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. 

 

 

 

 

 

Dog digestion and feeding

Dog GI system

After writing my myths BUSTED post, I began thinking about how often I am asked about what I feed my greys. I felt that this topic is worth spending more time discussing.

 First let’s discuss the gut of a dog. All mammal digestion begins in the mouth. This is where we begin to break down the particles in our food to extract the important elements needed for sustained life. Most mammals produce amylase, an enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates, in their saliva. Amylase is not produced in a dog’s saliva.

We must remember that our sweet cuddly greyhounds are natural born predators that are more than able to crush through bone and muscle meat with ease. Carbs were not often on the menu.  Open up her mouth and check out those huge teeth!

After reading this about amylase I was confused as to how dogs break down kibble. Let’s dive into the dog’s GI tract to learn how this happens.

After your hound ravenously devours her food, she swallows it. The esophagus allows the passage of food from the mouth to the stomach. The esophagus is just a connection, nothing exciting happens here.

Then the food enters the stomach. Dogs have single chamber stomachs like humans. The stomach pH of a dog is about 2, which is the same acidity as lemon juice.  The strong gastric acid combined with the muscle strength of the stomach begins to break down food into absorbable molecules- but minimal absorption actually occurs in the stomach.

© Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.
© Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.

 

Once the food has been broken down by the gastric acid, the food enters the small intestine. Mammals have three parts that make up their small intestine: the duodenum, jejunum, and the ileum. The small intestine is a large organ and can be about two and half times the dogs total body length!

© Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.

The duodenum is the smallest part of the small intestine but the most important. The duodenum connects the small intestine to the stomach. While food is in this section it is combined with enzymes from the gallbladder, pancreas, and liver. The duodenum is where amylase, lipase, and proteinase begin to break down carbohydrates, fats, and protein, creating the building block for life.  In the duodenum, kibble is broken down.

After the food is further broken down, it enters the jejunum. The jejunum is the longest section of the small intestine. The jejunum has a large surface area to allow for absorption of nutrients.

After the jejunum successfully absorbs all important nutrients from the food, the remaining intestinal contents are released into the ileum. The ileum connects the small intestine to the large intestine.

Once the intestinal contents reach the large intestine most nutrients have been absorbed and broken down. The job of the large intestine is to absorb water and create feces. The large intestine is critically important in the hydration status of the dog. Once most water is absorbed, the feces enters the anus and then rectum. Once in the rectum the dog will be able to expel its waste.

© Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.

Dogs have quick digestive systems and depending on your fed, digestion can take them 6-12 hours per meal.

Feeding

 Now we have a basic understanding of how a dog’s gut works. Let’s talk about what to feed your greyhound.

 

When I first read that dogs do not have amylase in their mouth I felt that raw food was the only way to feed a dog.  Since learning more about dog digestion and monitoring my dogs on raw my opinion has somewhat changed.

I have three greyhounds. They were fed raw for about three years. I have followed both the BARF (bones and raw food) method and whole prey.  I feel that whole prey worked better for my dogs and aligned with my concerns regarding no amylase in dog saliva. I used multiple protein sources and felt very good about the diet they were receiving.





However, Jethro never thrived on raw. His coat was dull, thinning, and he was very skinny (even for a greyhound). I tried to increase his rations but he began to refuse to eat. After about 10-14 days of him barely touching his food I knew something had to change.

 


I started him back on a very high quality kibble. Seriously, his eyes about popped out of his head when he saw a bowl full of kibble. I realized that raw was not for him. He did not do well on it.

 

I do still give him raw bones to help with tarter build up.


 

After my experience with Jethro I wanted to learn why greyhound trainers would feed kibble and raw together. After all, this goes completely against everything I had learned about the horrors of feeding raw and kibble at the same time.

 

I researched this more, reading accounts on what Henry VIII fed his hunting greyhounds, what open field coursing greyhounds are fed, and what top US racing greyhounds eat.  A theory for feeding carbohydrates continued to surface throughout my research; it stated that greyhounds need a lot of ready-to-use energy for sprinting. The carbohydrates in kibble, pasta, and rice that trainers often feed help with this. The balance between the raw protein source and the kibble create a balanced diet for quick acceleration from an energy standpoint.

I encourage greyhound owners to try different diets and see what their hound thrives on. There are easy options for raw and kibble. The most important thing to remember when choosing a food it how you dog looks, feels, and preforms on that diet.  After all a dog’s diet is not a bragging point between humans but an elemental point of existence for your hound.

