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Ron Willbie, Animal Photography
Alice van Kempen, Animal Photography
This aloof, quiet and beautiful dog is from the Sahel region of Africa, a desert area where he traveled with nomads and guarded their tents. It is difficult to rehome an Azawakh because he becomes so attached to his people.
Resembling a runway model, the leggy and elegant Azawakh comes to us from the Sahel region of Africa, which touches Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. He has long been a prized companion of the nomadic Touareg people. He is more devoted than the typical sighthound.
The Azawakh is a rare sighthound; he is aloof, with a complex personality, and he has the unusual characteristic of being protective. While he is beautiful to look at and quiet to live with, the Azawakh is not suited to every home.
The Azawakh is intelligent and loyal. He must live indoors with his family, never outside with little attention. Puppies must go to their homes at an early age, and it’s not easy to re-home an older Azawakh because he has difficulty adjusting. Before you get one, be sure you are willing and able to commit to him for life. Puppies need extensive socialization to new people, places and situations, which should continue throughout the dog’s life.
Unlike most sighthounds, Azawakhs have a protective streak and will bark at strangers. This is not a dog who will lead the burglar to the family silver.
Sighthounds such as the Azawakh are built for speed. His thin skin is stretched over a frame of muscle and bone. He should not be fat. Ignore people who accuse you of underfeeding him. He needs regular exercise to stay conditioned and is an ace competitor in lure coursing, a sport that involves chasing a mechanically operated artificial lure.
Like every sighthound, Azawakhs have a strong prey drive. He gets along with other dogs, but if you have cats or small dogs, they will not be safe around an Azawakh unless he has been brought up with them from an early age. Even so, it’s best to supervise them when they’re together and to separate them when you’re not home. And the Azawakh who gets along with small pets indoors may forget that they are his pals if he sees them running around outside. He certainly won’t have any qualms about chasing unknown cats or other small furry animals, so he must always be walked on leash.
The Azawakh can live contentedly in an apartment or condo as long as he gets a daily walk or run of at least half an hour. He’s an excellent partner for joggers and runners and is then satisfied to be a couch potato for the rest of the day. Never permit an Azawakh to run free except in a safely enclosed area. An underground electronic fence does not constitute a safe enclosure, by the way. The Azawakh will run right over it, heedless of any level of shock.
Although he loves to run, the Azawakh is not a play-with-the-kids kind of dog. Choose a different breed if you have young children or very active children who want a dog as a playmate. For older children who like to spend their time playing video games or reading, however, the Azawakh can be a good companion, as long as someone in the family provides the exercise he needs.
This is not a breed that thrives in cold or wet conditions. With his thin skin and low level of body fat, the Azawakh needs an indoor environment with cushioned surfaces to rest his bones.
Azawakhs are proud and independent. They respond well to positive reinforcement techniques, but punishment or heavy-handed methods will cause them to shut down. If you are firm, fair and provide the right motivation, they learn quickly and easily.
The Azawakh is a sighthound from the Sahel region of Africa, which encompasses parts of the West African nations of Mali and Niger, including an area called Azawakh Valley. The dogs have accompanied the wandering Touareg people for centuries and were kept as hunting and guard dogs as well as valued companions, sharing the tents of their people. Little else is known of their history. There is no doubt, however, that back in the mists of time they share ancestors with the Saluki and Sloughi. In fact, another name for him is Touareg Sloughi.
The breed was first brought to the United States in the 1980s. The United Kennel Club recognized the Azawakh in 1993. The breed is not recognized by the American Kennel Club but has been part of the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service since 1997. Azawakh can compete in the AKC’s Miscellaneous Class, as well as lure coursing, agility and obedience events.
The Azawakh bonds strongly to a single person or family, and with them he is affectionate, gentle and playful. Puppies must be placed in homes at an early age if they are to adapt, and older dogs who must be placed in new homes may find it difficult to adjust to the change. The dogs aren’t clingy, though. They are satisfied to be with their people and don’t seek a lot of physical contact.
More so than many sighthound breeds, Azawakhs are watchful and protective of their families and property. Most hounds will give away the family silver, but the Azawakh will bark at strangers, and his voice is definitely intimidating. Non-family members who visit the home will be greeted with an attitude ranging from indifference to mild friendliness. No matter how much socialization he gets, the Azawakh is never going to be buddy-buddy with everyone he meets. It’s just not his style.
