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Sam Clark, Animal Photography
If you've ever dreamed of a small, curvy dog something like a tiny Borzoi, with a long, flowing coat and soulful eyes, then you've dreamed of a Silken Windhound. These gentle dogs are descended from the larger Borzoi, the shorter-coated Whippet, and a bit of Sheltie, but are today very much a breed all their own.
The oldest known Silken Windhound lived a few months past her 20th birthday. Many Silkens live well into their teen years.
Many Silkens are the favored pets of Borzoi owners who wanted something similar but smaller. They are, indeed, very like the Borzoi, although they tend to weigh between only 20 and 45 pounds. Their silky coats come in all colors and patterns, and require weekly brushing to prevent tangles. They shed, but not excessively.
Like all his sighthound cousins, the Silken Windhound loves to run, and his desire to chase things is extremely powerful. However, he's a bit more trainable than the other members of the Greyhound family, and much more likely to do well in dog parks, and to be fairly easy to train to come when called even when a young dog.
Silken Windhounds are typically clean and well-mannered. Silken Windhounds tend to be very good with children, cats, and other dogs. They are housedogs and will always appreciate having a comfy place to lie down. Sharing the sofa with you is perfect.
Most sighthounds are large or giant breeds. The Whippet is a medium-size sighthound, but Borzoi breeder Francie Stull wanted a medium-size sighthound with a coat more like that of her Borzois. She couldn’t find anything like that, so she set about designing a new breed that met her criteria: an elegant, medium-size hound with an affectionate, confident personality and a long, silken, easy-care coat in all sighthound colors and color combinations.
Starting with Borzoi, she crossed them with small Whippet-based lurchers and Whippets from show and coursing lines. The first litter of what was to become Silken Windhounds arrived in 1985, but the actual name was not adopted until 1998. The International Silken Windhound Society, chartered in 1999, maintains all pedigrees and DNA-verified registrations for the breed. A breed standard was adopted in 2001.
Silken Windhounds are found throughout the United States as well as in Austria, the Bahamas, Canada, Finland, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Japan, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Union of South Africa. They are not recognized by the American Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club.
The Silken Windhound has an extremely friendly personality, and is an affectionate family dog. He is happiest when he is with his human pack and likes to be included in all activities. He is quite easy to train and very eager to please his owner. He is built for running — really fast — and requires daily exercise, but he also knows how to kick back and relax. He is gentle, though never timid or nervous.
Like other sighthounds, the Silken Windhound is intelligent and independent, affectionate and aloof. He has a balanced, quiet personality, though he does have a strong prey drive. He is suitable for families with kids if raised with them, and gets along with other pets.
Training should begin right away for the Silken Windhound puppy. Even at 8 weeks old, he is capable of learning good manners. Never wait until he is 6 months old to begin training, or you will have a bigger, more headstrong dog to handle. Take him to a puppy kindergarten class at 10 to 12 weeks of age (when he’s started his puppy shots), and continue training as he grows up.
Most important, socialize. That simply means that you want to introduce your Silken Windhound to as many new people, situations and experiences as possible in his first few months of puppyhood. He should meet at least 100 different people by the time he is 4 months old. Hang out nearby your local coffee shop or post office and introduce him to everyone who walks by. Invite people to your home, too, so he becomes accustomed to visitors. These experiences as a young dog will help him grow into a sensible, calm adult dog.
Talk with a reputable, experienced Silken Windhound 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. Choose a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized by the breeder from birth.
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.
Silken Windhounds are typically very healthy, and the International Silken Windhound Society is particularly proactive in keeping them that way. Every registered Silken has his or her DNA banked with a genetic tracking project at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and genetic testing is aggressively promoted for those conditions that do affect the breed.
One such genetic defect in the breed, Lotus syndrome, is believed to be the canine equivalent of the human disease known as "fetal akinesia deformation sequence," or FADS. Although there is no genetic test for Lotus syndrome at this time, this is primarily a matter of heartbreak for breeders rather than something the average pet owner will have to deal with, because the affected puppies do not survive long past birth.
A good breeder will be able to discuss how prevalent these and other conditions are in her dogs' lines, and help puppy buyers make an informed decision about health risks to their dog.
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 a Silken Windhound 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 beautiful, silky locks of the Silken Windhound look harder to maintain than they are. Brush him a few times a week with a slicker brush to keep tangles from forming, and bathe him every eight to twelve weeks in a mild shampoo.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually once a month. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath. Check the ears weekly for dirt, redness or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner. Begin grooming your Silken Windhound puppy when he is very young so he learns to accept grooming patiently as he grows up.
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. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means or how it comes about.
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 Silken Windhound and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the International Silken Windhound Society. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the ISWS’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores, as well as the Guidelines for Breeders, which spell out responsibilities to buyers.
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.
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.
Don’t buy a puppy from a pet store or via a quickie online purchase. It’s extremely unlikely that a pet store puppy’s parents have health clearances, and you have no way of knowing the conditions in which the puppy was raised. Puppies from pet stores have a higher risk of being unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain, and purchasing from a pet store supports the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
The cost of a Silken Windhound 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 Silken Windhound 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 Silken Windhound 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 Silken Windhounds 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 Silken Windhound. 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 Silken Windhounds love all Silken Windhounds. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The International Silken Windhound Society'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 Silken Windhound 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 Silken Windhound 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 dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers or visitors?
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 Silken Windhound, 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 Silken Windhound to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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