About our breeding
Helderberg Hovawarts has a carefully planned breeding program. All breeding dogs are cleared for joint, heart, eye, and thyroid problems and genetically tested for DM also. In addition all dogs must obtain their conformation championships, pass strict temperament testing, and prove their working ability through obedience and tracking work. We are determined to keep the Hovawart breed sound in both mind and body by thoroughly screening all breeding dogs and making well researched matches. Our objective is to produce dogs with correct Hovawart temperament, health, longevity, and working ability.
Through our contract and lifetime return policy we are committed to the well being of every dog we produce for his entire life.
So you think a Hovawart might be right for you
Hovawarts do best when they are part of the family, so first ask yourself which activities your dog will be included in. If your answer is that the dog will be in the backyard while you chauffer the kids, run errands, and go about your day, you might want to rethink getting a dog of any breed. Also ask yourself if you have the time to properly socialize, train, and exercise an energetic large breed dog. A well trained, well socialized dog is a pleasure to have around, a perfect companion for most activities. If you work full time and then have a full social calendar both after work and on weekends, a dog is probably not a good idea. On the other hand, if you enjoy coming home from work and going on a nice walk, are active outdoors year round, and want a devoted companion to accompany you on outings, a Hovawart might just be the perfect new friend you've been looking for.
What I expect of a potential puppy buyer
First, I expect that you are looking for a family companion that will be loved and cherished. Your dog should live inside the house as a canine family member, not be banished to the backyard or locked in a garage and given attention only when you happen to be passing by.
You've done research into different dog breeds to see which ones fit your activity level, lifestyle, temperament, grooming requirements and to ensure the Hovawart is a good fit for your family. Actually meeting and spending time with Hovawarts is also important, all that pretty hair might look gorgeous in a picture but you might find the brushing and vacuuming too time consuming or messy in person. Having a protective dog might also sound great in theory, but it can also be a liability at times. This is an alarm system that does not turn off, they are watchful and aware of their surroundings 24/7. While a Hovawart is supposed to be denfensive not aggressive, a Hovawart lacking socialization and confidence may bite, as any poorly socialized dog of any breed might.
You have the time and energy to devote to daily training and exercise and are committed to raising your new pup properly. Raising a guardian breed dog correctly involves time consuming intense socialization and training. You have a well thought out plan for socializing your pup, including puppy kindergarten classes and basic obedience classes as the pup grows older.
As your dog matures, you offer him increasing physical and mental exercise keeping him fit and happy.
You are also your dog's advocate. It is expected you will do your own research to ensure you make choices that are the best for you and your dog. For instance, yearly vaccines are no longer recommended for pets, the risks and side effects far outweigh any benefit. (Booster shots are a myth- you either are immune or not, and once you are immune to something, you can't get any more immune) If your vet recommends yearly boosters, it is expected that you would decline and find a more knowledgeable or more holistic vet. Research into possible detrimental side effects of spaying and neutering, benefits of a raw diet, and natural methods of parasite control are also important and expected of prospective owners.
Often, traditional obedience training classes are the only option some people have available. Hovawarts are easily trained with positive methods ie: clicker training and reward based training methods. It is far easier to reward good behavior rather than fix bad habits after they have developed. Being an advocate for your dog means you would seek out trainers that use positive methods or if entered in a traditional obedience class, decline the choke or pinch collars used and train your dog with positive methods using the class for socialization purposes.
What you should expect from a breeder
How pups are raised here at Helderberg
Great pups begin with great parents- all breeding dogs are tested and cleared for genetic diseases and the pedigrees of both mother and father are checked. The breeding committee of the American Hovawart Club must approve each breeding, an extensive database is searched for potential health problems that might be created by mating certain dogs together. Both dogs must be examined by a vet and found in good health.
All Helderberg dogs eat a species appropriate raw diet and chemical exposures are limited. No spot on flea products, toxic parasite control, chemical bug repellants, or lawn treatments are used here. Natural products are used as much as possible.
The puppies are born and raised in the house. We use the Biosensor method of early neurological stimulation starting shortly after birth and follow a method of raising the pups outlined in Jerry Hope's book: The Breeders Guide to Raising Superstar Dogs.
Once eyes and ears open, the pups are exposed to an increasingly stimulating environment with classical music and the TV with sound turned low. Also, a CD of noises (traffic, planes, trains, babies crying, fireworks, etc) is played at times with increasing volume. Exposure to common household noises and appliances also starts at this stage.
