FAQ about the Wirehaired Vizsla

by Belinda Perry and Deb Wall

Educating the public about the breed is one of the most important functions of any breed’s Parent Club. As one of the two new breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2014, the Wirehaired Vizsla has had a lot of attention lately. With the breed’s debut at the Westminster Kennel Club’s prestigious show in February came press conferences and TV appearances with WKC’s announcer, David Frei. Suddenly, it seems that everyone wants to learn about the new breed, which was largely unknown by the general public until the past few years. Our booth at Westminster’s Meet the Breeds had so many visitors we completely ran out of brochures before the end of the day. But whether we’re at the country’s largest Meet the Breeds event or at a small local event, we all get many of the same questions about the Sporting Group’s newest addition. 
Here are some of our usual FAQ about the Wirehaired Vizsla and our answers.

“Is the Wirehaired Vizsla like the smooth kind?”
Yes, and no. They are, after all, two distinctively different breeds and the Wirehaired Vizsla is not just a Vizsla in a funny coat. Physical differences aside, the WV does share many of the same traits as the Vizsla, especially in temperament and personality—having a very close bond with their people, their intuitiveness and intelligence, as well as both having a close working hunting style & being a “velcro” dog. They’re both soft in temperament and take any correction very much to heart. Keeping those qualities of the Vizsla was a prominent goal of those who developed the Wirehaired breed.
However, many people who have had both smooths and wires say they find the wirehaired to be somewhat more laid back and not as hyper as the smooth V. 
Physically, the Wire’s coat is the most notable difference, but it is also just a little bit bigger than the smooth, with more substance and bone. The standard height for an adult male Wirehaired Vizsla is 23-25” and 21 ½-23” for an adult female with a variance of 1” +/- allowed. If docked, the Wire’s tail is docked a bit longer, taking off only ¼, compared to the smooth’s 1/3 docked. Since many Wires have been imported from Europe where countries have banned docking, it is not unusual to see Wires with full tails and front dewclaws, and they’re not to be penalized in the conformation ring.

“Do they have to be in hunting homes? What other sorts of activities can I do with a Wirehaired Vizsla?”

One of the wonderful traits of the Wirehaired Vizsla is their versatility, versatility, versatility!  Even though they’re bred to hunt, and will hunt anything their owners like to hunt, their inherent desire to please is as strong as their prey drive. They want to do whatever their people are doing. For a dedicated owner who is willing to take the time to prepare their WV appropriately by building a healthy bond, teamwork, proper socialization and exposure to whatever your goals are, the sky is the limit!  We currently have families in the WVCA who are playing in a variety of structured sports and performance events including agility, barn hunt, conformation, dock jumping, therapy work, rally, tracking, obedience and lure coursing.  Formal sports and competition isn't your thing but you are still interested in the fun-loving companionship of a WV?  Fear not, remember, we have a versatile breed!  They are also running partners, kayaking/canoeing, boating, hiking, camping, swimming, biking, frisbee-chasing and fetch-it loving companions!  Most Wires have a great affinity for water and love to swim.
This is an active breed, bred to spend their day running in a field and they must have their mental and physical needs met with an appropriate amount of exercise and interaction, even if not hunting, to be healthy, balanced dogs. However, with proper guidance, that energy can be focused in varying directions.  If you provide a healthy balance of interaction, exercise and boundaries to your Wire, they also make wonderful couch potatoes, co-pilots and snuggle buddies.  

 “I’m a runner and am looking for a running companion. Is the WV a good choice?” 

Absolutely! But, as with any athlete, you must properly condition the Wire.  First, keep your puppy active but not overly active to allow for proper development of bone and muscling as he matures. Don't rush it as a youngster by getting them started too early and asking too much of them physically while they're still growing, especially on hard surfaces such as concrete, as this can cause joint development complications for your dog.  Instead, focus on leash manners during the first year so that when your dog is physically ready, he also understands what is expected of him on a leash.  As your puppy matures, talk with your veterinarian to ensure your dog is ready to begin focused conditioning by building up distance and time.  Pay close attention to the nutrition you put into their bodies to give them the fuel they'll need to go the distance and not deplete their systems of the important.  A combination of maturity, nutrition, guidance/training and conditioning will be key to your running success.

“How is the WV with children?”

