Considering Breed Specific Socialization


My C Litter at one day old

I'm writing this looking at Azawakh puppies that will grow up to be smart, alert, loyal, reserved adults and hopefully they will be discerning, easy with their people and pack, recognize a threat, walk through public confidently, and generally be good canine citizens.


If I were looking at a litter of Labrador Retrievers I would know that they would grow up to be happy, bouncy, friendly, gregarious, eager, food motivated loves. And I would hope that they would be aware of their surroundings, respectful of barriers, not so food crazy it causes anxiety, respectful of both strange dogs and strange people space.


If I were raising a litter of Welsh Terriers I would know they would be tenacious, lively, busy, game, shrewd little menaces that bring light and joy to their people. I would hope that they could be neutral in public with other dogs, that they would avoid fights when it's not warranted, that they would respect the boundaries of the yard, and care about their owner's desires.


In all of these cases, the list of traits I know the dogs will possess (if they are thoughtfully bred for correct breed temperament) are genetic. One of the joys of a purebred dog is the consistency of temperament in a given breed.


The second list are traits that those specific breeds each can struggle with in modern society. Few dogs were historically bred as solely companions, instead they are uniquely adapted to the tasks for which they were used. Those same traits can make them phenomenal companions. I know my Azawakh have my back. I know they want my attention, not that stranger's passing by. However, they also come with traits that can exist fine in modern society if the dogs know the rules they are expected to live by.


Oliver the Newfoundland beaching a boat

And, it's not just ancient breeds that have those traits that don't squarely fit into a nice box. I love my Newfoundland clients dearly but I have been knocked on my butt, I've had my shoulder yanked, I've had a baby gate torn from my wall (worth noting those were all different dogs). Newfoundlands are a breed that has been bred specifically to push through physical adversity. They push through ice and water, they toe a boat to shore. All of that is desirable and needed for their job, but it's challenging when your Newfoundland isn't breaking through ice near the Labrador Sea but instead should walk next to you, respect the exercise pen they're placed in, or the baby gate closing off the kitchen. While these challenges are different than the challenges Azawakh face, they are still rooted in genetics and still can make life in the modern world challenging.


Any breed that has been bred specifically to push through adversity in the environment whether that be a Lab breaking trail, a Saint Bernard pushing through the snow, or a Newfoundland dealing with frigid waters is going to struggle respecting physical boundaries. Their very genetics are telling them to push rather than to accept the flimsy barrier they know they can move.


Any breed bred to go to ground after game is going to kill rats and dig. That's most of your terriers, Dachshund, essentially any of your dogs eligible for earth dog trials.


Any breed bred to move and group stock is going to want to control, move, and group their environment. That could be the Australian Cattle Dog herding children. Or the Border Collie grouping their tennis balls. Or it could be that Collie chasing bicycles.

My breed is a multiple purpose breed and for any purpose breed you have two things happen.


1. You have more instincts overall to content with. For Azawakh, that means you need to be aware of prey drive and help them understand that certain small animals in certain contexts are not prey. It also means you have to help them understand what situations are threatening and which are not. For a German Wirehaired Pointer which is a versatile continental hunting dog you need to understand that they'll pursue vermin, that they'll point game, and that they may pace your fence line until your grass is worn down to dirt if you're not running them.


2. The flip side of having a multipurpose dog is that when those instincts work in concert, it is a thing of glory. When the Azawakh takes the savviness they learned about strangers and applies it to small animals. Or when the German Wirehair Pointer pursues game and you see them hold a point on top of a hillside in the next county over. Multiple instincts can be your best friend or your worst enemy, and the more you help those instincts work in concert with each other young, the more success and less conflict your relationships will have.


We as breeders and owner of young dogs must take these instincts that will create problems for their owners into account.


Do you have a dog with guarding instincts? Those dogs should absolutely be exposed to every possible situation that is weird and novel but harmless as young as possible.


Do you have a dog with herding instincts? Managing good toy play is crucial. Teach grouping on cue and only on cue young. Avoid objects like laser pointers (which I don't recommend for any dog) or any game where the dog cane become obsessed because there is an objective that can't be obtained. Don't foster mindless repetition like prolonged games of fetch.

Do you have a dog that wants to dig? Teach them where to dig, give them a sandbox with toys in it. Play scentwork games so they can practice seeking without practice dispatching.

Do you have a dog that tends to either lack body awareness (many giant breeds) or struggles with boundary respect (breeds that push through adversity)? Work on body awareness games like figure eights, paws up, backing up, walking over poles and other novel surfaces. Teach them how to get to their food without knocking down barriers.


