The Vizsla Personality: Living with and Training Your Vizsla
Vizslas are extremely loving and demonstrably affectionate family dogs who thrive in the hub of family activity. Vizslas are very active, curious, intelligent and devoted family members. Consequently, they do not thrive when ousted to the back yard or kenneled or separated from their family for prolonged periods. For your vizsla to reach his or her full intellectual and emotional potential, (s)he must be treated as a respected and valued member of your family and included in family activities. Vizslas are wonderful with children; that said, you should always supervise your vizsla with children.
B. GREETING GUESTS
When someone arrives at your home, you can expect your vizsla to put you on notice! Vizslas are quite good watch dogs. If you are anxious about the person at the door, your vizsla may sense your anxiety and hang back in a protective manner. Otherwise, (s)he will probably become very excited, and start jumping around or at the guest, all the time "talking". Many vizslas will grab a toy in their mouths, or perhaps the guest's arm. Vizslas are incredibly sociable. As soon as the greetings have been made, your vizsla should settle back into his or her normal self within a few moments. However, this exuberant greeting may be overwhelming to some guests, particularly those who do not favor dogs. This greeting can be controlled by training your vizsla to follow basic obedience commands, such as sit and stay.
C. PREVENT FORMATION OF BAD HABITS
Vizslas are very intelligent and possess very good memories. If there is some conduct in which your puppy engages that is unacceptable, or that will be unacceptable when the puppy is an adult (no matter how cute the behavior may seem now), IMMEDIATELY DISCOURAGE THE BEHAVIOR from day one, each and every time the behavior occurs. BE FIRM AND CONSISTENT. For example, no matter how cute it may be for a 12 pound puppy to jump on the kitchen table and watch/point birds at the feeder, such conduct most likely will not be acceptable for a 55 pound dog. Therefore, forbid the behavior. Firm and consistent discipline, whether positive or negative, is the key. IT IS MUCH EASIER TO PREVENT FORMATION OF A BAD HABIT THAN IT IS TO BREAK A BAD HABIT THAT ALREADY HAS BEEN FORMED.
D. DISCIPLINE: TYPE AND METHODS
Because vizslas are so sensitive to their owners, and so intuitively aware of what is expected, usually a minimal amount of "negative" verbal discipline is generally all that is required to train. Vizslas react much more favorably to positive reinforcement for good behavior than to negative reinforcement for bad behavior. Physical discipline is rarely, if ever, required. If your puppy is doing something that (s)he should not be doing, verbal discipline (a few sharp "No's") is usually enough to stop the unacceptable behavior, because your puppy will so want to please you. After the puppy responds to your verbal command, immediately praise the puppy and then distract the puppy into a permissible activity. For example, when the puppy stops chewing your antique chair in response to your verbal command, give the puppy a dog bone or chew. There is a lot you can do to construct a safe environment for your puppy, thereby eliminating many problems for which discipline otherwise would be required. Putting up baby gates to confine the puppy to a space where (s)he can be supervised, using a crate when the puppy is left alone, putting away fragile items, rugs and houseplants until the pup is older, keeping children's toys out of the puppy's reach, and putting a lid on the garbage can are all examples of measures that you can take to help your puppy stay out of trouble. Physical discipline usually does more harm than good, damaging the relationship and trust between the vizsla and people and creating problems that otherwise would not exist. Limit physical discipline (a "take down" and muzzle grab for complete attention) to extreme and rare cases where Ithe verbal command needs to be emphasized because of risk of injury, such as when a puppy runs into a street or refuses to come, or challenges a human member of the family to move up in the pack (there sometimes is a challenge from a puppy between 12 and 20 weeks, which if properly handled will be the one and last issue).
THE FOLLOWING ARE ESSENTIAL TO EFFECTIVE DISCIPLINE:
1. Make sure that you have your vizsla's FULL ATTENTION when your are meting out discipline. Get eye-to-eye contact with your vizsla, which often will necessitate your holding his or her muzzle (a naughty puppy may not want to look you in the eye because (s)he is ashamed for not pleasing you).
2. Make sure you and your vizsla know that you and the other people (particularly children) in your home are TOP DOG in the household pack. Do not ever let your vizsla think that (s)he is or has a shot at being top dog over the people in your household. Many vizsla puppies will test the limits, establishing where they fall in the pack. The test might be a grumble when you push him or her off the sofa, or a growl when a 3 year old child pounces on him or her while asleep. When tested, VERY FIRMLY scold the puppy and change the situation - each case is specific, depending upon the age of the vizsla, the degree of infraction. There is a training technique called NILF (Nothing in life is free) - sometimes this must be adopted. If any issue arises and you need assistance, please call your breeder for advice.
