Silken Windhound Breed Information
Alison Brendel, DVM, Tangaloor Silkens
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
What is a Silken Windhound?
Silken Windhounds are a medium sized longhaired sighthound ranging from 18-23.5" in height and weighing 30-45 pounds. Any color or markings are acceptable. They are not as heavily coated as an Afghan hound, but coated more like a borzoi. They were developed from Long-haired Whippets and Borzoi and resemble them, but are not the same breed. They are outgoing and friendly dogs, that are devoted companions, but do retain some of the sightound aloof attitude. They are a newly developed breed and are not yet accepted by the AKC; dogs are registered with the International Silken Windhound Society that maintains the DNA-verified pedigrees and lineage of the breed. They are a long lived breed and it is not uncommon for them to live 15-18 years. Owning this breed is a long-term commitment.
Long-haired Whippets, Borzoi, Salukis, Afghans
Long-haired Whippets and Borzoi were used in the creation of the Silken Windhound, but are not the same breed. Some Silken Windhounds look very much like a small borzoi. Others look very much like the Longhaired Whippets, but tend to have more coat and be a bit taller than the LHW. Salukis are longer backed and have a flatter topline than most Silken Windhounds. The feathered variety, for which Silken Windhounds are often mistaken have heavy feathering on the ears and tail, but a sleek body coat. Silken Windhounds will have more hair on their bodies than a Saluki. With Afghans it's the opposite, Silken Windhounds are mistaken for a young afghan or a shaved one, the tail is a easy clue here as the Silken Windhound will carry the tail for like a borzoi. The tail for a Silken Windhound is held low betweent he hindlegs and is heavily fringed. The Afghans tail is curled and carried straight up in the air as well as being comparatively naked to the rest of the Afghan's body hair.
So although these dogs resemble Silken Windhounds, they are not Silken Windhounds. I used the above photos to better illustrate the differences, even though the size differences are hard to visualize.
All pictures used here are copyrighted by those that took the photos.
Silken Windhounds as a breed have a wonderful temperment. We strive for friendly, outgoing, confident and loving companions and its a amzing how easy it is to succeed with a dog like a Silken Windhound. Silken Windhounds are typically very loving and sweet, though how they show it depends on individual personality. Some wag, some kiss, some yodel and trill, some poke with their nose. Silken Windhounds are good at comunicating and have quite a variety of ways to manage it. They are playful dogs that get along well with many other breeds and in play groups. Care needs to be taken that the play doesn't become too rough, most Silken Windhounds are not up for wrestling, but prefer chase and tag. As sighthounds they can be more aloof and reserved than many breeds and that is within the norm for the breed. Fearful and reactive behavior is to be avoided.
What can a Silken Windhound do?
Silken Windhounds are proving themselves in many arenas, though not at any AKC-sanctioned events yet. Silken Windhounds are not an AKC recognized breed, though we are striving for recognition. In 2011 Silenw were recognized by the United kennel club and are now able to compete in UKC shows and performance events. This is a big step forward for Silkens to move into the UKC ring. I expect that the breed will garner a whole new set of fans. Some Silken Windhounds are Therapy dogs and Service dogs. Some Silken Windhounds are competing in Agility. Some are lure coursing and racing and running in oval track events. Some have their CGC awards. We have flyball Silkens and Rally Silkens and Obedience Silkens and Tracking silkens. Silken Windhounds are branching out into new fields as fast as their owners can find something to do. Regardless of what they do, Silken Windhounds want to do it with you. They love to work with their people and like to be with you. Don't be surprised if you find your Silken Windhound joining you on the bed, couch or taking over your pillow. Their first occupation in life is that of a privileged member of the family.
As a sighthound, Silken Windhounds excel at chasing small prey, or plastic bags in the case of lure coursing. They are now a recognized ASFA breed and can offically compete in lure coursing, some have gone out to the compeitions and show up as practice dogs. This is a great way to give your Silken Windhound practice coursing. In the future after the breed is rcognized by ASFA and allowed to compete, I expect to see more and more Silken Windhounds entering this field. ISWS now has it's own straight racing organization in ISWRA. These meets are held in conjunction with regular LGRA meets (if the LGRA club permits). Points are given on the same scale that LGRA uses and recently the first Silken Windhound achieved his Senior Racing Champion title.
How to Buy a Silken Windhound
The best and place to buy any puppy is from a reputable breeder. A reputable breeder is one whose goal in breeding dogs is to improve the breed by producing healthy, happy puppies that will grow up to be as close as possible in appearance, movement, and personality to the ISWS breed standard. This standard is available on the international club website, and through the reputable breeder. If you are considering acquiring your pet from any other source, you should be very careful to determine that the puppy is not of questionable origin, that it is healthy, and that the breeder is available and willing to discuss the puppy & parents' health and pedigrees.
Many breeders require you to sign a contract when they sell you a puppy. The contract is simply an agreement in writing between the breeder and the buyer. It explains the duties and responsibilities of both the breeder and the buyer, so that there will not be any misunderstandings. Don't be afraid of contracts -they are beneficial for both of you. For example, if your living circumstances change and you are no longer able to keep your dog, your purchase contract may require that the dog goes back to the breeder. This helps the breeder by ensuring that the prospective new owner comes under the same scrutiny that you did before your purchase, and also solves your problem of what to do with your pet. Be sure to read the contract carefully before signing, and discuss any part that may be unclear.
