Meet my Dogs: Azhidar
I distinctly remembering getting done with a rather harrowing conformation cluster events with Anubi. We'd struggled in the ring together all weekend. And one of my competitors, who had been helping me troubleshoot all weekend, patted my shoulder and told me that if I could get through this then I would be a much better handler for every subsequent dog. That's how I feel with Azhidar.
In my professional life, I've worked such a wide variety of dogs, but never have a lived with a dog that I would refer to as handler hard. The Azawakh and Ash are soft to me goals, soft to my criteria. If I tell them "No" quietly, they stop and particularly the first two months of his life, Azhidar wasn't like that. He fought me, he flailed, he mouthed me, he screamed, he pulled into his leash so hard he choked, he ducked me, dodge his crate, bite the brush or the comb. If Whitman or I wanted anything, he categorically refused. He was in motion 100% of the time unless he was in his crate or on a tether. We hiked often and he loped or trotted the entire way. We sometimes did miles (all at his own pace) and he never seemed to wear out. I cannot remember how often I cried and pulled my hair out. And let me tell you, it was all entirely worth it.
I first learned about Taigan while is was doing a personal project and researching various sighthound breeds. It's when I first learned about Azawakh too. I loved the hair patterning compared to most Afghans I saw. And I loved the descriptions I found of the determined hunter but lazy around the home. Much later, I learned that Alison Tyler, Tabiri's breeder had a pair of Taigans - one from the first litter bred in the US and one imported from Kyrgyzstan. Knowing I might never again get the chance to own a Taigan, I got on her interest list.
Then when I visited to pick up Tabiri, I got a chance to meet Gaziza and Moynok and I feel in love with them. They were more open than Azawakh, though you could tell the male, Moynok had no use for me. I wasn't a threat, he wasn't threatening me, but he had no use for a random human visiting his home. But Gaziza was more approachable and interested in me. I really enjoyed their temperaments, more than more Afghan Hounds that I'd met. In truth, I'd always toyed with the idea of getting an Afghan hound, but the showline look was never my favorite and I wanted more heavy patterning (less long fur, more saddle, etc) and aboriginal look, which is hard to find. A Taigan seemed to be a really good compromise.
Gaziza (top) and Moynok (bottom)
So I stayed on Alison's list, but then Gaziza didn't go into heat when expected. And it got closer and closer to when I planned to breed my first litter and I didn't want a young puppy and a litter on the ground at the same time. So I sadly removed myself from the Taigan interest list. But Alison and I are friends, so I got regular updates about the litter. And, of course, once there were puppies on the ground it became so much harder to resist the pull.
They were busy, lively puppies. And adorable. Eventually I broke down and had to say yes, I'd bring home a puppy. I followed the litter closely and then a friend brought him home with her from a conference she'd been attending.
To be honest, the summer of 2021 I was working long hours. I had a lot of boarding dogs. I'd known I didn't have much time as I'd prefer for a puppy, but Azhidar was a busy puppy. We worked on handling, because he fought it every step of the way. I taught him how to tether and let him play with toys one his bed and stay out of the
adults' way, because he drove my adult dogs crazy. He would get in their faces and not stop until they put him on the ground, so there was a lot of supervision. I'd never added a dog that didn't fit in with my other dogs immediately, which was a huge stress point for me. Azhidar learned how to crate and crate quietly and well. I was stricter with him than I've ever been with a puppy. I employed every single trick I teach clients about when they have new puppies. The Azawakh are easy puppies. They don't get as much enforced rest time. They tend to not fight handling as much. But Azhidar made me work for it. There were several different times that I earnestly discussed returning him, because for that moment in my life, he was too much.
Slowly, Azhidar started to crate himself when he got over excited or find a bone to chew on his bed instead of jumping on the adult dogs or chewing the furniture or climbing our baby gates. We hiked a lot (easy puppy hikes) and his manners and recall when we were out were surprisingly good, though he did stay on a long line more often than I was accustomed. I slowly started to figure out what might be normal for a Taigan, versus what I was used to.
