Handsome, sensitive and independent, the Afghan is treasured by those who know and love him.
- Dog Breed Group
- 2 feet to 2 feet, 4 inches tall at the shoulder
- 50 to 60 pounds
- Life Span
- 10 to 12 years
Adaptabilitybased on 6 ratings
Trainabilitybased on 6 ratings
Health & Groomingbased on 6 ratings
All-around friendlinessbased on 4 ratings
Exercise needsbased on 4 ratings
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The Afghan Hound is elegance personified. This unique, ancient dog breed has an appearance quite unlike any other: dramatic silky coat, exotic face, and thin, fashion-model build. Looks aside, Afghan enthusiasts describe this hound as both aloof and comical. Hailing from Afghanistan, where the original name for the breed was Tazi, the Afghan is thought to date back to the pre-Christian era and is considered one of oldest breeds.
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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.
All Breed Characteristics
Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments
Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed
Health & Grooming
Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home
Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans
Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity
Adapt well to apartment living
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Affectionate with family
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
Amount of shedding
If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.
Easy to groom
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Easy to train
Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Friendly toward strangers
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.
Good for novice owners
Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Potential for mouthiness
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Potential for playfulness
Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Potential for weight gain
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.
Tendency to bark or howl
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?
Tolerates being alone
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Tolerates cold weather
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Tolerates hot weather
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.
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