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THE AFGHAN HOUND – QUESTIONS ANSWERED
By Patricia H. Gilbert

A reader asked some questions in regard to the Afghan Hound.

What should strike you first as they walk into the ring?
The General Description paragraph of the Standard is very good. Look for it in the ring. The arrogance and carriage. They are the King of Dogs and above it all. Note the small dark triangular eye, the chiseling, slight roman nose, detailing and the mandarins (long hair on chin not required but beautiful).

I want to see a square dog with correct balance. Square is defined from the high point of the shoulders to the ground and from the prosternum to the point of buttocks.  I am seeing dogs that are much too long. Often you will see a handler 3/4 the dog to diminish the length of the dog.

On the go round, I want a loose lead with the head and tail held high. Look at the footfall and timing. The Standard says it well: "stepping along, he has the appearance of placing the hind feet directly in the footprints of the front feet, both thrown straight ahead." Do not look at the coat, look at the feet and leg lines. I want to the see the standing outline held on the move.

The "straight front" means that the legs are straight from the front and not bowed or crooked or turned in or out.

Is there a particular trait that makes you cringe and should never be overlooked?
Upright fronts that are straight angled with short upper arms with the head pulled back over the shoulders (stacked and moving). Unfortunately you will see a lot of this and you will have to sort out the degree of correct in your mind.

This applies to all Sighthounds. I don't know that I would call it a trait but I am disgusted by out of condition, underweight or overweight and soft muscled dogs. The Afghan Hound should have prominent hip bones and therefore that feature  is not the indicator of condition (unless you can't find them). I do not want to see every spire of the vertebra visible. You feel general muscle tone by running your hands down the rear legs from behind. Take you hands and open them to a V. Put your fingers on the outside and your thumb on the inside of the thighs and run your hands down. You will feel the second thigh musculature or not. Also run the back of your hands down the inside of the rear legs to check that it is slightly bowed from hock to crotch.

I do not want to get into negatives. I prefer to discuss what is right and fix that in your brain. Any deviation from that then is not correct.

What have breeders worked hard to achieve in the breed that should be acknowledged?
Balance of good angulation front to rear and squareness of the actual dog. You almost never see it.

What do you see that could become a problem?
Long bodied dogs are often rewarded because when they move the give the appearance of good movement. Their bodies are long and therefore it is unlikly that the feet will interfere. Out  of balance is mostly upright front with well or overangulated rears. Look at the topline on the move. Does it slope towards the rear? If so the rear is lifting the front to get out of the way. (This can happen in all breeds.)

Another way to avoid foot interference is bending at the elbow. We are trained to look at where the front paw is BUT if you take the line from the shoulder to the end of the foot, you should see the dog is bending at the elbow and faking reach. You will not see this in the topline as it will remain level. (This can happen in all breeds.)

You are not there to teach handling but if they are moving too fast and you cannot evaluate the movement, then ask them to slow down and give you a loose lead. Sometimes it is simply nerves and often times they are hiding something.

Is there something that every judge of Afghans should do (not do) or notice (not notice)?

Approach obliquely and make sure the dog sees you coming.  He is farsighted and may pull his head back to focus. That does not mean folding up or cringing. You don't need to be chatty. That does not reassure a Sighthound. Calm hands do. I slip my hand under the chin for my first contact and then slide my hands around to the cheeks and muzzle to check the bite. Try not to cover the eyes. They resent it and fidget. Check for the prominent occiput and then follow the line down into the shoulders and down the back. The only bump you should encounter is the occiput. The rest of the line should be arched and strong and smoothly flowing.  Make sure you put your hand between his front legs and check for depth and space between the legs. Check the rib cage (both sides), tuck up, and the loin should be firm, well muscled and hard. We discussed the rear above. If you cannot see the feet on the move, then at the end of your examination, go to the front, put your hand on the top of the shoulders and gently lift the left front foot up and under to see and feel  the pads. The feet should be extraordinarily large and a surprise to you. If you are not familiar with the breed, the feet are a surprise.

Familiarize yourself with the correct coat pattern. The saddle is a must in a mature dog. Puppies do not normally have saddles. It can vary from dog to dog and all can be correct as long as it is not clipped or scissored into the dog. You will see shaved faces and necks. The dogs look like all day suckers with their heads attached for candy. I really don't like it and it is contrary to the breed standard. There also must be some topknot. You will see dogs without it and I feel the topknot is part of breed type and must be present.

Never be afraid of messing up the coat. It should easily fall back into place. Get your hands into it and check what you need to check.

Article First Published in Sight & Scent Magazine, 2008 http://www.sightandscent.net/