The WireV can make a wonderful pet for families with children, very dedicated and loving to their people, engaging and fun.  They do have a sensitive side and are soft in temperament, so early exposure to well-mannered children is essential in their social development.  The real key to success in having a Wire and children in the same home is in teaching your children and dog how to behave properly with each other.  As many of us know, the relationship between a child and their family dog can be a magical one, making a life-long impact on both, but this does not usually occur automatically. We've all heard of or known someone with a child who has been bitten by a dog, usually the family dog.  As parents we must take a realistic assessment of our family atmosphere to determine if a Wire can be successful in this environment.  Have the children been taught proper pet manners and respect, that dogs are living creatures like us, they feel pain, have emotions like we do and require our loving care?  Children need to understand that they must never, ever hit a dog with toys, hands or in a any other way harm them (no ears or tail pulling), not to approach, sneak up on or run screaming at a dog at any time but especially while they are resting, eating, playing with toys or not feeling well, and not to tease the dog, ever.  
Our dogs also need to be taught how to successfully and appropriately interact with our children.  You must teach them manners also, we can't expect a dog to just understand what is expected of them in a human world.  They must be taught they are not permitted to put teeth on the children, no jumping up on them, rough-housing or knocking them down.  If the children are old enough to participate in the puppy’s care and training, it helps the puppy to recognize the younger family members as it does the adults in the family and not as a surrogate littermate. A "safe place" that is off limits to the children should always be provided for the dog, usually a crate.  This gives the dog a place to go when it wishes to be left alone.  A solid rule to always follow is that young children should NEVER be left unsupervised with a pet.  Accidents happen, children are learning and dogs can react so supervision is important in maintaining everyone's safety. 
Do you have the time, patience and consistency to bring a harmonious balance to your family of children and dogs? 

“Does the WV shed?  I’ve heard they’re hypo-allergenic?  What about grooming a WV?”

To fully understand the grooming requirements of this breed we must also discuss the variations in coat we see and the development of these coats.  When a WV is born, they typically have a short coat, without wire or furnishings and are some shade of golden/golden rust.  As the puppy grows, often within the first few weeks but sometimes not for months, one can begin to see some changes occurring. Those changes can be coat texture; softer or harsher, some wiry guard hairs developing, some thinner or wispy hairs growing in, with some that are lighter in color and some that are darker.  In some cases a WV's coat is still changing, developing and maturing well into their third year of age and others have the basic coat they will have their entire lives at approximately a year of age.  In some cases, these variations can present some challenges when determining what puppy will be best suited for which home, based on a family's goals.    

The ideal coat we strive for in the breed is close laying, dense, wiry of approximately one inch in length and a dense undercoat with a shorter coat on a portion of the head/ears, the chest, belly and lower portion of the legs when their coat is mature.  This allows for protection against injury, the harsher terrain and winter weather in field, forest and water. With that coat, a weekly brushing with a hard-bristled brush, an occasional bath with mild soap and a stripping of the coat once or twice per year is typically all that's needed.  
We also see a shorter, tighter coat, sometimes harsh and other times sleek, similar to that of their smooth Vizsla cousin or the German Shorthaired Pointer.  This shorter coat typically does not provide the same protection in the harsher climates and terrain as the dense wiry coat does but does make for low maintenance grooming.  
There's also a longer, usually softer, coat that we see, from 2-5 inches in length.  This coat often becomes lighter in color as they mature, though not always, but may also be closer to a shade of blonde/yellow very early in life.  This longer, softer coat can present different challenges in the field, depending upon the areas you hunt or activities you're interested in.  This coat tends to pick up a great deal more burrs, can snag easier in the brush, holds more dirt than the dense, wiry coat and doesn't dry as quickly.  This coat will require additional grooming to keep it clean and healthy.  Regular ear cleanings, dental monitoring and toenail trimming should also be included in your grooming protocol.  

The WV is considered a moderate shedder with often the greater challenge being that their wire coat can sometimes retain extra dirt from the outdoors, re-disbursing that when it dries and they are back inside the home.  A quick, once over with a hard brush can greatly reduce this.  Contrary to popular belief, the WV is not a hypoallergenic breed.

“I live in an apartment or condominium. Is the WV a good choice for me?” and “How much exercise does a WV need?”

Like most of the versatile hunting breeds, WVs are bred to be athletic, active, working dogs with the stamina to run all day in a field.  Even if we don't hunt them, they do need daily exercise of at least a couple miles of walking, hiking or jogging, a moderate-sized yard to be able to run off leash, ideally including some structured play like fetch, and an owner dedicated to meeting their physical needs.  It is also very important to provide lots of mental exercise as well, such as learning tricks, or doing nose work.  If their needs are not met, this breed can become destructive, high strung and stressed, presenting various behavioral challenges.  While this breed is quite adaptive, in general, they are not recommended for apartment/condo life.

“What’s the most important thing to keep in mind when training a WV?”

