Vizsla’s aren’t the sort of dog that’s good for everyone, they aren’t the “best” family dog, nor the dog that fits into every situation. Contrary to my entire website and life, I find myself discouraging many people I talk to in the dog park from getting a Vizsla “because they’re so pretty what’s the breed?”. It’s totally false advertising when they see a calm Vizsla heeling at my side downtown, ignoring other dogs and squirrels and posing for the camera. I just happen to have an oddity, that I poured hundreds of hours into training, and that has been out hiking 4 times already this week. Bourbon’s a better example…except she’s either not visible on trails because she’s elsewhere, or she’s wrapping herself around the legs of a stranger all cute and noodley. They don’t see all the time, energy and money spent!
The Good Stuff
The problem with Vizslas, is that upon appearance (if they are standing still enough to see, or by photographs on the internet) they look amazing. They’re gorgeous, short haired, don’t smell much, look sweet tempered, and a very reasonable size. A quick Google search will tell you Vizslas are gentle natured, loyal, friendly, versatile, and eager to please. So what’s not to like? Why are Vizslas not the next Labs or Golden Retrievers fit for any family?
The (potentially) Bad Stuff
It’s hard to even buy a good one
First off, Vizslas are prone to Epileptic seizures, skin allergies, cancers, and other disorders. It’s not more than the typical breed, but if you don’t find a reputable breeder that screens for these issues, you could have a sick dog. Finding breeders and getting a puppy (especially in less than 2 years) is extremely difficult and most people do not want to wait this long, or do so much homework, send so many emails and phone calls just to buy a dog. Going the less reputable direction can buy you a dog with a huge variety of issues that are screened by ethical breeders. I’ve seen this happen time and time again, and it’s so sad to see an early death, sick puppy, and dangerous behavioural issues.
The energy level is not ideal for most
Most people’s life does not allow for 2 hour walks outside, hunting, running their dog in an agility ring, or spending so much time centered around their dog. Between a job, kids, social engagements, travel, there are few people that would be ok walking their dog for hours outside, even when it’s raining, even in the winter, even after work in the dark. Vizslas are high energy dogs that love to use their brains, learn new things, and are extremely versatile in work they can do. The key is WORK. They love having a job, pleasing their human, and doing well at their jobs. It’s like the A+ student at the front of the class, hands up to answer every question, on speed. These dogs want to run, sniff, do things or they can be destructive when bored. They’re not ideal if you like a calm household, expect order, and your children aren’t the rough and tumble sort.
A hunting dog wants to hunt
If you’re a hunter, wonderful! But if you don’t hunt and you get a hunting dog, please expect your dog to want to hunt things. If you’re not interested in a dog that sniffs out dead animals, stalks pigeons, and shakes with excitement at every squirrel in the park, then this can get frustrating. They’re bred to respond to hunt and find prey so this might not be ideal for lots of people. The ability can be aimed at work (sniff work for example) or you might take your dog out to hunt tests, but if you’d like your dog to walk on leash calmly on a hiking trail near a bird sanctuary…you have hundreds of hours of training to do.
Velcro is not an exaggeration- Separation anxiety
Vizslas are known as Velcro dogs and although many of my own friends are dog lovers, they don’t really want a dog glued to them at all times. Some like to go to the bathroom alone, take a shower without someone checking up on them, and some others would like to work without a dog in their chair. It’s very typical for Vizslas to wake themselves up and follow you from room to room just be close to you. If “personal space” is something you treasure…this is not the right breed!
To further the point, this breed needs humans to be close and if you’re not around much, can develop separation anxiety. They’re not an independent breed that will be fine without you. Leave a Vizsla outside in a backyard and you’ll see them staring at you on the other side of the glass door wanting you to be out there with them. A backyard will do you no good unless you’re having fun with them outside.
Short-haired and Climate
Vizslas have very short hair and only one coat so if your climate is colder, the breed may not be ideal. These are indoor dogs, not outdoors and cannot survive in low temperatures like double-coated dogs. I constantly need to bring jackets, boots, and more if we are going for long 5+ hour adventures in weather that may not be ideal. They can hate the rain, and shiver miserably, and can have a hard time retrieving in icy cold waters, especially for a length of time.
Time and Energy needed
More than most breeds, Vizslas are a bit like tiny humans in that they take TIME and ENERGY. They’ll give you back so much love, but you need to put in the time and energy first. They demand it, and you will see this under no uncertain terms. They’re very needy dogs, with lots of feelings and emotions and love to hear your voice. They love to be pampered with blankets and pillows and attention. Whiskey will interrupt me at work, insistently asking for me to just stare into her eyes and love on her. Bourbon will sit and whine until I tend to her emotional needs.
Sensitive to a fault
Have you ever met anyone that seemed to take things you said the wrong way? Maybe your tone of voice or wording and they were instantly hurt? There are some dogs that people can yell at and train pretty harshly without too much trauma but Vizslas can shut down quickly. Bourbon is quick to frighten and remembers every tiny thing forever. I’ve seen so many Vizslas scream and shake and cower after receiving a bump or nip from another dog where most dogs might recover in a couple seconds. I’ve had Vizslas limp over to me, totally distressed with a hanging paw and I’ve had to ‘pretend’ to look them over, kiss their limp paw and tell them they’re ok. And then off they run full speed and ‘recovered’.
The sensitivity can also show up in food sensitivities or drama when not feeling well. Whiskey was SUCH a picky eater with tummy problems when she was younger. When she got giardia (diarrhea and vomiting) and I brought her to the vet and because she was being so dramatic the vet thought she was much worse than she actually was. Her heartbeat was too slow, she was shaking (emotional) and hiding underneath my chair in a ball. There’s alot of managing emotions that might not be as big an issue with other dogs.
Stamina and speed
Vizslas were bred to run fast, and run long. They can keep up with horseback and go all day. Perhaps you don’t want a dog that recovers from a 25km run in a couple hours, or a puppy that just *never* goes to sleep. There were so many times I would drive out 2 hours for a hike, hike 6 hours, and drive back. By the time I got home, Whiskey was ready to go again, and I still hadn’t unpacked my hiking bag! Stamina is amazing, but it might not be what you want in a dog. These are the dogs you bring to a dog park and they run one dog after another until the entire park is exhausted and lying down…except your Vizsla is now ready for a one hour game of fetch.
As another vizsla owner, I 100% agree with everything you’ve covered. Thanks for writing such a thorough piece on this topic!
As Patrick & Rui’s mummy I agree 10000000% with your every word. Thank you for writing this awesome article about our amazing, super intelligent, highly loving breed ❤️
Relatable! English Pointers share a lot of these traits.
I loved reading this, having had vizslas for over 20 yrs I can relate to everything you’ve said, I hope people read this before running out to buy that cute puppy,,