Afghan Hounds

The Afghan Hound is aloof and elegant, but beneath his long, glamorous coat beats the heart of a hunter. He was bred to course hare and gazelle over the rugged terrain of his native Afghanistan. Today, this medium-size sighthound, weighing 50 to 60 pounds, still has a strong instinct to run and chase. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering acquiring an Afghan Hound.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

Don't purchase an Afghan Hound unless you're prepared to make a commitment to coat care and exercise. He is not a lounge lizard and needs a long daily walk on leash or a chance to run in a traffic-free area. He's a natural at lure coursing, so consider taking up that sport as a way of channeling his athletic ability and speed. The Afghan can also be found competing in agility, obedience and rally, and some are therapy dogs.

When his exercise needs are met, the Afghan Hound is a calm, quiet companion who likes to have access to soft bedding or furniture. He's reserved with strangers and not overly demonstrative with his own family, but he does have a silly side that makes him entertaining to live with. With children the Afghan Hound is gentle if he has been raised with them, but he's not really a "playmate" kind of dog. The Afghan bonds deeply with his family, and it can take time for him to adjust if he must be placed with someone else. Don't get an Afghan if you don't think you'll be able to keep him for his entire life.

The Afghan Hound is an independent thinker, but he is smart and trainable with the use of positive reinforcement techniques, particularly with food rewards. Begin training when he is young and still somewhat malleable, keep training sessions short and fun, and avoid harsh corrections. Remember, too, that the Afghan's height of 25 to 27 inches at the shoulder, combined with the insatiable appetite of the hound, makes him the perfect counter surfer. Put food well out of reach if you don't want him to help himself.

You'll need a securely fenced yard to keep the Afghan from chasing the neighborhood cats, and that doesn't mean an underground electronic fence. If the Afghan Hound wants to leave the yard, a shock isn't going to stop him. He's a good jumper, so the fence should be at least six feet high.

Grooming is an essential part of living with an Afghan. Plan to brush and comb the Afghan Hound's thick, silky hair three times a week to prevent or remove mats and tangles, and bathe him as needed. You may want to invest in a professional dog blow dryer if you bathe him frequently. Trim his nails at least monthly, and keep his ears clean and dry to prevent infections. Good dental hygiene is also important. At mealtime, you'll probably want to put his ears up in a snood to keep them from dragging in his food dish.

This is a house dog. It's an unhappy Afghan who is relegated to the backyard with little attention from his family.

Health Issues Common to Afghan Hounds

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Afghan Hounds have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren't cautious about whom you buy from. They include hip dysplasia, juvenile cataracts and autoimmune thyroiditis.

At a minimum, ask the breeder to show evidence that both parents have been certified free of juvenile cataracts by a veterinary ophthalmologist and have a hip evaluation of excellent, good or fair from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.

The Afghan Hound Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For an Afghan Hound to achieve CHIC certification, he must have OFA or PennHIP certification for hips, an OFA thyroid evaluation and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. You can check CHIC's website to see if a breeder's dogs have these certifications.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Hip Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000
Cataracts High $1,000-$5,000
Demodectic Mange Medium $200-$1,000
Hypothyroidism High $200-$1,000

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Afghan Hound Puppy

Finding a good breeder is more important than finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. Look for one on the website of the Afghan Club of America.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Afghan Hounds aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since an Afghan Hound can live to be 12 to 14 years old, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.

Puppy or adult, take your Afghan Hound to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues, and in particular to watch out for the early signs of diabetes and skin problems, including ear infections.

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you'll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Afghan Hounds

Pet insurance for Afghan Hounds costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Afghan Hounds are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to require claims for genetic conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Afghan Hounds are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Afghan Hound is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.