Vital Stats:Dog Breed Group: Hound Dogs
Height: 2 feet to 2 feet, 4 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: 50 to 60 pounds
Life Span: 10 to 12 years
The Afghan Hound was originally used for hunting large prey in both the deserts and in the mountains of Afghanistan, where his abundant, flowing coat was needed for warmth. The Afghan was highly valued for his ability to run — fast and over great distances — courageously holding dangerous animals, such as leopards, at bay until his huntsman on horseback caught up. The Afghan was also valued for his ability to think and hunt independently, without human direction.
Today's Afghan Hound isn't hunting leopards but this sighthound does retain the independent nature of a coursing hound. An Afghan puppy will eagerly seek affection from family members, just like puppies of any breed, but this puppyhood behavior can fool unsuspecting owners. Cute puppy antics diminish as the Afghan matures. A mature Afghan Hound does not lavish attention on anyone, and sometimes doen't even want to be hugged or petted. The free-thinking, independent Afghan will decide for himself when he wants affection, and it will be on his terms — not yours.
Independence and indifference aside, the Afghan Hound is tender when he wishes to be and can be very amusing. Often referred to as a "clown" by his affectionate family, the Afghan Hound is known to be mischievous and stories abound of this breed's ability to steal objects from under the very noses of family members, even going so far as to open dresser drawers and snatch clothes.
With an ability to see far greater distances than humans and pivotal hip joints that enable him to cover ground quickly and easily clear obstacles, the Afghan is a natural for a sport called lure coursing. In lure coursing, the hounds give chase to plastic bags that are used to create the effect of escaping game. This competition tests the dog's ability to hunt by sight, and basic coursing instinct. In 1972, the American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA) began, and continues to operate and oversee a program much loved by owners and dogs alike.
Whether competing in a coursing event, or enjoying life as a playful family companion, the Afghan Hound is a one-of-a-kind breed.
- Grooming is essential. Only those who really enjoy grooming, or are willing to pay a professional groomer to do it, should consider an Afghan Hound.
- The Afghan's natural hunting instinct prompts him to chase prey (the neighbor's cat, your son's rabbit, the third grade class hamster, etc.).
- The Afghan Hound can be challenging to train due to his independent nature. Training can take a long time and requires patience. House training can be difficult. This breed can continue having accidents in the house up to about six months of age.
- The Afghan Hound has a low pain tolerance. A minor wound is more bothersome to this breed than to other breeds, and this dog can sometimes seem whiny or babyish.
- Afghan Hounds are sensitive and high-spirited and do not respond well to rough handling--so be gentle.
- Although this particular breed is usually good and even loving with children, it is best if the puppy grows up with the children he'll live with and the children are mature enough to understand the importance of being considerate of this dog's sensitive nature.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
The Afghan Hound comes from Afghanistan, where the original name for the breed was Tazi. The breed has long been thought to date back to the pre-Christian era. DNA researchers have recently discovered that the Afghan Hound is one of the most ancient dog breeds and dates back thousands of years.
The first documentation of a Western Afghan breeder is that of an English officer stationed near Kabul. Afghan Hounds from his Ghazni Kennel were transported to England in 1925, and then made their way to America. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1926 and the Afghan Hound Club of America was admitted for membership with the AKC in 1940.
Zeppo Marx of the Marx Brothers was one of the first to bring Afghan Hounds to America. In the late 1970s, the hound's popularity soared when Barbie, who is responsible for more than 80 percent of Mattel's profits, and Beauty, her pet Afghan Hound, found their way into the homes and hearts of countless American girls. During this same decade, the development of lure coursing competitions added to the breed's appeal. In the 1980s, the Afghan became a popular AKC show ring star and, in spite of its independent nature, has branched out into obedience competition.
Males are 27 inches (plus or minus one inch) and about 60 pounds, and females 25 inches (plus or minus one inch) and about 50 pounds.
The Afghan Hound is typically a one-person or one-family dog. Do not look for this hound to eagerly greet your guests. More likely, he will offend them by being indifferent to their presence. While some hounds may bark once or twice when a stranger enters the home, this breed is not known to be a good watchdog.
