Do you hate your Vizsla? Think you made a mistake? Guess what? It’s one of my most searched Vizsla terms and it’s not uncommon.
First, please ask your breeder for help and see if there are any genetic issues at play. Next, make sure your dog is healthy and there are no health issues (dogs will pee in the house or become aggressive have an infection, or are in pain for example). Outside of that, here are some common issues:
Do you have a fresh puppy that just pees inside? Maybe you take her outside for half an hour to potty and she just goes as soon as you get inside? Or maybe it’s raining outside and there’s absolutely no way anything will happen outside? There’s a ton of videos and writeups about how to housetrain a puppy but what you really need is patience. This rare commodity seems extremely unlikely as you spray buckets full of odor remover, buy paper towels in Costco amounts and stand outside in the rain for 30mins at 2am with an umbrella because your puppy just will *not* go.
It gets better. The description was Whiskey when we lived in an apartment and I had to run down the apartment 3x a night, in the rain, in my PJs. It felt like it took forever while other puppies never had a mistake at home. We had the bell, I would stand with treats, being very boring until she went, and celebrated every time. But guess what? It still took 3 months but since then, there’s never been a mistake. You’re not alone! But it’s a stage that does pass.
This is the biggest complaint! So many people think they’ve made the biggest mistake when they bring home the cutest puppy imaginable only for that puppy to turn into a shark. It’s called the sharkies when they bite, rip, and attack all moving things with their sharp puppy teeth and ruin shirts, jewelry, furniture, other dogs, and your own skin.
It’s not an understatement to say sharkies HURT! You wonder why you ever thought this was a good idea, and if they’ll just “grow out of it”. Also, a sharp scream and pulling your hand back whining (to show you are hurt) doesn’t seem to stop the devil. In fact, screams and loud NOs seem to urge the little monster to attack even more!
Diverting those sharp teeth to a toy or chew is essential for your survival. I had a bunch of different textured toys and soft chews all over my house, ready to pick up and exchange for my arm. As soon as the teeth touched skin while we played, I would replace with a toy. Play with your puppy using your toys, not your hands! One of the best chew toys are cardboard boxes leftover from Amazon orders. Your house may look like a mess but you’ll save your clothing, furniture, and skin.
Leaving the litter too soon may also make it harder for your puppy to have a softer mouth when playing. Littermates help puppies learn what is acceptable, as well as older puppy-friendly dogs. Whiskey was really instrumental in helping Bourbon learn what is appropriate play and what was not. If your Vizsla puppy has had enough play, and still insists on attacking you, you have to teach them to settle (self control, and learning their “off” button).
Inability to Settle Inside
Does your Vizsla have an off switch? Does your dog just go go go zooming around the house, destroying toys, clothes, and furniture along the way? Maybe he’s running laps jumping off the walls and attacking your other dogs?
Not all breeds can easily do this, but Vizslas have a genetic predisposition to have an off switch. Herding dogs must stay with their herd and be on guard and protect at all times, so shepherd dogs do not easily switch off. However, Vizslas should be able to settle and the younger you teach them, the easier your life will be. Vizslas were bred to run and hunt, but also to lay around when they weren’t working. You need to teach your dog they are not hunting and it’s time to turn off.
First off, your dog must be tired. If they’ve just woken up and haven’t had a walk or time to play, you’re not going to have too much luck asking them to go back to sleep. Make sure they’ve had enough training, off leash running, and playing before you ask them to settle. For puppies, hold them tight with a calming demeanor, breathing slowly and soothing them to relax. This can take 3mins to half an hour or more the first time. Humming or calm music can help but the key is you must be relaxed and transfer that over. Over time, your dog should calm down, maybe sigh deeply, and relax their muscles. Let them go calmly once you feel the relaxation. Even if your puppy energizes up again, you can repeat the process until they fall asleep or change their energy.
Older dogs may need crates as it can be much harder to hold a bigger dog. Only let them out once they are calm, and once you are calm too! Your demeanor makes a huge difference. Play some calming music and make sure no one goes near or touches the crate to set them off. Cover the crate to shut out the world and makes sure that it’s comfortable and welcoming. If a chew toy doesn’t energize your dog, you can try one. Do not use a crate as a punishment, but see it as their own safe space to learn to relax. Make sure you let your pups out once they’ve calmed down.
Destruction and Aggression
Is your Vizsla dog aggressive? People aggressive? Does he destroy your shoes and clothing? Is he growling at your kids or if you touch her when she’s sleeping?
