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rec.pets.dogs: Afghan Hound Breed-FAQ

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Archive-name: dogs-faq/breeds/afghans
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Last-modified: 03 Mar 1998

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This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below. 
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
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                               Afghan Hounds

   Janis Nixon,
   Copyright 1996 by Janis Nixon.
Table of Contents

     * What is an Afghan Hound?
     * How old is the breed?
     * What was the Afghan bred to do?
     * What is the Afghan used for today?
     * Are they easy to train?
     * What colours do they come in?
     * Do they need much exercise?
     * Are Afghan puppies easy to housetrain?
     * With all that hair, aren't they hard to groom?
     * Do Afghans have any genetic defects?
     * What is their temperment like?
     * Do Afghans have any quirks?
     * How long do they live?
     * Are they good with children? 
     * Do they eat a lot?
     * Just how intelligent is an Afghan?
     * Are Afghans a very popular breed?
     * Where can I learn more about Afghans?
What is an Afghan Hound?

   Afghans come from the hound group, or to be more exact are from the
   sighthound family, of which all extremely fast, greyhound-like
   coursing dogs are a part. The Afghan dog stands from 26 to 28 inches
   at the withers, while the bitch stands 24 to 26 inches tall. Males
   weigh approximately 60 pounds and females weigh about 50 pounds. The
   most arresting feature of the elegant Afghan is his coat, which is
   long and silky everywhere on the dog, except on the face and back,
   where it is short and glossy. The Afghan excells as a broken field
   runner, and the breed's agility, endurance, tenacity and cunning are
   legendary. Afghans can double-suspension gallop at speeds of at least
   35 to 40 mph and turn on a dime, can take a broad jump of 20 feet and
   can leap 7 feet straight up from a standing position.
How old is the breed?

   While the greyhound can take credit for being the oldest sighthound
   breed, the Afghan and Saluki are not far behind. In fact it is a
   chicken and egg question as to which of the two latter breeds came
   first. Unfortunately, any information regarding the Afghan's antiquity
   has been lost in the mists of time. Without question, both breeds are
   thousands of years old and in the beginning were interbred to produce
   the best animal for the climate and terrain to be hunted. The western
   world discovered the Afghan during the 19th century when British
   soldiers brought the first specimens back with them to England.
   Originally there were two types of Afghan: The heavily coated,
   close-coupled mountain hound and the lean and elegant desert type,
   carrying less coat. Desert and mountain types were interbred,
   producing the Afghan we know today.
What was the Afghan bred to do?

   Afghans were bred by the peoples of Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern
   India to course game across mountainous terrain. This regal hound is a
   premier hunter of leopards; his historical prey, but they will bring
   down or hold at bay just about anything that will run from them. They
   were owned by royalty and tribesman alike and their main job was to
   protect the villages, to put food in the dinner pot, or simply to
   provide outdoors entertainment for nobility. As h unters, Afghan
   Hounds were held in very high esteem. While the royal hounds were kept
   kenneled, village dogs were semi-feral and were well acquainted with
   fending for themselves.
   Falcons were often flown with the dogs when coursing antelope. Dogs
   were run in braces or alone on all prey, depending on the strength of
   the individual dog. There are some eyewitness accounts of Afghans
   running down leopards solo, seizing the cat by the neck above the
   shoulders and biting through the spine for a kill.
What is the Afghan used for today?

   Today's Afghan is usually kept as a pet, as coursing live game with
   dogs is no longer in vogue. In some countries is totally outlawed.
   Afghans are the darling of the dog show world and with their flowing
   locks and aloof attitude they are hard to beat as showmen. Some lucky
   Afghans have owners who take them lure-coursing, a sport that
   simulates the hunt for sighthounds. When an Afghan actually decides
   that he like obedience, he can perform with the best.
Are they easy to train?

