The Afghan Hound: A Guide for Owners
Throughout the world there exists several dog breeds known for their intelligence, courageousness, and dependability. One of these dogs is the Afghan Hound. Considered an ancient breed by modern standards, the Afghan Hound has a long and proud history dating several thousand years. This work provides an in-depth examination of the Afghan Hound with a focus on the dog’s behavioral patterns, temperament, and general characteristics. It is the author’s hope that a better understanding (and appreciation) of this remarkable animal will accompany readers following their completion of this work.
"You can usually tell that a man is good if he has a dog who loves him."— W. Bruce Cameron
- Common Name: Afghan Hound
- Binomial Name: Canis Lupus Familiaris
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Canidae
- Genus: Canis
- Species: Canis Lupus
- Subspecies: Canis Lupus Familiaris
- Other Name(s): Tazi; Baluchi Hound
History of the Afghan Hound
- Life Span: 12 to 14 years
- Group: Hound
- Area of Origin: Afghanistan
- Date of Origin: Ancient period
- Original Function: Tracking; Hunting (both small and large game)
- Family: Sighthound
The Afghan Hound is classified as an ancient breed by scholars, and is believed to have originated from Middle Eastern Sighthounds. First used by nomadic tribes around Afghanistan, the dog was specifically bred for the purpose of hunting both rabbits and gazelles in the region. To hunt this variety of prey, breeders needed a well-balanced dog with high stamina, speed, and agility. After numerous attempts at crossing a series of breeds, the end result of their efforts was the modern Afghan Hound.
Despite its long history, the Afghan Hound remained relatively unknown to individuals outside of Afghanistan for centuries due to the seclusion and nomadic nature of the tribes it remained within. In fact, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that the first Afghan Hound appeared in England. Due to its remarkably fine coat and aura of gracefulness, however, it wasn’t long before the dog’s worldwide popularity reached unprecedented heights. Today it is considered a highly sought-after breed, and is a particular favorite of dog shows and competitions throughout Europe and the United States.
As a hunting breed, breeders created the Afghan Hound with a number of traits and characteristics necessary for rigorous hunting expeditions alongside their owners. Agility and intelligence were both considered key attributes, along with speed and endurance. Due to its origins in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan, the breed also needed a coat suitable for both hot and extremely cold temperatures, along with wide nostrils to allow greater breathing and internal cooling. Although little is known about the early breeders of the Afghan Hound, their efforts were rewarded handsomely with the onset of this breed as the dog played a pivotal role in hunting, retrieving, and tracking for local tribes in the Afghanistan region for centuries.
- Height: 27+ inches (male and female)
- Weight: 50 to 60 pounds (male and female)
Often considered the “aristocrat” of the dog world, the Afghan Hound is marked by an appearance of “dignity and aloofness” with both its stride and demeanor (AKC, 179). Overall body of the Afghan Hound is medium in size, and is accentuated by a muscular chest and prominent ribs.
The head of the Afghan Hound is relatively long and slender. It is accentuated by a long nose (muzzle), along with dark almond-shaped eyes that tend to slant upwards. Ears are considered pendulous, whereas the neck is both long and muscular in appearance. Finally, the Afghan Hound is renowned for its dark nose. It should be noted, however, that lighter noses (liver colored) are acceptable for dogs that possess a lighter coat.
Forequarters on the Afghan Hound are considered long and sloping in appearance, with tight elbows, straight legs, and prominent muscle tone. Completing the forequarters is a pair of large feet covered in long hair.
Similar to the forequarters, the hindquarters are classified as long and powerful in appearance. Well-angled with the hock, there is also a considerable amount of length between the hip and hock, giving the Afghan Hound a long and “springy” appearance. Completing the hindquarters is a pair of large feet covered in long, silk-like hair.
Tails on the Afghan Hound are relatively long and are known to form a ring-like appearance towards the end. They also possess a feathery appearance that is carried high.
Coat and Coloration
With the exception of the muzzle and back saddle, coats on the Afghan Hound are considered both long and fine. Often described as “silky” in its overall feel, the coat is relatively flat with a tendency to hang downwards. Hair on the muzzle and back are relatively short, giving the Afghan Hound a dignified and elegant appearance. The most common colors for this breed are white, black, fawn, chestnut, and occasionally tricolor.
Deformities and Faults
As a favorite for dog shows, the Afghan Hound is often scrutinized for the smallest imperfections. Heavy appearances are often seen as faults with this breed, as well as large skulls and short muzzles. Large or round eyes are also seen as deformities, as well as a thick (and short) neck.
Are Afghan Hounds Right For Your Home?