Aggression is more serious depending on the severity and issue. For this, get a good trainer that follows the latest techniques and is well respected by other trainers. Even just one session to help you understand the source of issues and a beginning to how to fix some.
Aggression can come in many forms, and sometimes it is not aggression but lack of exercise or direction. It would be much too hard to diagnose online so please seek help! Sometimes aggression is also genetic as I’ve known backyard breeders or unethical breeders breeding dogs with known aggression. There are many tools to help, but it does take time and effort and lots of patience and understanding.
Not listening, doesn’t come back
We’ve all been through it, screaming and yelling and your dog clearly hears you but doesn’t come back. So you yell louder, and more seriously. GET BACK HERE NOW!!!! Unfortunately, recall isn’t taught by screaming louder and louder (who would want to run back to someone screaming like a maniac?).
Recall is hard. It takes time and it’s made harder and harder with distractions, prey, and distance. I’ve written a whole blogpost about recall, aiming specifically for off leash outdoors. There’s also a challenge to practice with if you’ve got a reliable recall in most situations.
Jumping on people, dogs
Does your dog jump up on people? Does he jump on kids, bikes, and tackle other dogs? Maybe she’s extra friendly and likes to meet people face to face? As cute as it can be, it can also be dangerous with the wrong people, kids, or dogs.
There’s a couple things that can help with constant jumping.
First off, don’t encourage jumping. If it’s cute when you enter the house and you reward with attention and playing, a dog will get very confused if you then yell at them when they jump on a friend or a child entering the house. Cut out any rewards for jumping, ever. Reward for 4 paws staying on the ground. Greet your dog only when they’re on the ground and reward (treats and attention) for that.
Next, have a command to jump, and a command to get down. I have UP UP and OFF. I reward for the OFF. Soon you’ll be able to anticipate a jump and yell OFF to keep all four paws on the ground. Jumping is fun, so reward for OFF.
Recall, when you do see your dog go after a child or bike when you’re outside. Work your way up to this recall by training with a friend. Start with slow moving close bikes, the easiest scenario and treat treat treat! Work with a long leash that you can step on if they go to run or jump. Train on the outside fence to a playground and work on keeping calm and all 4 paws on the ground. Work on recall with kids running (on the other side of the fence). Here’s more about recall.
Sensitive and Scared
Does your dog hide behind you? Maybe she won’t play with others, or maybe she shuts down easily and won’t come and play and cuddle? Maybe he barks when he gets scared and then runs away when there’s a loud noise?
It’s no fun having a dog that won’t engage and play but the sooner you work on their confidence, the easier it will be! Vizslas are a sensitive breed and are more prone to shutting down due to punishments than other dogs (like labs). They’re more sensitive to emotions, to loud noises, physical trauma, and challenges. While Whiskey, my elder, is very confident, she’s also very sensitive to emotions. Bourbon is very sensitive to anything she deems “scary” and will shut down with dogs that are too physical, and gets traumatized easily with a bad experience.
Having a sensitive dog can be great. They will pick up when you’re sad and act appropriately and will be aware of surroundings and people. However, too scared and sensitive can lead to anxieties and bolting. You’ll have to work on your dog’s confidence so they can approach a challenge, try something scary, and be proud when they’ve overcome an obstacle with your help.
First, if you have a scared dog, use positivity. You must approach with patience and encouragement, no screaming in frustration or plunking them down into something so scary they shut down. Positive reinforcement is key. Then work out the smallest micro-steps you can take to reaching more confidence in whatever is scary. Scared of dogs? Find the most placid older dog that doesn’t mind puppies and doesn’t approach, and go for a short walk with LOTS of treats. Noises? turn the TV on low and slowly increase while feeding peanut butter.
It can be extremely helpful to take some puppy or dog obedience classes in a controlled environment (with a very respected trainer) with lots of treats and positive reinforcement. If the issue is larger and your dog already has anxiety, work with a trainer one on one and see what you can do everyday to take baby steps. I found dog sports as well to really with connection and overcoming challenges. Training agility with Bourbon has helped her many fears and we’ve been taking micro-steps to approaching and touching a teeter tooter.
Other reasons you hate your Vizsla?
What are other reasons your Vizsla is terrible? There is hope and help! They’re the cutest puppies but this breed is not for everyone. Vizslas take more time, emotional space, and training that most other breeds, but be assured that whatever you put into them, you get back x10.