It is important that you realize that you make a continuing financial commitment when you adopt a puppy. Although he will have had some of his shots when you adopt him, he will require vaccines approximately every three weeks until he is four months old and as directed by your vet, for the rest of his life. Here at Tangaloor we follow the Jean Dodds modified vaccine approach. The breeder will want to know that you are committed to taking care of the dog if he becomes ill and requires veterinary care.
Subjects to discuss:
The breeders that you talk to will want to ensure that you are choosing the right breed and the right dog to fulfill your needs and wishes. Will your dog be used primarily for show, hunting, obedience, or tracking work in addition to being a family companion? The dog best suited for show conformation may not be the one who has shown the best attitude for therapy, coursing, or obedience.
Do you have a yard? What type of fence? How high is it? Do you live in an apartment, suburban home, or on a farm? Are people home during the day? The breeder will want to know about your family. Do you have children? How many? How old? Has your family had previous experience in raising and living with animals? How much time can you and your family devote to training and bonding with a puppy?
If you are interested in breeding, you can expect questions regarding your previous breeding, show experience, and goals.
Feel free to ask the breeder questions about their background and titles earned with Silken Windhounds. It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to learn about a rare breed. Showing your dog in competition with others of its breed is the best way to learn how to evaluate individual dogs and their potential for producing a superior Silken Windhound. Sometimes trips across country need to be made in order to survey the strengths and weaknesses of different breeding lines. Silkenfest is a gathering of Silken Windhound owners that have been held for several years in Texas at Kristull Ranch but as the numbers of Silken Windhound owners across the country and around the world increase, the venue may move. 2002 saw Silkenfest travel to New Jersey and 2003 Silkenfest went international by traveling to Finland. Silkenfest is now on an annual rotation across the country to spread the venue to those near it.
Ask where the puppies are being raised and with how much personal attention. If you are looking for a house dog you should find a puppy whose parents are housedogs and who has started his life in a house with house-sounds and house-smells.
Temperament - the individual puppy's personality and activity level - is an extremely important characteristic. Some ways of getting an indication of what your puppy's disposition may be like are meeting relatives of the puppy and performing a puppy personality test. The best way though is to talk to the breeder. They have lived with the pupy its entire life and if you are honest about what sort of personality fits you best, they can steer you to the puppy most likely to fit you. Relatives may give an indication of the litter's potential. The breeder's observations, combined with the personality test, will more specifically target which puppy is correct for your situation.
Temperament is not entirely inherited. As with people, dogs are a product of their environment. Early training and education of both the puppy and owners is very important. We highly recommend a puppy kindergarten class that uses positive reinforcement methods. Like a child, your dog will learn best with praise and reward.
Trust your breeder's recommendations! They have lived with the dog for months and you will just be making a brief visit. The puppy that seems the most calm when you visit may simply be exhausted from terrorizing his littermates the hour before. It is common for a breeder to offer you one specific puppy. Whether it is the last one to go to a new home or first one out the door, matching the proper puppy to the proper loving home is the goal of the reputable breeder.
A recent study done by UC Davis that utilized the test developed by Washington State University found that the genetic defect that causes sensitivity to ivermectin and other drugs occurs in nine breeds. This includes Silken Windhounds. This defect results in an defect blood-brain barrier, causing high levels of some drugs to accumulate in the brain. This accumulation in high doses leads to coma and death if the dog is not put on life support. Ask your breeder if the parents have been tested and what their status is and ask it the puppies have been tested. The commercial test is available from washington state University at : http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/depts-VCPL/test.asp
You also can see the scientific study done by Davis at: :http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/0402374101v1
There is a link to supporting information (figures/tables) in html format in the upper right corner of the download page.
FADS, or what we call Lotus Syndrome, is seens in many animals and is heatrbreaking the the breeder to have puppies that have tucked and folded limbs that won't straighten, scoliosis of the spine and difficult breathing. These puppies die very shortly after birth typically while it's normal siblings live long and healthy lives. University of Pennsylvania is involved with the Silken Windhound breed to help us look for the gene(s) responsible for this defect in the hope that it will help human children afflicted similarly. Currently there is no test available for this syndrome, but we hope with our cooperation with University of Pennsylvania's project there will be one soon.
Cryptorchidism is a failure of one or both of the testicles in a puppy to descend into the scrotum. A unilateral cryptorchid has one testicle fully descended into the scrotum and one that is not. A bilaterally cryptorchid dog has neither testicle in the scrotum. These terms are frequently confused with monorchidism. Monorchidism means that the dog has only one testicle anywhere in the body, not necessarily just counting those in the scrotum. Monorchidism is a rare condition. Cryptorchid dogs are not considered as breeding prospects and the neuter of these dogs is more expensive as the surgery is often more invasive. Long-term problems that can occur with cryptorchid dogs includes temperment problems since the retained testicle cannot produce viable sperm but still is capable or producing testosterone. The retained testicle is also at a higher risk to develop cancer.
