Breeding Philosophy: Form & Function
If you’re researching my breeding philosophy, I’m going to assume you are either potentially interested in taking home one of my puppies or you are doing your due diligence and researching the Azawakh as a breed. Either way, feel free to reach out to me if you have questions. Education is part of the deal when owning and breeding a rare breed, and it is something I quite enjoy.
As a breeder, I am breeding first and foremost for health and temperament. I am looking for puppies who will be excellent in performance events, following the footsteps of my adult dogs. All of my dogs will have had eye, thyroid, and heart panels, overall genetic tests, complete blood counts, as well as hip and elbow xrays before being bred. The Azawakh is a primitive breed and generally quite healthy, with dogs frequently living to fourteen or fifteen years old. However, they do occasionally seem prone to thyroid and spinal problems. Hip dysplasia (so common in other breeds) is virtually unknown to Azawakh; however, in recent years, incorrect angulation of both hips and shoulders has led to a flashy but incorrect gait in some dogs. If this trend continues, dogs with hip dysplasia might become a reality. Since my dogs play sports I also find it important to check the health of their joints. I deliberately wait for my dogs to be a minimum of three years of age before breeding to see if epilepsy, relatively common in the breed, will develop.
In regard to temperament there is much to say. It is one of the most unique and magnetic qualities of the Azawakh. However, it is also the trait that can be the most problematic or off-putting. Azawakh are different from other sighthounds in that they are livestock and village guardians first and foremost. Like many sighthounds, they enjoy living in packs, but that pack drive is taken several levels above most other sighthound breeds. The Azawakh both hunts and guards in a pack in their countries of origin. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, I will not consider placing one of my Azawakh in a home where they will be an only dog.
The Azawakh is somewhat unusual in that their pack drive frequently outweighs their prey drive (there are, naturally, exceptions to this). That means that Azawakh can quite frequently live happily with small dogs, cats, and even birds (though always always with supervision in that last case). My Azawakh have been raised with several cats who are very fair about setting boundaries for dogs. You may also find that if you want a sighthound but want the reassurance that if you drop the leash your dog won’t disappear into the distance, then this might be a good fit for you. Not all Azawakh have excellent off leash recall, but I have found my dogs to be quite reliable in this regard.
I have dealt with many, many breeds and I can say that I have very rarely seen a breed as a whole more bonded to their family. For this reason, Azawakh are difficult to rehome outside of puppy-hood. There are some schools of thought with this breed that think because Azawakh are primitive and have remained unchanged for thousands of years that they should be untouchable to people outside their family or immediate circle of trust. I reject this philosophy, primarily because even in their countries of origin, this is not remotely the case with all Azawakh. The breed is naturally wary of strangers, that’s the guard dog in them, but I believe that temperamentally, Azawakh should be mentally secure enough to recognize a friendly person from a threat.
Guard dogs tend to be bred intentionally to be slightly insecure. That insecurity promotes a guarding reaction typically, but it also means insecure guard dogs tend to react to friend and foe alike, particularly within a setting like your house. When looking for a working guardian dog, police and military actually look for the confident dogs, the ones that won’t overreact to everything, who aren’t fearful, but without a doubt still have all their instincts. Those traits are what I’m looking for in my Azawakh. I have had people tell me that because my dogs are secure (though not openly friendly) with strangers, that they’ve lost their instincts. I have been in scary or scary-looking situations, and I can assure you that my dogs still have their guarding instincts. If I invite a stranger into my home, my dogs will watch them closely but not alert me. They know I’m confident and comfortable with this stranger being in my home. However, if an intruder were to break in, I don’t have a single doubt that my dogs would react befitting their breed heritage. I would also like to clarify that just because my dogs are confident with strangers does not mean they are friendly with all of them or would eagerly seek petting from every stranger like a typical lab or golden. They like most people, Anubi even does therapy work in nursing home facilities, but there are exceptions to that rule (children are a big one) and I don’t force unwanted contact on my dogs. If you are only looking for a dog to stay home and guard your house, my kennel is not the one for you. This is a breed that needs to be out and about and have a job to stay mentally stable.
I am looking for families that are going to take the responsibility of owning a rare breed to heart. That means that I want all my dogs to be breed ambassadors; I don’t want them to be a trophy to be displayed to visitors but largely kept in the house all day. I do or have done a lot of dog events with my Azawakh: conformation, rally obedience, agility, lure coursing (Fast CAT, CAT, and LC), barn hunt, nosework, flyball, canine good citizen, tricks, and therapy dog work. The Azawakh is an incredibly versatile breed because they were the only breed in their area for thousands of years so they had to fill every niche available. I try to showcase that versatility with my dogs.
I don’t ask that my potential families do all or even most of that, but I do ask that they do something with their Azawakh. It doesn’t have to be a dog sport or event, though the Canine Good Citizen test is always a good idea. If you are an active person or family who takes their dogs out places and generally promotes good dog ambassadors, I encourage and welcome that too. I’m still heavily involved in performance sports, so I’m particularly happy to see a potential owner want to pursue those. Essentially, the Azawakh is a rare breed and in any potential family I am looking for someone who will steward the breed, provide education, and a good example for the general public. I work hard to get stable temperaments on all my dogs and I want the public to see and understand what the Azawakh at their best can be.
For this reason, I keep all my puppies until ten-twelve weeks, instead of the typical eight, so that I can help shepherd them through their first fear period. If you are a trainer, an owner extremely experienced in raising puppies, or someone willing to follow a precisely laid out plan for your puppy then we can talk about your puppy potentially leaving for their new home slightly earlier.
Though I am looking first and foremost at health and temperament, that doesn’t mean that I am not interested in preserving correct breed conformation. In general, I look to avoid faults that I have seen fairly often in other dogs. My dogs’ hips are clearly above their withers, they are not so heavily muscled as to place too much strain on their backs while running, their tail set is neither too high nor too low, and their angulation is correct leading to the correct extension in their gait. Gait is one of the absolute critical breed traits; at a trot an azawakh’s toe should not extend past their nose. I have seen this fault in the many azawah I have met and though it is flashy, it is not correct. An Azawakh’s hip and shoulder angulation should be 130° and this naturally creates the correct gait. If the dog has incorrect angulation the flashier, fuller extension, incorrect gait often results.
If you’ve gotten this far in my long philosophy then I congratulate you. I’m a firm believer that new puppy owners should thoroughly research any dog they want to bring home and more information is never bad. As a starting number, I ask from $1500-2000 for a puppy; with a firm price set per litter closer to time of. That money covers health tests for the parents, vaccinations, microchips, and other expenses. I am not looking to make my living through breeding; I am looking to promote and preserve a breed that I love.
My only firm rule is that I will not send littermates home together. Everything else is negotiable depending on circumstances, but as mentioned before, this is not a breed that typically does well as an only dog.