Character and Education

Mehari enjoys the view from the window

In their Sahelian homeland the Azawakh are not only hunters, but also guardians of livestock, and protectors of encampments and villages. Because of this their territorial instinct is highly developed. They will vocally defend “their house” or “their car” and if pushed can react with physical force. The owner is responsible to make it clear when visitors are welcome and when further protection is not necessary.  A well socialized Azawakh will adapt it’s behavior and learn to approach visitors without distrust.  Acceptance will often lead to displays of friendship.

The fact that Azawakh display territorial behavior and distrust when confronted with strangers or new situations has given rise to the myth that the breed is aggressive, easily panicked and difficult to educate.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Once a stranger has been accepted the Azawakh will often recognize them as a friend after years have passed and under different conditions. 

In an ideal situation young puppies grow up with their littermates and are integrated into  a pack of adults.  This prepares them to interact socially with both dogs and humans as an adult.

An owner must encourage obedience and should work to socialize a puppy from the earliest possibility.  The result is a puppy that matures into a disciplined and secure adult.  As part of it’s education a puppy must learn that the owner is the Alpha of the “pack”.  Otherwise one has an unstable dog who acts without guidance.  Unfortunately such Azawakh tend to fulfill  the prejudices against  the breed.

Too many new owners are inclined to protect their Azawakh from stressful situations.  This is a mistake.  An Azawakh puppy should be challenged from a young age with new situations and stimuli. It  should visit a good puppy school, should accompany it’s owner as often as possible, even downtown. For example, the puppy should experience riding in elevators, trains;  should learn to walk on different surfaces;  etc. Puppies should learn these important things before the youth socialization phase is over.  They will learn to behave normally and be more relaxed when confronted with such situations as an adult.

Azawakh are very sensitive dogs but they can also have a very strong and uncompromising character. Harsh voice commands combined with physical punishment will rarely obtain the desired behavior. Positive motivation can produce extraordinary results in a short time.  Azawakh have an extraordinary memory and react very positively when rewarded.  It is very important to reward them every time they obey a command or behave in a desired way.  Mutual trust can be built using firmness and determination without severe vocal or physical punishment. Inconsistency and/or  lack of self control on the part of the owner will produce negative results.

with Jaba in 1988

To quote my friend and Azawakh breeder Alberto Rossi: “To raise an Azawakh is like building a very fragile construction, which takes a lot of sensibility and can be destroyed from one minute to the next. But every minute it lasts, it fills you with great happiness.” Every time I´m sitting in a chair or sofa at least one of my dogs tries to take a seat on my lap. The same happens to those of my guests which they love. In these moments they seem to be the image of calmness, gentleness, and trust. But one should not be deceived about this. In the deepest place of their soul resides something wild and native, and they will remind us about it with the first occasion and we should not forget, even for a moment, not to treat them like a normal dog.”

(This text taken from the article “Bello e possibile” of Alberto Rossi with his authorization)