I have already touched upon temperament in the FAQs section; however, I would like to dedicate a separate page to elaborate on temperament because I feel it is essential to understand what is the desired and/or correct Kuvasz temperament and character.
As I have mentioned a few times already, I would like to reiterate the importance of a Kuvasz having a STABLE and WELL-BALANCED temperament….but what does this really mean?
In order to best comprehend the Kuvasz temperament, one has to acknowledge and understand that the Kuvasz is an ancient breed of LGD (livestock guardian dog) and that its fundamental behaviour and temperament stems from centuries of strict selection. The key to understanding the Kuvasz temperament is to understand what is required and expected of LGDs in general.
A Kuvasz should be confident, self-assured, and able to remain calm and composed in any situation, setting or environment. The Kuvasz should have a very highly developed sense of situational awareness and ability to think critically and independently in various scenarios. This means that they can often differentiate between a real and perceived threat. A confident and stable Kuvasz will not attack anyone unnecessarily or unprovoked. It is often dogs that are lacking confidence and are fearful that lash out and potentially cause problems.
On the other hand, when a real threat or situation arises where a dog needs to protect, a proper Kuvasz should then be an uncompromising guardian that shows bravery, great tenacity and does not back down until the threat is neutralized or the situation is diffused. Therefore, a proper Kuvasz must have nerves of steel and not be swayed or halted by anything when called upon to protect. As the Hungarian saying goes “még az ördögtöl sem hátrál meg” – translated - “it (Kuvasz) does not back down even from the devil”.
One of the easiest ways to see confidence in a dog is body language. A dog that is relaxed, illustrates a pleasant facial expression, alert ear positioning, and carries its tail nice and high demonstrates confidence and a self-assured attitude as well as dominance. LGDs are innately dominant, which contributes to their confidence and overall demeanour.
One of my biggest pet peeves is to see Kuvaszok cowering in public, such as at a dog show, pet expo, or “meet the breed” events. How many so-called Kuvaszok do we see that are “Champions” or “Grand Champions” and a physically shaken with their tails between their legs simply because a judge wants to touch or examine them? To me this is completely unacceptable behaviour or temperament for a Kuvasz. This is also not a question of socialization as these insecure dogs are often very well socialized and taken to obedience and show preparation classes from early puppyhood and still exhibit signs of instability and fearfulness. In my opinion a solid and stable temperament is first and foremost genetic and based on generations of careful selection of breeding stock and it cannot be overcome by socialization alone.
Notice the body language of Zenta when she encounters this German Shepherd. Her tail is raised, her posture is erect and she confidently sniffs above the other dog's neck and back. Meanwhile, the German Shepherd turns his head away and tucks his tail under, signs of submission and lack of confidence/dominance
A 5 week old male puppy from the C litter stacked for the first time in its life. Illustrates impressive confidence notice the raised tail.
Ficko and Birku sizing each other up. Notice the raised tails and the ear positioning. This display of dominance would have ended up in a fight had I not intervened.
It is also important to emphasize what the Kuvasz temperament is NOT/or should not be, which is a completely passive, friendly to everyone, goes off with anyone kind of Golden Retriever like dog. I often see these types of dogs described as “good ambassadors of the breed” and being marketed as ood Kuvasz temperament. I understand how this is convenient in selling Kuvasz puppies to a wider audience, but I do not believe Kuvaszok should be bred simply to cater to a pet market. If someone wants a Golden Retriever type dog, by all means get one, but why try to change or mould a Kuvasz into something it is not or was never intended to be and potentially set it up for failure. I also feel that Kuvasz breeders who cater to this are doing a huge disfavour to the breed.
I am also aware that such Kuvasz breeders and owners believe that their normally neutral and passive Kuvasz will protect them when really needed. However, this is mostly based on assumption and little on facts or the actual behaviour and reaction of the dogs to various stimuli. I would use the analogy as someone going bear hunting with a never previously fired riffle and assuming it will work. Would you trust your life on it and that it will fire? Of course not, then why trust a breeder to sell you a dog to protect you, your family and children, or your livestock that comes from parents that are completely passive, would let anyone in and have zero guardian instinct?
As a result, I am going to spearhead a character and/or temperament test for the Kuvasz in Canada much like we see done in other countries or with other LGD breeds, which will hopefully be adopted by the Kuvasz Club of Canada as a regularly utilized test. This is important so we can try and recreate real life-like scenarios and tangibly test the character of our dogs in order to improve breeding selection and the overall quality of the temperaments of our Kuvaszok.
I hope after reading this you get a clearer idea of what is the desired Kuvasz temperament. It is important to emphasize that the Kuvasz is not the right dog for everyone. It needs an equally confident and stable owner, who understands guardian type dogs and pack hierarchy and how to bring the most out of a Kuvasz. However, if you understand this and acquire a Kuvasz with a solid genetic background from stable parents and raise it correctly, I believe the Kuvasz is a phenomenal dog which is very capable as a LGD, but can also be a trusted family guardian, companion and livelong friend.