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Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021


The Hovawart is a large to giant purebred from Germany bred to guard property originally, which is the meaning of its name. It dates back as far as Medieval times in the mountain range of the Black Forest. It was bred to be hardy, versatile, and as well as being a good watch dog and guard dog it today is also successfully used in tracking, defense and in avalanche rescue. It is also a good loyal, friendly and devoted companion but is best with experienced owners rather than first timers.

The Hovawart at a Glance
Name Hovawart
Other names None
Nicknames Hovie
Origin Germany
Average size Large to giant
Average weight 65 to 110 pounds
Average height 23 to 29 inches
Life span 10 to 14 years
Coat type Dense, slightly wavy, close lying, straight, sparse undercoat
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, blonde, black and gold
Popularity Not yet recognized by the AKC
Intelligence High
Tolerance to heat Average
Tolerance to cold Very good to excellent
Shedding Moderate – expect some hair around the home
Drooling Average to above average
Obesity Average – measure its food and make sure its get enough exercise
Grooming/brushing High – requires several brushing a week
Barking Occasional – but its barking is deep and loud
Exercise needs High – needs active owners
Trainability Difficult – experience is needed
Friendliness Good to very good with socialization
Good first dog No – not for first time owners, needs experienced ones
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Good to very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good to very good with socialization
Good with strangers Moderate to good, socialization is needed as it is wary with strangers
Good apartment dog Low to moderate – needs larger home and one with a good sized yard or even land
Handles alone time well Low – does not like being alone for long periods
Health issues Somewhat healthy but some issues include Arthritis, chronic kidney failure, urethral obstruction and heart problems
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $290 a year for a good quality dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for license, miscellaneous items, toys and basic training
Average annual expenses $1020 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,200
Rescue organizations Hovawart Breed Rescue UK, Noahsdogs for non breed specific rescues check local shelters and rescues
Biting Statistics None reported

The Hovawart’s Beginnings

The Hovawart comes from Harz and the Black Forest area in Germany and was bred to guard property, which is why it was named Hovawart. It was bred by German nobles to guard estates and castles and can be found dating back as far as the the Medieval times making it an ancient breed. In the 13th century it is mentioned by Eike von Repgow in a law book called Sachsenspiegel. There is a story recorded that tells of a castle invasion where all were killed apart from the infant son of the lord of the castle. It had been protected and saved by the Hovawarts guarding the castle and the child was dragged by an injured dog to safety. That child grew up to be Eike von Repgow. In the late 1400s it was viewed as a noble breed, used to track bandits and robbers and was a popular dog. It was also used over the years as a farm dog and watchdog.

But by the late 19th century into the early 20th century its popularity fell and numbers declined. The breed was facing extinction partly due to the popularity of the newer German Shepherd breed. Just after World War I a zoologist called Konig with his team started efforts to save the breed. In 1922 the first litter was entered into the German Breeding Registry and things seemed to be getting better. In 1937 it was recognized by the German Kennel Club. However the second world war wiped out everything that had been done for the dog. As well as dog breeding itself being impacted, thousands of dogs were killed when used in the German military.

New Lease on Life

After World War II another breeder called Schramm with other breed enthusiasts worked to to save the breed. Its resurrection was due to the hard work of a few dedicated and committed breeders. They formed a club and searched for dogs resembling the Hovawart on farms in the Black Forest region and then using other dogs like the Leonbergers, Newfoundlands, German Shepherds, African Hunting Dogs, Kuvaszok and Bernese Mountain Dogs. The Hovawart Club of North America (HCNA) started in 1995 and it was entered into the AKC Foundation Stock Service in 2010. It is still a rare breed in the US but is more well known and popular in its home country.


The Dog You See Today

The Hovawart is a powerful dog large to giant dog weighing 65 to 110 pounds and standing 23 to 29 inches tall. It does resemble a Golden Retriever somewhat and males are a lot bigger than females. It has a deep chest, medium neck, strong hindquarters and very long legs with the front ones being straight. Dewclaws can be removed. Its body is strong and balanced and its feet are round and compact.

The coat is long, dense, lies flat and is a little wavy. The back of the legs, chest, under the tail and the belly have longer hairs. Common colors are black, gold and blond. Its head is large with a rounded forehead and the skull is around the same length as the muzzle. It has a scissor bite and the muzzle is deep. The nose is black and the nostrils are open. The ears hang down from being set high and are pointed being triangular shaped. The eyes are oval in shape and are medium to dark brown in color.

The Inner Hovawart


This is an intelligent, confident and courageous breed that excels at its main role of watch dog, guardian, companion and also does well as search and rescue. It is strong willed and is best with experienced owners not new ones. Around strangers it is more reserved but with proper introductions it will accept them. With its family it is devoted, loyal and would give its life to protect yours. However it is a working breed and needs strong leadership, exercise and stimulation to keep it calm and happy. If it is not raised properly it can lead to destructiveness, fearful biting and even timidity.

