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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
The aristocratic Afghan Hound is a study in cool elegance. Rather than following his people around, he expects them to come to him if they need some attention. He lives to run, but once he’s had his daily exercise in a safely fenced area, he is ready for some serious couch time and then maybe some counter-surfing. His glamorous coat requires extreme devotion to its care.
British military officers brought this breed to the West after being posted to the India-Afghanistan border.
The Afghan Hound is aloof and elegant, but beneath his long, glamorous coat beats the heart of a hunter. He was bred to course hare and gazelle over the rugged terrain of his native Afghanistan. Today, this medium-size sighthound, weighing 50 to 60 pounds, still has a strong instinct to run and chase.
Don’t purchase an Afghan Hound unless you’re prepared to make a commitment to coat care and exercise. He is not a lounge lizard and needs a long daily walk on leash or a chance to run in a traffic-free area. He’s a natural at lure coursing, so consider taking up that sport as a way of channeling his athletic ability and speed. The Afghan can also be found competing in agility, obedience and rally, and some are therapy dogs.
When his exercise needs are met, the Afghan Hound is a calm, quiet companion who likes to have access to soft bedding or furniture. He’s reserved with strangers and not overly demonstrative with his own family, but he does have a silly side that makes him entertaining to live with. With children the Afghan Hound is gentle if he has been raised with them, but he’s not really a “playmate” kind of dog. The Afghan bonds deeply with his family, and it can take time for him to adjust if he must be placed with someone else. Don’t get an Afghan if you don’t think you’ll be able to keep him for his entire life.
The Afghan Hound is an independent thinker, but he is trainable with the use of positive reinforcement techniques, particularly with food rewards. Begin training when he is young and still somewhat malleable, keep training sessions short and fun, and avoid harsh corrections. Remember, too, that the Afghan’s height of 25 to 27 inches at the shoulder, combined with the insatiable appetite of the hound, makes him the perfect counter surfer. Put food well out of reach if you don’t want him to help himself.
You’ll need a securely fenced yard to keep the Afghan from chasing the neighborhood cats, and that doesn’t mean an underground electronic fence. If the Afghan Hound wants to leave the yard, a shock isn’t going to stop him. He’s a good jumper, so the fence should be at least six feet high.
This is a house dog. It’s an unhappy Afghan who is relegated to the backyard with little attention from his family.
The Afghan Hound is from Afghanistan, but little is known of his early history or how long he has existed. A drawing of one of the dogs, sent home by Thomas Duer Broughton while he was in India in 1809, was published in a book of letters in 1813, so the breed has certainly been around for more than 200 years and likely very much longer. Studies of the canine genome indicate that the Afghan descends from one of the oldest types of dogs.
The dogs in Afghanistan were found in several different types, depending on the region they were from. Dogs from mountainous areas were more compact with darker, heavier coats, while desert-dwelling dogs were more rangy, with coats that were lighter in both color and volume. They were used to course fast-running game such as deer and antelope, as well as hares, wolves and jackals. Hunting in partnership with falcons, they flushed quail and partridges for the falcon to bring down or the hunter to shoot.
British military officers brought the dogs to the West after being posted to the India-Afghanistan border. The dogs died out in Europe during World War I because food shortages limited the breeding and keeping of dogs, but breeding began again in 1920 when some desert-type Afghans were imported to Scotland by people who had been stationed in Baluchistan. Some of the mountain-type dogs were sent from Kabul to England in 1925. During the same decade, Americans imported some of the Afghans from Britain. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1926, but the Afghan Hound Club of America wasn’t formed until 1937. Today the Afghan ranks 86th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
The Afghan Hound is aloof and dignified, except when he’s being silly. Aloof doesn’t mean shy; he should never be afraid of people and is usually not aggressive toward them. He takes his time getting to know people outside his family. People who are fortunate enough to be allowed into his circle of friends will experience a dog with an exuberant nature and a wicked sense of humor.
Afghans do everything to extremes. They are drama queens and food thieves, bossy and mischievous. They have a high prey drive, and although they may get along with the cats they were raised with, outdoor cats should fear for their lives when the Afghan springs into action.
The Afghan is an independent thinker. He’s happy to do what you ask—as long as that’s what he wanted to do anyway. He’s highly intelligent and learns quickly, but he won’t always respond to your commands, er, requests. He’s thinking about it. Maybe he’ll do it later. Or not. This can make him frustrating to train and even more frustrating to compete with. Afghans have done well in sports such as agility and lure coursing, but only when their people have extreme patience, a never-ending sense of humor and a good command of positive reinforcement techniques to lure him into compliance.
The sport in which the Afghan excels, of course, is lure coursing. If you are able to let him participate in this activity, you’ll be rewarded by the sight of his breeding and heritage in action.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from an Afghan, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
In Afghan Hounds, health problems can include hip and elbow dysplasia, juvenile cataracts; thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that destroys the thyroid gland; laryngeal paralysis; and bleeding disorders such as von Willebrand disease. At a minimum, ask the breeder to show evidence that both parents have been certified free of juvenile cataracts by a veterinary ophthalmologist and have a hip evaluation of excellent, good or fair from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
The Afghan Hound Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For an Afghan Hound to achieve CHIC certification, he must have Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or PennHIP certification for hips, an OFA thyroid evaluation and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation.
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease, but all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents.
Don't fall for a dishonest breeder's sales pitch. If the breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those tests because she's never had problems in her lines, her dogs have been "vet checked," or any of the other excuses bad breeders have for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away immediately.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping an Afghan Hound at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Afghan Hound has long, thick, silky hair with a fine texture. The coat does not need to be clipped or trimmed; the dog wears it in all its glory. The finishing touch is a topknot of long, silky hair.
Grooming is an essential part of living with an Afghan. Plan to brush and comb the Afghan Hound’s thick, silky hair three times a week to prevent or remove mats and tangles, and bathe him as needed. You may want to invest in a professional dog blow dryer if you bathe him frequently.
The Afghan sheds moderately. The more often you brush him, the less hair you will have falling off the dog and onto your floors, furniture and clothing.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails at least monthly, and keep the long, hanging ears clean and dry to prevent infections. At mealtime, you’ll probably want to put the ears up in a snood to keep them from dragging in the food dish. Good dental hygiene is also important. Brush the teeth frequently for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life. Look for more information about the Afghan and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Afghan Hound Club of America.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical and should be reported to the American Kennel Club. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of an Afghan puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Afghan might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy.
With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for an Afghan in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Afghans available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for an Afghan. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Afghans love all Afghans. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Afghan Hound Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Afghan rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring an Afghan home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Afghan Hound, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, a breeder purchase or a rescue, take your Afghan to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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