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Welcome back to another Breed of the Week post. I am so excited about this one because I have met exactly one of these dogs, and he was one of the coolest dogs I’ve ever seen. A Komondor is basically a walking mop. Their dreadlocked coats hang into their eyes, around their paws, and over their whole body till they look like one big mess, and the effect is totally charming. I didn’t meet a Komondor recently – it was over the summer, actually – but I was reminded of it the other day when I finally had to break down and mop the kitchen. I pulled out the rarely-used mop and suddenly recalled that gentle giant we met at a dog event a few towns over.
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Komondorok (that’s how you refer to multiple Komondor dogs) were bred in Hungary to guard livestock. They have had this job in Europe for thousands of years, particularly in cold mountainous regions. Despite living primarily with flocks of goats and sheep, the Komondor is not a herding dog. Their function was to chase away thieves or predators. One theory is that the breed was cultivated for its white, shaggy locks because it helped them blend in with the sheep better, so thieves or predators couldn’t see them and avoid them.
The Komondor was one of the earlier breeds to be recognized by the AKC, going back before World War II; however, when the 40s and 50s came around, imports from Hungary and that region of Europe were put on hold. That meant that the breed’s presence in America took a sharp nose dive. It wasn’t until the mid-60s that breeders banded together to try to save the breed from near extinction. These days, the Komondor is one of the least-popular breeds ranked by the AKC. That’s not because the dogs are bad, but more because they just never quite bounced back from the Cold War era. Having a Komondor, or meeting one, is a rare occurrence, and that makes these dogs pretty special!
Komondorak are guard dogs through and through. They tend to have sort of two different faces: With the people that they know and trust, they are calm and gentle, and even very affectionate. However, these dogs will always be the “responsible” one in the group, more like a sweet and caring nanny than a friend to party with.
But on the other hand, Komondorak can range from standoffish to outright aggressive with people that they don’t know or trust. They absolutely do make great guard dogs for protection because they have no problem getting between you and anyone they see as an intruder. These dogs are typically very territorial and will keep other animals and people out of their yard or home.
Komondorak tend to be pretty independent due to thousands of years of basically being sent out with a herd alone to guard them till the owner came back for them. They are very smart dogs as well. For example, they usually always remember someone they have met before. That’s not to say that they’ll immediately want to be friends – a person who is known but not a member of the family will likely just get a shy stare – but it’s a good example of how smart this breed is. Even I don’t remember everyone I’ve met.
Komondorak need firm training, but they do like training as long as its mentally stimulating. This is not a breed that handles boredom well. Most Komondorak end up being show dogs, or working dogs, even today, simply because being just a companion doesn’t offer enough stimulation for these dogs to keep them from getting aggressive. These dogs tend to respond very well to rewards, and be sure to choose something that supports healthy joints if you’re feeding it to a Komondor puppy. Like all large breeds, they can suffer issues due to growing too fast.
Komondorak stand a minimum of 25 inches tall, but are often much taller, and adult dogs of this breed weigh a minimum of 80 to 100 pounds – yes, a minimum! These dogs can easily weigh more. They are hefty animals that are very strong and muscled under all that hair.
The Komondor coat is a very dense mixture of a soft, woolly undercoat and a coarser outer coat that is curly. These begin to cord together to make tassels or dreadlocks that then simply grow dreaded like that from then on. This dreading process begins when the dog is a puppy, around the age of eight months. The coat is always white, or off-white. It can sometimes look a bit gray, but the AKC does not recognize any color other than white for this breed. A Komondor’s age can be estimated based on the length of his dreadlocks, which only get longer with age.
They do have hanging ears and a long tail, but both are obscured by all that hair, so it’s kind of hard to tell unless they start moving around. And while most Komondor owners keep the dreads shorter around the face, it’s still pretty common to see a Komondor with his eyes partially covered by the hair. Don’t think that means he can’t see you!
