Why You Should Adopt a Greyhound

By now I hope you all have heard that April is Adopt a Greyhound Month. I have been racking my brain over what to post to best advertise for these amazing creatures. It’s hard to pick out one thing that sets the Greyhound apart from other dogs—they have so many lovely traits. But as I am sitting here typing with Darla’s head in my lap it came to me. 

Greyhounds get us. Greyhound-type dogs are one of the oldest dogs. They have lived with humans for thousands of years. Genetically speaking the Greyhound understands humans probably better than we understand our Greyhounds.

The fact that the Greyhound has been around humans for so long plays into why we are attracted to these dogs. I think that we cognitively recognize Greyhounds as the dog prototype. Due to our long years getting acquainted the physical aspects of the Greyhound they feel natural to us. Greyhounds are also good at following our cues making us feel like they truly understand. And who doesn’t desire to be understood—Darla gets me better than any human!

The ability of a Greyhound to place their head in your lap, you tussle their ears and they look up at you with innocent loving eyes speaks to our heartstrings. Couple these traits with their ability to co-exist well with other Greyhounds, easy upkeep, and temperament and you have the ultimate dog-living companion.

In addition to the Greyhound’s long history of living with humans they are also independent fearless dogs (generally speaking). I have posted on how difficult this independence can be when training but it is nice to have a dog that can entertain itself and not be constantly underfoot—unless you are making dinner, breakfast, a snack, lunch, or if the refrigerator door opens!

But don’t mistake their independence for being aloof. Greyhounds have a passion for life, their people, food, and for running. Greyhounds are passionate creatures. I love this passion. I love that I can fire up my Greyhound and he will prance like a pony, jump, and then do zoomies! There is nothing better!

Some folks think that Greyhound just lay around all day and I have to say that Greyhounds do enjoy lazy afternoon but most of all they enjoy showing off that big passionate heart. Just watch a Greyhound run in an open field; anyone can see the passion the Greyhound has for running and being in the countryside!

Video Credit: David Lowery

I wish everyone could experience how great it is to own a retired racer. These low maintenance dogs are all around amazing but when they are showing off their passion there is simply nothing sweeter on this planet!

I hope you consider adopting a Greyhound. If you are in the Atlanta area please check out Southeastern Greyhound Adoption, by clicking here.

Is my Greyhound Dumb?

Have you ever tried to get your Greyhound to pay attention to you and he simply continues with his activities as usual? I have and it is annoying.

As I have mentioned, Jethro is recovering from an epidural hematoma in his back and subsequent hemi-laminectomy. Most of the time Jethro is happy and willing to participate in his recovery; other times he is not interested and has more important things to do like lie in the sun and act like a statue.

Jethro is not stupid and Greyhounds are not stupid dogs but they are not biddable.

There is a reason why Greyhounds aren’t biddable. Let’s think about the history of the Greyhound and what our racing Greyhounds are currently trained to do. Greyhounds, by way of nature and nurture, are independent thinkers. They are able to chase after something catch it and return it. They are able to position themselves on a track and successfully outmaneuver seven other dogs. The path that the Greyhound must plan to be successful requires some thinking that is not driven by a human. There is more to our Greyhounds than just raw speed!

This skills associated with racing and coursing are somewhat learned but also bred into the Greyhound. Genetics play a huge role in the Greyhound’s ability race on an oval track or course. That is not to say that training does not impact the Greyhound’s learning, but he has to have the capacity to think independently first or use his instincts.

Greyhounds are actually rather smart dogs. However, their independence can really be frustrating and create a negative environment for training or rehabbing.

So how do we make our Greyhounds as successful in rehab or training? It starts with knowing your dog and having your head in the game, so to speak!

I am a high-strung person with a touch of OCD, so I don’t do chill very well. This can be difficult when training dogs. While rehabbing Jethro I found myself very frustrated with him at times because he was not doing what I wanted and I couldn’t check that set of exercises of the list for the day. I found myself dreading his PT sessions, and I could tell that he dreaded dealing with me. After a very unsuccessful morning of trying to do PT exercises and Jethro impersonating a Greyhound statue, I knew something had to change.

