Easing Your Greyhound’s Transition To Life As A House Pet
by Ann E. Kenny
How is your new greyhound settling in to its new home? The change from life at the track to life in a house can be quite a traumatic experience for the dog. Try the following tips to ease the transition and prevent problem behaviors from developing. They also work for dogs that have been in the home for a while and are having problems.
1. Give your new dog LOTS of exercise. We have found that a tired greyhound simply doesn’t have the energy to be nervous or destructive. This means you may have to get up earlier in the morning so that you can get your dog out for a good walk or run in a nearby fenced field. If nothing else, spend ten minutes with him in your backyard in the morning, at noon, and in the evening playing catch so that he can work off some of his energy. My husband and I walk our dogs two times per day for at least twenty minutes, and we take them to a fenced field to run three times per week. In addition, they run themselves in our fenced backyard.
2. Pay attention to your new dog! he first 72 hours are the most important in terms of house training your dog. Remember, greyhounds have never had to ask to be let out. Consequently, the signals they give when they need to go out are very subtle. If he is pacing nervously about the house, he probably needs to go out! In our house, we follow this rule: turn the dog out any and every time it even looks at the back door, immediately after eating and first thing in the morning before they do anything else. The more the better. Go out with him at first and praise him lavishly with a “good pee pee” or whatever phrase you wish. If you catch him while he is making a mistake in the house, yell at him to “stop” and immediately take him outside. Praise him after he does his business outside. If the dog makes a mistake while you are gone, take him over to where he did it and show it to him. Ask him in a very firm voice, “Did you do this? Shame on you!” Carol Lea Benjamin, the author of several excellent dog behavior and training books, says that dogs will recognize their scent and should be able to make the connection. Don’t be cruel and rub his nose in it or hit him–he knows when you are unhappy and he’ll get the message without unnecessarily harsh corrections.
Most importantly, be realistic in your expectations about how long the dog will be able “hold it”. Someone may have told you that their dog can stay indoors all day without making a mistake, but this is your dog. He is probably nervous, drinking more water than he normally would, and may have diarrhea due to stress or change in diet. Their dog has had time to adjust–yours hasn’t. For at least the first three weeks, it would be a very good idea to come home at lunch and let the dog out to do his business. If you can’t come home, try to get a friend or neighbor to come in.
If you work all day, be sure to turn him out first thing in the morning, feed him and them turn him out again before you leave for work. Give him 10-15 minutes each time to do his business. Some dogs are quite shy and you may need to stay out of sight while he attends to business.
3. Buy or borrow a crate and don’t be afraid to use it. Crates are not cruel. In fact they should be considered your dog’s best friend. By confining the dog to a crate when you are unable to keep a close eye on him, you prevent him from making house training mistakes or engaging in destructive behavior. You set him up for success and not failure. Let’s face it, it would be nice if we all had two weeks to take off and devote solely to helping our new dog adjust to its new home, however, most of us must work or be away from home at some time. You can’t always be there. The crate can.
I’ve heard too many stories about new greyhounds that have been left at home alone uncrated and who have gone on expensive, destructive rampages through the house or who have tried to chew their way out of the room in which they were confined. All of these incidents could have been prevented if a crate had been used.
Once again, be realistic in how long you leave the dog in the crate. You should leave your dog crated for no more than 3 1/2 to 4 hours at a time. This means you, your neighbor, or a friend will need to come in and let the dog out to do his business and to play for a while.
Why not save a few bucks and just shut him in the bathroom, laundry room, or a bedroom? Well, greyhounds are SIGHTHOUNDS. They need to be able to see what is going on around them. Confined to a room with no view of the rest of the house they will try to get out. They can and have caused significant damage to doors and door frames, not to mention the injuries they can cause themselves. It’s much kinder and safer to put them in a crate.
