Feed That Dog!!

What owner of a fit sighthound hasn’t heard this before?

Outside of a dog show, sighthound owners are all too familiar with dirty looks, a cold shoulder, and even accusations of cruelty (“that dog is too thin!!”). We think it’s time to spread the word that what’s really cruel is a fat sighthound.


The magnificent creature at the right is an Azawakh, and the perfect example of a dog most uninformed people would say is too thin. Her ribs are visible, her hip bones protrude – even the points of her shoulders are apparent.

In reality, she’s perfect. Her breed is a fit, racy dog built for speed. The Azawakh is extremely athletic, muscular, naturally high in the leg, and her structure and muscles are supposed to be almost transparent beneath fine skin. She has flat muscling which adds to her sleek appearance and helps her release heat and cool more efficiently, while slowing twitch muscles for greater endurance.She possesses a deep chest, a lean and chiseled head, prominent withers, and not much in the way of subcutaneous fat. You might say she is the runway model of the canine world with legs that go on forever.

The Azawakh has been used for centuries as a coursing dog in the Sahel region of Africa. Extra fat would not only slow her down, but hinder her ability to withstand the high temperatures of the region.  At night, she and her mates often sleep on the roofs of the houses of their people, and jumping off the roof to chase away a hyena is a whole lot easier when you’re packing less weight.

So, imagine the following scenario: It’s dusk in the southern Sahara. “Amazzal” (not her real name) and her mates,” also Azawakh, have spotted a gazelle munching on a shrub. Gazelles have an excellent sense of hearing, and the youngest of the Azawakh has made a sound. Suddenly, the gazelle makes his escape, making bounding leaps in high arcs and approaching the 50 mph of which his species is capable of reaching. The Azawakh take chase and are gaining – all but Amazzal. She’s slowing down, overheating, and soon has to stop and leave the chase to the others. Why? Because she looks like this:

Azawakh,sighthound,hound,Sahel Sighthound,fat,skinny,

Photo from the fine website, AZAWAKH IDI! IDI! IDI!

The Azawakh in this photo is not pregnant, nor was the breed designed by nature to carry all this weight. The scenario presented above is total fiction since the nomads and cattlemen who own these dogs would never allow their dog to get this fat. Unfortunately, an uninformed owner did, as is mentioned on the fine blog from which this photo comes, Azawakh Idi! Idi! Idi!.

People are so used to seeing overweight dogs that the sight of a rib or protruding hip bone on any dog, including a sighthound for which the condition is appropriate, is an anathema. Educate yourself. Share this post with others, especially non-dog people. Help them learn that fat is not always fabulous, and why.

Thumbnail image by Ffiona Erskine -Ffire Photography
The photo is of Australian Champion Worgeordie Endidi Na’ema, the first Azawakh imported into Australia. Owned by Debra Huon. Photo taken on the grounds of Sydney Royal Dog Show.

Middle photo of Takute´al Ifriqiya shared by the kind consent of the owner/photographer, Dr.Gabriele Meissen (DVM)/Tombouktou´s Azawakh



25 thoughts on “Feed That Dog!!”

  1. We’ve got 2 Borzoi and they eat like horses but they still are just as thin looking as a runway model but got muscle….

  2. Having greyhounds. Over the last 20 years the best dogs ever and they have always been fit and trim. All rescued

    • Greyhound ARE seriously great dogs, Lynne. A fat sighthound is not a pretty sight, lol

  3. I have had sighthounds for thirty years and some of the comments I have heard over time have been a mixed bag there was a person once a very ignorant female who proceeded to tell me she would call the police because my then whippet and greyhound were too thin and I was cruel for starving them ect ect this female was loud and rude. I diden´t say anything but other people did they told her of she then tried again I then said go ahead if you go and tell them about my thin(emaciated hounds) they will laugh at you. I never saw the ignorant female again but its just one of those things I have heard kinder remarks and those are the ones I treasure.I don´t want to waste my precious time listening to stupid remarks those are best ignored. I do feel sad for sighthounds ending up as the obese one in the picture. Ignorance can be extremely cruel to our sighthounds we must educate where we can at show´s people aught to know better.

  4. Sight hound or any dog is most definitely not meant to show every bone, there should be a happy medium with bones covered but not fat, there is a massive difference between starving and fit

    • Susan, I will have to politely disagree. Sighthounds are not meant to carry ANY extra fat. There is no “happy medium” on this issue. I’ll be the first to admit my retired (from showing) salukis carry extra weight a lot of the time, but they are fed the right amount of food. They are just slowing down a bit as they age. However, I do not let them get more than a few pounds overweight before putting them on a diet…again. My younger dogs do not carry a single extra pound. They run it off, playing and chasing each other and any prey that happen to enter their yard. A few days after giving birth, one of my girls, fat and heavy with milk, went out and caught herself a rabbit – probably thinking of feeding it to her pups. Now that her pups are weaning, she’s been put on a diet again to lose her “baby fat.”

      • I’m not seeing where we disagree, Betsy, I agree with you!