A Komondor has to be groomed every single day. This is non-negotiable with this breed, though there is a trade off in that this breed doesn’t need much exercise. To groom a Komondor, you’ll need to separate the individual dreadlocks each day as they start to twist and tangle together. You can do this with your hands, just keeping each cord separate so that it doesn’t start to become one solid matted sheet of fur. The coat does attract a lot of dirt, so it’s a good idea to keep a waterless shampoo around so you can clean them up between regular baths.Any time the coat starts to get a smell, this dog needs a bath; however, don’t expect them to look snow white past puppyhood. It’s impossible to have those cords of hair without the color fading a bit to a more off-white or grey color. On the plus side, the Komondor only sheds about once a year, and not very much at all during that time.
You will need to either learn how to trim your Komondor’s hair around his mouth and face, or take him to a groomer regularly. It’s also pretty common got have to clean your dog’s face after he eats so that crumbs don’t get caught in the dreadlocks around his head. Another thing the Komondor really needs is to have his ears checked every day for dirt or wax build-up. Because the ears don’t get any air, it’s easy for bacteria to grow. Keep some ear wipes around to wipe away wax or dirt under the ear, and your Komondor will stay much healthier. As with all dogs, the Komondor needs to have his teeth brushed and his nails trimmed regularly to keep him healthy.
Komondorak don’t usually need anything specific in their food, other than to ensure that they are eating a high-quality dog food made for large breeds. If your Komondor has skin issues, you may want to try a low-allergen food. Talk to your vet about what is the best food for your Komondor.
Finally, Komondor have only a medium energy level, and they tend to work out most of it through guarding and being vigilant all the time. Komondorak are often night owls, pacing around the house or staying up all night while you sleep to guard you. So, when it comes to exercise, a simple walk every day may be all you really need to do. That doesn’t mean that a Komondor will be a couch potato – they do like to be outside in large fenced areas. But you don’t have to do too much of intentional exercise.
Intentional training is another matter entirely. Komondorak need a lot of focused attention when it comes to their training and socialization. They should be socialized early and often to keep them from becoming aggressive, and you’ll need to be comfortable being a firm-yet-loving owner if you want to keep this dog in line.
Komondorak live up to around 12 years, making them one of the longer-lived giant breeds. This breed is generally pretty healthy compared to other pure-bred dogs. However, you do need to have a vet watch out for things such as:
These are the four most common health problems that a Komondor will face. Certain things you can do a lot towards preventing yourself. For example, being sure not to overfeed your Komondor, and being sure they get daily exercise, will help them avoid obesity. If your Komondor tends to eat way too fast, try using a bowl designed to slow a dog down, or feed him his food inside a puzzle toy. Not only will this help him avoid bloat, but it also keeps him mentally challenged, which is a great thing for these dogs.
Komondorak are gentle and calm with kids that they have become attached to, but they don’t differentiate between kids and other strangers if they don’t know a child. That means that if you have kids in your family, a Komondor can be a great pet after they all warm up to each other. But if you live next door to kids, for example, a Komondor might chase them out of your yard or give them a warning bark should they come too close. Always supervise a Komondor around small children or children that he does not know.
When it comes to other dogs, most people agree that the Komondor is not a good “pack mate”. These dogs were always raised to live and work alone, and don’t tend to be very friendly with other dogs. They do, however, tend to be good with pets of other species, even cats, because they seem to treat them as livestock to be guarded.
Here are some ways to know if a Komondor is right for you:
If that sounds like a dog you might like, and you are confident in your ability to train a dog or seek a professional, then you may very well be a great match for a Komondor.
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This is such a unique dog to me. Most large breeds tend to be goofy and silly, but this one is a bit of a mystery. While I think the Komondor can get a bad reputation due to bad training, the one we met was very well-behaved, if shy. I think this would make a great pet for a single person who prefers more quiet time and alone time. I also think a Komondor would be a good companion for a more introspective and quiet kid. Despite not being very popular, I think it’s time for the Komondor to make a new comeback.