4. Gradually, accustom your dog to being left home alone outside his crate. Start slowly and don’t push it. With some dogs it takes a while (6 or 7 weeks). If your dog makes a mistake or has been destructive, the time was too long. Don’t get mad at the dog; he needs to learn that you really are going to come home. So put him in the crate if you are going to be gone longer than what he can tolerate. Remember, better safe in the crate, than injured or dead. A dog with separation anxiety will chew anything and everything, eat plants or at least drag them through the house, mark territory, and otherwise engage in behavior that could seriously injure him and damage your house.
If your dog really hates being in a crate or if he is having only limited success with access to the entire house, try a child/pet gate. These work quite well to confine the dog to a smaller, dog-proofed area of the house where he feels comfortable and doesn’t feel the need to protect his territory by marking.
5. Leave a radio or TV on while you are gone. This tip really seems to help.
6. Still having problems? Get the dog into a good obedience course with a trainer who uses only positive training techniques. Remember, your greyhound has no experience being a house pet. He doesn’t know how to sit, come, walk on a lead without pulling, or stay off kitchen counters. Obedience training gives you the skills to communicate better about what you want him to do, and him the chance to learn. It also helps socialize him to other dogs and people and it can do wonders to boost his self confidence.
Read up on dog training. Carol Lea Benjamin is a favorite of mine and I always recommend her Second Hand Dog: How to Turn Yours into a First Rate Pet to new adopters. Her Dog Problems is also excellent.
7. If the greyhound is the only dog, don’t get another dog right away! Some folks will tell you the solution to your dog’s problems is to get another dog, preferably a greyhound. Well, what you could end up with is two dogs who have separation anxiety. This means twice the potential for mistakes and damage and you won’t know who did it! Please resist the temptation of an easy answer and keep working with your dog. When he or she is totally settled in, two to three months at a minimum, then you can think about getting another dog. Your dog needs to learn to be alone. There will be times when you must leave him home to take your other dog to the vet or to obedience training and he needs to be comfortable being left alone.
8. Supervise your greyhound around children. Always supervise your greyhound’s interaction with kids. Yours and anyone else’s. Your dog has probably never been around children before. Teach your children to respect the dog’s space. Don’t let them disturb a sleeping dog. If you have toddlers, this can be a challenge. Once again, use the crate or confine the dog to a room with a child gate to keep your child and the dog out of harm’s way. Gradually, expose your dog to children and teach children to always ask first if they can pet your dog. If your dog snaps at a child, it probably isn’t the dog’s fault. Greyhounds are not mean or aggressive, but they will defend themselves if they are being teased or if they are disturbed when sleeping or eating. With the proper precautions, greyhounds and small children can co-exist very well together.
Sometimes the dog will try to dominate a child, i.e. gain a superior position in the pack. This is not allowable. You must always be the pack leader and the dog must always be below each and every human in the house. Don’t let the dog get away with dominant behavior (mouthing, jumping, growling, possessiveness over toys, etc.) toward any human in your house. Once again, obedience training is in order for a dog who wants to be “top dog”.
9. Supervise your dog’s interaction with existing family pets. Cats are an obvious challenge. Ninety percent of greyhounds either have no interest in cats or can be trained out of their interest. What many people forget to consider, however, is that bringing a new dog in to your home can seriously insult the dog(s) that you already have. Introduce the new dog to your existing dog on neutral territory such as a park. Once home, watch them closely. Expect at some point to see the dogs jockeying for position and correct any aggressive behavior by either dog quickly and firmly. Confine the most aggressive dog to a crate or have muzzles on all your dogs when you are unable to directly supervise them. You may need to turn them out with muzzles on or turn them out separately. Keep toys and treats picked up and allow the dogs to play with them only when closely supervised. Eventually the dogs will work things out between themselves, but you need to be diligent in the meantime.
10. Finally or First, call the adoption group you adopted your dog from. Please call us; we care about these dogs and we want your adoption to be a success. It’s much easier to help you early on, than to wait until you are completely frustrated and the dog has developed bad habits.
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