World-Renowned Canine Expert, Teacher and Trainer
Why Afghan Hounds?
I was first introduced to the Afghan Hound in the 1970’s by an old friend, Margaret Fitch of Plano Texas. Margaret had Afghans and German Shepherds and always said that I would love the Afghan breed. Looking at all the coat on her dogs, I never took her seriously. Then, one day in l995 another good friend, Terri Rhodes brought me a 3 mos. old, brindle, female Afghan puppy that she found in the Shelter. “What do you think?” asked Teri as she gaited the puppy around on the driveway outside my training building. Watching the suspended prance and fluid gate of this strange looking puppy (they look nothing like Afghans when they are young), I promptly responded, “I love her!” A name popped into my head immediately and she would forever be known as “Twyla.”
The addition of Twyla to our household of other dogs was a turning point in my life. Little did I know how much influence she would have in the days, weeks, months and years to come. Twyla, who became Field Champion Twyla Twist MX, MXJ, CDX, was the first MX, MXJ afghan in the history of the breed in agility. In obedience she earned many high scores and even a High In Trial award. Twyla was featured on Animal Planet’s "Breed All About It" series after going High In Trial at the Afghan National Specialty.
Three months after we adopted Twyla, we got a call from the Shelter that they had another afghan puppy. I agreed to take her and find her a good home. She was named Fury and went on to become the first Afghan Hound in history to earn a MACH. Fury was adopted and trained by Karin Shapiro. History repeated itself and about every three months there was another afghan hound in the same shelter. We soon realized that they were all littermates who were given up one by one. All nine puppies spent time at my house at some point until they found their forever homes. This rescued litter became well known and was referred to as the “Poughkeepsie Afghans” since the shelter was in Poughkeepsie N.Y.
At three and a half years of age, Twyla was entered in the AKC Agility National in Atlanta Georgia. We had driven down to the event on a Wednesday. By Thursday Twyla was very ill. She spent Friday and the rest of the ride home on I V fluids and could keep down no food. We left Georgia on Friday evening and drove straight home. The next ten days were a nightmare. We tried all kinds of tests and medications but Twyla continued to get worse. We took her to specialists but nothing seemed to help. Twyla died ten days from the day she got sick. The best diagnosis we could get was a rare autoimmune disease that caused the intestines to disintegrate.
Even after her death, Twyla has continued to send me Afghans in need. I have since rescued another litter of four, and work regularly with Afghans in need of emotional rehabilitation.
Like many others, I have read Stanley Coren's book about “The Intelligence of Dogs.” In his book Mr. Coren ranks the Afghan hound as being the least intelligent of the canine world. Having trained numerous Afghans in obedience and agility this could not be further from the truth. I find the Afghan Hound to be one of the most intelligent, sensitive, aware, reasoning canines I have ever worked with. Intelligence and trainability are very different qualities. In fact, the more intelligent the animal, usually the less trainable they are!