The independent thinking of the Afghan makes it a challenge to train. This hound is generally not motivated by food and does not possess as strong a desire to please as many other breeds (Golden Retriever, for example). Though the Afghan makes a stunning presentation in the show ring, for example, more than one professional handler has been embarrassed in the ring by a refusal to cooperative. Even so, this breed is known for outperforming other breeds when the decision to do so is his own.
Rough handling can cause this dog to become withdrawn or mildly antagonistic. Gentle handling, kindness, and patience work best with this breed, along with an understanding that there will be times when the dog simply will not cooperate.
Afghans are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Afghans will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Afghans, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
- Allergies: Symptoms in the Afghan are the same as in people: sneezing, eye and nasal discharge, itching, hair loss, and lethargy. Treatment varies according to the cause and may include dietary restrictions, medications, and environmental changes.
- Cancer: Symptoms that may indicate canine cancer include abnormal swelling of a sore or bump, sores that do not heal, bleeding from any body opening, and difficulty with breathing or elimination. Treatments for cancer include chemotherapy, surgery, and medications.
- Juvenile cataracts: The Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) defines cataracts as a "partial or complete opacity of the lens," and warns this is the leading cause of vision loss in dogs. Depending on the severity, cataracts may sometimes be removed surgically.
- Hypothyroidism: This is a disorder of the thyroid gland. Symptoms include chronic ear infections, bacterial infections of the skin, hair loss, lethargy, and depression. This condition is most commonly treated with medication and diet.
Afghan Hounds prefer being inside with family. They're laid back and calm in the house but are naturally active dogs and need daily exercise, which ideally includes a leash walk or run, plus a free-run in fenced area.
High, secure fencing is a must if you plan on keeping your hound in a yard. The Afghan is an adept escape artist and once loose, is truly hard to catch. (Remember, he can outrun horses!) Consistent obedience training is necessary and positive reinforcement methods work best.
Recommended daily amount: 2 to 2.5 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference--the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
Keep your Afghan in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test. First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.
For more on feeding your Afghan, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.
Coat Color And Grooming
Properly groomed, the Afghan coat is spectacular. It is very fine in texture, similar to human hair, and thick and silky. On the head is a long, silky topknot. With the exception of the back, the entire body is abundantly covered in hair, even the ears and feet. The hair is short and close along the back and smooth in mature dogs.
All solid colors are allowed by the American Kennel Club breed standard (standardized guidelines for the breed), with certain color combinations considered the most pleasing.
Grooming is a must for the Afghan. Because the coat is fine, it has a tendency to tangle easily. Regular, even daily, brushing and combing is necessary, as is frequent bathing. Many owners elect to hire a professional groomer to keep the coat in good condition because grooming the Afghan is so time consuming and difficult; it is certainly not a job for beginners, though owners can learn to manage the coat if they are willing to work hard.
All breeds with pendant, or hanging, ears tend to have issues with ear infections. Check your Afghan's ears weekly and wipe them out with a cotton ball moistened with a cleanser recommended by your veterinarian. Never stick cotton swabs or anything else into the ear canal or you might damage it. Your Afghan may have an ear infection if the inside of the ear smells bad, looks red or seems tender, or he frequently shakes his head or scratches at his ear.
Brush your Afghan's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.
Trim nails once or twice a month if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Short, neatly trimmed nails keep the feet in good condition and prevent your legs from getting scratched when your Irish Setter enthusiastically jumps up to greet you.
Begin accustoming your Afghan to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently--dogs are touchy about their feet--and look inside his mouth and ears. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.
As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the ears, nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
Children And Other Pets
The Afghan's independent nature and large size make him best suited as an adult companion. The Afghan is not likely to want to follow around and play with children. In fact, a child's quick movements and noise level can startle the Afghan. With proper socialization, though, the Afghan can adjust to life in a family with children and be loving and with them.
The Afghan tends to most enjoy the company of his own kind--other Afghan Hounds. The Afghan will tolerate, even be indifferent, to other pets in a household. Not surprisingly, the Afghan's hunter's instinct leads him to chase small animals, especially if they run away.
Afghans are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Afghans in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don't see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward an Afghan rescue.
Below are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about the Afghan Hound.