   No they are not. The Afghan is a free thinker. This was a necessity in
   a dog bred to course big cats. Afghans can outrun just about anything
   on rocky and uneven ground, and were often left to themselves in the
   "catch." While an Afghan is very intelligent and cunning, he will use
   this to his own advantage. The trick is to make your Afghan think that
   whatever you wish him to do is really his own idea, and then to praise
   him for being so smart. Afghans do not take to harsh training methods
   and if treated roughly, will often simply refuse to EVER do that
   exercise again. The Afghan can be selectively deaf when asked to do
   something that he deems to be beneath him. They can also be
   breath-takingly creative when doing obedience, much to the chagrin of
   competitive owners.
What colours do they come in?

   Afghans come in all colours but spots, but white or white markings,
   especially on the face, are frowned on. The most common colours are
   black, black and tan and black-masked red. One of the Afghan's most
   engaging points is the rainbow he can come adorned in! Aside from the
   usual colours, there are delicate blue-greys, stripey brindles of all
   hues, navy blues, silvery creams, and various combinations thereof,
   all with or without masking. One of the most unusual colours is
   "domino," where the dog's face colour is lighter than the body coat
   with a darker reverse mask beginning over the eyes, like a Mickey
   Mouse cap effect. In all colours, the eye rims, lips and nose leathers
   must be dark in pigment. Mere words pale beside the kaleidoscope of
   colours that Afghans can wear.
Do they need much exercise?

   While an Afghan is very much at home on the couch watching TV, he
   needs a great deal of exercise or he will become bored. A bored Afghan
   can do an unimaginable amount of very unusual damage to a house and
   its contents. This cat-like hound will open drawers and remove all of
   your underwear for a good chew, climb on the dining room table to go
   after a squirrel outside the window or steal tonight's supper off the
   top of the fridge. With their powerful jaws they can gnaw through a
   chair arm in very little time. A good-sized fenced yard is a
   necessity, as the Afghan can trot at speeds of up to 12 mph for hours
   on end and not even breathe hard.
Are Afghan puppies easy to housetrain?

   No, they are not. Although it depends very much on the individual pup,
   as a rule the lordly Afghan doesn't like being told what to do. Up
   until six months of age Afghans can not be expected to be perfectly
   clean, as they are not mature enough to hold on for extended periods
   of time. When training any Afghan, patience and gentleness are
   required. A good sense of humour helps too.
With all that hair, aren't they hard to groom?

   Yes, grooming is a chore that must be attended to weekly without fail.
   Afghans require weekly baths and brush-outs to prevent that
   spectacular coat from becoming a sorry, tattered mess. The coat
   pattern developes naturally. Pups are often far from what a new owner
   expects, as they do not resemble long-coated adults. Afghan pups are
   born smooth-coated. The thick, soft puppy coat grows in slowly.
   At about one year of age, the steadily lengthening adult coat begins
   to show itself and the puppy coat begins falling out, sometimes taking
   until the dog is three years old before completely gone. This is the
   time when coat care becomes a nightmare, as the puppy coat t angles
   and mats in the burgeoning adult coat. Some pet Afghans find
   themselves clipped down at this stage, as the owner simply gives up.
   Adult Afghans are more susceptible to shedding in the spring and fall,
   after illness and unspayed bitches will lose coat after every season.
   Conscientious breeders will always explain the intricities of good
   coat care and all give new owners grooming lessons. Ill-kept Afghans
   are prone to parasites, abcesses and skin diseases, so meticulous coat
   care is extremely important.
Do Afghans have any genetic defects?

   Unfortunately they do, but are less prone to these than some other
   breeds. Hip dysplasia, juvenile cataracts, hypothyroidism and enzyme
   deficiencies can be found in the breed. In general, the breed is a
   healthy one.
What is their temperment like?

