Regal, glamorous, a symbol of elegance-the Afghan Hound has a long-standing reputation as a unique and independent breed. As their name implies, these graceful dogs originated in the harsh climate of the Middle East, among the Afghani mountains. They were originally bred as hunters, earning their keep with help from their flowing coat and large paws that helped them withstand tough days under the desert sun and on rocky terrain. One of the oldest breeds of dogs, these athletic canines have evolved from hunting companions and status symbols to grace the show ring and become the beloved pets of millions.
Characteristics of the Afghan Hound
Next we’ll go into what you can expect from the average Afghan Hound!
The appearance of these Hounds can only be described as one of dignity. Long and tall, the Afghan hound has several striking characteristics that set it apart from other breeds. Standing as high as 27 inches at the shoulder, the dog has a long, straight body to match. The hip bones are generally prominent, which may seem alarming to those not familiar with the breed. It may seem that the dog is underweight at first glance. However, protruding hip bones are a characteristic of the breed, along with a thin tail that curls at the end. The legs are straight with large paws that originally equipped the dogs to handle the rough terrain of the desert mountains. Afghan Hounds weigh 50-60 pounds. Females are generally slightly smaller than males.
The distinctive coat possessed by the Afghan Hound is not only long, but thick, fine, and silky in texture. Above the ribs, the hair is shorter and close, leading to the classic Afghan appearance of a smooth back. The ears and feet are feathered with hair as well.
Temperament & Personality
Afghan Hounds are often considered aloof, matching their distinguished appearance. They are more serious and dignified than many other breeds, say compared to a Labrador Retriever, but they still hold the potential to be bright and pleasant family dogs.
Their origins as hunters means these dogs are constantly “thinking on their feet” and are vastly independent. They are sight hounds, meaning they relied on their eyesight to locate and track prey. For this reason, they may not be compatible with cats and other small pets, though they may be able to be trained appropriately.
Speaking of training, due to their independent nature, these dogs do require regular socialization (with both people and other dogs) and coaching. Without it, they may be nervous, flighty, and standoffish, particularly with children and unfamiliar people. With it, Afghans can be sweet and loving additions to a home. These dogs are known to be emotionally sensitive-if a home is loud and overwhelming, they may become timid, aggressive or even physically sick. They do not do well in homes where there are extremely loud children or excessive fighting.
These dogs are usually quiet indoors, though they need entertainment to prevent boredom. This is especially true during periods of separation. Afghan Hounds require a commitment of 12-18 years with their life expectancy. Afghans have low tendency to drool, bark, dig, or snore.
Caring for an Afghan Hound
Their uniqueness means that Afghans require special attention to their nutrition, exercise, training, and health needs in order to maximize their happiness and longevity.
Afghan Hounds are athletic, so it is important to ensure that their caloric needs are being met, while at the same time, maintaining their naturally svelte physique. Any high quality dog food should suffice, providing it is appropriate to the dog’s age. An individual dog’s veterinarian can provide more detailed recommendations for a specific pet. Fresh water should always be available.
As aforementioned, these dogs are energetic and athletic. While they are content to be “couch potatoes” during their time indoors with family, they need regular daily exercise, such as walking, running, and playing. Generally, at least 40 minutes of exercise is a good starting point. Due to their history as sight hounds, exercise should be done in a secure fenced-in area, or on leash. These dogs are known for their inclination to take off at a moment’s notice after perceived prey.
Without regular exercise, this breed may become destructive. Negative behaviors such as chewing may start or increase if an individual dog does not get enough activity in their daily schedule.
Training is necessary to keep Afghan Hounds even-tempered and well-socialized. Their natural tendencies to chase can also be a challenge. Basic obedience training is always a great idea. Afghans are noted to be sensitive to harsh discipline, so it is important that dog and owner train together. Owners not only need to learn to work with their pet, but need to remain vigilant to monitor them regularly.
The Afghan Hound is not notably susceptible to any major health concerns as a breed whole. However, they do often have issues with barbiturate based anesthesia, something to keep in mind if a pet goes through surgery. In terms of injury, tail damage is a common problem in Afghan Hounds.
Grooming is an important concern for potential Afghan Hound owners. The dog’s coat requires extensive daily care. Brushing and combing on a daily basis is important, especially after outdoor activity. A spray bottle with a mixture of warm water and conditioner can aid in detangling. For more detailed or tough grooming sessions, it is a good idea to bathe the dog with shampoo before beginning.
Puppies will not require grooming as regularly as an adult until the long coat starts to grow in between 8-12 months of age.
If one prefers to not deal with the classic Afghan coat, it can be clipped to a shorter length regularly for easier maintenance.
A member of the Hound group, the Afghan Hound has several counterparts, both in character and appearance. Here are a few, with most sharing the common trait of historical use and breeding for hunting:
- Borzoi: Similar in body type to a greyhound, this tall, lanky breed has a unique curly coat.
- Azawakh: A fellow sight hound, this breed originated in West Africa.
- Ibizan Hound: Like the Afghan, this hound can trace its roots far back to early history.
- Irish Wolfhound: The tallest of all recognized American Kennel Club breeds.
- English Foxhound: This dog shares the long, straight legs of the Afghan Hound, bred for stamina on the hunt.