Guess what, folks?  I needed to change. In the process of not completing his exercises for the day, I was becoming very nervous thinking about the possible terrible outcomes that lack of PT could lead to. I was focused on getting him better but not on Jethro or what Jethro needed in a trainer. I was a deranged anxious lady that he wanted nothing to do with; I was not his calm collected owner.

Now I make sure he is doing something daily but that can vary from increasing the time he stands, the number of sit-stand reps, or going on a 15-minute walk with Darla and Sashi.

Knowing my dog and where he is in his recovery has been essential to his improvements. Knowing your dog and where they are from day to day is essential in any type of training not just physical therapy.

Getting to know your dog opens the door for biddability. We must understand that there is more to our Greyhounds than raw speed – that big stubborn dog also has a lot of brain power.

Separation Anxiety

A lot of my blog ideas come from previous posts.  I do research on a topic and then think about my experiences.  I think that gives this blog a distinct feel and I hope you all enjoy it as well.  The other day I way touching on some of the myths people believe about racing Greyhounds and their lives on the track.  Separation anxiety popped into my mind.  In addition to hearing that skittish dogs are products of abuse, I have also heard and read that the anxieties or issues Greyhounds have in their adopted homes are products of what might have happened at racing kennels.

Today I want to dive into my dogs’ separation anxiety (SA) journey and how it correlated to mistakes I made and not problems in their kennel lives or mistreatment.

In my “Myths Busted” post I compared a racing kennel to a military school.  I think this is the most accurate way for many adopters to understand their Greyhound’s previous life if the adopter has never been to a kennel or racetrack.  Dogs are creatures of habit and, due to that tendency, Greyhounds do very well in the racing kennel environment.  Kennels have daily routines that do not differ greatly from day to day.  This is very comfortable living for most dogs. Once the decision has been made to retire a racing Greyhound and send them to an adoption kennel, their lives change but generally speaking they continue with a stable routine.  Sometimes the retired Greyhounds have a long trip to the adoption kennels but once there the Greyhounds enjoy a routine that includes exercise, interactions with humans and Greyhounds, and meals.

The big change comes to the Greyhounds’ routine when they are adopted.  One change is they are no longer around other Greyhounds (unless there are Greyhounds in their new family).  These dogs have spent their entire lives with other Greyhounds and are now alone. They may also have more free time—they can wander around in the yard or house.  They most likely are getting less exercise than previously, possibly increasing their anxiety.  Finally the biggest change and the biggest issue is the over-abundance of affection from their new owner(s).

All of these changes influence the risk of separation anxiety in these dogs, but the biggest issue is the amount of affection we give to our newly adopted Greyhounds.

When Clint and I adopted Jethro I had firm opinions that Jethro was going to be crated and sleep in our sunroom that was close to out bedroom but not in it.  Big mistake!  The first few nights Jethro howled and I went into the sunroom every time to comfort him.  This was my first mistake and biggest mistake.  It would have been better for Jethro to be crated in our room than for me to continue to check on him.  I know this is what triggered his separation anxiety. And it was not easy to undo.

Jethro had horrible SA.  He chewed through multiple metal and soft crates, escaped through the sunroof of my SUV at a field trial, escaped from a kennel run with a d-ring, he learned how to break down a metal crate and would leave the front panel off to chew up our window seal and blinds.  I felt that I had created a monster!  I had no clue how to help him.  I consulted my friend Jennifer Bachelor and her blog.  By this time it was clear that the crate was not working for Jethro.  We began baby gating Jethro in the kitchen—we could make his area smaller than a bedroom but larger than a bathroom. We continued to leave the TV on for him and a kong.  We also hired a dog walker to check on him.  And we got another Greyhound.

The process of Jethro’s SA rehab took a long time.  He is still not a fan of the crate but deals with it for car rides and field trials.  He does have the run of the house when we are away.  I do NOT feel that Darla’s arrival fixed his issues, but it did help.  I would not recommend getting another dog to fix SA, as you have to deal the dogs’ issues and training issues, getting him stable before adding to the pack—I would have lost my mind if I had two dogs like Jethro!

