Reserved, sensitive and gentle, the Saluki is an increasingly popular pet. These are extremely bright, even-tempered, loyal animals that are affectionate but not overly demonstrative and watchful but not aggressive. They are curious, clever and can be a bit mischievous. Salukis usually are fairly independent and aloof around strangers. They often become attached to one family member and show little interest in the others. Despite their relatively unpampered nomadic background, Salukis appreciate the finer things in life, like snuggling on a sofa or soft bed. They also love and need vigorous outdoor activities. Naturally clean and odor-free, Salukis are easy to integrate into an active household. However, a person who wants a dog that instantly obeys commands and comes on recall every time should not get a Saluki. People who can’t exercise their dog every single day and use patience and positive training methods for the life of the animal shouldn’t get a Saluki. This glorious, glamorous animal is just not a dog for everyone. Potential owners must make sure that the breed’s unique characteristics will fit with their lifestyle.
Because the Saluki is such an active breed, it is not a good choice for apartment-dwellers or small urban homes. Salukis need more than just a daily walk. They need to RUN! Their ideal home is in a fairly isolated, low-traffic area with plenty of room to stretch their legs at full speed as often as they want to. Without a fully fenced yard (at least 5 feet high), owners must be prepared to walk their Saluki on leash several times a day, rain or shine, day and night. They also will need to find it a safe confined area for running free. Remember, these are finely-tuned hunting hounds, not couch potatoes. They require vigorous physical and mental challenges to keep them content and in tip-top shape. In other words, a tired Saluki is a happy Saluki. Some owners exercise their Salukis alongside their bicycles; others engage them in long games of Frisbee or fetch. Salukis perform at the highest level in many competitive canine sports, which is a great way to focus their attention and energy. These include lure coursing, fly ball, tracking, exhibition jumping, open field coursing, track racing, agility, utility and obedience. They also are extremely competitive in the conformation ring. Salukis are easily distracted, especially if they see anything resembling prey. Since the breed has been clocked at 40 miles per hour, chasing a Saluki is usually futile.
Salukis are highly intelligent. However, they also are extremely sensitive. Any training of a Saluki must be done calmly, gently and respectfully to avoid frightening the dog, making him overly shy or causing resistance and retaliation. Consistent positive reinforcement, and a healthy dose of patience, are essential. As someone put it, “the Saluki is a devoted partner but a reluctant slave.” In a controlled environment, with proper patience on the part of the owner, most Salukis can master standard obedience commands. However, there are no short-cuts to training this breed. Owners always need to be conscious of their dog’s hunting instincts and prey drive. If a Saluki sees a squirrel running along a fence-top, it’s a good bet that it will bolt after it, regardless of any prior training or commands from its owner. This isn’t a sign of disobedience or dumbness on the dog’s part; it is just the inherent nature of the breed. Unfortunately, Saluki’s also won’t pay attention to traffic when chasing their prey. The leading cause of death for this breed is not old age or illness; it is being hit by cars.
Salukis are exotic, beautiful, athletic and spirited. They are clean, don’t shed much and draw lots of attention from passers-by. However, they are not Labradors or Golden Retrievers. In other words, they are not always easy-going, friendly, unflappable around kids and stable in unfamiliar situations. At their core, Salukis are hunters that for thousands of years have been purposefully bred to have a virtually unbreakable prey drive. They will pursue anything that is furry and fast. If they catch their target, they usually will kill it. Most Salukis are not trustworthy off-leash, especially around traffic, as they are much too fast for a person to catch if they decide to take off. Salukis like to sleep on beds, couches and chairs instead of floors. They are capable of performing high leaps to grab any enticing tidbits they see on the kitchen counter. Many Saluki owners follow what they call “the seven-foot rule": they keep any desirable objects at least seven feet beyond their dogs’ reach. Salukis don’t do well being left alone or confined in crates or kennels for extended periods. A lonely, bored, inactive Saluki can quickly turn into an anxious, depressed and destructive Saluki. Left alone all day in the back yard, a Saluki can create craters in the grass and garden. They also can bark and howl incessantly, which neighbors usually don’t appreciate. They need some outlet for their enormous energy. Owners should give their Saluki lots of exercise before leaving it alone, and should also provide it with a rotating range of toys and chewies to occupy its time. If possible, a return visit during the day is helpful. Another option is to hire a dog walker. If a safely fenced yard or some of these other solutions are not viable, prospective owners should consider another breed, or get a cat.