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Group Working Dogs (KC)

Origin / History The Hovawart is a breed of working dog developed in the Black Forest region of Germany around the 13th century. Its name comes from the ancient German hof (farm or estate) and wachter (watchman), a reference to its early use as an estate guard dog. Over the years, its intelligence and strength came to be noticed, and it evolved from a quiet guardian to a valuable working breed. It was one of the most valued beasts of its time, favored by the elite and the working class alike.

The Hovawart was quickly eclipsed by other breeds, though, and in the 13th century the breed lost popularity and was almost wiped out. It took several centuries before steps were taken to revive the breed. In the 1920s, a group of German breeders restored the Hovawart by carefully crossing similar breeds, including the Newfoundland, Leonberger, and German Shepherd Dog. Today, although still unknown in the United States, the Hovawart is popular in its native country as a working and rescue dog as well as a home companion.

Appearance The Hovawart is large, but not heavy. It looks much like the Golden Retriever with its long, wavy coat, alert character and lively gait. Its coat is visibly feathered on the legs, chest, tail, and undersides. The head is robust with a rounded top, and the legs sturdy and well-muscled. Its dark eyes have a kindly but somewhat sad expression. The ears are triangular, set a little low and hanging straight down.

Colours The coat can be solid black, blond, or black and gold. Black and gold is the most common color. In black and gold dogs, black should be the predominant color with medium blond from the nose to the throat.

Temperament Hovawarts are very calm and even-tempered, thanks to their long ancestry of quiet guardianship. They are very loving and protective of their families; they have strong fighting instincts that come to the fore when someone they know is in danger. They are very self-confident of their abilities and will readily take on the role of watchdog, retriever, rescue dog, and work companion—whatever the task, the Hovawart will be up for it.

Height and Weight Males stand between 24 ¾ and 27 ½ inches at the withers and females from 22 ¾ to 25 ½.

Common Health Problems Hovawarts are a very healthy breed with no major genetic flaws. Even hip dysplasia, which frequently affects dogs of their size, is relatively rare. Hypothyroidism appears in some European bloodlines, although breeders are now working to eliminate the disease.

Living Conditions Hovawarts are outdoor dogs by nature. Although mostly calm and reserved, they are fairly active inside the house and should be allowed outside as much as possible. The ideal home is one with at least an average-sized yard. They can be allowed to sleep outdoors—many of them prefer it—but they should stay inside during extremely hot or cold weather.

Exercise Requirements These dogs love exercise, whether it’s walking around the block or chasing prey in an open field. They are very territorial, so owners need not worry about them leaving the yard. They can and should be allowed to run off the leash whenever possible. Outdoor trips with the family are also recommended.

Training Requirements Hovawarts are easy to train, as they are very intelligent and open to new ideas. They love to please, so the occasional praise or pat on the back will go a long way. Training should start at a young age, when the dog is still very curious. They should also be socialized early to prevent excessive shyness or aggression towards strangers.

Life Expectancy The average Hovawart lives between 10 and 14 years.

Grooming Despite their long coats, Hovawarts are a very low-maintenance breed. Often, brushing or combing every few days is enough to keep them clean. Hovawarts shed moderately and should be groomed more often during shedding season. Baths should be given only when necessary, taking care not to irritate the eyes and ears.

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