After my experience with Jethro, I looked at Darla’s arrival completely different.  If I was home and not playing or training Darla, she was crated.  I made the crate fun—she got raw bones, feet, and hooves that she was not allowed out of her crate.  She slept on a dog bed in my room.  I did NOT shower her with affection: she had to earn it.  Darla and I had a “working relationship” for about a year.  It seemed like she respected me for giving her stability and security and over time we developed a relationship of best friends.  I do not regret one aspect of Darla’s training and she is a very balanced Greyhound and extremely secure.  Sashi was also trained in this manner—he likes his crate so much that he will hang out in there when we are home!

You can have too much of a good thing.  We have to remember that saying when adopting our Greyhounds.  We have to focus on a routine that we set and they live by.  We must exercise and train our Greyhounds—just because they lie around does not mean they do not need stimulation!  And we have to remember that affection will come but security is much more important and what we should strive for.

 

Yes, I own a racing Greyhound and no she isn’t a rescue

Am I the only Greyhound owner who gets annoyed when asked if my Greyhound was rescued?  It really gets under my skin and it seems to happen far too often.  The other day we were buying dog food and I was asked if my Greyhound was “rescued.”  I was in a particularly rotten mood and my husband elbowed me as to say “please do not unleash your bad mood on this poor kid.”  I put my bad mood aside and replied, “No, they were not rescued and yes they are racing Greyhounds.”  The kid looked perplexed but continued to bag our goods and not ask for more clarification.

I feel continually frustrated about the misinformation that makes its way into the mainstream.  It seems like the anti-racing (AR) propaganda penetrates so deeply that it has affected many people, even people who own Greyhounds.

This past week I read two articles in two different papers in North America stating complete inaccuracies about Greyhound racing and the lives of racing Greyhounds.  By no means am I saying there are no failings in the Greyhound racing industry and that it is perfect.  However, I feel that the vast majority of people working in the Greyhound racing industry love Greyhounds and respect the breed for what it is: a functional, fast, exceptional hound.

If you are into Greyhound adoption and have not visited a track, you’re missing out.  I am lucky to be a part of a Greyhound Adoption group that arranges yearly visits to racing kennels and tracks encouraging adopters to see what life was like for their Greyhound before adoption.

It is important to be thoughtful about our opinions, and knowing the details of both sides is important to understand the entirety of a subject.   Unfortunately, it seems that most of the AR supporters cannot see past outdated reports of abuse and neglect to see the positive changes in Greyhound racing today. It oftentimes seems overwhelming to educate the general public and some Greyhound enthusiasts that racing Greyhounds are loved, well exercised, well fed and happy in their professional careers.

There are certain ideas created and propagated by the AR machine about retired racing Greyhounds that have invaded mainstream Greyhound adoption.  One idea is that skittish dogs were abused throughout their professional careers.  This idea is complete rubbish.  First off, by now we all know that negative training is not successful.  Why would someone spend thousands of dollars on a dog that could create revenue and abuse it, thus diminishing their chances of success? Complete insanity.  Furthermore, dogs have different personalities just like us.  I have raised a fair number of terrier pups and for the most part they are fearless dogs, but I have seen dogs be gun shy or timid with no external cause for them to demonstrate that behavior.  Skittish Greyhounds are most likely that way do to nature not nurture.

Another idea that makes me nuts is the raw meat myth.  Feeding raw meat is not a bad thing!  Dogs are predators and they are made to eat raw meat.  Now, let’s talk about non-human grade meat.  The labeling of meat is not just based on the quality of the product but also the facility it is made it.  Lots meat packing facilities have quality products but have not obtained certification from the USDA to mark their product as “human grade.”  Most pet foods are not made for human consumption, as the regulations and certification for this labeling would be very expensive, increasing the cost of pet food.  It’s just not a logical business move. Thus, the non-human grade meat myth should be a moot point from now on.

