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Alice Van Kempen, Animal Photography
At first glance, you might imagine that the Pharaoh Hound is a sculpture chiseled in sandstone of some ancient Egyptian king’s favorite dog. Then you see him run. As beautiful in motion as he is at rest, he’s also a funny and fascinating character.
The Pharaoh Hound has long had a reputation as one of the oldest of breeds, said to date to 3,000 B.C.E. Modern genetics, however, show that the breed was created much more recently, perhaps in the 17th century on the island of Malta.
He may look exotic and regal, but the Pharaoh Hound has a sense of humor. You will need one too if you’re going to live with him. Variously aloof, playful, intense, and goofy, he thinks for himself, steals food whenever and wherever it’s available, chases moving objects at every opportunity, and can flat-foot jump a 6-foot fence. Plan on increasing the height of your fence to 8 feet if you want to keep him contained. And forget about an underground electronic fence that gives a shock when the dog crosses it. He may blow right through it — and he won’t come back.
The Pharaoh Hound’s athleticism makes him a natural at agility and lure coursing, and he can also do well in obedience, rally, and tracking. He’ll enjoy regular exercise of 20 to 30 minutes daily, on leash, plus free play in his well-fenced yard. Once those needs are met, he’s satisfied to be a couch potato, lounging on your furniture, preferably in a sunny spot, and rousing to bark only if someone comes to the door.
Pharaoh Hounds enjoy kids and will play with them for hours. They may be too rambunctious for families with toddlers, however. The Pharaoh Hound is also good at entertaining himself. He’ll check in on you once in a while to see if you’re doing anything interesting, but he’s not one to dog your footsteps.
The Pharaoh Hound’s short, glossy coat is easy to groom. Give it a weekly brushing to remove dead hairs, and trim nails, brush teeth, and clean the ears regularly.
Because he sees it as attention, the Pharaoh Hound enjoys training. Use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play, and food rewards, and keep training sessions short. He hates repetition, especially when he already knows the action being requested.
Pharaoh Hounds bark. Teach them early on when it’s okay to bark and when it’s not or you will end up with a nuisance barker. They also dig. So even if your Pharaoh Hound can’t jump your fence, he may well be able to dig beneath it unless you have taken steps to make it dig proof.
Sighthounds are attracted by movement, and the Pharaoh Hound will happily chase
cats and other small furry animals. If he is brought up with them from an early age, he can live amicably with
cats or small dogs. Even so, it’s best to supervise them when they’re together and to separate them when you’re not home.
With his thin coat and bony body, it goes without saying that the Pharaoh Hound needs to live in the house, preferably with access to soft furniture or bedding, and never outdoors. He isn’t built to withstand cold weather, and besides, he loves his people. It’s an unhappy Pharaoh Hound who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.
Like most dogs, Pharaoh Hounds can become bored when left to their own devices. They can easily become noisy or destructive if they don’t have other dogs to keep them company or don’t receive much attention from their people.
When he’s done something that makes you angry — and he will — don’t count on a show of remorse. The Pharaoh Hound knows that all he has to do is flash a toothy grin or show you his famous Pharaoh Hound bounce, and you’ll forgive him. Sooner or later.
The Pharaoh Hound has long had a reputation as one of the oldest of dog breeds, originating in Egypt in 3,000 B.C.E. Modern genetics, however, show that the breed was created much more recently, probably in the 17th century on the island of Malta, where it is called the Kelb tal-Fenek and used to hunt rabbits. The breed was declared the national dog of Malta in 1979.
The first Pharaoh Hounds were imported to the United Statesin 1967. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1983. The Pharaoh Hound currently ranks 156th among the breeds registered by the AKC, down from 137th a decade ago. The Pharaoh is an unusual breed that’s not right for everyone, but people with a sense of humor will find him delightful.
The Pharaoh Hound has an interesting temperament. A single dog can be aloof, playful, intense, or goofy, depending on his mood. With his family he is loving and affectionate, but on his own terms and in his own good time, much like a cat.