Collie Eye Anomaly
We found out through the grapevine that the Long-haired whippet was as a breed coming up with dogs affected with Collie Eye Anomaly. Since they make up a part of our heitage we undertook a sampling to see whether we carry this trait. In its worse form it can cause ocular problems including blindness. We did find that we do have this in our breed and have begun testing and removing it. Thankfully even the dogs that have come back as affected do not seem to have impaired sight. This along with Mdr1 is being worked on by breeders to slowly remove them from the population without losing genetic diversity
With our borzoi heritage, we as a breed chose to test a reprsentative samples of silkens to evaluate our status as to whether we carry this gene. This was submitted for testing after the 2011 Silkenfest. With a large number of samples turned in covering all the borzoi family lines, it appears that silkens do not carry this gene. One less thing to worry about.
Umbilical hernias are a spot on the abdomen where the abdominal muscle have not fully closed together along the midline of the belly. These can occur in two forms in Silken Windhounds. One if there is a extra pad of fat around the umbilicus but there is no loop of intestine present. In this type of hernia the bump cannot be reduced and actually has closed around the fat. The second does have intestine protruding from the abdominal cavity and it is palpable. Many times the intestine can be replaced digitally. The second type of hernia may close on its own or may need surgerical closure when the puppy older. Many people have it close at the same time as the puppy is spayed or neutered. The first type of hernia is the least worrisome, being merely a blemish, the second type is more of a concern to breeders and dogs with the second type of umbilicals hernia should not be used for breeding.
Silkens at this time do not appear to be a breed heavily affected by cancer but it can and strike individual dogs and some types are more heritable than others. Talk with your breeder about the cancers that they have had experience with in their kennel and lines. We are paticipating with an ongoing study to keep track of those dogs that have been affected by cancer to help us keep track and understand our breed better.
One of the biggest advantages of buying from a reputable breeder is the relationship that may develop between you. Consider the breeder as a friendly source of knowledge and problem-solving ideas. If you are not completely comfortable with the breeder's experience and knowledge, the conditions under which the puppies were raised, and the commitment of the breeder to eliminating heritable problems in the breed, keep looking! It IS worth the trouble to find your ideal companion.
Tips for the new owner
Read training books before you bring your puppy home. See the Library for a list of some recommended publications.
Crate-train your new puppy. When properly introduced to the crate, your dog will consider it to be their own private place to sleep and relax. Use of the crate will greatly simplify house training and keep the puppy (and your possessions) safe from the dangers of unsupervised play in the house and yard. Travel and stays at the vet will be much less stressful for the crate-trained dog. Don't ever use the crate as a form of punishment however, that makes the crate an unpleasant place to be.
Find and attend an obedience class where the instructor is oriented toward positive-reinforcement learning. Ask the puppy's breeder or your local dog club for recommendations. Remember, training begins the minute you take your puppy home. Problems do not go away when the puppy gets older, they just get bigger. Training continues throughout your dogs life and it can be a valuable source of quality time and fun for you and your dog.
Spay/Neuter your puppy. There are several good reasons to do so. You will not have to worry about "bitches in heat" and accidental pregnancy. A dog that has been neutered is much less likely to develop several types of cancer. Also unneutered dogs can be a neighborhood nuisance if they get out and start fights with other dogs, the tendency to roam is much greateer in an intact male. Bearing puppies is also stressful and potentially dangerous for the bitch. Contrary to what most people think, the dog's personality and energy levels are not affected by these procedures. They won't get fat, because controlling the amount of food eaten always controls the dog's weight. The only change you may see after neutering - and this only occurs occasionally - is a change in the texture of the dog's coat.
Remember, breeding is not for the faint of heart. Not every dog should be bred and not every person is cut out to be a breeder. Leave the job of producing healthy and happy puppies to those who are willing to give up a large part of their life, time, heart, and income to rasing these special dogs. If you decide that someday you want to bred, I recommend finding a breeding mentor to help support you and guide you. Most people in silkens are very willing to help you navigate the pitfalls.
Groom your dog regularly. The Silken Windhound's coat is easy to maintain with a weekly brushing or combing. During the grooming session it is easy to note skin/ear problems, and observe the general overall health of your companion. Toenails need trimming about once a month. Ears should be cleaned at the same time or as necessary to prevent dirt buildup. Extra hair should be trimmed away from the ear openings and off of the feet with scissors.
Are you sure you want a dog?
If you are thinking of keeping your dog outside all of the time, be aware that the digging, barking, and escaping problems you will see are difficult to solve. The "outside" dog has long, boring hours that cause stress and tension. He solves his dog-problems with dog-solutions like digging and destruction. He cannot be an effective watchdog because all he can watch is the yard-he can't get into the house to scare off intruders. Please remember that dogs are not lawn ornaments. People who are looking for something that will sit quietly outside all day, and require only food and water occasionally should get plants, not dogs. Teach your dog the rules of the house and he will be a welcome member of the family instead of just another outside chore.
Please fill it out and sumbit it to me. If you would like a MS Word or Acrobat version of the questionnaire, please contact me by email and I can forward you one.