The illustrations in this post are reprinted with permission by the copyright owner, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, from the Atlas of Veterinary Clinical Anatomy. These illustrations should not be downloaded, printed or copied except for personal, non-commercial use.

Six Greyhound myths BUSTED!

It seems that every time my husband or I take the greyhounds for a walk we get a ton of questions.  We get a lot of questions about the quality of life at the track, if greyhounds really do love to run, if they need a lot of exercise, if they eat a lot, if they will chase small animals, if they bark, and most frequently if they can sit.

Today I am going to do my best to debunk these six myths about greyhounds. 
 

1.)  Greyhound tracks are terrible places.  Tracks and kennels get a bad rap due to lack of knowledge about the racing industry.  There are state regulations as well as individual track regulations for greyhound racing.  These regulations are in place to ensure the integrity of racing and the welfare of the dog.

I think of the racing kennels and tracks as a military school; the dog goes there to learn a trade and is supported throughout its career by a team of people who have dedicated their lives to the breed.  As the dog ages it inevitably slows down, cue the adoption kennels. 

 After a dog is hurt or has graded off she is sent to an adoption group.  While in the adoption group she has a health check, is spaded or neutered, and is placed.  In the US greyhound adoption is skyrocketing.  There are some locations in the country that have waiting list for greyhounds.  This excitement about adoption is attributable to the effortless work of kennels and adoption groups. 
 
2.) You must have to exercise that dog all the time!  Yes, greyhounds love to run.  Please come and look at my grassless back yard and you will see that greyhounds LOVE to run and nothing can stop that love. 
 
Their love of running doesn’t equate to a need for intense exercise.  Greyhounds are sprinters.  They accelerate quickly but this is not sustained for long periods.  Greyhounds are perfectly happy with a nice daily walk and do not need a lot more exercise. 
 
 
 
If you want to participate in any dog sports with your greyhound, I would recommend additional exercise.  You will have to gradually work the dog up to longer periods of exercise, as they are not used to long endurance intervals. 
 
3.) I bet those greyhounds eat you out of house and home.  Depending on your feed it can vary greatly.  At the track greyhounds are fed a mixture of raw and usually a good quality kibble.  Once these dogs enter the adoption kennel they are switched to a kibble and most continue on kibble.  As with all mammals, greys have some GI issues and certain feeds can exacerbate this for certain hounds.  Probiotics are important to maintain a healthy system.  I can’t average the cost of feeding a grey; it depends on the size and sex of the hound and the type of feed they are getting.  The most important thing to remember is to keep the hound within 3-5lbs of their racing weight or at their racing weight.  Greyhounds are skinny we should not be trying to fatten them up!
 
 
 
4.) I bet those dogs can’t live with a cat or small dog.  It’s true, greyhounds love to chase things.  Honestly all dogs love to chase but there is something special about watching a greyhound chase.  Sometimes greyhounds mistake small fuzzy animals for a lure.  This can be an issue when a grey has a strong prey drive.  The good news is that most adoption groups test the dogs with smaller dogs and cats prior to adoption so that the adopter understands how the new dog will fit it their home.  There are plenty of greyhounds that co-habitate with small dogs and cats without issue, but please check with your adoption group before bringing your greyhound home.  Supervision between these interactions is needed until stable relationships are formed in the home. 
 
 
  

 

5.) Greyhounds don’t bark.  Overall greyhounds are rather calm quite dogs but yes, they do bark and sometimes they will even sing.  Most greyhound owners find this trait charming and even encourage it, I know we do at our house.  

 
 
6.) Greyhounds can’t sit. Of course my greyhounds can sit.  Sitting is not the most comfortable position for most greyhounds and sometimes they appear a little odd while sitting but most can sit.  Some hounds are natural sitters and seem to enjoy the position while others are not.  Sitting is a great command for your grey to learn and is easily taught.
 
 
Myths busted!  Greyhounds are truly dogs and enjoy doing dog things.  The important thing to remember is that there is something special about this breed, something much better than any other breed can offer!
Feature photo credit: Trent Rees

My Greyhound’s leg is broken, now what?

About 10 months ago Jethro broke his leg lure coursing.  It was a beautiful December day and we were in Moreland, Ga.  Jethro ran his first course and looked very strong and was having a blast.  I decided to run him in his second course because he looked so good and was having such a nice day.  During the end of the second course, he came up lame.  His left wrist was extremely swollen and he was not bearing weight.  I was very concerned by to looks of the injury but tried to tell myself it was OK.  I examed his wrist and felt crepitus (boney cracking) and my fears were certain he had broken a bone in his wrist. 

