Afghan Spaniel

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Afghan Spaniel
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While the Afghan Hound and the American or English Cocker Spaniels are quite different breeds, they have recently been mixed together to form a new hybrid called the Afghan Spaniel. This dog has not been around for long and as puppies can inherit characteristics from either parent, it can be difficult to predict their future temperaments.

The characteristic features of the Afghan Spaniel are its elegant, flowing coat and its serene, brown eyes. They are medium in size and not as slim or refined as their Afghan Hound parent. They come in a variety of colours, though cream and brown seem to be the most popular at the moment.

About & History

A rare cross-breed that has yet to become widely-recognised, the Afghan Spaniel is a mixture of the Afghan Hound and the American Cocker Spaniel. Both have traditionally been used to hunt, though the Afghan Hound is a sight hound while the Cocker Spaniel is a gun dog. Experts are unsure as to when the first Afghan Spaniel was developed, though it is likely to have been a recent creation – certainly within the last 30 years. Though not much is known about the recent and short history of the Afghan Spaniel, we know plenty about their more popular parents.

The Afghan Hound

The Afghan Hound is thought to have originated in the Middle East and is classified as one of the ‘basal breeds’, meaning that they are genetically divergent from ‘modern’ breeds of dog and were developed from wolf ancestors many years ago.

The Afghan Hound was well-respected within Afghanistan, where it was used to hunt as well as herd. Their characteristic long fur protected them from the harsh winters on the mountaintops. The breed was exported to the UK and USA over time and was eventually standardised, becoming recognised by the British and American kennel clubs in 1926.

The Cocker Spaniel

The American Cocker Spaniel is closely related to the English Cocker Spaniel and they were once considered to be the same breed. American Cockers are smaller and lighter than English ones and have been bred as show dogs and companions more so than anything else.

English Cocker Spaniels were traditionally bred to hunt and were used as gun dogs, taking advantage of their superior sense of smell to search for prey in low-lying areas and flush them out for the huntsman. Though the American Cocker Spaniel was once the most popular pet dog in America, they are up against some strong competition in recent years and are now lucky if they make the ‘Top 20’ list.


The Afghan Spaniel is a medium-sized dog that has inherited a good mix of physical traits from each parent. They are less elegant than the Afghan Hound, with a stockier body and stronger bones. Shorter than the average Afghan Hound, some say that they look like an Afghan that has been shrunk down and widened! Their muzzle is not as long as that of the Afghan Hound and their skull shape is closer to that of the Cocker Spaniel. They have dark brown eyes that give them a calm and noble expression and pendulous, flowing ears that complete the look. Their back is long and straight and they should have a good abdominal tuck-up. Their tail is long and slim and usually densely feathered.

Weighing from 14kg and 20.5kg and reaching heights of between 48cm and 58cm, the measurements of the Afghan Spaniel tend to fall somewhere in the middle of those of each parent. The coat of the Afghan Spaniel has two layers: a thin, long and silky outer layer with a dense under-coat. Their fur can be a variety of colours, including cream, red, black and brown. Most will have one solid coat colour though some will have patches and other markings.

Character & Temperament

As with other designer dogs, it is difficult to predict the nature of the Afghan Spaniel, especially as they are such a recently developed breed. Those purchasing an Afghan Spaniel puppy from a breeder should look to their parents for a good indication of how the pups may turn out to be. Whether they will inherit a personality that is more like that of a Spaniel or closer to that of a Hound, is up to chance.

Spaniels are loving and affectionate though require plenty of training and socialisation from a young age. They also have high exercise requirements and can develop behavioural issues if under-stimulated. Afghan Hounds, on the other hand, are known to be aloof and can take a long time to warm up to new people. They make good watchdogs, as they are always alert and are distrustful of anyone they do not know. They can be very sensitive and do not have a lot of tolerance for young children. As a general rule of thumb, Afghan Spaniels will have personalities that will contain aspects of both parent breeds.


The Afghan Spaniel requires extensive and consistent training from an early age if they are to settle well within the home. They do best when given structure and routine and dislike any type of disorganisation or disruption. They are known to be smart but are not necessarily easy to train, as they can take longer than average to master basic commands and are not the best students.

Intensive socialisation, particularly during the first few weeks and months in life, is critical. Without this, many Afghan Spaniels will be distrustful of people and it can be very hard to earn their trust when they are older.


Despite the fact that they have been cross-bred and will display some hybrid vigour, the Afghan Spaniel can still suffer from certain health diseases. As the population size is currently so small, it is essential that breeders act responsibly and only breed the healthiest breed members to ensure the longevity of the Afghan Spaniel.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated Cardiomyopathy, or DCM, is a significant heart condition that is known to affect both the Afghan Hound and the Cocker Spaniel. It is the muscle of the heart that is affected and the heart grows so large that it is no longer able to pump efficiently. Over time, fluid will accumulate and a dog will go into congestive heart failure.

To diagnose the condition, a vet will perform some imaging studies, such as thoracic x-rays and echocardiograms, and may also check the rhythm and electrical activity of the heart using an ECG. Treatment consists of medication to improve the hearts capacity to pump and to counteract the signs of heart failure.


It can be difficult for owners to diagnose their pet with hypothyroidism as the symptoms usually come on slowly over time and can be quite subtle. Dogs may struggle to shift excess weight, be reluctant to exercise and can have chronic skin infections and a dry, patchy coat. Blood tests can diagnosis the condition and it is well managed with medication.

Otitis Externa

Though the long, silky ears of the Afghan Spaniel are absolutely stunning, they do come with a warning! Floppy ears that are densely furred are prone to infections, as the environment within the ear canal is often moist and warm, leading to a proliferation of yeast and bacteria. Owners should clean the ears out on a regular basis.

Exercise and Activity Levels

As both parent dogs come from working backgrounds, it is no surprise that the Afghan Spaniel has quite high exercise requirements. Afghan Hounds were required to have stamina and speed to perform their role for hours on end and still have the ability to exercise to the same capacity today.

Cocker Spaniels are notorious for becoming bored and frustrated if under-exercised and a Cocker Spaniel that is not kept active is prone to developing destructive and nuisance behaviours. Taking all of this into account, the Afghan Spaniel should be exercised for at least one hour every day. If owners have the opportunity to bring them to scent trials or hunts, they should take advantage, as the Afghan Spaniel would relish the opportunity.


With a long, straight coat that doesn’t look after itself, the Afghan Spaniel is quite high maintenance when it comes to keeping their fur in good condition. Owners should be prepared for daily grooming and the Afghan Spaniel should also be professionally groomed on a regular basis if they are to look their best. They should not be bathed too regularly, as this can strip the natural oils from their glossy coat and leave it looking dry and lackluster.

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