    • Absolutely! They don’t have to show every bone to be fit, the correct covering is the same for any breed and I think it is too easy to overdo it simply because they are supposed to be lean, yes lean, not underweight, there is a level between fat and scrawny, that is in the middle and where any dog should be. Stop making excuses for poor animal husbandry, what happens when one of these become ill and won’t eat? They have no reserve to call on, they don’t have to be fat, just have enough covering. Working dogs need muscle, when fat reserves are depleted muscle starts to be used. There is no difference between a bulldog and a sight hound, they should all be optimum weight, that isn’t extra fat!!! there doesn’t have to be either extreme.

  5. I have been hearing this comment for ages whenever in public and trying to educate people repeatedly…Azawakh stand out more than others with their sleek coatsand runway model looks…love that. This is a fabulous article more people need to see.

    • We feel your pain, Marya, and evidently others do, as well. The post has been seen by over 25,516 people on Facebook alone, and shared about 400 times. The “skinny” dog topic is no longer a laughing matter when responsible, caring owner are being reported to animal control and having their lives disrupted. We encourage everyone to share the link to the article with their local shelters, animal control agencies and rescue groups. Ignorance in this day and age is no longer an excuse. Thanks for writing and the kind words!

  6. Being a whippet owner (and one Saluki) for over 30 years I heard “let me buy that dog a sandwich ” and “they ars so elegant”.

    • Don’t you wish you had a dime for every time, Diane?

  7. When was the last time you saw anything but a skinny human runner? Never! Making this comparison, people often get it. Our sighthounds are the same: superbly tuned runners & athletes. Making this comparison, people often get it.

    • Great point, Dale, and a wonderful illustration to help people understand!

  8. My favorite was the pair of women walking in the hallway behind my daughter and me when we were taking the whippets out at the hotel.
    “Awww, look, they’re taking the dogs out!”
    “Yeah, well, I hope they’re taking them out to eat.”

    I usually just smile and say, “They eat like horses. They’re just built this way. I wish I were!”

    • A gracious reply, Sharyn, and we can’t help but wonder how they would have responded had the Whippets been grossly overweight?

  9. ANY overweight dog is cruel. When I can, I educate the public. I do a lot of events with my borzoi, they are large boned to start with, so they already don’t look as thin as others, so I don’t hear it as much, but when I start telling people how much the dogs eat, and then tell them how active they are, then I get into health issues that can occur from being overweight, people seem to appreciate that I know my dogs and that I keep them active. Then they look at me and wonder why I’m so large. Currently I’m in a high stress situation, so I have extra pounds. My one male is 120 pounds, that’s huge for a borzoi, but he’s a big boy to start with, 34″, he does coursing, obedience, agility; he has free access to a 3 acre run beside the road, to race the neighbors.

    • Heartily agree, Marie, and well done that you educate the public!

  10. You say they are ok and supposed to be thin, but that’s only for the breed standard point of view. Think about health issues, nothing should have ribs and bones protruding and be considered healthy. Even retired greyhounds gain weight and it doesn’t hurt them, only hurts racing but raising a dog to race around a track and then kill it if can’t run is not my idea of humane.
    Many purebreds are unhealthy and riddled with health problems, we made them to look a certain way in exchange for a healthy dog. You want healthy, look for dogs that are closest body shape and size to the Wolf.

    • Keith, it’s beyond us how you can see a fat sighthound and think that’s remotely healthy for the breed.

    • Sighthounds are incredibly healthy dogs with little to no health problems. They are some of the oldest dogs alive, and are the closest descendants of the common ancestor shared with wolves. It causes so much more health problems to make them overweight. Take the Hortaya Borzaya for example, these are purebred dogs with virtually no health problems because they are bred strictly for performance as hunting dogs.

      Your comment on wolf build as well, if you take off the bulk of that wolfs fur you’d actually see an animal with some rib, hip, and bone showing. Sighthounds just have more showing due having such lean muscle and little to no body fat. In addition, a conditioned human will also have bones showing. If a very fit human raises their arms, you will often see a little rib, when they bend over, some spine. Many common pet owners are total desensitized to seeing overweight, unconditioned animals that we don’t know what a healthy, fit dog looks like anymore

      • Thanks for the comment, Max, and concurring that a fat sighthound is unfit (to say nothing of jarring in physical appearance, in our view)!

  11. While a retired racing greyhound may gain a couple pounds, they should never be overweight – yes, one should see a lean, trim body. The actual physiology of a greyhound is different than that of other dogs. The most important being that their heart is actually larger than other dogs. Excess weight is detrimental to their heart, as well as their bone structure which is not designed to carry extra weight.

  12. I have Italian Greyhounds and have heard the “That dog is way too skinny” more often than I care to count. In actuality, one of the 2, my agility girl, is about perfect, and the other, my little couch potato, tends to gain weight if I’m not careful. She just isn’t interested in doing much and I have to encourage her to run around and play. I weigh their food and am constantly adjusting it to account for time of year (they’re less active in the winter) and try to keep them at the right weight. So when I get these comments, I say, “They’re not skinny. They’re Greyhounds and this is a healthy weight for them.” That’s usually enough to have people back peddling and apologetically saying, “They’re beautiful!” And yes, they are.

    • You’re to be commended for taking the time to educate the public by informing anyone who asks that your “skinny” dogs are actually at a proper weight. We find that most people simply don’t know any better. Good for you!

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