When discussing the temperament of an Azawakh, consideration should be given to individual personalities and contributing backgrounds, both genetic and environmental. However, there are several general characteristics common to the breed. Described in a Dog World article as a “warrior class dog”, they have the intelligence and heart to protect. When approached on their own turf, they are vocally intimidating. In situations where their duty as guardian isn’t necessary, their reactions may range from friendly, to mildly curious to arrogantly indifferent. Although generally not outgoing, several in the US have found the opportunity to make social contributions as therapy dogs in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers.
They seem to possess an uncanny combination of total loyalty and independence. Each new situation presents the potential for the struggle between the dog’s natural desire to please and his prideful desire to do things his own way. A firm, fair hand is called for. Properly socialized and trained, the Azawakh will live harmoniously within the family and community.
A well socialized Azawakh is affectionate, gentle, playful, subtle and very loyal to its owner. Some Azawakhs, having bonded with one particular person, do not change ownership with ease. Azawakhs are usually cautious with strangers. They typically observe for a while before approaching.
Azawakhs raised in kennel situations, with little socialization, are typically very shy. They are usually nervous, frightened and may freeze in a new situation They may snap or bite. They can be made to adjust, one step at a time, with a lot of time and patience. Well socialized Azawakhs can also be frightened, but adjust more quickly to the new situation, and often watch and trust their owner’s reaction to a given circumstance.
Quick, attentive, distant, reserved with strangers and may even be aggressive, but he can be gentle and affectionate with those he is willing to accept. However, it is a breed disqualification to be timid, panicky or aggressive to point of attack. This part of the standard is at odds with many breeders in the US and Europe who are trying to breed Azawakh who are more approachable, maybe even friendly, and less apt to be “savage”. In the Sahel, the hound prefers not to be touched, but is not aggressive. Unprovoked aggression towards a family member or guest would not be tolerated.
The Azawakh with other dogs
Much discussion as been given to the guardiness of the Azawakh, but here we must remember that this is a sighthound.
Azawakhs have retained all their instincts, and when several live together they establish hierarchies stabilized by subtle behavioral rituals. Intentions and moods are expressed by a large repertoire of postures, expressions and sounds. Like all Sighthounds Azawakhs are highly efficient and driven hunters. Because comparatively few generations have been removed from the need to hunt daily for personal and family survival, the hunting instinct is very strong in this breed.
As a rule, they seem to accept other dogs, though sometimes grudgingly, as protected members of their own pack. Their keen vision, speed and stamina specializes them for chasing down their prey in open spaces. The Azawakh is always on the alert for moving objects; even a leaf in the wind will trigger a chase. Azawakhs usually play by chasing one another.
Azawakhs can develop great friendships with cats and small dogs, but may mistake their friend for game outside, particularly if the pet runs away. Some cats attack dogs and can inflict serious damage to their eyes and face with their claws. Similar caution is required with Azawakhs and indoor birds. The beak of large parrots can turn into a dangerous weapon and vice versa, the teeth of an Azawakh can hurt the bird!
Another point to mention is that the Azawakh is a very dominant breed. Within a household pack, they will almost always aspire to the alpha dog position. If there is an existing dominant dog in the pack, this can sometimes cause conflict within the pack.
The Azawakh and Children
No one can predict the individual personalities of all dogs in any breed. There are some situations which should be avoided with guardian and sighthound dogs of any breed. Children playing together, sometimes squabble. It is natural for a guard dog to protect “his” children from their playmates. Also, children can abuse dogs without realizing it, and an Azawakh (or any other dog) might want to defend itself.
Chase or prey behavior is another situation that can be a problem. Children or other pets running away from the hound can activate the prey drive instinct. The hound may try to “take down” the child from behind as they would while hunting. A good rule of thumb is to never leave the Azawakh with children while unsupervised by an attentive adult. There are individual dogs of all breeds which do not like children. The Azawakh, as a breed, with care given to the situations mentioned, should fit well into any family structure.