Vizsla (pronounced VEEZH-la or VEESH-la) is not only a talented hunting dog, but also a devoted companion. They become very attached to their owners and are very loving.
Vizslas have a trademark red coat and are built for activity. They can hunt, track, complete agility courses, and simply accompany you on a long jog. Without proper training and socialization, a Vizsla can be difficult to handle. They are high-energy—requiring lots of exercise each day—but always graceful.
Hailing from Hungary, these multitasking dogs thrive on human companionship. A Vizsla’s worst fear is being separated from their family. So be prepared for them to follow family members from room to room. They crave attention and long to be touching their owners.
There's even an old saying: "If you own a Vizsla, it lives on top of your head."
A sleek red coat, sometimes referred to as golden red, or russet is what sets the Vizsla apart. Even their nose and the skin around their eyes is red. They also have long, silky ears and a lean build for their frame. Vizslas are a medium- to large-sized dog—ranging from 45–65 pounds. They can look intense while they are on the hunt, but back home they share their sensitive, loving side.
This breed is nicknamed the “versatile Vizsla” or the “Velcro Vizsla” for their tendency to follow their owner around the house demanding your attention and adoration. Solo bathroom trips? Nope, sorry! Some owners might warn you that once you bring a Vizsla home, you might never get another private moment in your life. When at rest, they are likely to be leaning against you or laying on top of your feet.
They are also a talkative breed, often whining, moaning, or making other noises to share their opinions. And because they are a hard-working breed, they are happy to be given a job to do as part of the family. They are also protective and make good watchdogs.
If Vizslas attended high school, they’d be able to hang with the sporty and the nerdy kids all at once. They are very smart dogs—and biddable—but tend to get bored easily, so they need lots of exercise. They run hard and fast, with boundless energy, making them great jogging partners. In fact, the Vizsla Club of America (VCA) says, "Since dogs generally don't run around a yard on their own, YOU will need to walk, run, jog or hike each day with your Vizsla."
Vizslas can start their hunting career early, capable of pointing and retrieving before they turn 1. They can hunt on land or water and are known to stay close to the hunter. Their skilled nose proves very useful and they have an excellent memory. Their keen senses also make them good watchdogs, guide dogs, drug-detection dogs, therapy dogs, and search-and-rescue dogs.
A Vizsla needs to live in an active home, with an owner who enjoys the great outdoors and taking his dog on walks, runs, hikes, or hunting excursions. They also love to swim. This is one dog who won’t tolerate a couch-potato lifestyle. “They are active and bred to hunt, making wonderful pets in the correct home,” says Sierra Combs, owner of Nosam Kennels in Greensburg, Ky., who has worked with the breed for the last seven years. “They are not a breed to buy if you are looking for a lazy dog.” They also do well on a farm or at a home with lots of space for running. Vizslas can also do well with apartment living, despite misconceptions, as long as you spend time outdoors when you are able. They are ideal companions for city dwellers who go on runs to explore the neighborhood.
Vizslas are people-oriented and like to spend time with you in your home, as opposed to outside on their own. They do not have an undercoat, so they do not do well in cold temperatures either. And while they love spending time being active with their owners, they aren’t lapdogs. They will, however, jump into bed with you—anything to get a little bit closer to you. They will thrive in a home where their human spends most of their time with them during the day to keep them company.
As puppies, Vizslas have boundless energy and are very rambunctious, requiring constant supervision. When they are bored, they will chew, so stock up on toys to keep them engaged. (The VCA recommends two hours of puppy exercise each day.) They are very loving with kids as they get older and end up being a very manageable-sized dog for many families. Rewarding them with affection and treats will teach your puppy quickly not to bite or steal your kids’ toys. Vizslas can also be taught to get along with other dogs and cats, but they should not be in a home with pet birds or small pets like rabbits and hamsters.
Thanks to their short, sleek coat, Vizslas are pretty low-maintenance in the grooming department. They do shed, so you’ll want to brush them—a rubber grooming brush is best—every so often, the American Kennel Club (AKC) says. You can also wipe them down with a damp cloth. A full bath is only necessary four to five times a year. Even though they are bred for hunting, the Vizsla is a dog who likes to stay clean. They shake off water right away and constantly groom themselves.
Exercise is key for Vizslas. They need lots of it, anywhere from 30–60 minutes a day. They enjoy canine sports, therapy work, and long walks, runs, and games of fetch. If your Vizsla doesn’t get enough activity in their day, they will become destructive. Because they are a retriever breed, they will chew on anything they can get their teeth on. Be sure to provide lots of chew toys that you rotate regularly so your Vizsla doesn’t get bored and move on to the furniture.
Another attractive feature of the Vizsla is that they do not have many health problems, according to the AKC. A few potential health conditions Vizslas may be prone to include epilepsy, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, lymphosarcoma—the third-most common cancer seen in dogs—and progressive retinal atrophy.
On average, the dogs live for 12–15 years, per the AKC.
Vizslas are believed to be descendants of the Hungarian pointer, and documentation of the dogs can be found in 10th-century art and 14th-century literature. Hunting dogs used by the nobles and warlords of the Magyar people thousands of years ago, Vizslas went after game birds and hares and sometimes hunted in partnership with falcons. They were developed to both point and retrieve. They were a distinct breed by the 19th century and prized for their ability to trace a scent and work with their handler.
They were used during World War I to deliver messages. They were imported into the United States in the 1950s—smuggled in after World War II by a U.S. State Department employee, according to the AKC. At that time, the breed looked much different than today with a longer muzzle, bonier skull, and the appearance of a hound. The Vizsla Club of America was formed in 1954 and the breed was recognized by the AKC in 1960. Breeders have worked to standardize the distinctive Vizsla appearance seen today. Still known for their work ethic and scenting ability, Vizslas were used for recovery at ground zero after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Vizslas also work as guide dogs, drug-detection canines, and search-and-rescue dogs.
- At the end of World War I, the Vizsla was nearly extinct, the AKC says.
- A Vizsla named Chartay was the first pup—the first of any breed—to successfully be named AKC Quintuple Champion, having won championship titles in five different disciplines.
- Vizslas are one of the fastest dogs, able to run as fast as 40 mph.
- The fact Vizslas don’t have an insulating coat makes them great swimmers. But they also have webbed feet—yes, like a duck—to enable them to zip through the water for fun or retrieving prey.