One of the benefits of living with a Pharaoh is his ability to entertain himself when you are busy. He’s not the kind of dog who will follow you around constantly. He’ll check in on you once in a while, but otherwise he’s satisfied to be on his own. Just be sure you know what he’s up to.
The Pharaoh’s independent nature can come as a shock to people who are used to dogs that are more willing to please. A Pharaoh is more interested in doing as he pleases. Don’t expect him to care if you’re unhappy that he ate your favorite chair because he didn’t have anything else to do. Pharaoh Hounds are intensely curious and intensely inventive. Those traits can be entertaining, but they can just as easily turn destructive if the dog is bored.
Other pets have little to fear from the Pharaoh if he is raised with them from puppyhood, but with a sighthound it’s always smart to supervise interactions with pets such as
cats or toy-size dogs. Favorite toys are stuffed animals that he can pounce on and “kill.”
A Pharaoh is a lounge lizard of a dog. He likes to find the softest, sunniest spot in the house and laze away the morning. And don’t expect to relegate him to a dog bed. This is a dog who likes the comforts of the sofa or bed. Once he’s settled, you won’t hear much out of him unless the doorbell rings or he hears a stranger coming around. He’s not afraid to express his opinions, though. He’ll bark if he wants something, bark if he sees something, maybe even bark just to hear his own voice.
Next to chasing small furry animals, food is one of the Pharaoh’s greatest interests. He is a world class counter surfer when no one’s looking. If he’s being observed, he will stand on his hind legs and “sight” the items of interest. Keep an eagle eye on him if you don’t your dinner fixings to disappear.
When he’s not adorning the sofa, stealing your lunch, or barking at squirrels, the Pharaoh enjoys the pleasures of digging and jumping. It’s not unusual for him to be able to flat-foot leap a 6-foot fence. So put up one that’s 8 feet tall and undiggable. And don’t count on an underground electronic fence to contain him. A Pharaoh may blow right through it, and he’s smart enough not risk a shock by coming back over it.
Smart owners channel the Pharaoh’s athleticism into dog sports such as lure coursing — a natural for this breed — and agility. Many Pharaohs have dual championships in the show ring and lure coursing.
As long as he’s having a good time, this is a dog who takes well to training and learns quickly. Don’t bore him by asking him to repeat things he already knows. Schedule short training sessions of about 10 minutes several times a day.
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.
The Pharaoh Hound is a healthy breed overall, and the
Pharaoh Hound Club of America is working to keep it that way by participating in a program operated by the
Canine Health Information Center (CHIC). For a Pharaoh Hound to become CHIC-certified, the breeder must submit hip, patella (knee), and thyroid evaluations from the
Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Hip evaluations from the
PennHIP (PennHIP) are also accepted.
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. If the 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 good lives. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
As far as general health, Pharaoh Hounds can be prone to dry, flaky skin, especially in winter. Ask your veterinarian about nutritional supplements and coat moisturizers that can help. Some Pharaoh Hounds develop food or skin allergies. They can also develop stomach and intestinal problems, and
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the more common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Pharaoh Hound at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of diet and exercise to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Pharaoh Hound has a short, glossy coat. The texture ranges from fine to slightly harsh. This type of coat is simple to groom. Give it a good going over with a rubber curry brush weekly, then polish it with a chamois cloth (not one that has been treated with any chemicals). The coat sheds very little, and with regular brushing the Pharaoh should need a bath only rarely.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-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 a great way to find 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.
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 Pharaoh Hound and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the
Pharaoh Hound Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the PHCA’s
code of conduct, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and recommends that breeders screen dogs for genetic problems before breeding them.
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 PHCA and 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. 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 a Pharaoh 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, field 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. Breeders typically do not permit puppies to go to their new homes before they are 8 weeks old.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Pharaoh Hound 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
Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Pharaoh 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 Pharaohs available on Petfinder across the country).
AnimalShelter.org 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 Pharaoh. 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 Pharaohs love all Pharaohs. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The
Pharaoh 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 Pharaoh 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 Pharaoh 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 Pharaoh 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, take your Pharaoh 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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