I’ve been working with Streamer, the tazi-saluki, and I must say that much of what people believe about these dogs is false.
Dog trainers often say you cannot train these dogs, but the truth of the matter is he’s quite soft. His softness does not manifest itself in cowering before me when he does something to make me cross. His softness manifests itself in attempting to avoid me.
The trick is to have a rapport with this dog before you start making demands of any kind. He is not afraid of people, but he is quite aloof. For him to trust me, we have had to become friends.
When he first arrived at the airport, he glared at me and snarl-barked at me. I’ve never seen an eight-week-old puppy act so primal and so primitive.
He and I never really interacted. He was not supposed to be my dog, but one day in February, he decided that he wanted to be mine, and I’ve been working with him ever since.
I cannot say that everyone should have a dog of this type. This type of dog requires an understanding of what it’s like to have a sensitive and soft dog that is combined with a general primitive dog’s tendency to be independence. Independence combined with softenss is not something that the major schools of dog training are really equipped to understand, and that’s why so many dog trainers think of these breeds as quite incorrigible.
But he’s not really. Because he’s so well-socialized to people and other dogs, he’s actually quite stable. He won’t run over and lick your hand like a golden retriever would, but he’s not nervy or jumpy at all.
As he has matured, he has become more and more less socially open, but his reserved nature is not like the old school chow chow’s. He just has a small circle of people he trusts.
Working with a dog with this fundamental nature is teaching me many things about other dogs. I am reminded of what falconers require their apprentices to work with first. They very rarely tell their apprentices to get Harris’s hawks, because Harris’s hawks are cooperative hunters. The usually tell them to get a kestrel or a red-tailed hawk, because they are more independent.
I’m learning what it’s like to have a dog that is not derived from that Western dog concept of an obedient servant. I’m picking up ideas of that will make it easier to work with other breeds that might be easier to work with.
So I have a leash-broken saluki that walks at a perfect heel. He sits at the curb when I cross the street. He is a beautiful creature. His feathering is starting to grow in, and he will be a magnificent manly dog when he matures.
I look like a real dog man when I walk this dog. He stares up at me with adoration at a heel, and I start to believe the illusion.
Though I probably shouldn’t.