Opinions and facts are not the same; however, opinions create gut responses and bias.  When dredging through the misinformation about Greyhound racing it is important to push our bias aside and get at the truth.  I support Greyhound racing for many reasons and as I have seen and learned more about the industry my support grows.  I hope that this article encourages you to reinvestigate your feelings about Greyhound racing immersing yourself in facts and not opinions.

 

 

 
 

How to get a solid recall

By now you have probably noticed there are a lot of pictures of my dogs running and playing without leashes. I want to make it clear that generally speaking my Greyhounds are leashed.  However, when we are in the country we allow our Greyhounds to be off leash.  Our dogs are familiar with our property and understand their “boundaries”.

My Greyhounds did not come with off-leash manners and it took a lot of work to train off-leash manners.  So how did I go about teaching my Greyhounds to come? Recall training is not a once and done type of command.  Recall training has to occur frequently and you have to be ready to give you Greyhound a huge payload when they come to you vs. following that amazing coyote scent or chasing an armadillo. 

At first we did a lot of work in the backyard.  I would send a Greyhound out and allow them to start their sniffing.  I would watch on the deck and when I noticed they were very interested in something I would call them and give them a high value treat—think canned dog food, mac&cheese, or raw tripe in a small container.  After they had successfully completed this on a small scale I increased the distraction and the distance. 

After mastering the backyard we would begin working on recalls at our local private dog park. This was a good location because it was safe but also full of new exciting smells and distractions.   Again I would wait until they became interested in something and then call them giving them a huge payload. 

We continued with this exercise until I felt they were ready to head to our country fields. 

The boys were relatively easy to teach a recall to.  Both Sashi and Jethro are huge momma’s boys.  They are not going far from me.  I can’t put on make-up without Sashi watching!  The cord was not cut with the boys.  Training a recall took a few huge payloads in a few different locations and they were hooked. 

Darla was not that simple.  Darla is a complicated Greyhound.  She is very independent and when I first got her she could take me or leave me.  However, she did want to hang close to Jethro and she loves food.  The issues with her recall came when she wanted to do more independent activities and realized that she could wonder off from Jethro.  This caused some stress—we thought all of our Greyhounds had great recalls but Darla did not.

Darla was deemed a flight risk and leashed.  Clint and I wanted Darla to enjoy the independence of sniffing and hunting around our fields.  We began reworking her recall and giving her another chance at off leash activities. 

We took her to the fields and the first time she did well and stayed with me, I thought that she had it!  The second time was not so pleasant.  As soon as we unleashed her she was off. Fortunately she was with Sashi and he has an excellent recall.  We called him and she remembered what she was supposed to be doing.  And came running back to us for her reward.  I want to note how important it was that we were happy and rewarded her when she came back.  She did not do exactly what we wanted her to do but we want her to associated coming to us with happiness and rewards, not us being frustrated.

After this experience we knew we had more work to do. We tried her off leash again this past week in our fields.  She did much better.  I have learned that once she is off leash she is going to run like crazy. The difference this time was that when we called her she did a turn-face and came back to us, ready for her jackpot reward. 

We will continue to do more and more off leash training with Darla and we will allow her more and more off leash time.  Hoping to balance her training with her positive experiences. 

No matter if you are considering allowing you Greyhound off leash or not, training your Greyhound to a recall is one of the most important things you can do.  We have to remember that accidents do happen and the better prepared you are the better chance you have a good outcome. Good solid recalls take time.  It is important to start slow and practice often.  Sometimes regression is part of the learning process and should not be considered a failure but an opportunity for learning.  Training you Greyhound should be a fun positive process for you and your Greyhound. 

For more off-leash training tips check out Jennifer Bachelor’s Blog Never Say Never Greyhounds.  This is the premier blog for training Greyhounds!

Do Greyhounds think like us?

Have you ever wondered what makes a Greyhound happy?  Or even if your Greyhound experiences any emotion like we do?

I have.  Jethro recently had a spontaneous injury to his back.  He was paralyzed from the pelvis down.  We were lucky and he was able to have surgery to fix the issue.  He is getting better but he still has a long road ahead of him.