 Photo credit: Cindy Frezon

 

I called my vet and told him that I thought the leg was broken.  He advised me to stabilize the leg and come in the next morning. 

Overnight the swelling had increased and was causing Jethro a lot of pain.  We went to the vet and had x-ray.  His stopper bone was broken.  We discussed an experimental surgical technique to stabilize the bone with a small screw or splinting and stabilizing the joint for 8-12 weeks. 

I decided to splint and stabilize the joint.

Jethro is a very headstrong dog.  He had other plans than lying around the house for 8 weeks.  He wanted to be running and playing with his pack.  Keeping Jethro calm was incredibly hard and we ended up have to give him trazodone to keep him calm as he busted out of two crates and wrecked multiple x-pens.

While he was in the splint he developed a pressure ulcer on his elbow.  I was at my tipping point!

The pressure ulcer was extremely painful for Jethro.  I called the vet thinking we were going to have to begin antibiotics ( I am a nurse after all) but dogs are amazing creatures and their infection threshold is much stronger than humans.

I read all I could about pressure ulcers in dogs and found this article about a “doughnut dressing”.  This was a dressing shaped like a doughnut causing the pressure of the splint to be distrusted evenly around the wound allowing no pressure to be on the ulcer.  After a week of using the doughnut dressing the ulcer was healing and you could no longer see bone.

Jethro was such a good patient and supper lucky to have two nurses taking care of him.

After nine weeks in a splint, Jethro was free!  Clint and I were pushing getting the splint of ASAP due to the pressure ulcer.  I was so glad to hear the bone had nice regrowth and looked stable.  

After the splint was off Jethro still walked like he was splinted.  It took him about a week to resume a somewhat normal gait. 

After the splint was off the hard part began.  We had to rehab a dog.  He had lost a lot of muscle and was was stiff from the splint.  We began doing stretching and strength training.  I knew that the rehab was key in correcting Jethro’s gait. 

This video shows some of the rehab techniques I used to help Jethro to regain strength and balance in his leg. 

Jethro had a great outcome due to a great vet, serious human support, and his will to be able to run again.  If you are ever in the situation, I hope this post helps you and your hound. 

 

Photo credit: Cindy Frezon

 

 

 

The Peanut

I admit I struggle to get my dogs exercised when it is raining.  I hate being outside when it is wet and I hate them getting so dirty.  I dislike rain.

So what is a savvy greyhound owner to do with her hyperactive and under stimulated hounds… Well, my friends, that sounds like a job for the peanut.  
The peanut is designed by FitPAWS.   It is an oblong shaped ball that the dog stands on to help increase their core awareness.  Just like core training in the human world, this is hard work.  I ask the hound the stand on it for three minutes at a time repeating three times.  This gives them a brain and core break and allows them to focus when it is their turn.  

 

 

My boys adore the peanut, as soon as I get it out excitement erupts with barking, running, and all together spazzing-out.  Darla, is not a peanut fan.  The upside for her is the food; girlfriend is a foodie and will do just about anything for salmon.  
The good thing about the Peanut is, that it works the dog physically and mentally.  This gives you a nicely exercised calm dog that will not wreck your home when it is raining, snowing, or just icky outside.  

When all else fails, just move the coffee table, throw a toy down with a squawker, and let them go!  As you can see, the Diva loves her stuffed toys and NO ONE is getting on her bed

 

 

 

 

Have a good weekend and enjoy those nice, calm, happy hounds!

Raw Diet

 

The original reason that I started this blog was to document the hounds’ transition to a raw diet.  I had some failures in doing that… Blogging is not for the faint of heart. 

 

We are now 100% raw, save for the training treats.  Darla’s seizures are controlled with the diet and a herbal supplement.  Most of my friends think I have gone off the deep end.  I am a medical person and I love pharmacology; however, I feel that D’s seizures were directly correlated with her food.  Since beginning raw diet, she has had less than five events all but one could be attributed to a treat or bone that had been smoked.  Thus I am being open-minded and continuing with her treatment plan as it is.  My human specialty is neurology, so girlfriend is analyzed and then reanalyzed.  

 

 

I have read a lot about dog nutrition and have came up with a nice well-balanced diet for them.  Depending on their weight, they get about 1-1.5lbs of meat a day.  On top of that they are supplemented with 1-2 cups of green veggies and fruit.  I am also a huge believer in carbohydrates, my hounds will get ½ cup of rice or sweet potatoes daily.  They also get supplemented with eggs, sardines, and kefir/coconut milk.  I will increase/decrease the diet if someone looks too thin or I start to lose hip points.  I constantly evaluate how they look and how they act.  Dogs tell you so much with so few words!   