This is a stoic dog with a high tolerance for pain. It can be difficult to know if the Azawakh has been injured or is ill. Check him over carefully every once in a while to make sure he doesn’t have a nail sticking out of his foot, a tear in his thin skin or some other injury that would have another dog howling.
While it’s definitely a great idea for an Azawakh to have a fenced yard, he won’t exercise in it by himself. It’s necessary to take him for a half-hour run or walk to ensure that he maintains his svelte and muscular body. Afterward, he’ll be happy to recline on your sofa for the rest of the day.
The Azawakh is highly intelligent and learns quickly. Train him with positive reinforcement techniques such as praise and food rewards. Punishment or heavy-handed methods will backfire with this proud, independent dog.
Azawakhs have a strong prey drive. If they are to live safely and amicably with cats or toy dogs, they must be brought up with them from an early age. Even then, it’s smart not to leave them together unsupervised. And an Azawakh who gets along with his family’s pets will not extend the same courtesy to the neighbor’s cat or other small animals he sees outdoors. Running children could also be at risk if no one is there to supervise. An Azawakh who is sighted on prey has a one-track mind, breathtaking speed and impressive stamina. To keep him safe, he should be off–leash only in a securely fenced yard or park.
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 Azawakh, 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. Here are some conditions to be aware of.
Azawakh may have atypical blood work and other lab results. Reviewing the known ways in which the Greyhound differs from other dogs may assist your veterinarian in determining if your Azawakh has a health problem or simply an "abnormal normal." The Azawakh may be prone to hypothyrodism and a bleeding disorder called von Willebrand disease.
The Azawakh is one of the deep-chested breeds at increased risk of bloat, a condition in which the stomach expands with air. If the stomach then twists on itself, cutting off blood flow, it becomes the more serious condition, gastic torsion. Gastric torsion or gastric dilatation volvulus, strikes suddenly, and a dog who was fine one minute can be dead a few hours later. Watch for symptoms like restlessness and pacing, drooling, pale gums and lip licking, trying to throw up but without bringing anything up, and signs of pain. Gastric torsion requires immediate veterinary surgery, and most dogs that have bloated once will bloat again. That means it’s wise to opt for the procedure known as "stomach tacking," which will keep the stomach from twisting in the future. This procedure can also be done as a preventive measure.
Hip dysplasia is virtually unheard of in the Azawakh, so if your dog is limping, painful, stiff or reluctant to get up or move around, look for another cause. There are a number of neck and spinal problems that can cause those symptoms, and for any persistent musculoskeletal problem in an Azawakh, your veterinarian may refer you to a board-certified orthopedic surgeon.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it is impossible to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for common defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
A good breeder will be able to discuss how prevalent all health problems, those with and those without genetic screening tests, are in her dogs' lines, and help puppy buyers make an informed decision about health risks to their dog.
If a breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those tests because she's never had problems in her lines and her dogs have been "vet checked," then you should go find a breeder who is more rigorous about genetic testing.
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 Azawakh 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.
Looking for a dog with an easy-care coat? The Azawakh has you covered. Weekly brushing of his smooth, shorthaired coat and regular nail trimming and ear cleaning are all he needs to stay clean and in good condition, plus the occasional bath if he rolls in something stinky.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every few weeks. Like most sighthounds, Azawakhs are sensitive about having their feet handled, so practice this early on with a puppy and be sure you never hurt him when you are touching his feet. He’ll never forget it. Keep the ears clean and dry to prevent bacterial or yeast infections from taking hold. Brush the teeth frequently with a veet-approved pet toothpaste 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 is possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than in making big bucks.
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 most 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 Azawakh and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Azawakh Association of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the AAA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores.
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. 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. 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.
Many 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 Azawakh 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.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Azawakh 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 can have you searching for a Azawakh 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 Azawakhs 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 a Azawakh. 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
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Azawakhs love all Azawakhs. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The American Azawakh Association’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 Azawakh 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 a Azawakh 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 Azawakh, 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, take your Azawakh 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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