Clarifications on Azawakh Traits
Updated: Nov 30, 2020
Perhaps someone linked to the American Kennel Club Azawakh page recently. Perhaps the breed is simply gaining more visibility, but recently I've gotten an influx of people asking about whether Azawakh are friendlier than most sighthounds. At first the questions baffled me, because many sources will specify that the breed is used to guard goat, cattle, and home and thus are not quick to warm up to strangers (typically). However, then I remember that the AKC site on Azawakh can be rather misleading.
Before I jump into the misunderstandings perpetuated by the page, I do want to specify that the AKC's information stems from the parent club and it is up to both the parent club working in conjunction with AKC to maintain accurate information about their respective breeds. AKC is also a huge organization so changes can be slow-going. This post is not to encourage anyone to go deride AKC or the Azawakh parent club about the information. I am simply looking to provide clarification. This post was written to describe the current state of the AKC page as of 10/20/20 with the understanding (and hope) that it may be updated in the future. I am also not going to directly link to the information, I think that may cause more problems than it solves, but I do have some screenshots of the page as it currently stands that I would like to elaborate on.
When you first land on the AKC Azawakh page you'll see their standard three word description along with a few details from the breed standard. These three words are typically either taken from the standard or from articles and other common sources about the breed. For Labs it says: friendly, active, outgoing. For German Shepherds it says: confident, courageous, smart. And so on and so forth. The idea is clearly to encapsulate the breed as concisely as possible. For Azawakh it lists: loyal, independent, deeply affectionate. These words might be a bit ambiguous (deeply affectionate with who exactly? Only the people they accept, which might not be to answer the general public is expecting), but by and large they aren't wrong, exactly. They just aren't the words that I would use.
There some other tabs at the top that take you to puppy information and the breed standard. But if you scroll down past the brief history, past the About section, past the puppy finder link, you get to a section entitled Care. And this is the section that has sent people to me with inherent misunderstandings of the breed. The nutrition tab is standard for every dog breed and the health tab is rather accurate, but in the other tabs it lists continuums trying to quantify the breed in terms that will help a prospective puppy buyer understand the breed.
Some of this description is standard. But honestly, if you read the actual words, all of that information is somewhat accurate. However, the visual (which most people's eye is drawn to) doesn't describe a very low maintenance grooming dog in the slightest. Azawakh have an extremely short coat. I'm not sure I've ever met a breed whose hair is quite so short. I would say the longest hair on
my dog's body is well under an inch in length. I will brush my Azawakh during roughly twice a year when the seasons change and they blow their coat. I've talked to some Azawakh people whose dog's shed more than others, but all in all, they need very little brushing ever (even if you didn't brush them when they blow their coat, it wouldn't be the end of the world). The picture is of Amidi's entire coat blow going into winter and directly following her heat cycle - that's as bad as the shedding has ever gotten. I bathe my Azawakh before I show as a courtesy to the judge who is examining them. Full stop. I bathe my puppies to get them used to the water, but as adults my dogs pretty much don't get bathes. They really don't need them. As for shedding, I find that they don't shed much. Certainly not much even compared to a Greyhound or other short coated dog. They have no undercoat and just not a lot of coat in general. Again, I know some Azawakh people whose dogs shed a fair amount but with my three Azawakh from three different lines, they don't shed much. For both these graphics, I would put the blue slider all the way to the left at occasional bath/brush for grooming frequency and infrequent for shedding.
It was this graphic that just dumbfounded me the first time that I saw it. I certainly believe that Azawakh need free running both to develop properly and be physically fulfilled. I also agree with the description that they won't self- exercise and they need to be interacted with or else they'll just curl up and sleep instead. But, give then a solid run and my dogs will happily spend the rest of the day on the couch. I also find, particularly when they are young, they need mental engagement more than the average dog I've worked with but there are so many outlets for that, many of them low impact for the owner: snuffle mats, scent detection games, tricks, puzzle toys and more are great simple outlets for days when you're too busy to do something. I would put the blue slider near the couch potato side and certainly well below average energy. Even as puppies they have good off-switches. For a frame of reference, below is the exercise slider for the Belgian Malinois, a bred famous (or rather infamous) for needs hours and hours of exercise and mental stimulation for them to feel fulfilled. However, according to AKC their energy level isn't actually that much higher than an Azawakh's...I rather think they're confused or mistaken.
The last tab that has a slider for trainability and temperament and this is why people have been coming to me asking if the breed is friendly, because they'd like a friendly sighthound. On the left slider they list Azawakh as tending towards stubbornness or being independent. And while Azawakh had to think independently while hunting, they also spent a lot of time with their people and with my experiences in training my Azawakh for rally and obedience, my Azawakh have not been at all difficult to train. They aren't Border Collies or German Shepherds who will do anything to please you, but they do love working with their people as partners as long as you have a strong bond. As far as temperament and demeanor they have simply missed the mark. I can't really think of anything accurate about the placement on that slider. To call Azawakh friendly is to misrepresent the breed. They have been used to guard for hundreds of years (likely much longer) and while I firmly believe that a guardian breed should be discerning they are not going to run up to every stranger on the street and want to say hi (typically). Most stable guardian breeds will accept people when introduced to them and recognizing them as no threat, but it's uncommon for them to actively solicit pats. Most will accept them if you ask it of them. Aloof and wary (in particular wary) are absolutely words that I would use to describe this breed along with avoidant, standoffish, and disinterested in strangers. Anubi and Amalu, who have typical and correct temperament for the breed, will be neutral with people and dogs in public, but don't want to be pet until a person has been introduced to them and ignored them for awhile. Amidi is a bit broken and will happily bounce right up to strangers and give them kisses and jump up on them. That is atypical for the breed.
I hope that clears some of the misconceptions up and I'm always happy to answer questions about the breed for anyone who has them.