The Afghan Hound is native to Afghanistan and is one of the most ancient dog breeds, if not the oldest. Afghans are believed to be the first sight hounds, dogs who hunt by sight and chase down their prey, often killing it. While the actual age of the breed is in dispute, Egyptian writings dating back to 8000 B.C. depict long-haired, greyhound-type dogs. In the mountains of their native Afghanistan, Afghan Hounds excelled at coursing large game for hunters, including snow leopards, gazelle, and antelope.
The breed stayed pure for centuries because exportation of these prized dogs was prohibited. The first Afghan Hounds came to Great Britain as contraband from Afghanistan in the early 1900s, and their long, glamorous coats made them desirable as show dogs. They were formally accepted into the American Kennel Club on September 14, 1948. Because of their gentle disposition, many people keep Afghan Hounds as family pets.
Aristocratic in appearance, Afghan Hounds are tall and lean with long, flowing coats. They are characteristically sweet, dignified and courageous dogs who are quite affectionate and playful with their families and people they know well, but have a natural tendency toward shyness. They are wary of strangers but seldom aggressive toward them, greeting unknown persons with an aloof attitude. Afghan Hounds need early and extensive socialization as puppies to keep them from becoming overly timid.
Sports or Activities
Their physical beauty and grace of movement have made the Afghans Hound a popular show dog breed, but they aren’t just pretty faces. These dogs are strong, agile runners who are happiest when they are running across open fields. Afghans need a great deal of outdoor activity to keep them content.
The Afghan Hound is a sight hound, a dog who hunts by sight rather than scent and chases down his prey. Traditionally prized as hunters companions and herding dogs, their talents make them excellent competitors in lure coursing, herding trials and racing. They love to jump and climb, and can excel in agility trials, also.
Afghans can do well in obedience competitions when they are handled properly. Their emotional sensitivity, high intelligence and desire to do their own thing can make them difficult to train. The owner must deal with these dogs patiently and gently to produce acceptable training results.
The typically suspicious natures of Afghan Hounds make them excellent watch dogs who seldom act aggressively, but who will certainly let their owners know when strangers are near!
Health Problems of Afghan Hounds
Afghan hounds are generally healthy dogs with few inheritable illnesses, but some lines are susceptible to cataracts, hypothyroidism and hereditary myelopathy, a degenerative nerve condition. Hip dysplasia is sometimes seen but not as commonly as in other large breed dogs.
Dogs of this breed are typically sensitive to medications, including anesthesia, cortisone and tranquilizers, which can cause hair loss. A properly maintained coat is vital to the skin health of the Afghan hound. Poor grooming makes these long-haired dogs susceptible to demodectic mange, a parasitic organism that causes hair loss and itching.
Like most deep-chested dog breeds, some Afghan lines are prone to bloat, usually caused by dogs gobbling their food too fast, filling their stomach with air and gas. The stomach twists on its anchors and the contents are unable to move in either direction. To reduce the risk of bloat the Afghan owner should feed his dog two or three small meals a day instead of one large one.
Afghan hounds are a slow-growing breed and one mistake owners make is trying to encourage rapid growth by feeding them a rich diet. A quickly-growing puppy is likely to develop joint problems as he matures. Afghan hounds are considered puppies until they reach their second year, so activities that over stress the joints should be avoided until the dog has reached maturity.
Is the Afghan Hound Right for Your Family?
Although they are affectionate with their owners, Afghans have highly individual personalities that fit their aristocratic appearance. An independent and stubborn dog breed, Afghans can be hard to handle, but will benefit from short, consistent obedience training sessions at an early age and early socialization to new people, sounds, and places. They tend to be emotionally sensitive dogs who don’t take harsh treatment well and prefer that their daily routine has few changes.
As family companions, they usually accept children they are raised with but arenâ€™t generally fond of them otherwise. Afghans arenâ€™t recommended for families with young or boisterous children, but will do fine in a family with calm older children who know how to handle dogs. Their natural wariness toward strangers makes them good watch dogs who will let you know when someone is approaching.
Afghan hounds need lots of daily exercise, and do best in a home with a large fenced-in yard to romp in. A long, brisk, daily walk may satisfy their need to roam, but running full-tilt over open fields is what really brings them joy!
Well-exercised Afghans will be fairly quiet indoors, and their calm demeanor makes them beautiful, dignified companion animals, but they are high-maintenance dogs. Don’t choose an Afghan hound if this is your first dog or you don’t want to deal with the following issues:
- You can’t commit to the great deal of exercise this dog needs, or you don’t have room for him to run openly.
- Their coats require a great deal of maintenance, and if you donâ€™t care to do it yourself it must be done professionally, adding to your dog owning expenses.
- They have strong hunting instincts; Afghans tend to chase anything that runs and are likely to kill their prey, which could make your dog a neighborhood liability.
- Afghans may be timid or overly suspicious if they aren’t properly socialized.
- Their stubborn streak may make them difficult to housebreak.
Grooming Your Afghan Hound
The Afghan Hound has long, silky hair that is very fine in texture, and may be straight or curly and almost any color. The coat requires extensive maintenance to retain its glamorous appearance. The Afghan Hound is an average shedder, and regular grooming will reduce the amount of hair left around the house.
Itâ€™s important to bathe your Afghan Hound before grooming him. Brushing the coat when the dog is dirty can cause it to tangle easier. Show dogs often get a weekly bath, but if your Afghan Hound is merely a family companion you can bathe him as necessary. However, a weekly bath and brushing can keep the coat in good shape and avoid extended grooming sessions when the coat becomes badly matted.http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/afghan.htm
Work shampoo into the coat in the direction of the hair growth, and rinse very well with lots of clean water. The long coat will benefit from a conditioner that is rinsed out well, or from a leave-in conditioner. Use a towel to blot excess water from the coat or let the dog drip dry; never rub the wet coat briskly. Carefully brush out any mats in the coat, and use your fingers to check for mats behind the ears and in the armpits as well.
Curly-haired Afghans should be blow dried right away, and straight-haired varieties should be blow-dried after the dog has air-dried for about an hour. Blow drying the hair into shape will help train it into position. Some Afghan owners put a snood on their dogs to keep their ears out of the food bowl!