Training begins as soon as pups are mobile. Once they are up on their feet and starting on solid food potty training begins by splitting their quarters into a 'clean' living area and a 'dirty' potty area. The pups are taught to go outside to do their business as soon as possible and will no longer be using pee pads indoors when they go to their new homes. Clicker training begins at this stage also and all pups will learn how to sit and down before leaving for their new homes.
The pups have an enriched play area both indoors and out. Exposure to many different surfaces, textures, sights, and sounds is extremely important at a young age. Puppies are encouraged to climb, explore, play, and generally tire themselves out. Their toys move, make noise, and change on a daily basis.
Most importantly, pups begin bite inhibition training and learn that humans have extremely delicate skin unlike their brothers and sisters and must be very carefully played with. When you pick up your pup you will be informed of exactly which stage your pup is at and how to continue the training.
Pups are weaned on to a raw diet and are not vaccinated prior to going to new homes. Since most pups go to their new homes between 8-10 weeks of age, maternal antibodies would still interfere with any attempt at vaccination. We prefer that you follow Jean Dodd's minimal vaccine protocol if you decide to vaccinate your pup. Titer tests are recommended instead of repeated vaccinations. Titers offer proof that the pup has antibodies to distemper and parvovirus and are a much better idea than multiple booster shots. Of course, rabies vaccine is given to all dogs at the appropriate age by law. Stool samples will be checked at least twice for parasites and deworming medication will be given only for positive tests.
All puppies are micro chipped for ID and examined by a vet at approximately 7 weeks of age. Puppy temperament testing is also performed at 7 -8 weeks old.
Socialization both here and out in the world is extremely important. Visitors are welcomed to meet the pups after they are 3 weeks old. At 5 weeks the pups learn to ride in the car and start socializing at stores, parks, and the local gun club. Trips to public places several times weekly continue while pups are here and should be continued by new owners after bringing their new pup home. Pups will be introduced to swimming (weather permitting), farm animals including ducks, rabbits, chickens, and at times cows and horses, other adult dogs, and as many different types of people as possible. Pups go home with a 'Socialization list'- a list of things the pup has been exposed to, things he needs more exposure to, and things he still needs to be exposed to.
Matching Puppies to New Families
Puppy temperaments are evaluated as they grow up and through temperament testing at 7 weeks. A pup's activity level, drive, reaction to new things, and aptitude for certain dog sports are all carefully considered when making a match. Your lifestyle, family members, activity level, and level of experience in raising and training a pup are all considered when picking out a puppy for you. Color and gender preference will be considered also. Pups will not be promised to new owners until their puppy temperament tests at 7 weeks. Careful notes are taken as pups mature and together with the observations of the puppy tester will determine which puppy is best suited for each family. Allowing an experienced breeder to chose your puppy for you ensures that you end up with a puppy that fits in smoothly with you and your family. A shy, quiet pup would not be happy in a large busy family, and a high drive pup with a strong work ethic would not be happy just laying on the couch waiting for you to come home from work. Good family placements help pups reach their full potential.
Socialization is not just haphazardly meeting a few other dogs and the rest of your family. Many breeders advertise that their pups are 'well socialized' because their family members and children have played with them. In reality, those pups are only socialized to that particular house and yard and that particular family. Socialization of a pup is so much more than that. The window for socialization is relatively short, most experts agree that pups not well socialized by 12-16 weeks may have lost the opportunity to reach their full potential. Pups need to be exposed to new sounds, sights, surfaces to walk on, places, experiences, and also learn to allow handling and grooming. However, these experiences need to be controlled so that the pup gains confidence and learns to 'bounce back' from anything upsetting. Insisting that a pup continue to interact with something or someone when they are uncomfortable will only teach him that you don't have his best interests at heart. Better to back up to the level where they were last comfortable (allow him to approach new people at his pace- don't play pass the puppy if he is obviously not happy being held by strangers, back away from the a scary new object until you find a distance where he is not upset and click and treat his interest, etc) Also, coddling your puppy when he is afraid teaches him that you agree, there was something to be afraid of. Far better to act nonchalant, approach the new object and touch it yourself, showing pup that its a perfectly safe situation and you are not worried at all. Having your pup gain confidence and learning to recover from upset is your goal.
Socialization should be ongoing, when you pick up your pup you will receive a list of things and situations your pup has been exposed to and also that he needs more exposure to. I highly recommend that you read at least one book on proper puppy socialization and have a well thought out plan in place to accomplish your pup's socialization goals before you pick up your puppy. A puppy play or kindergarten class is absolutely necessary for continued dog-dog socialization and for you to learn to redirect your pup to focus attention back to you while your pup is wound up and excited.