Couches For Afghans

Training

After much maligning of its intelligence and trainability, the Afghan Hound can still laugh at the limited understanding of the people who seek to judge it.  Remarkably intelligent and of a pleasant demeanor, the expectation is that this dog would be very “trainable”.  

Instead, seemingly aware of its own worth, the Afghan “shuts down” on trainers that seek to use their limited knowledge, punishment based correction and harsh methods to force the Afghan to compliance.  

These trainers are not defeated by the dog’s lack of trainability or intelligence as much as their own limited understanding of motivation and training.  

An interested Afghan is compelled to participate in whatever endeavor captures their interest.  Granted, their heightened prey drive means that they will always have a distractibility that creates a new challenge but that is far from making them less than a great training partner for the trainer that successfully finds tools for motivation and reward.”* 

*The Digital Dog – http://www.digitaldog.com/dog_breed/Afghan+Hound

 As I was attempting to make some notes to help people understand and train Afghans I ran across the statement above and couldn’t think of a better way to put it.

Afghans are instinctively and genetically ‘self-thinkers’.  Born to hunt, on their own, without cues from the human, their thought processes follow suit.  In order to train an Afghan you will need to learn to be ‘creative’ in your training methods always thinking from the aspect of the Afghan – ‘What’s in it for me?’  Once you gained their leadership, there isn’t anything they won’t do for you – they are fiercely loyal to deserving individuals. 

Not until you have witnessed an Afghan Hound throw themselves to the ground ‘shrieking’, screaming in their top voice –  in defiance – will you totally understand the need to be creative with your training. (and hopefully you’re not in a public place when they have their little tantrum, lest the rest of the world will judge you inhumanely and unfairly) 

They are a more sensitive breed than typical dogs. A recommendation I was given from a very successful breeder is that you should not start with any complicated training with an Afghan Hound until at least 6 months old.  Let their personality and confidence flourish.  

This is the perfect time for socialization. 

Socialization

Socialization of an Afghan hound is imperative.  They are by nature aloof and this can turn into timid and scared if not exposed at an early age to a wide variety of situations and environments.  Ask people to pet your puppy, take him to places that allow dogs, Petsmart, the feed store.  Take him to doggy day care,  take him for walks in crowded places, to playgrounds, ball parks anywhere he will gain new experiences and the belief that these experiences are fun.  Encourage as many people as you can to pet, touch and talk with him.

 If your dog gets afraid of something – do NOT try to sooth it with ‘It’s okay’, etc.  This will only reward that behavior.  If they are leery of something – bring them close so they can investigate it – no words, no soothing – just give them the opportunity.  If they choose not to explore the new experience at the time – then revisit it another time.

 Never end your socialization on a bad experience.  Ensure his tail is up and happy before you are done.  If you go to the park and something scares him and the tail goes down – stay at the park – however long it takes – until his tail comes up again, then all is good and the experience will be behind him.

 Basic Training (Potty Training / Walking on a Leash / Come when Called / Bathing)

 Potty Training

Dogs are by nature clean animals and would rather go to the bathroom outside than in.  This instinct can be subdued by not giving them opportunity to go outside.  Simple training such as housebreaking can be accomplished earlier than 6 months and aided with the use of a crate.  Be aware of your puppy and notice signs as to when he needs to relieve himself.  Those times might be:  After waking up from a nap, after eating.  Try to catch the timing, take him out and if he does as expected, praise him highly with words of encouragement and treats.  If you have to be gone you can put your puppy in the crate , as soon as you bring him out of his crate make sure they get a chance to go outside. Use potty pads to avoid mishaps.

 Crate training at this time is also good.  Teach him his crate is a good, safe place to be. Put him in it for short periods. Do not let him out if he is yelling and screaming to get out – only when he is quieted and relaxed, then let him out. Leave the crate door open when not being used.  Put him toys in his crate, soft bedding, perhaps a blanket over the sides of it (if a wire crate) to simulate his little ‘Afghan’ cave.  You’ll find they adapt to it and learn to tolerate their limitations well.  Teaching them early to get into their crate (with a treat) can be beneficial in their later life such as motels or times you need to crate them (after bathing, or other times). I actually used my dogs crate for ‘time out’ when he was a puppy – when I had had all I could take of his puppy antics he would get time out.  No scolding, just time out – more for me than him.  For him it wasn’t a punishment as he accepts his crate.

