Training and Functionality
I have already briefly touched upon training in the FAQs; however, I feel that this is a very important topic that should be explained more thoroughly.
What is the most important thing when it comes to training a Kuvasz?
In my opinion the key to training a Kuvasz is to have CONTROL of the dog by establishing the appropriate hierarchy. These dogs radiate a self-assured attitude and do best with an owner who is equally or even more confident than they are and can ensure he or she is the pack leader. Establishing this leadership position is essential, as once they understand and accept this, it enables all other training to stem from this. Other words, if a Kuvasz does not respect and accepts you as its leader, it will likely not follow your other wishes and commands. This is also essential in circumstances where you need to be able to quickly and decisively override the natural guardian instincts of the Kuvasz. For example, if you have visitors and the dog is protecting its home or territory, but you want the dog to stand down, it should do so immediately when told "leave it" or "they're ok".
How is this leadership established?
If a person is a natural leader and radiates that type of energy, then it comes naturally. For some other people it might take some practice or self coaching to make themselves be strong leaders. Regardless, most Kuvasz will test their owner to see how much they can get away with. It is the owner's response to such tests that often determines how the dog views you as a leader. For example, the first time you give the puppy a raw bone and perhaps it wants to be possessive and growls at you, your reaction and how you deal with the situation will have a lasting impact on how the dog sees you as its leader. Do you reach in and assertively grab the bone from the pup and reprimand it or do you hesitate, and possibly show fear? If you do the latter, it will already have an idea that it is in control and would try and misbehave with other things. The other key to training a Kuvasz is consistency. Whatever you decide to allow or not allow the dog, make sure it is always the same and make sure to stubbornly enforce it. In other words, they can be stubborn, so you need to be even more stubborn and never give in. For example, say your routine is you want the dog to sit calmly before you give it its food, but it is jumping and excited and refuses to sit and perhaps you are tired and say "ohh this one time it is ok, we'll do it next time", well....the Kuvasz will remember the previous time and take advantage of it. Kuvaszok can be a challenge to train as they are a tough guardian breed, both physically and mentally, but once you understand them and how they think, training them is actually easy.
So how trainable are Kuvaszok?
In order to get the most out of a Kuvasz, one must understand the Kuvasz mind and livestock guardian dogs in general. One needs to understand the independent nature and often times stubbornness of LGDs, and have realistic expectations. However, they are very intelligent, learn quickly and with the right leadership and control can be very obedient.
Here are some short video examples of some obedience exercises I did with some of my dogs. None have ever been to any obedience or dog training classes in their life.
Since Kuvaszok are clearly an intelligent and highly trainable breed, it begs the question what other functions can they serve other than being a LGD?
For me the Kuvasz will always first and foremost be a heritage breed LGD and I will continue to stringently select for the best possible LGD characteristics and attributes. A proper Kuvasz should be brave, intelligent, confident, loyal, an unparalleled guardian, have strong nerves and excellent situational awareness, be highly adaptable, undemanding and hardy. Undoubtedly such qualities in a dog can be harnessed to perform a wide array of other function, such as general purpose guardian, protection and/or police dog, border patrol dog, as well as used for tracking, agility, rally and obedience trials, as a large game hunter, for moving/herding large stock (i.e. cattle, horses), utilized as a search and rescue dog or even as a therapy dog, amongst other functions.
Although a Kuvasz can be utilized for a variety of purposes we should never lose sight of the fact that the Kuvasz is a LGD, thus we need to be mindful and understand that these other functions are mostly secondary uses the breed can potentially perform, thus we need to be realistic about expectations and possible limitations. Other words, a Kuvasz can perform most of these roles, but might not be as good as breed that were purposefully bred for these functions (i.e. tracking - Kuvasz vs. a Bloodhound).