Vizsla Temperament & Training
Highly sensitive & great with people and animals alike
Vizslas are intelligent and highly sensitive creatures that are often bred to be dual- or even triple-purpose dogs (show, field, and obedience). As household pets, Vizslas are loving, loyal, and highly affectionate, and form strong physical bonds with their owners. The Vizsla is one of the dog breeds that has earned the nickname "velcro dog" because of its need for proximity to its owner(s) and tendency to develop separation anxiety.
As with most dogs, the Vizsla's traits can have a positive side and a negative side. If you're thinking about acquiring a Vizsla, it's very important that you determine beforehand if he or she would be a good match for your (or your family's) lifestyle.
First and foremost, Vizsla dogs require much attention and exercise. This is not a dog that can be left in the apartment all day and then taken for a short walk. Vizlas need frequent interaction. Don't be surprised if you find your Vizsla watching you at any time of the day or night, including while you're sleeping or taking your morning shower. If left alone while you're at work, your Vizsla must be given a lot of time and affection both before you leave and after you get home.
As for exercise, remember that Vizslas originated as hunting dogs. They have a LOT of energy, and without adequate physical activity that energy will be diverted into nuisance behavior. Inadequate exercise can also lead to psychological problems or compulsive behavior. It's vital that a Vizsla be taken on a long walk (e.g. six miles) or run every day, and twice-a-day exercise is highly recommended. A fenced yard could also provide room to run, but keep your Vizsla's athletic ability in mind. It's not unheard of for a Vizsla to jump a six-foot fence.
Vizslas are ideal dogs for individuals and families that love to be active and outdoors. Roller bladers, hikers, runners, and swimmers will find Vizslas to be wonderful companions. Of course, hunting with Vizslas is an activity that dates as far back as the 9th century, and Vizslas are excellent dual-purpose dogs as well (see our Vizsla Hunting page for further details).
The American Kennel Club breed standard defines the ideal Vizsla as "a natural hunter endowed with a good nose and an above-average ability to take training. Lively, gentle-mannered, demonstrably affectionate and sensitive though fearless with a well-developed protective instinct." Indeed, a well-trained and properly cared for Vizsla is among the best animal companions a person can have. The close bond a Vizsla forms with its owner is sometimes demonstrated by the dog gently taking its owner's hand in its mouth (if you wish to discourage this behavior, give your Vizsla objects it can carry around in its mouth; it's one of the breed's lovable quirks). The highly tactile Vizsla will also regularly seek to sit in your lap. Their medium size and affectionate nature make Vizslas a good choice for families with children and/or other pets.
Because of its heightened sensitivity, motivation and persuasion should be used to modify a Vizsla's behavior rather than sternness. If your Vizsla is misbehaving, it could be that it was inadequately trained or socialized when it was young, or, more likely, it may be bored or frustrated due to a lack of attention and exercise. Examples of behavioral problems include nuisance barking, digging giant holes in the yard, stealing food, excessive jumping and hyperactivity (very common among Vizsla puppies), destructive chewing (including walls and furniture), and even self-mutilation (e.g. chewing or scratching itself excessively). However, such behavioral issues are worst-case examples, and a Vizsla that receives adequate attention and training should be happy and well behaved.
Vizslas can be timid if not properly socialized at a young age. Early socialization will also minimize your Vizsla's tendency to be startled by exposure to new people or situations. Like most pointers, Vizslas are independent minded, which can make them stubborn and easily distracted. It's important to establish yourself firmly yet gently as someone to whom they must listen.
If a Vizsla sounds like the sort of dog you would love, then it very likely would be. Give a Vizsla the time, affection, and exercise that it needs and you'll be rewarded with a loving, loyal pet that will bring much happiness and pleasure to you and your family.
A Vizsla will respond well to training, but it's important that you understand its personality and needs in order to achieve the best results. The Vizsla dog breed is known for intelligence and sensitivity. The training should be based on attentiveness, praise, and positive reinforcement. Using a harsh tone of voice or physical correction will cause your dog stress, and may seriously inhibit your training effectiveness. Vizslas perform well in obedience competitions should you eventually wish to pursue that course with your dog.
Early socialization is one of the most important training steps if you're raising Vizsla puppies. Before your Vizsla is 12 weeks old, introduce it to as many new people, physical environments, social situations, and animals or dog breeds as you can. Viszslas that were not well socialized at an early age tend to be timid and more easily startled, and may (at least initially) find it more difficult to behave properly when interacting with other people or pets.
Though intelligent, Vizslas often mature slowly. Prolonged house training should be expected if you have a Vizsla puppy. Several months of crate training may be required. Vizsla puppies are also known for chewing and carrying objects around in their mouths. A box of mouthable toys would be a wise investment.
Consistent, easily understood rules and positive reinforcement are essential parts of a Vizsla training regimen. Vizslas can become bored and easily distracted, especially when they're young. When teaching new commands to your Vizsla, try to do so in a relatively quiet and distraction-free environment where you can command its full attention. Vizslas are eager to please and respond well to positive training, though they can be independent and self-willed. If some form of negative reinforcement is required, a clicker would be an appropriate choice.
For many Vizsla owners, obedience classes are the most time-effective and cost-effective means of training. Look for a well-regarded professional trainer in your area, or ask your local Vizsla club for recommendations. If possible, ask to sit in on a class before you pay to work with a particular trainer. This will give you a better sense of whether the trainer's temperament and methods are a good fit. It's also a good idea to remain in contact with your Vizsla's breeder, as the habits and personality of your dog's parents will obviously play a role in its development. Vizsla training DVDs might also be useful to you.
Finally, mental and physical stimulation are absolutely mandatory for a Vizsla to be on its best behavior. Your training efforts should not preclude an appropriate level of exercise for your Vizsla. Mix in plenty of obedience games and activities such as running and swimming, and your Vizsla will be much more likely to respond positively to your training efforts.