The keys to successful training is being able to communicate what we want from our dog in a manner they can understand from us, doing so calmly and being consistent in what we expect.  The Wire V is a sensitive, intelligent breed with the occasional stubborn streak; they are often very in-tune with their people and typically do not handle harsh handling or corrections very well.  Sharp or severe correction isn’t necessary and can make a Wirehaired Vizsla shut down altogether.  A firm “No!” or “Ah-ah!” is usually all that’s needed. Very intensive, long repetitive training sessions should also be avoided; it’s important to end the session on a positive note before it becomes a drudge and a bore.  If you keep it light and fun, they are highly trainable, eager to learn and to please. Positive training in a fair, gentle manner with guidance they can understand will give the best results.  Respectful communication is essential to any relationship, so plan to include it in the one with your Wire.    

“Are there particular health issues I should be concerned about?”

Unfortunately, like most breeds, Wirehaired Vizslas are susceptible to certain health problems.  Some diseases are hereditary while others can be influenced by nutrition and environmental factors.  The most commonly seen problems in WV are hip dysplasia, eye disease, and cancer.  Some auto-immune issues are also seen, the most common being allergies which can be expressed as sensitive digestion, chronic yeast infections in the ears, skin irritations or inflammation of the eyelids. Allergens can be in their food or something they come into contact with such as certain grasses. 
Responsible breeders test their dogs for the more common genetically transmitted disorders and are alert to new conditions that may become apparent in the breed.  However, none of the available tests are 100% foolproof, and even cleared parents may produce affected offspring.

“How many Wires are there in the US and how can I find a breeder?”

Our best estimate is that there are somewhere between 500- 600 Wirehaired Vizslas living in the US and around 100 or fewer in Canada. Even though the breed was recognized by AKC last July, it is still relatively rare in North America.
With only 12-15 breeders in the US, finding a breeder near you may not always be possible. The WVCA has a list of members who have paid a nominal fee to be included in the club’s breeder list. Another resource is www.gundogbreeders.com, but be aware that some of the kennels listed advertise many breeds of hunting dogs but are just trainers who may not actually have any Wirehaired Vizslas. Look for a reputable breeder whose dogs are AKC registered, who does appropriate health testing of their dogs and will stand behind their pups with a guarantee of good health and a promise to take the dog back at any age if for some reason you cannot keep it. Be prepared to make a deposit and be on a waiting list for a puppy, as you’ll find that most pups will be reserved in advance of being whelped. Take the time to get to know your future puppy’s breeder and learn all you can about the breed. Many breeders will try to find some dogs in your area that you can meet in person to get to know the breed better, but depending on your location that may not always be possible. Don’t be surprised if a breeder has a screening process and asks a lot of questions. They want to help you make sure it’s the right breed for you and your family.

In conclusion, we hope that you have found the answers to questions you might have had about the Wirehaired Vizsla. It’s a wonderful, loving breed with amazing versatility and might be just what you are looking for in a family companion, hunting partner, or event competitor. To learn more about them, please visit the breed’s page on the AKC’s website and the Wirehaired Vizsla Club of America’s website at www.whvca.org .

 - Article from Showsight Magazine, March 2015 

What is HUU and how do I avoid it when adding a puppy to the family? 

HUU or Hyperuriosuria is a genetic disease found in our breed in the last few years.  I've provided details below and you can find additional information on UC Davis' website, as well as others.  The wonderful thing is that there is a DNA test available for us to test each of our dogs considered for breeding and by breeding responsibly, we can avoid ever producing an HUU "Affected" or HU/HU positive puppy! 


DNA test - HUU
Hyperuricosuria is the formal name.  

Details about the disease
In affected dogs, uric acid does not dissolve easily in urine and accumulates. The excessive amount of uric acid forms crystals which lead to urinary calculi (stones), which may require surgery.

Clinical signs
The changes in the urine are generally present from birth. However it usually takes some time for crystals to form and combine into stones that cause problems, most often between 3 and 6 years of age. The signs you will see in your dog depend on where in the urinary tract the stones end up. They collect most commonly in the bladder, in which case you may see blood in the urine, difficulty and pain in urinating, and small frequent amounts of urine.  Urinary tract obstruction is a serious condition that occurs when a stone completely blocks the urethra and blocks the outflow of urine (more common in male dogs that have a smaller urethra). Signs include straining to urinate, vomiting and loss of appetite, weakness and lethargy (lack of energy), due to toxins building up in the body.

How it is inherited
The disease is described as an autosomal recessive condition. This means that a dog must inherit two copies of an abnormal gene (one from its mother and one from its father) before its health is affected. A dog that inherits only one copy of the abnormal gene (from its mother or its father) will have no signs of the disease, but will be a carrier and may pass the gene on to any offspring. 




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