Teaching an Afghan to Walk on a Leash

The breeder of my dogs gave me a nice little leash.  It was a solid piece of nylon, braided with no clasps no clips. Much like a choke collar but made of a softer nylon.  It had a loop on the hand end that could be put back through the line to form a ‘choke’ for your wrist, and the other side that formed the choke collar for the dog’s neck.

 You put the collar on the dog and walk…

 If you are met with resistance, no words, no anger, no coddling, you walk…regardless of the level of resistance.  If you stop due to their bad behavior –  then you have inadvertently rewarded them and they know it, even if you don’t.

Start out in small walks – and praise and reward when it’s done.  Take them outside their ‘normal’ environment so they will be encouraged to walk and explore the surroundings.

 Teaching your Afghan to come

Even long time Afghan owners may find this topic humorous as teaching an Afghan to come can be a challenge.  I have had the best success with treats…always remembering ‘What’s in it for me?’.   I started my puppy at an early age – coming to me by getting on my knees, opening my arms wide and lovingly calling him to me then treats and praise when he did as I ‘hoped’.   I made him ‘WANT’ to come to me and let him think this was his idea

 NEVER chase an Afghan if they won’t come, this will become a fun game for them as you will NEVER catch them, and by the time ‘they will let you’ catch them – you will be furious – which will be detrimental to your training session. Just patiently wait a few minutes and try again.

 Understanding Afghans at Play

Afghans love to run and chase.  It’s not about attacking the prey; it’s about chasing the prey.  If you watch two Afghans at play one will simulate the prey, the other the hunter.  When the hunter gets his prey, the prey will roll over , they’ll kick and thrash – reverse roles and run and play some more.  Rarely and only inadvertently will they hurt each other.

 Other dogs, and people – don’t understand their game.  They think the game is to catch/kill the prey, signs of aggression, etc – but for the Afghan it is the chase.  Not that an Afghan wouldn’t hurt small furry creatures if given the opportunity, but when playing with each other it’s for the chase.  Be careful allowing your Afghans to play around other breeds of dogs, until the other dogs understand the Afghan game. This would include ‘dog parks’.

 Afghans do require exercise, as do all dogs.  You should have a 6ft fenced yard.  An Afghan can clear 6 feet from a flat footed position.  They should never be allowed off leash, for as much as they love you – they might see a bunny 300 yards out and be gone at 35mph – as much as they love you – their prey drive is strong and instinctual.  Their focus will be on the chase and they might be 10 miles gone, before they stop to realize ‘mom’ isn’t around. It’s best to not give them the opportunity to be gone.  

 Afghans do not fair well if hit by a car.  Their rib cage and vital organs are of the same height as the car bumper. The impact to the vital organs almost always has a tragic ending. It’s best to keep them contained.

  Mine get yard time and I try to leash walk them every night about 1-2 miles.  We can walk the same 1-2 miles every night and it’s still new to them because they are getting the opportunity to leave their confines – which they thoroughly enjoy.  I use the Ceasar walk techniques on them when they start pulling and I found it actually works well.  When they stop pulling and cooperate then I will let them have the leash length back to go and smell and explore – they are typically more cooperative. I personally don’t use Flexi-leads anymore, due to having 1 too many pulled out of my hand by an excited hound.  Others may use them, it’s just my choice. I just a martingale collar (on the Afghan Shopping List) and a 6 foot leash.

 Bathing

Afghan Hounds require extensive bathing, so the younger you teach your dog to accept the routine, then easier it will be. Please see the handout entitled ‘Bathing Your Afghan’ for details on how to Bathe and Groom your Afghan.

Book Resources (all available from Amazon.com)

  •  Mother Knows Best: TheNatural Wayto Train Your Dog – Carol Lea Benjamin –
  •  When Pigs Fly!: Training Success with Impossible Dogs by Jane Killion
  •  Control Unleashed – Creating a Focused and Confident Dog by Leslie McDevitt
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