Q. How much grooming do Afghan Hounds need?
A. This is probably the single most frequent question that I have
heard regarding Afghan Hounds. In truth, Afghan Hounds require
far more grooming than most breeds of dogs. The amount and type
of grooming vary depending on the individual dog as well as the
age of the dog.
Puppies require just a little grooming, a few minutes each day with a brush. This is not so much a necessity for the sake of the coat per se, as at this age puppies have a short, plush puppy coat. The reason for the brief daily grooming is to accustom the wiggley pup to being handled, and learning patience as the owner takes gradually longer and longer with the grooming process. If an Afghan doesn't learn to accept grooming as part of the routine while he or she is still young and mentally flexible, it can become a major battle when he or she has grown into an older, stronger, and more willful dog!
Adolescence is undoubtedly the most difficult time in an Afghan's life with regard to grooming. Somewhere between about 9 months to 2 years of age, the Afghan will start to shed the puppy coat. While the puppy coat is being shed, the silky adult coat is starting to grow in. During this time period, a daily brushing is an absolute MUST. If the young Afghan is not brushed daily, the shedding puppy coat will tangle with the emerging adult coat, and mats will occur in short order. Mats are both difficult and unpleasant to remove, and should be avoided at all costs.
After the puppy coat is out and the adult coat is in, the Afghan owner will no doubt breath a sigh of relief. Brushing can then be reduced to about three times a week, with a bath about every two weeks. The adult coat must be brushed in layers, starting with the undercoat and working up to the outercoat. A pin brush should be used to penetrate the coat thoroughly. If only the outercoat is brushed, mats can, and most likely will, mats form in the undercoat. In my opinion, grooming an Afghan Hound comes down to two things - keep them brushed, and keep them clean.
Q. How much exercise do Afghan Hounds need?
A. Despite the glamorous look that Afghans possess, one should keep in mind that these dogs were originally bred to be active, hunting animals rather than posed fashion models. Afghans need a good deal of exercise, preferably time to run free off lead. However, it is absolutely imperative that any off lead exercise take place in a safe, fenced in area. Once an Afghan is running free, he or she is quite unlikely to heed requests to return, and can cover quite a distance in a short time. In this day and age, even in rural areas, a dog running free runs a very real risk of being hit by traffic - NEVER put any dog, and most especially an Afghan, at such a risk.
To provide exercise, a fenced yard is ideal. If this is not possible, then two or three brisk walks a day should be provided, and other arrangements made for some type of safe, off lead exercise. I raised my first two Afghans in a condo setting, and we exercised them daily in our development's tennis court. Please note, however, that we always brought cleanup supplies along in case of "accidents". If it is necessary to exercise your dogs in a public setting, then remember to be courteous, or else you may not have the facilities available for your use for very long!
Q. What about training?
A. Contrary to popular opinion, Afghans can indeed be trained. It does take longer than many, if not most, breeds of dogs. Afghans are very independent, even downright stubborn, and the trainer must be creative in order to find the proper motivation for the particular dog. Harsh training methods should never be used; these will only make the Afghan "shut down" mentally, and over time, can lead to distrust and fear biting.
Q. But I've heard that Afghan Hounds are downright stupid?
A. Emphatically not true! Intelligence is not the issue - it is a matter of temperament.
One must keep in mind what Afghans were originally bred to do. They were used in their native Afghanistan to hunt large, and often dangerous, game over rugged terrain. It was imperative that the dogs be able to make split second decisions on their own. Waiting for the command or approval from "master" when trying to bring down, say, a snow leopard, would more often then not have resulted in the unfortunate hound's death. In short, Afghans were not bred to work by the handler's side - they were bred to work independently.
So, you start trying to train your Afghan to do an obedience command or a simple trick. He or she stares off into the distance, as if your words never managed to filter down into the brain. It's not because there's nothing but air between the ears, but rather, that the dog simply has not decided that your request is worthy of attention. This goes back to the previous questions. The trainer must be creative and find the proper motivation; he or she must make the Afghan WANT to do what is requested. Once the hound has respect for the trainer, and enjoys performing the command, he or she will be quite happy to oblige.
Q. What else is there to know about temperament?
A. The official AKC standard states "Temperament - Aloof and dignified, yet gay". Yes, Afghans can be very aloof with strangers, showing neither fear nor explicit interest in the person. It comes across very much as an "I can take you or leave you" attitude. However, the situation is very different with family and special chosen friends! Chosen by the dog, that is. Here, the Afghan can display great affection, and a keen sense of humor. I once heard that the main difference between an Afghan and a Saluki, besides the physical differences, is that the Afghan possesses a far more robust sense of humor. Personally, I have found that my dogs can display a dignified, noble reserve, and yet when playing with family or each other can quickly switch gears, and become downright clownish. We have spent many hours marveling at both their majestic attitude as well as their silly antics.