3. Viewing the goal of discipline as preventing recurrence of an unacceptable behavior that your vizsla has viewed as acceptable, rather than as a punishment, DISCIPLINE SHOULD BE METED AT THE TIME OF OCCURRENCE OF THE UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR or immediately thereafter. Discipline meted even 10 minutes after the unacceptable behavior is likely to be ineffective in preventing recurrence, because your vizsla may not even understand the reason for the discipline.
4. Use FIRM, CLEAR, CONSISTENT DISCIPLINE. Firmness is achieved by changing your tone of voice to a lower tone when meting discipline, so that the puppy knows you mean business when (s)he hears that tone. Clearness is achieved by everyone in the family using the same terminology. To avoid confusing the puppy, everyone in your family should try and use the same words to achieve a desired behavior (e. g., the puppy will take longer to learn that (s)he shouldn't jump on the counter if confronted with different commands - no/off/stop/down). Consistency is achieved by applying the same rule all of the time. You can not let you puppy sit on the couch one day, discipline the puppy another day for sitting on the couch, and expect the puppy to understand that the couch is off limits. Everyone in your family must send the same message all of the time.
E. FORMAL TRAINING: SHOW, OBEDIENCE, FIELD, AGILITY, TRACKING
In approaching any formal training situation, whether it be obedience, show, agility, tracking or field training, remember that you know your vizsla better than any "expert". Be extremely cautious of any trainer who applies a single training techniques across the board, without taking into account the attributes of the breed and the unique personality of the individual dog. Vizslas are extremely biddable and willing to please. If they understand what you want them to do, they will try and do it, if only to please you. However, they are very sensitive and very intelligent. It would take only a small amount of mishandling/mistraining to create problems that might be impossible to overcome. Do not ever be intimidated by an "expert". When it comes to your vizsla and his or her training needs, you are the expert! In selecting a trainer, look for a trainer whose approach is gentle and positive, rather than rough and negative. Generally, vizslas respond well to positive encouragement (e. g., praise for a job well done). Vizslas do not respond to negative or coercive approaches (e. g., shock collars; physical restraint or forcing). Ask the trainer what training methods they use. Be wary of any trainer who does not individually tailor the method to the dog. Also, try and determine if the trainer has any preconceived notions or prejudices against the vizsla breed, and make sure that the trainer is aware of the sensitive, tractable nature of the vizsla breed. However, positive training does NOT mean you don't every yell at your vizsla and take more drastic steps to set parameters for behavior! Bottom line here is always USE COMMON SENSE! Formal training has many advantages. At a good formal obedience class, you not only have the benefit of training under a knowledgeable instructor, but your vizsla will have the advantage of learning by watching other dogs. In a basic obedience course, your vizsla will learn his or her name and the basic commands: Sit; Down; Stand; Stay; Come; Heel; Off; Drop. Also, most obedience classes now enroll quite young puppies in "puppy kindergarten," with basic training mixed with continued socialization with other dogs. Competition training classes prepare your vizsla for the rigors of formal competition, and familiarize you with handling techniques that will help you achieve whatever goals you set. A good conformation trainer realizes that a show dog is one that is happy showing. Rough, prolonged or coercive training methods do not result in a good show dog. If you do want to show your puppy, make sure you incorporate the stand command into all training!!! A good formal field trainer will help you prepare your vizsla for hunting or for field competitions. Positive exposure to birds, teaching of the whoa command, and careful exposure to the sound of the blank pistol (you can ruin your puppy for hunting with improper introduction of the gun) will prepare your young vizsla for later training for steadiness to wing and shot. My vizslas have always been very birdy naturally; exposure to birds has been sufficient "training" for obtaining junior hunting test titles (we have not yet tried to train a vizsla steady to wing and shot in preparation for a senior hunting test title). Improper training, abusive training techniques, pushing your puppy too early, or careless accidents (such as falling off a piece of agility equipment) or careless exposure to the noise of guns in the field could impair your vizsla's ability to fulfill his or her potential (as a hunting dog, agility dog, obedience dog, show dog) for life. All of the puppies in these litters come from strong field background and should possess a strong desire to hunt. If you use a trainer, make sure you know exactly what techniques will be used and toward what goal. Our goal is to produce well-rounded vizslas who can be successful in all aspects of performance...companionship, conformation, hunting, agility, obedience...so our breeding emphasis is on health and temperament first, then conformation and natural ability. The bottom line is that you know your vizsla better than any expert and you must advocate in his or her best interests. An additional word of caution: Because puppies are so impressionable, you must be extremely diligent to avoid bad experiences. This is often difficult to balance with socialization, which necessitates that your vizsla be exposed to a variety of dogs, peoples and settings. Just be on the alert: make sure that your puppy does not socialize with or get attacked by mean dogs; be aware of situations that are frightening or overwhelming to your puppy. Avoidance is key. If your puppy does have a bad experience (such as being jumped on by a big dog) or if your puppy reacts with fear to a stimulus that you do not want him or her to be frightened of (such as thunder or gunfire): DO NOT CODDLE AND SOOTHE THE PUPPY, because you only teach the puppy that the stimulus is something to be feared and (s)he was correct to be frightened. Instead, reassure the puppy in a cheerful voice and engage the puppy into some new and enjoyable game or activity, preferably while the stimulus is still around. The puppy will learn that you are not afraid; therefore, (s)he should not be afraid. And even more, fun things happen when the stimulus is around. You may have to act like a goofball, but your puppy will benefit.
