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.