I didn't intend to play a lot of sports with Azhidar. I simply don't have enough time to train in more training intensive sports like rally or agility or flyball. But, my flyball team was having a try-it to recruit new members and we needed a young dog to demonstrate some of the foundation exercises, so at four months old, Azhidar was that dog. And he loved it. My teammates loved him. One of my teammates, Anna, wanted to train him and I was so relieved that he would get what he needed.
Azhidar naturally retrieved bumpers from the water and was an incredible swimmer (still is), so we started some dock diving foundation. Anna took him to disc and did some rollers with him. And he finally started to integrate with my own dogs. The first major turning point in our relationship was when he was old enough to start attending daycare with me. It was a great socialization experience, not to mention it allowed him to burn off some energy three days a week. He shocked me by being quiet and calm on the bus while I picked up dogs (he's always been a fantastic traveler). He got to do some practice runs at amateur straight racing and his drive was off the charts compared to the Azawakh (who I assure you are plenty keen).
Shortly before Birdie was born, Azhidar went to stay with Anna for a bit over a month. This was a huge relief for me juggling a singelton, a new mom, and a five month old puppy. Anna informed me that while he had some resource guarding instincts (resolved pretty much completely with minimal work) that he was a very good puppy. He wasn't bothering her dogs, he was good on leash (which had been a struggle).
When he came home for Christmas and New Years he was almost a different dog. Alison had assured me he'd start to mellow by four months old, and sure enough, he did. All my dogs started to tolerate him. Tabiri was still very skeptical, but they could share the couch companionably. The biggest turning point in Azhidar and my relationship though was seeing how good Azhidar (who was only six months old then) was with Birdie. He laid down and let her mouth his head. He flopped on his side and his back and let her "pin" him. He taught her bite inhibition and how to play with toys. Azhidar had always been good at daycare, reading other dogs and not pushing too hard with minimal management (for a young teenage boy), but I didn't expect that to apply to puppies.
Ami's entire demeanor toward him (which had been guarded to actively hostile) changed. She started grooming him and playing with him alongside his daughter. It was a really emotional experience to watch to see that bond and acceptance develop and I finally felt like I had a cohesive pack (there is nothing wrong with crate and rotate or careful management, but I really didn't want to live with it).
We had a couple feet of snow over Christmas and Azhidar was in heaven. He'd always struggled with over heating when compared to the Azawakh but in the sub-10 degree temperatures he thrived, as expected. He went to the beach over New Years with us and was so good. He most recalled when asked and understood the e-collar prompt when he was over distracted. He played with my other dogs. He was good in the hotel and didn't pester everyone constantly.
He went back to Anna for a bit and attended his first flyball tournament with us and rocked green dog practice, taking all four jumps happily and ignoring the other dog in the other lane. It was as if everything suddenly came together and I had a dog I loved and who loved me. It's fun to be able to bring a dog to dog daycare with me. He's fantastic with any boarding dogs we have.
He qualified for AOK9 racing with no problem at all at eleven months old. And that's another thing of note, this dog has never taken a bad step. He is the most coordinated dog I have ever met, which is truly remarkable considering at a year old he's just under 32" and 70 pounds. Young, giant dogs tend to struggle with coordination, but not Azhidar.
All the strife in the beginning really was worth it. All the work I put in paid off. He crates and travels well. He's good on a leash. He has a fantastic off switch in the house. He's polite and gentle with other dogs and has learned to walk away from conflict because I ask him to. He will stand on the grooming table and not move a muscle, even in the midst of his adult coming in and his puppy coat thus tending to try to mat.
I'm not sure I will ever have another Taigan in my home, but I have no regrets having welcomed one into my life. They are a remarkable breed. Their drive and persistence, their tenacity is something I've rarely witnessed and they love their people dearly. He is so goofy and silly with the people he loves.