cycle where manners don’t improve because there is inadequate investment into teaching the puppy, the puppy continues to become larger and larger, and thus it is kept away from the family more and more.

So, yes, most Vizslas are good with children – but only when the parents commit enough time and energy to raise them well.

Socializing and Training

Adapted from www.grca.org

Vizsla puppies mature mentally and physically at a rate that roughly corresponds to one month of a puppy’s life equal to one year of a child’s life, for the first 24 months. Thus, an 8 week old puppy coming into a new family is similar in abilities and needs (relative to its species!) to a two year old toddler.

In this context, one can understand that 2-4 months of age is a critical developmental period for a puppy, and appropriate socialization and training during this time lays the foundation for a lifetime of calm and well-mannered behavior in public and at home. Socialization should include frequent exposure to all the situations that he may encounter as an adult, including: car rides, visitors in your home, neighborhood walks, loud and unfamiliar places, bathing and grooming (including trimming nails and cleaning ears), parks and schoolyards, outdoor shopping malls, and so forth.

Safely introducing as many people, dogs, noises, and experiences as possible during this important socialization window will teach the puppy that the world is a safe and fun place, and that there’s no need to get overly excited by routine situations. Puppy training classes (puppy kindergarten) can also be a very useful part of this process, and skilled instructors will teach owners how to effectively interact with and train their puppies.

All of these activities are necessary to turn a rambunctious puppy into a well-behaved Vizsla companion, and require a significant time commitment from an adult in the family. Since early socialization and training are so crucial, prospective owners should plan to get their new puppy when they are willing and able to devote extensive time and energy to raising their puppy well. It is an investment that will pay a lifetime of dividends!

When the Puppy Must be Home Alone or Unsupervised

Adapted from www.grca.org

No one can be with their puppy all the time, yet a puppy’s natural curiosity and energy tends to lead to misbehavior when unsupervised. The safest and most efficient way to teach a puppy good habits is to not allow him to engage in unacceptable behavior when he is unsupervised. In most households, this means crating or otherwise confining the puppy any time that an adult is not able to actively supervise, including at night, when away from home, or while preoccupied with another task (such as a phone call).

Crating or confinement can and should be part of a daily routine – but it can’t be the entire daily routine! Puppies can easily nap during approximately 1-4 hours of confinement, providing that they are tired after exercise, have had some social interaction, and that bowel and bladder are empty. They cannot, however, be hurried through a quick walk in the morning, fed breakfast, and then left in a crate for 8 hours while everyone in the household is gone for the day.

If the time that a very young puppy must be left alone stretches to more than a half day, arrangements such as doggie day care or hiring a dog-walker should be considered, at least for the first several months. In such a scenario, keep in mind too that the end of your work day will actually be the beginning of the puppy’s day, and no matter how tired you are, he still needs you to play and cuddle with him, and train and exercise him.

Housing Arrangements

Adapted from www.grca.org

Vizslas are affectionately referred to as Velcro Vizslas by their owners. They want to be where their people are! One of their most endearing characteristics is that they are so people oriented, and this means that they need to live as members of the family. If you are an outdoorsy person, your Vizsla will want to be with you. If you are more of an indoor sort, your Vizsla will want to be with you there, too.

Vizslas do not do well kept away from people, such as in a fenced yard, in a garage, or worst of all, tied outside. Isolated from human companionship, they become bored and stressed, and this produces behavior such as barking, chewing, digging, and hyperactivity. In extreme cases, these behaviors result in surrender of the dog to a shelter or rescue organization.


Vizslas are a medium sized breed. The AKC Breed Standard sets the ideal height for males at 22 to 24 inches (measured at the shoulder). Females should be 21 to 23. Size that is significantly larger or smaller than the Standard may be an indication that the breeder does not place priority on following the Vizsla Club of America Code of Ethics, and this also raises concerns regarding other aspects of the breeding, such as health and temperament issues.

However, puppies spayed or neutered prior to maturity grow taller and lankier than their genes intended, and are more likely to become obese, in addition to other health consequences. Please read “Evaluation of the Risk and Age of Onset of Cancer and Behavioral Disorders in Gonadectomized Vizslas”  for a more complete discussion of the pros and cons of early spay/neuter.

Closing Thoughts

It's already a given that Vizslas are a beautiful and elegant looking breed. But that's the wrong reason to add one to your family. Because they were originally bred to be a hunting companion (i.e. lots and lots of running in the field), they are a very high-energy breed. If you enjoy the great outdoors and exercising, a Vizsla might be the right match for you. But Vizslas shouldn't be matched to humans based on exercise levels alone.

Vizslas are also very soft in temperament and love frequent cuddles with their human companions. There is an old Hungarian saying, "If you own a Vizsla, it lives on top of your head." This is a most accurate saying and why Vizslas are often described as "Velcro Vizslas". Be warned, if you bring a Vizsla into your home you may never go to the bathroom alone again!

Finally, Vizslas are high-energy dogs and are extremely smart but generally slower to emotionally mature. This means you will most likely end up with a puppy until they're closer to 4 years old. But this also means that, while Vizslas should be biddable in temperament and therefore very trainable, they may not be the best candidates for those looking to compete at advanced levels with a very young dog. Like a fine wine, Vizslas get better with age!