Jethro is a high-strung Greyhound that does not like to be still; he has “extra personality.”  He has been miserable while he has been sick.  He whines and seems listless.  He is only happy when he is eating, outside, cuddled up to Clint or me, or playing nose work.  We have ben playing a lot of games and that has made this experience better for the both of us.  Jethro may be the best trained of the bunch at this moment!

This experience made me think about the emotions dogs may feel.  I wondered how Jethro’s brain was processing his condition.  This experience made me want to know more about dog cognition.

Dog cognition is an up-and-coming field.  There are several centers around the U.S.  studying dogs.  We have learned that dogs are special compared to other animals.  Dogs are able to learn our cues even better than chimps and other non-human primates.

I was shocked that a dog could understand what I want him to do more quickly than a non-human primate.  A study published in Interactions Studies in 2009 looked at New Guinea Signing Dog (NGSD), along with four breeds of dogs registered with kennel clubs—the the Siberian Huskie, the German Shepherd Dog (GSD), the Toy Poodle, and the Basenji (Wobber, Hare, Koler-Matznick, Wrangham, & Tomasello, 2009).  The researchers tested three types of cues on these dogs—they set out two bowls of food, the first cue was pointing and turning toward one bowl, the second was handling a block and then setting it in front of a bowl, and the third was covering the dogs’ eyes and sitting the block in front of one bowl (Wobber et al., 2009).  In experiments with the NGSG and the kennel club dogs both reacted to these cues (Wobber et al., 2009).  This is incredibly interesting, as wolves do not do this (Hare, Brown, Williamson, & Tomasello, 2002; Virányi et al., 2008).  Furthermore, the NGSD is a breed that has had very little human involvement in their breeding and they still picked up on these cues similarly to the pure breed kennel dogs (Wobber et al., 2009).

This does not prove that dogs experience emotions as we do, but it does show that dogs are very in tune with humans.  They are paying attention to us and respond accordingly.  For instance, when I get my camera case out, my Greyhounds know we are about to go run.  Dogs pay attention to what we do.

There continues to be a lot of research focused on the dog’s cognitive system.  Hopefully someone will eventually be able to answer our question about the emotions our Greyhounds feel or don’t feel.

For now we have to do our best to not anthropomorphize our Greyhounds.  We understand that they are in tune with us but do not necessarily feel what we perceive that they feel.  We have to remember they are dogs and sometimes what makes them happiest is a nice run in a field, a good beef neck bone, an ear rub, or a nice game of nose- work!

 

Hare, B., Brown, M., Williamson, C., & Tomasello, M. (2002). The domestication of social cognition in dogs. Science, 298(5598), 1634-1636. doi:10.1126/science.1072702
Virányi, Z., Gácsi, M., Kubinyi, E., Topál, J., Belényi, B., Ujfalussy, D., & Miklósi, A. (2008). Comprehension of human pointing gestures in young human-reared wolves (Canis lupus) and dogs (Canis familiaris). Anim Cogn, 11(3), 373-387. doi:10.1007/s10071-007-0127-y
Wobber, V., Hare, B., Koler-Matznick, J., Wrangham, R., & Tomasello, M. (2009). Breed differences in domestic dogs’(Canis familiaris) comprehension of human communicative signals (Vol. 10:2, pp. 206-224). Interaction Studies: John Benjamins Publishing Company

 

Collars: To Martingale or not to Martingale

Besides poop-bags, the other most commonly used product for the greyhound is a collar.  When you adopt your greyhound most likely they will be equipped with a muzzle and a martingale collar. 

When I got my first greyhound I read a lot about the martingale collar.  Everyone seemed to recommend this as greyhounds have skinny necks and can “back out of their collars.”  What I was not clear on was that martingale collars should only be used for training or walking.