Do you have a companion breed, most of which are small? Teach them how to interact with larger dogs and people. Teach them how to be a dog on their own four feet without being picked up.

With my Azawakh babies there are a range of exercises that I do to combat potential and somewhat frequent issues I see in the breed:

Fear of the novel - adult Azawakh that have not been exposed to the wide array of the world tend to not understand that just because something is novel, it isn't a threat. That can be as benign as hats and visitors, but it can also be new surfaces, walking after dark, putting up Christmas decorations. I know that can be an issue, so we start exposure to all sorts of surfaces even before the puppies eyes open - silicone, bath mats, terry cloth. That continues onto novel objects like a bin filled with water bottles and friend's houses.


Resource Guarding - I find that guarding against people and dogs often translates to guarding their resources. This, in my experience, usually resolves while young, but most young Azawakh go through this phase. Thus I give bones and then as I approach I give them a treat and walk away. When I take the bones I give a high value treat while taking them. I want them to anticipate me or another dog approaching rather than feeling they need to guard against that. I will note, I do believe resource guarding is completely natural, but it can also be dangerous and I also do not want my dog to feel like they have to guard their resources.


Reactivity - This one is huge. I want an Azawakh to be able to walk down the street or through a dog event and not feel like they need to take action at any moment. Being vigilant is their nature, but I don't want them to feel that their job is to guard against the normal world. What good does that do? Much of the exposure discussed up above will help decrease the likelihood of reactivity. However, the more active thing I teach, and this starts before they even know how to sit or lie down, is the Look at That game. I want my Azawakh to find pointing out novel stimuli rather than reacting to it to be rewarding (it's also far more helpful than barking). There's a reason my dogs auto recall to me when they see something up ahead when they're hiking - they have to come tell me about the thing that's approaching.


Birdie crated at 5wks while I practice agility

Separation Anxiety - I have found separation anxiety to be semi-common in the breed, which makes sense for a nomadic pack hunting, pack guarding dog. I strongly believe in crate training or at minimum, confinement training, with this breed. Teach them how to be alone without their pack (human or dog) surrounding them. Teach them how to be calm and think for themselves and not become codependent. I started crate training as young as three week in very short intervals. The puppies should be sleeping the night in their own crates by the time they head home. Whether you crate, expen, use a small room, or even tether them to a bed while you're in the kitchen, teach your Azawakh how to be independent and calm away from you.


Prey Drive - While Azawakh are a coursing hound, I have rarely found indiscriminate prey drive to be an issue. That being said, I still expose my puppies to cats essentially from birth. They see livestock when we go to events. They'll be around Argos, who only weighs 12 pounds. They learn very early what is appropriate to chase and what isn't. And that is the second part of making sure prey drive does not become indiscriminate - give your sighthound approiate things to chase whether is be a lure, squawker, or flirt pole.


Recall - Again, I have actually never had an issue with recall with my Azawakh, but we also start young. They are going on adventure walks as soon as it's safe to do so. They are used to getting their feet under them, navigating physical obstacles, and always keeping their people and pack in sight. Young puppies naturally want to stay close and not wander off. Take advantage of that before they start to gain their independence. With that foundation as long as an owner keeps up with the outings, you have a rock solid foundation for recall.


Birdie at 5wks on her first vacation

Car Sickness - I've seen this with a couple different litters now. In my experience some of this is genetic, but it can also be headed off by getting puppies in the car young. If you take a puppy home and they haven't been in the car much, start immediately. But my puppies start going to safe places like my parent's home in the care from 2.5 weeks onward. By the time they go home they shouldn't even bat an eye about getting in the car.





I have been through Puppy Culture (though not the newest program that I have heard was recently released). I have been through Avidog as well, which I adored. I follow both their protocols, but the thing I do think both programs fail to account adequately for are breed specific behaviors. Avidog warns strongly that you must not let your car get too hot or your puppies will be miserable. I laughed knowing I'd never face that issue with desert breed puppies in fall and winter (and often not spring or summer). Puppy Culture has the barrier challenge that I personally would never ever do with a Lab or Newfoundland because they don't need help learning to go through barriers, they need help learning respect for them.


I do think overall this is something that is missing in thoughtful dog rearing and that's stated not as a breeder but as a trainer who sometimes wonders why some foundations weren't taught earlier than when I see the dogs at 8-9 months when their owner is exasperated.


Be thoughtful and breed specific in your dog rearing friends. If you think you future puppy owners don't want to live with a behavior, please don't actively encourage it in puppies.


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