COMMON UNWANTED PUPPY BEHAVIORS
These are all very normal puppy issues, but it is important to get things under control before a problem develops. Common areas seem to be: 1. puppy mouthing and biting 2. Humping 3. Howling in the crate and 4. Not walking well yet on lead.
First and foremost, I want to re-emphasize that the behaviors are normal. However, every human in your family MUST be a leader of the puppy - a puppy wants boundaries, but is very happy to test those boundaries. SO YOU MUST BE PACK LEADERS for the well-being of your puppy. Your puppy must understand that he/she is at the bottom of the pack. If he or she ever challenges you or one of your children over a toy or food (known as resource guarding) your response must be instant and firm. Remove the item and discipline the puppy immediately. If you can, place the puppy on his/her back and yell at them for guarding the item. Doing this while the puppy is a manageable baby helps eliminate any such challenge in the future. Children must be participatory in the training and care of the puppy so the puppy does not try to move up on them. Involve children in all aspects of the puppy's life, including feeding, caring, walking, training and socialization of the puppy. Have them come to puppy K and participate. IF YOU HAVE ANY PROBLEMS, let me know immediately please. There is a great “Nothing In Life is For Free” program. There are so many good books on raising puppies! It is highly encouraged to enroll all puppies to enroll in at least one puppy kindergarten class. Take leadership walks with the puppy on leash with generous rewards and lots of turns - have your children feed the puppy - the puppy should be doing basic commands (sit, down, stand) for everyone in the family. IF ANY challenge appears, deal with it firmly and immediately. This is a VERY important time - socialize, socialize, socialize - the first 16 weeks are the most critical time in a puppy's life.
#1 PUPPY NIPPING/BITING - Vizslas ARE very oral (hunting retrieving breed), and will be teething a lot - but there should not be punctures or blood - one thing I want to stress is that you must use a DIFFERENT FIRMER MEANER VOICE when you are trying to teach a puppy something is not permitted, like puppy mouthing/biting - you can not just talk at the puppy (like what Charlie Brown hears when teachers talk wuhwhuwuhwuh). A really strong "EHEH" sound! and if you cry as if injured, really wail like a littermate would wail! MAKE AN IMPRESSION ON THE PUPPY! IF THE PUPPY SIMPLY CAN NOT BEHAVE (LIKE DURING THE AFTERNOON WITCHING HOUR OR IF OVERSTIMULATED), GET HIM/HER DISTRACTED, PRAISE THE PUP AND THEN BEFORE THE PUP REVS BACK UP AND WITHOUT CORRECTION AND TALKING SWEETLY JUST PUT HIM/HER IN THE CRATE TO SETTLE DOWN ).
WHAT TO DO:
- Substitute a toy or chew bone when the puppy tries to chew on fingers or toes.
- Puppies tend to mouth hands whenever stroked and patted. When you pat the puppy, distract him by feeding tiny pieces of treat from your other hand. This will accustom the pup to being touched without mouthing.
- Give a high-pitched yelp, as if you are in pain, when the puppy bites too hard. This should startle the puppy and cause him to stop, at least momentarily. Praise the puppy for stopping and/or for licking you.
- Time out can be effective, especially for curbing mouthing in older puppies and adolescent dogs. When you receive a hard bite, give a high-pitched yelp and (a) walk away from the puppy and ignore for 30-60 seconds, OR (b) leave the room for 30-60 seconds. Option B is only feasible if your belongings will be safe from the puppy and if the puppy will be safe left where he is.
- Encourage non-contact forms of play, such as fetch, rather than wrestling and rough play.
- Provide plenty of interesting and novel toys so the puppy will be inclined to play with these.
- Provide plenty of opportunity for your dog to play with other puppies and with friendly adult dogs. It’s important that he can engage with non-human playmates.
- Be patient and understanding. Playful mouthing is normal behavior for a puppy or young dog.
WHAT NOT TO DO:
- Avoid enticing the puppy to play by waving your fingers or toes in his face or slapping the sides of his face.