Unfortunately I found this out the hard way.  One day Jethro and Darla were playing.  They both had on martingale collars.  Something happened and Jethro got Darla’s collar wrapped around his mouth.  He was struggling to free himself and choking Darla in the process.  Both Greyhounds were squealing and I was freaking out.  I knew I had to act quickly.  The saving grace was that Darla’s collar was too big and by a miracle I was able to pull Jethro close enough to Darla to give the collar some slack and pull it over her head.  Darla and Jethro were OK; however, this could have ended in disaster if I had not been right there.  I vowed only to use a Martingale collars while training.

Greyhounds can be flight risks and per their adoption agreement they need collars on all the time.  I was frustrated with what I was going to do. 

I first ordered leather fishtail collars.  These collars are beautiful and I love to see Greyhounds sporting these collars, as they look so regal.  Overall they are very effective but there was one drawback.  My hounds are quite rambunctious and they have been known to take a notion to jump in the pool with a collar on.  Their leather collars were quite worn at about a year.  Sashi has been banned from leather.  He chewed through one collar and did some damage to another.  There had to be a better product.

One day I was watching a Greyhound race and noticed that the Greyhounds were being walked to the starting box with plastic buckle collars. I found Gun Dog Supply online and ordered a TufFlex collar for Sashi.  These collars also included a brass nameplate that is riveted to the collar.  They gave off a plastic smell when I first opened the package, but it dissipated overnight.

I love love love these TufFlex collars.  Now all three Greyhounds wear these collars.  They are easy to clean, pick up no odor from the dogs, and fit incredibly well.  My Greyhounds cannot back out of these collars as long as they are adjusted in the correct position.  I have been using these collars for about one year and can’t say anything negative about them. 

However, for most Greyhounds the safest walking collar is a martingale.  If you are concerned that you will forget to take it on and off, I highly recommend buying a martingale with a buckle.  I have used these collars in the past and they are effective but get dirty quickly–or maybe Sashi just gets dirty quickly!

 

I hope that one of these collar options suits you and your Greyhound!

Greyhound Nails

One of the best parts of greyhound ownership is the lack of grooming they require.  Greyhounds are wash and wear dogs.  They do not need a lot of brushing, trimming, or bathing.  However, their nails do need some attention.

First things first, what is a nail?  The nail is protective covering of the bones and vessels under the tip of the foot.  Nails are made up of a strong fibrous protein called keratin.  This protein is also found in skin and hair.  Nails protect the tip of the foot from damage and help with gripping while running.  

 

 

So what happens if your greyhound’s nails are too long?  Well, multiple issues can occur.  The most concerning issues are the changes to the gait associated with long nails.  When the nail is touching the ground this puts pressure on the bones of the foot.

Remember the old saying about greyhounds? “A greyhound should be headed like a snake and necked like a drake, backed like a beam, sided like a bream, footed like a cat and tailed like a rat”.  This poem should be taken to heart when thinking about the greyhound foot.  When the nails of the hound are too long it creates an uneven balance of pressure in the foot.  This pressure lengthens the ligaments in the foot causing the toes to appear longer and the dog to not walk properly.  This can also be painful.

Pressure sores or decubitus ulcers can also occur with overgrown nails.  The overgrown nails come in contact with the thin skin of the foot and can cause breakdown.  This can lead to infection and can be very painful to the dog.  Pressure sores are difficult to heal.  The offending agent or pressure has to be removed so that the wound can heal properly. 

You can see why nail care is important but what do you need to trim nails?  I recommend plier-style clippers with a safety stop.  I find that guillotine clippers are difficult to use.  Guillotine clippers do not give you the control of the scissor clipper.  It is also more difficult to see what you are doing while trimming the nails.  You should also buy septic powder.  This is good to have on hand in case you do nick the nail quick.  Remember to hold pressure to stop the bleeding as best as you can then apply this.  Septic powder works best on dry surfaces.  Grinding tools are also useful tools to have in your nail bag.  They can file the nail down and if you are worried about the quick there is no clipping involved.  I would recommend grinding nails outside and with a mask on and eye protection.  Also move the tool over the nail as it will heat up.  Continued pressure in one spot will heat the nail and can be painful to the greyhound. 