- Energy Level: 3/5
- Exercise Needs: 3/5
- Playfulness: 3/5
- Affection Towards Owners: 3/5
- Friendliness Towards Other Animals: 3/5
- Training Difficulty: 5/5
- Grooming Level: 5/5
Note: Scale of 1 to 5 (1=Lowest, 5=Highest)
The Afghan Hound is considered a highly independent breed of dog with a high-degree of stubbornness. Despite these shortcomings, this breed is both sweet and sensitive, with a courageous side that is characterized by an indomitable spirit. Although this breed is playful and moderately affectionate, potential owners should be aware, however, that the Afghan is quite wary of strangers and other pets (particularly smaller animals). This is largely due to their independent nature and original function as a hunting breed. For these reasons, owners should exercise extreme caution when introducing new people or animals to their Afghan. Failure to do so can result in aggressive behaviors that can, in turn, progress to serious injuries for others.
Are Afghan Hounds Good with Children?
Yes and no. Although Afghan Hounds often do well with children, they can become impatient and irritable with small toddlers that are known to poke and prod. For this reason, this breed is generally not recommended for homes with small kids. Failure to heed this warning can result in aggressive behaviors such as growling and biting. Nevertheless, older children often do well with the Afghan Hound since they are more likely to entertain and meet the exercise requirements of this particular breed. The Afghan’s “clownish” personality is also highly suitable for children, as they love to play and have fun.
How Smart is the Afghan Hound?
Afghan Hounds are moderately intelligent, but often rank far lower than other breeds such as the Border Collie and German Shepherd. Part of this is because Afghans are incredibly stubborn and difficult to train. In fact, they are widely considered one of the most difficult breeds to train in the canine world due to their aloofness and tendency to become distracted. To put this in perspective, Afghans typically need to be shown a new command 80 to 100 times in order to be able to follow the action with 25-percent accuracy. Border Collies, on the other hand, are capable of learning new commands in less than 5 repetitions with an accuracy rating of over 95-percent (dog-breeds-expert.com).
Although stubbornness and aloofness are difficult traits to break, some Afghan Hounds are quite responsive to learning commands if training is begun at an early age. Nevertheless, for individuals seeking an exceptionally bright companion, you may be better served by breeds such as the German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, or Poodle.
“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really."— Agnes Turnbull
Grooming and Training
As a long-haired breed, the Afghan Hound requires a great deal of grooming. Experts generally recommend daily brushings to prevent tangles and matting due to the breed’s delicate and silk-like coat. Regular baths with both shampoo and conditioner should also be given, as this is the only definite way to keep your Afghan Hound’s coat free of excessive dirt and debris. Despite these requirements, however, owners will be pleased to note that this breed is not known to shed like most dogs.
As with any breed, owners should also pay special attention to their Afghan Hound’s teeth and nails, keeping them brushed and trimmed, respectively. Failure to keep teeth clean can result in a wide array of dental problems down the road, while longer nails can result in severe scratches or tears.
Although the Afghan Hound is considered intelligent, they are also quite independent and stubborn. As a result, training for this breed is often considered extremely difficult as the Afghan tends to have a mind of its own. For this reason, prospective owners should undertake obedience training at an early age to prevent bad behaviors from forming into habits down the road. Nevertheless, even the most highly-trained Afghan Hounds will show forms of disobedience in their lifetime, with “running away” being a major issue. As a result, this breed is not suitable for owners that become irritated easily, as training will require a substantial amount of attention, dedication, and patience for the Afghan to thrive.
As with all dog breeds, the Afghan does best with a high-quality brand of food. Choosing dog food can be quite difficult with the large array of choices that are available at convenience stores and supermarkets. For this reason, owners should work actively with a trusted veterinarian to establish a dietary plan that meets the needs of your Afghan Hound. However, it is generally recommended that owners avoid giving their Afghan human foods (or table scraps) as these foods often contain substances (and toxins) that are harmful to dogs.
Avoid Giving These 10 Foods to Your Afghan Hound:
- Fatty Meats
- Foods with High Levels of Sodium (Salt)
- Dairy Products (Such as milk or ice cream)
- Raw Meats, Eggs, or Fish
- Grapes and Raisins
- Garlic or Onions
- Foods with High Levels of Sugar
How Much Food Should an Afghan Hound Eat Per Day?
In general, an adult Afghan Hound should consume approximately 2 to 3 cups of food per day (divided into two separate meals). Food should generally be dry; however, supplementing their meals with wet food is also acceptable. Puppies require far less food (approximately 1 to 1.5 cups per day of a puppy-based food). Overfeeding is extremely easy when it comes to dogs, and can result in rapid weight gain for your pet if not monitored closely. As a result, dietary plans should be discussed with your veterinarian as every dog is different in regard to their specific needs.
Maintaining proper hydration is also extremely important for the Afghan Hound. Nearly 70-percent of a dog’s body is comprised of water. Therefore, owners should pay active attention to their dog’s water needs throughout the day as their requirements can change in response to both outside temperatures and their daily activity levels.
As with most breeds, standard water requirements are usually determined by your dog’s weight. For every seven pounds of weight, an Afghan Hound should consume approximately 6 ounces of water per day. For example, a 56-pound dog would require 48 ounces of water in a day’s time.
Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration in Afghan Hounds
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of skin elasticity
- Lethargy (reduction in general energy levels)
- Extreme panting
- Sunken eyes
- Dry nose and gums
- Thicker saliva
What Type of Home Is Good For An Afghan Hound?
Due to their stubborn and independent nature, potential owners of this breed should possess a great deal of patience (and calmness) as training is often extremely difficult with the Afghan Hound. Due to their large size, it should also be noted that the Afghan requires extensive exercise on a daily basis to prevent boredom, weight gain, or muscle atrophy. Although this breed is highly adaptable to a variety of living conditions and can tolerate apartment life in the city, experts agree that homes with sizable yards are best-suited for the Afghan Hound.
For individuals living in the country, experts also suggest that owners should maintain a large fence around their yard as the Afghan possesses a strong “chase” instinct. Failure to confine this breed can result in the chasing of livestock, neighborhood pets, or (worse) cars.
Are Afghan Hounds Good With Other Pets?
Yes and no. Early socialization with other pets (during the dog’s puppy stages of development) is key for the Afghan Hound to maintain close ties to other animals. For this reason, owners should exercise extreme caution when introducing newer pets to their Afghan as the dog’s natural hunting instincts can result in harmful (or destructive) relationships that are difficult to mend. This breed can also become overly aggressive with smaller animals. As a result, owners should actively monitor their Afghan when in the presence of other animals (this is particularly true for pets such as cats).
Are Afghan Hounds Good Guard Dogs?
Yes! Despite their stubbornness, the Afghan Hound makes for an excellent guard dog due to their sensitive nature and natural wariness to strangers. They also possess a loud bark and can be quite intimidating to would-be burglars due to their larger size. Females, in particular, tend to possess stronger protective instincts than their male counterparts (dog-breeds-expert.com).
Recommended Medical Tests and Evaluations for the Afghan Hound:
- Eye Exam
- Hip and Elbow Evaluation
- Thyroid Function Test
Generally speaking, the Afghan Hound is a relatively healthy breed with fewer health issues than most other dogs. Due to its large size, however, hip dysplasia and joint problems are common issues as the dog progresses into older age. Afghans are also prone to a variety of eye issues, including juvenile cataracts. Other issues that commonly occur with this breed include hypothyroidism and enzyme deficiencies. Owners should actively work with a qualified veterinarian in their area to develop a nutritional and preventive-care plan for their Afghan Hounds. Proper diet, nutrition, and early detection of health issues can go a long way in helping your dog achieve a happy and healthy life. With proper care, owners can expect their Afghan Hound to live between 12 to 14 years, though it is common for this breed to live several years beyond this.
Pros and Cons of the Afghan Hound
- Loyal and devoted.
- Very sweet-natured.
- Relatively quiet breed.
- An extremely beautiful dog with a unique appearance.
- High-maintenance in regard to grooming and attention.
- Extremely stubborn (to a fault).
- Tendency to disobey.
- Likes to chase cars and other animals (which can result in serious injuries or death).
In closing, the Afghan Hound is a remarkable dog breed. To this day, few dogs are capable of matching the Afghan’s natural sense of gracefulness and elegance. Although quite stubborn (to a fault), the love and affection offered by the Afghan Hound certainly outweighs their independent and aloof nature. And while a great deal of work is needed in regard to daily grooming, few dogs are able to match the beauty of a well-kept, well-groomed Afghan Hound. While not for everyone, the Afghan Hound is certainly an amazing companion for owners willing to meet their basic needs of exercise, grooming, and attention.
Articles / Books:
- American Kennel Club. The New Complete Dog Book 22nd Edition. Mount Joy, Pennsylvania: Fox Chapel Publishing, 2017.
- Coile, Caroline. The Dog Breed Bible: Descriptions and Photos of Every Breed Recognized by the AKC. Hauppauge, New York: Barron’s Educational Series, 2007.
- Dennis-Bryan, Kim. The Complete Dog Breed Book. New York, New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2014.
- Larkin, Peter and Mike Stockman. The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Dogs, Dog Breeds, & Dog Care. London, England: Hermes House, 2006.
- Mehus-Roe, Kristin. Dog Bible: The Definitive Source for All Things Dog. Irvine, California: I-5 Press, 2009.
- O’Neill, Amanda. What Dog? A Guide to Help New Owners Select the Right Breed for their Lifestyle. Hauppauge, New York: Interpret Publishing Ltd., 2006.
- Rothman, Robin. “Afghan Hound Dog Breed Information.” American Kennel Club, November 6, 2017. https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/afghan-hound/.
- Schuler, Elizabeth Meriwether. Simon and Schuster’s Guide to Dogs. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster, Incorporated, 1980.
- Slawson, Larry. “The Top 10 Smartest Dog Breeds.” (PetHelpful). 2019.
- Slawson, Larry. “The 10 Best Dogs for Children.” (PetHelpful). 2019.
Images / Photographs:
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2020 Larry Slawson