- You should not discourage the puppy from playing with you. Play builds a strong bond between the dog and his human family. The objective is to teach the puppy to play gently—not to stop play altogether. - Avoid jerking your hands or feet away from the puppy when he mouths. This encourages him to jump forward and grab at you. It’s much more effective to let your hands or feet go limp so you aren’t much “fun” for him to mouth.
- Physical punishment for playful mouthing (slapping, hitting, etc.) can make the puppy afraid of you and could even cause the mouthing to escalate into aggression. We’ve heard of various “caveman” methods such as scruff shaking, whacking the pup on the nose, sticking fingers down a pup’s throat—these are cruel and inhumane.
Bite Inhibition: Teaching a puppy to modify his mouthing behavior is an opportunity to teach him bite inhibition. Bite inhibition refers to a dog’s ability to control and inhibit the force of his mouthing. A puppy or dog who hasn’t learned bite inhibition may not recognize the sensitivity of human skin and bite too hard, even in play. Some behaviorists and trainers maintain that a dog who understands the amount of force necessary to hurt people, if ever in a situation where he does actually bite a person in a non-playful manner, will be less likely to bite and break skin. To teach your puppy bite inhibition, first you will encourage him to play with your hands. Continue play until the puppy bites especially hard. Immediately give a high-pitched yelp and let your hand go limp. When the puppy startles and turns to look at you or looks around, remove your hand. Ignore the puppy for 10-20 seconds or, if he resumes mouthing, get up and move away for 10-20 seconds. The next step is to return and encourage the puppy to play with you again. This is critical for teaching the puppy that if he is gentle, play continues--but if he is too rough, play stops. Play with the pup until he bites hard again and repeat the sequence. As you detect that the puppy is inhibiting those really hard bites, target slightly less painful bites. Persist with the process until the puppy can play with your hands but control the force of his bites to the extent that you feel little or no pressure at all. This can take as little as a day, or as long as a few weeks.
When Mouthing Become Aggression: Puppies sometimes have temper tantrums. Usually a tantrum will happen when you are making the puppy do something he doesn’t want to do. This might be as benign as simply handling or restraining him. A tantrum can also occur when play escalates, much the same as when children play and one child gets upset and angry. A puppy temper tantrum involves more than playful mouthing, but it isn’t always easy to tell the difference. Possible indicators that your puppy is having a tantrum include: He may become quite stiff in his body. He may pull his lips back to expose his teeth. Almost always, the bites directed toward your hands will be much more painful than what he may inflicts during play. If you think your puppy is having a tantrum, it’s best to take a firm hold on him, tell him, “That’s enough!” and immediately carry him to a quiet, confined area, such as a small room or his crate. Leave the puppy for no more than five minutes. When you return, resume whatever you were doing with the puppy before the temper tantrum--assuming it was something the puppy needs to learn, such as how to remain still for body inspection or during grooming, or if you were attempting to teach him appropriate play behaviors
#2 Humping: Remove the offender from whatever is being humped, firmly tell the pup EHEH or NO HUMP and then distract him/her to another activity. If you catch your male puppy marking in the house, make a HUGE BIG DEAL THAT THIS IS NOT OK! and that usually makes such an impression that he won't do it again - if he gets in the habit of marking, it will be harder to break this habit than to keep it from forming.
#3 Howling in the Crate: Crate training is highly recommend. Not only does this give your puppy a safe haven when (s)he wants to be alone (probably not too often), but it gives you a safe place to keep the puppy when you can not watch what the puppy is doing. Crate training can also assist in housetraining. Most puppies howl when introduced to the crate - you can ease this by putting the pup in the crate when (s)he is tired, with a toy (perhaps a stuffed kong), leaving the television on for company, and so on. Pups do get used to being crated fairly easily and quickly (within a few days), but only if: (a) they are not crated too long (a baby should only be for a couple hours during the day time, with the time gradually building up to four hours); (b) they are not left alone in the crate - the crate should be in a hub spot during the day and your bedroom at night - if a pup gets scared in the crate, you will have a much longer road to successful crate training; and (c) most importantly, you do not take the pup out for fussing in the crate! this is the hardest but most important rule. If they learn that screeching gets them out, they will use that technique for a very long time!!!
A few tips:
Do not use the crate for punishment.
Do not use the crate for more than a few hours at a time (exception: if the puppy sleeps in the crate overnight).
Keep children out of the crate - this is the place to which the puppy can escape if (s)he needs some quiet time.
#4 Pulling On Lead: Start by following your pup when (s)he is on lead. Give treats to coax them in the direction you want to go! change directions frequently. Be generous in your praise and rewards - they catch on quickly. The first few times you place your puppy on a leash, let the puppy lead you around. Then, gradually begin verbally coaxing the puppy to come with you. If the puppy is pulling, try walking the other way and coaxing the puppy along - treats may prove helpful. Don't forget to bring lots of treats to "encourage" your puppy! :-)