So you have your tools but how do you successful clip greyhound nail?  I understand that nail clipping can be scary.  We know all too well that there is a sensitive quick in the nail and clipping it can cause bleeding and pain for the dog.  Well friends, I have news for you.  If you look at your hound’s foot you can easily spot the quick even on black nails.  

Once you know where the quick is you make you first cut at about 45-60 degrees.  I recommend then making two additional cuts to the side of the nail to make sure you have removed all the overgrowth.  Once this is completed you can file the nail with an emery board or grinding tool.  A rule of thumb for nail length is that you should be able to slide a credit card under the dogs nail while standing   

Most retired racers are well accustomed to nail clipping as this was a regular part of their routine.  However, if your hound is not so cool with the idea of clippers coming close to their toes some positive reinforcement could help.  I find that using a plastic toy stuffed with food will keep a hound busy while clipping.  The clicker could also be used for this.  Creating a positive association with the clipper can be helpful with a lot of dogs.  Remember to channel your inner leader while nail clipping, dog can sense if you are not confident in your skills.  Getting you and your hound accustom to nail clipping can take some time but well worth the effort!

I hope that this has been helpful to you and you now ready to clip you hound’s nails with confidence!

What it means to adopt a greyhound

Every American Thanksgiving the American Kennel Club has its national dog show.  The Best in Show (BIS) dog gets tons of advertising and often times many people throughout the country are exposed to a dog that is “beautiful”.  This advertising causes an increase in desire for the BIS dog breed.  This year the BIS went to Gia the greyhound.  Gia is an AKC greyhound that has never competed in amateur running sports a day in her life as she was bred for the ring only.  She is not the typical body type of the NGA greyhound or retired racer.  She is an exaggerated form of the AKC breed standard for Greyhounds. Nonetheless, she is advertising for the greyhound breed and her handler gave serious prompts to the greyhound as a great living companion or pet.
 
Since Gia won BIS there have been several articles published talking about why to add a greyhound to your household, and I have taken issue with some of this; they encouraged me to write this post!  None of these articles captured what adding a greyhound to your home truly means.
 
Many articles spoke about the traits of greyhounds and what the greyhound can and cannot do.  These articles also suggested what is needed to provide one of the fastest land mammals a perfect home (I am not sure there is a perfect home).
 
I disagree with most of this.
 
These writers have completed some research or googling of the greyhound but are missing one important piece of the puzzle:  they have never owned a greyhound.
 
While I was pondering the characteristics of a retired racing greyhound and what I would tell a potential adopter about the breed, I asked my husband, a non-dog-person but a greyhound aficionado that I would trust any greyhound decision to, what makes a retired racer special? Without a moment’s pause, he said “heart.”
 
Retired racers are raised to have “heart”.  By “heart” I mean passion.  They are raised to chase with all their “heart”, hang-out with their kennel mates with all their “heart”, and love their people/trainers with all their “heart”. Everything a greyhound does is with all their “heart”.  Greyhounds are independent dogs that do not need human affirmation like many other dogs.  Greyhounds choose their humans and they do it with all their “heart”.
 

After Gia’s win if you decide to adopt a greyhound, make sure that you know you are not just getting a thin skinned dog that doesn’t bark, but a dog that has “heart”. You’re getting a dog that has been loved by trainers, a dog that loves to chase, a dog that loves to live and lives her life to the fullest, and a dog that inspires you to be a better human.  My friends, greyhounds are more than any dog, more special than anything in the world, and able to give more than their all, as they give their “heart” in all they do.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Greyhound Behavior: Decoded!

Have you ever seen your greyhound act odd or refuse a command you know they understand?   If you are like me, you want to find a cause for what they are doing or not doing.  Today I am going to discuss how I analyze my dog’s behavior. 
 
First, greyhounds are not aggressive dogs.  Oftentimes new greyhound owners mistake play for aggression.  Greyhounds are mouthy, they like to feel different textures in their mouths and they also like to use their mouths in play.  
 