   Afghans can run the gamut from overly brave to downright shy, and this
   can occur even amongst individuals born in the same litter.
   Socialization is very important to this breed, as they can become
   quite feral if left to themselves. In general, Afghans can be very
   stand-offish and are sometimes wary of strangers. Their high-handed
   and lordly attitude makes them good deterrent dogs. They will choose
   their own friends, very much like cats will. Around his best buddies,
   the Afghan shows his comical, stubborn and almost frighteningly
   intelligent side.
   With their high prey-drive, Afghans will pursue and dispatch anything
   that runs from them and should never be allowed to run at large. If
   brought up with a feline friend, the Afghan can be quite reliable with
   the household cat, but will still chase anyone else's.
Do Afghans have any quirks?

   In general, Afghans are a quirky and unusual breed, but there is one
   part of the Afghan's nature that is often overlooked. Afghan Hounds
   are thieves at heart and will filch anything that takes their fancy.
   They can be quite innovative at getting into areas their owners want
   to keep them out of, and their ability to whisk food or articles away
   from right under the owner's nose is almost magical. The intelligent
   owner must child-proof his home thoroughly and keep one step ahead of
   this furry Houdini.
   When an Afghan finds himself in a stressful situation, quite often he
   will simply go to sleep until the whole business is over. Another sure
   sign of an excited or worried dog is a drippy nose.
   It is almost impossible to keep an Afghan off the upholstered
   furniture. They seem to think that this is their rightful place. They
   have been known to push their owners out of bed. To the true Afghan
   fancier there is no substitute for this gentle, entertaining,
   frustrating and most kingly of dogs.
How long do they live?

   For a large breed, the Afghan lives a long time. 12 to 14 years is not
   unusual, and healthy 18 year old animals have been known. Afghans
   suffer from many of the same geriatric complaints that other breeds
   get, such as failing eyesight and hearing, and arthritis. Cancer and
   heart disease take their toll on the breed as well.
Are they good with children?

   When children are a part of the picture, it is wise to teach both
   Afghan and child mutual respect and how to behave around each other.
   Afghans are a touch-sensitive breed and possess instinctive lightning
   fast reflexes. They are also calm and patient, and possess a great
   deal of common sense. When an Afghan becomes tired of attention, he
   will simply make himself scarce, retiring to a place away from the
   crowd for a nap.
Do they eat a lot?

   As Afghans are more of a tall, streamlined type of dog, they eat far
   less than their size would imply. Afghans need a high quality dry dog
   food, with plenty of vegetable oil to keep looking and feeling their
   best. It is also necessary to protect those long ear fringes with
   snoods. These stocking-tube type hats hold the ears back from the dish
   and the fastidious Afghan doesn't soil his hair.
Just how intelligent is an Afghan?

   A current and popular book caused great consternation for Afghan
   owners around the world when it rated the Afghan dead last in its
   "working intelligence" list. Working intelligence has nothing whatever
   to do with the actual "smartness" of any breed. Those breeds developed
   to work closely with man will, of course, be more amenable to training
   than the clever Afghan, whose job was to tackle dangerous prey on his
   own, relying on his own wits to see him through to live and hunt
   another day.
Are Afghans a very popular breed?

   The Afghan experienced a hey day back in the late sixties and early
   seventies. From that time until this, the breed has fortunately
   dropped in the popularity poll and now sits around the sixtieth spot,
   both in Canada and the United States. For a breed with the need for a
   very special type of owner, that's not bad.
Where can I learn more about Afghans?

   There are many excellent books available on the breed. Most libraries
   stock one title or another but for true-life, hands-on experience, it
   is suggested that potential owners attend local dog shows and talk to
   fanciers. The Afghan Hound Club of Canada, a national club whose
   secretary, Debbie Hodgins, may be contacted at PO Box 60, Hanley,
   Sask., S0G 2E0, Canada exists not only to serve oldtime fanciers but
   to help out those new to the breed. Our American counterpart, the
   Afghan Hound Club of America may be reached through Ms. Norma Cozzoni
   at 43W612 Tall Oaks Trail, Elburn, IL 60119, USA.
    Afghan Hound FAQ
    Janis Nixon,
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