Page 256 - ShowSight, March 2020
P. 256

                My thoughts on the impact of structure on movement and the effect it is having in the show ring? Structure defines movement. Today, I am seeing overall more consistent proper structure and movement in the show ring than I did in the 70s and 80s, probably due to less popularity and more limited and purposeful breeding.
Over the past 49 years, I have seen trends come and go, depend- ing on popular kennels and sires. Currently, the trends I believe breeders (and judges) need to address are: First high-set (straight) shoulders and over-angulated rears. This appears very dramatic on the stack, but is not functional, and the hounds would break down if actually working. This lack of balance causes the dogs to appear to stand and move “uphill” and many appear to be kicking up high- ly with the rear while just moving the front to keep it out of the way.
A second trend which concerns me greatly is over-size. Our stan- dard gives a recommended height and weight, suggesting a possible variation of plus or minus 1 inch. Currently, a proper sized Afghan Hound will appear almost miniature in a line-up, the puppy bitches being taller than a top-of-the-standard grown male should be. An oversized Afghan Hound cannot do its job properly. This trend is so concerning, it has prompted our National Club’s Judges Educa- tion director to write two recent articles regarding it for the AKC Gazette, and some foreign clubs to require measurement of dogs when arriving at shows.
I would hope breeders will take note and attempt to rectify this, and that judges will be careful to make themselves aware of proper size, and its usefulness to the Hounds’ function.
Are there any misconceptions about the breed I’d like to dispel? Yes! That Afghan Hounds are stupid. They are not easy to train because of their intelligence and independent nature, but are highly intelligent free-thinkers—characteristics which the average dog owner may find daunting. This breed was developed to think and act independently. It had to spot the game, chase it down and kill it with minimal human intervention.
It’s my opinion that we should strive to maintain that attitude and free will as a basic breed characteristic. This is NOT a Poodle or Border Collie, developed to look to their human companions for direction, That said, many of us have achieved advanced levels of understanding and teamwork (and Companion Titles) with our Afghan Hounds. It is a lot of work, but extremely rewarding.
What special challenges do breeders face in our current econom- ic and social climate? In many instances, Governmental controls mandate restrictions on numbers of dogs which can be kept and/or bred in specific locations, hence also effectively limiting the number of potential homes.
I have always been involved in many aspects of the sport (lure coursing, agility, obedience, rally, therapy work), and believe that participation in other aspects in addition to showing is critical considering the trend towards limiting the number of dogs one can keep.
At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? I generally pick pups at about six weeks. Of course the three “T’s” (teeth, tails and testicles) would still need to be considered at a later age, but by six months, those are generally determined. Afghan Hounds can go through some awful growing stages, but I generally find they eventually come back to the basic structure they exhibited at about six weeks.
What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? This is a hunting hound. In addition to spe- cific physical characteristics specific to the breed, it is critical that they be of proper size, and have the balance and structure (and to some degree, conditioning) to be able to function in a hunt. A judge recently told me that in the show ring he looked for the hound he thought he could rely on to bring home his dinner.
What’s the best way to attract newcomers to my breed and to the sport? My personal focus on newcomers is generally to
encourage participation in multiple performance and companion events as well as conformation, and I try to do that with encourage- ment and by example. With the current situation that most people can only have one or two dogs, they need to be able to do more with their dogs than just run around the ring.
My ultimate goal for the breed? To preserve a healthy breed able to function as close to its historical purpose as possible.
My favorite dog show memory? Aah—so many great times! My dogs have won High in Triathlon at our National Specialty a total of five times. This includes participating (and excelling) in confor- mation, lure coursing, and one other discipline (obedience, rally or agility) all within a couple of days’ time during our National. It’s a tribute to the conditioning (both mental and physical) and stamina of the competitors (both hound and human), and have been some of the most thrilling wins I’ve had.
I think I have actually shared that, but to re-cap—this is a hunt- ing breed from a very harsh climate and landscape, and not a foo- foo dog developed to rest on someone’s couch. I feel it is critically important to maintain the Afghan Hound as a functional, capable and highly intelligent free-thinking hound, capable of chasing down, killing, and bringing home dinner if need be.
I live in Chicago, approximately a 15 minute walk from Wrigley Field. My husband Dan and I love to travel, work out, go out to eat with friends. I worked veterinary emergency in Chicago for 36 years, but stopped doing that about three years ago due to the stress on my mind and aging body. I am currently Chief Veterinary Offi- cer for the American Kennel Club
Do I hope the breed’s popularity will change or am I comfort- able with the placement? I have no problem with Afghan Hounds not being “popular”, but I am concerned about why they have become so. In my opinion, a couple of causes: the study about 15-20 years rating the intelligence of dog breeds and Afghan Hounds ranking last on the list did not help. I feel we fanciers and the Par- ent Club did not take that seriously enough at the time and should have been more assertive attacking the topic. As anyone who has had an Afghan Hound, they are not at all stupid. They are sensitive and smart, much like cats. They usually get their way. They may get into the garbage, but are clever enough to detect the food from the packaging, unlike Labradors, for instance, and often are able to cover up their “thefts.” Dumb like a fox.
That is why my husband has been so beneficial to me and to our dogs. He did not come “from Afghans”, but rather from Labs and Shepards, he treats them that way. The dogs go everywhere with us: to the market, to get coffee, to the park. We try to get them out as much as we can and the public response always is interesting and wonderful.
My thoughts on patterned coats vs full coats? As I alluded to in the previous question, I feel the lack of popularity is, in my opinion, due to a couple of causes. The second cause is coat. Afghan Hounds now have coats that the average dog owner cannot possibly keep up without having to clip them down, which defeats the purpose of getting and Afghan Hound. They have become coats that MUST be fully bathed and groomed at least weekly to prevent matting and this is due to the amount of coat and also the quality or texture of the coats. True silky coats are seen less often these days.
On top of that, the Afghans around now are usually depicted on social media and when on the street with their hair bundled in wraps (which seems ridiculous to the average person), or clipped down with long, poufy feet. By the way, clipping Afghans down and leaving the hair on the ears and feet started back many years ago when Afghans had huge coats and bigger entries. It often took many years to finish a dog when the entries were averaging 80-120

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