 
 
 
You can see based on these photos how someone might mistake greyhound play for aggression; however, it is completely innocent.  The nature of greyhound play can lead to issues, think big teeth and thin skin.  This is why a lot of owners turn out their greyhounds with muzzles on.  This is the safest why to turn out multiple greyhounds.
 
Aggression towards other dogs or humans is rather uncommon in greyhounds, although some tend to have very strong prey drives.  Jethro had some serious issues when he came to our home.  He thought that anything that was small and fluffy was a lure.  We needed serious help with this dog, as I was not accustomed to 65lbs of solid muscle pulling on the leash.  I went to our local obedience class first.  The environment there was overwhelming for Jethro and increased his fear.  I decided that his reconditioning was going to have to be completed at home and gradually introduced in public.
 
 
I am a researcher; I immediately researched the best books and set out on a mission to help Jethro.  These books were extremely useful to us, and I recommend them to other owners who are dealing with very drivey dogs:  On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas, The Other End of the Leash: Why We do What We do Around Dogs by Patricia McConnell, and Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior by Temple Grandin.  After reading these books I started implementing their suggestions.  I changed my behavior to help Jethro feel safe.  One of my Greyhound friends told me to act like a “calm fearless leader,” and this became my mantra with Jethro.  I also kept a toy with me anytime I had Jethro out, as Jethro is not food driven but loves to tug.  I was also focused on his body language to give me cues, allowing me to disrupt his unwanted behavior before it happened.
 
Overall this was very successful for us, but we did have setbacks.  Right after Darla was adopted I was struggling with watching Jethro and her on our walks.  Jethro did mess up and for about four months Jethro and Darla had to be walked separately so that I could keep my eyes on him and try my best to see the world through his eyes.  We have to remember that dogs are dogs.  They are not humans and we cannot expect them to act like us.  We have to look at life through their eyes and then train them to be successful in our world. 
 
Now, Jethro is doing great.  We can take him alone or with the rest of our pack anywhere.  I did not take away his prey drive (just asked our backyard squirrels) but I did enable him with the tools to be a great dog in a world of cats and poodles. 
 


 
 
Not all greyhounds have such high prey drives. The most common characteristic that greyhounds are known for include: even-tempered, gentle, affectionate, quiet, and athletic.  Oftentimes it takes a hound some time to blossom after adoption.   Even after the hound is well established in the pack, they may refuse a command or act odd.  That is when I really investigate what is happening and intervene if needed. 
 
The other day I was trying to get a photo of all three of my dogs laying on a blue quilt in the nice fall weather.  I had Sashi on one end and Jethro on the other.  All I needed was for Darla to lay down in-between the boys.  Darla is my most loyal hound: she comes when she is called, she sits on command, and she is pure awesomeness in a small brindle package.  She would not lie down between the boys, would not do it no matter what I fed her or gave her.  I took a step back, letting go of my photo idea, and got in Darla’s head and thought about these four things: 1. Darla is obedient, so what is the issue with this situation? 2. Darla knows how to lie down, is something bothering her about the position? 3. Jethro is the alpha of the pack, is she insecure about lying this close to him? 4. Is she uncomfortable being in the middle of the boys and would like to be on the end?
 
After thinking about these facts I realized that Darla did not want her space encroached on – it was not OK at that point in their doggy relationship.
 



 
When my dogs refused a command I first think, is something hurting them.  Often times the refusal can be linked to the flooring or to the situation above.  My dogs are not perfect and sometimes they will simply refuse to do something, but I always rule out other factors first.
 
If you look at all these photos, Darla does not have issues being close to other dogs but needs to be one the end.  The photo would have worked if I would have put her on the end and the boys together, oh well! I called off the photo shoot and everyone went back to his or her normal behavior. 
 
The point of this is that most of the time obedient dogs are not trying to ignore us.  There maybe something wrong with the situation in their minds.  It is not our job to make them do uncomfortable things but figure out that is the issue and try to find a fix to allow them to flourish.  
 
Being a dog owner and training my dogs is the hardest job I have.  I always need to be on and be a leader for the pack.  By analyzing your dog’s actions and getting into his head you will create a better environment for you and your hound.