This dog has a loud and deep bark and while it does not bark all the time, its does bark occasionally. It will bark to let you know if there is an intruder in the house and it will act to defend you, its home and itself. It can be a very affectionate family dog despite its reserved nature as long as it is well socialized and lead. As it has strong territorial instincts it will not wander far and it is a surprisingly playful dog, some staying puppy like in that aspect even into senior years. It does not like being left alone for long periods of time.

Living with a Hovawart

What will training look like?

The Hovawart is not easy to train, it takes experience, confident leadership and patience. It is important this dog has a strict set of rules to live by and that you are consistent about enforcing them. This is not a dog that is eager to please so you will need to vary your methods, offer rewards, treats, keep it positive and keep it short and fun. If it loses interest it can become even more stubborn and resistant. Remember early training and socialization are important. Socialization will involve getting it used to different people, places, animals, situations and sounds. Teach it what reactions are acceptable and it will grow into a trustworthy, confident and happier dog.


How active is the Hovawart?

Being a working dog the Hovawart is an active breed and it needs active owners. It is happiest when it is kept as a working dog as well as a companion as it needs to be kept busy. Along with enough physical exercise it also need plenty of mental stimulation. It also enjoys things like agility trials or other work that has it working alongside its owner. Make sure if it is not already active all day that it then gets at least an hour to two of vigorous exercise a day. That includes walks, training and physical play with you. It would also happily join you for hikes, runs and jogs and it should get regular off leash time somewhere safe. If it does not get what it needs it will be hard to live with, destructive, more stubborn and hyper.

Caring for the Hovawart

Grooming needs

The long coat of the Hovawart will need regular brushing to keep it free of tangles to help remove loose hair and debris. Those longer areas may need more regular combing. Expect to brush at least every other day. It sheds an average amount so there will be some hair around the home to clean up too. Give it a bath just when it needs one as doing it too often actually damages it natural oils and can lead to skin problems. Using an actual canine shampoo is also important for the same reasons.

It will also need its teeth brushed two to three times a week using a dog toothbrush and toothpaste, though every day would be better if it is possible. It will keep its gums and teeth healthy, clean and its breath smelling better! Cut it nails when they get too long using dog nail clippers or scissors. Take care though as dogs unlike us have a lower section of nail that has blood vessels and nerves in it. If you cut into this it will hurt the dog and there will be a lot of bleeding. The ears should be wiped clean once a week using a dog ear cleanser and cotton ball or a damp cloth. Wipe the easy to reach sections, do not push anything into its ear as you might hurt it and do damage. You should also do a weekly check for infection signs in them, things like a bad odor, redness, irritation and such.

Feeding Time

This dog will eat about 4 to 6½ cups of a good quality dry dog food split into two meals. The amount varies depending on its size, age, health, metabolism and activity level. It also needs access to water at all times and this should be kept as fresh as possible.


How is the Hovawart with other animals and children?

Around children when it has been well socialized, trained and especially if raised with them it is affectionate, playful and gets along well with them. It can also get along fine with other pets if this is the case though with strange small animals it may see them as prey. With other dogs there can be territorial issues particularly if both dogs are of the same sex and have not been neutered.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Hovawart has a life span of 10 to 14 years and is somewhat healthy but it can face a few issues and they include kidney problems, eye problems, heart problems, arthritis, hip dysplasia and osteosarcoma.

Biting Statistics

In reports of dog attacks against people that did bodily harm in Canada and the USA over the last 35 years the Hovawart is mentioned in 0 incidents. This is not a dog prone to aggression or attacking unless there is a real threat. But like any dog it can snap and there are ways to minimize the chances your dog is one that acts aggressively in certain situations. Make sure it is well trained and socialized, make sure it is well exercised and mentally challenged and properly fed, loved and cared for.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Hovawart puppy will average at about $1200 though it can vary from place to breeder for a pet quality companion. For something from a top breeder you can expect to pay more. There are shelters and rescues that may have one that needs re-homing and that is a great thing to do. Cost is a lot lower at around $50 to $400, some medical concerns get dealt with for you too, but on the other hand it is not as likely to be a puppy. Avoid buying from disreputable and even sometimes cruel places like pet stores, puppy mills, ads and backyard breeders.

There will be some initial costs to cover when you have a puppy. It will need things like a crate, leash and collar, food bowls and such. These will cost around $200 or more. Then there are also initial medical concerns like a physical exam, deworming, micro chipping, blood tests, shots and spaying or neutering. These come to about $290.

Yearly costs should be prepared for too. These will include food, medical basics and other miscellaneous costs. Food of good quality and dog treats will cost about $290 a year. Medical costs will vary depending on specifics but just looking at basic care like shots, flea and tick prevention and check ups and pet insurance, expect to pay at least $485 a year. Miscellaneous items, toys, license and basic training is another $245 a year. This gives an annual starting figure of $1020.

Hovawart Puppy


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The Hovawart is best suited to active and experienced families, singles or couples who will keep it as a working dog or give it jobs to do as well as it being a valued and loved pet. It needs space and is best in rural areas for that reason. It can be a devoted, good natured and watchful dog and while it is reserved with its family it is still affectionate and has a playful side to it at times.

Featured Image Credit: Christine Klassen, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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