The Hungarian House
Written 1998 by: Natalie Sharp
After years of living in an apartment on my own, I find myself now living in a house with three Hungarians: a Kuvasz, a Vizsla, and one of the two legged variety. They are all as Hungarian as goulash, and they've all changed my life quite dramatically. How the two-legged one, Laszlo, has changed my life is a story for another time and place.
One might think that a Kuvasz and a Vizsla would be a peculiar combination. And one would be right. The Vizsla is noted for his affectionate nature and for excelling in obedience. The Kuvasz is described as an loyal and reliable guardian, but 'aloof' and 'independent' are more often used to describe his temperament than 'affectionate' and 'obedient'. Although there is a certain degree of truth to these statements, I was surprised to discover that the Vizsla is much more protective, and the Kuvasz much more affectionate, than I had expected.
As anyone who has ever owned a Vizsla will tell you, they are very much an in-your-face kind of dog. Our Vizsla, Jassz (pronounced 'Yoss'), is jealous of everything that takes my attention away from him, including my keyboard. He has called up the Help screen more times than I have with his nose-butting protests. His affection is intense, and impossible to ignore. I can almost hear the zzzzz zzzzz sound of the scope focusing as he lines me up in his cross-hairs, preparing to smack a big wet one right on my lips. Thank goodness this intense affection is also tempered with enough intelligence to learn the "No kisses!" command.
Vizsla owners might be surprised to learn that our Kuvasz, Chloe, is just as affectionate, but in a tougher Jimmy Dean sort of way. Chloe watches Jassz climbing into my lap with a scornful, would-you-look-what-that-namby-pamby-is-doing-now look on her face. Jassz considers it his birthright to be in my lap, and returns her scornful look. From his high vantage point he looks down his regal nose and says,"You're just a dog, you wouldn't understand."
Rather than climbing into my lap, Chloe might come into a room, nudge me gently, and then take up residence a few feet away. She wants to be with me, but is content to simply occupy my space. They both follow me everywhere, but the Vizsla is more tactile, needing my touch instead of just my company. On laundry day, we host a day-long parade. I lead the parade, and our only 'float' is the laundry basket. Back and forth we march, from the bedroom to the washer, and back again. I suppose they could be waiting, hoping I will drop a sock so they might begin their favorite game, tug-o-war, but I like to think they just want to be with me.
Knowing that the Vizsla is more demonstrative of his affection, I was surprised to discover that it is the Kuvasz who is friendlier to the strangers that we meet when we are out on a walk. Man, woman, dog, cat, guppy, whatever, Chloe has to say hello to everyone. She got a bit of a surprise when she tried to strike up a friendship a great big white farm goose, and another when she tried to entice a horse into a game of chase, but neither of these incidents diminished her insatiable need to greet. Her big white tail waves like the flag at the Good Will Games. We've nicknamed her 'the ambassador', and she's brought smiles to a lot of glum looking faces.
Despite Chloe's charm and friendliness, she still likes her space and needs some solitude. She hates being crowded, and will only snuggle for about five to ten minutes (although belly rubs can be endless). Jassz could snuggle for hours. There is something very therapeutic in his bottomless vault of affection. He never tires of making me feel loved.
The Kuvasz is very intelligent, making it easy to teach her things. She is also unbelievably stubborn, making it difficult to get her to do the things she's been taught. Motivation is everything, and food usually doesn't cut it. Instead I try to use Chloe's insatiable curiosity and her jealous nature to my advantage. The Vizsla is very eager to please, and would be motivated by sawdust if that were all I had to offer. Although Jassz is not quite as quick to grasp what it is that I want, once he does learn the task he'll reproduce it again, one hundred percent of the time. The Kuvasz learns it more quickly, but reproducibility varies with her mood.
Chloe and Jassz are very different from one another, but they are compatible enough to be best friends. They overlook one another's 'faults', the way good friends are supposed to, and just enjoy each other's company.
I am learning to use the differences to my advantage. The Vizsla's better track record for recall comes in handy when I am trying to get the Kuvasz to come to me as well. (She comes back to me because she wants to know why he is getting so much praise and attention, an example of using jealousy and curiosity as motivators) Chloe's steady-as-a-rock demeanor keeps Jassz from becoming too agitated when they are left home alone. (Jassz hates to be alone. One time when I had to separate them because Chloe had an injury, he cried mournfully for nine hours while we were at work. The neighbours were about to call the SPCA). Sometimes Chloe's stubborn nature frustrates the heck out of me, and I wonder, "Why can't you be more agreeable, like the Vizsla?" Other times Jassz's demands for my attention are too overwhelming, and I wonder, "Why can't you be independent, like the Kuvasz?" But the truth is I wouldn't want them any different than the way they are. They complement each other wonderfully!