 

 

An interesting point in this was transitioning the puppy to raw food.  While he was living with his breeder and litter he was getting a very high-quality kibble.  When I first offered him raw, he was not interested.  I ended up having to add some tripe to really stimulate his taste buds.  Now he is a pro and will eat whatever is in his bowl.  I have fed him based on his predicted adult weight.  However, as soon as he begins to get too skinny I increase, usually with carbs.  I find that the additional carbs have been very helpful without adding to his growing pains.  

 

 

Officially,  we are a raw food only family.  I would encourage anyone to try this diet.  It is easy and the dogs really do thrive on it!

LGRA

I am always ready to get the dogs out and let them play.  I was planning to attend the ASFA region 7 invitational; however, I had an engagement that could not be rescheduled.  Fortunately, there was a LGRAmeet within a day’s drive on the same weekend.  I loaded up the hounds and we decided to try racing.  

I have to admit that my dogs adore this sport.  I am partial to lure coursing, mostly due to the location.  I love being out in the country, but the hounds love racing.  I think it has everything to do with the lure that is used in racing.  Jethro and Darla thought the squawker lure was the greatest invention on earth.  Sashi was a little unsure, but after some training, he loves the squawker as well.  
This was Darla’s first time running this season.  I was very impressed with the Diva.  Darla’s running can be very capricious.  She loves to run but on her terms.  If something irritates her or she is just not feeling like it she will not give it her all.  I have talked with my vets and trainers and we feel that that is just her.  I never know what I am going to get, but girlfriend came prepared for this race.  She did excellently against a very nice and very fast bitch.   She came in second and I was very pleased with her.
Jethro on the other hand, had bloody nail beds after his first run.  The ground was really hard and he is not accustomed to that, so he lounged in the car the rest of the day… Yeah right… He acted like a spoiled brat because he was not getting to run.  He ripped open a pack of cashews, spilled a bottle of water, and coffee over the seat of the car.   He was highly upset!
Overall, out first LGRA outing was a lot of fun.  Thanks again to great friends like Carl Doby and Jennifer Ng for their help and the wonderful photos!
Photo credit: Carl Doby and Jennifer Ng

ASFA Greyhound Speciality

 

ASFA Greyhound Specialty 2014

 

After much deliberation and my on-call schedule aligning with the stars, I was able to attend the ASFA Greyhound Specialty.  The Greyhound specialty is a wonderful event hosted by the Southeastern Greyhound Club, the main event is ASFA lure coursing.  There is an informal conformation show as well, which can be a lot of fun for the dogs.  My dogs feel that anything that evolves food and attention it is fun!

 

Unfortunately, Darla decided that she needed to wrangle with an opossum the week prior.  She lost a tooth and had to have surgery on her mouth, she was unable to run, but enjoyed an abundance of treats and smells within the show ring.  

 

 

I also brought the kid, he loved getting to play show dog.  As you can see he is an excellent sitter.  Unfortunately the judge did not find this as cute as I did.   

 

I am so biased about this little cutie! Really, isn’t that the cutest face ever!

 

I did run Jethro in the Lure Coursing trial.  I was very pleased with his performance.  Jethro always runs with a lot of heart.  He loves the lure and loves being out in the field.  He broke his hock during his pro career and his rehab continues.   I am quite sure he was the oldest dog entered in the open stake and he tied for 4th place.  He was very stiff after his two runs, so I opted out of a run-off and we happily accepted NBQ.  He always thinks he is the best and I enjoy spending time with him.  It was a win-win.  His stiffness resolved within a day, he was demanding his hike the next morning.  

 

 

 

 

I greatly enjoyed this event and the dogs had a wonderful time as well.  It is always nice to be in a field full of greyhounds, doing what they are best at.   Hopefully we will return next year.  

 

 

Photo credit: Cindy Frezon

Swimming

 

Living in Atlanta, I struggle with finding locations with good footing to let the hounds run.  Fortunately, I have great friends with a farm in Newnan.  They graciously allow me to bring the hounds down and let them run.

In addition, to their runs on the farm, I felt that the hounds needed to be doing more conditioning.  I wanted to try something that was easy on their joints and feet.

I was speaking with another greyhound friend about this and she told me about Wag-N-Swim.  The facility is located slightly OTP (outside the perimeter), the pool is warmed to the dogs liking and salt water.  I was very interested and we went for our first session this past week.

 
 
I knew Darla would like the water, she is always wanting to play fetch in the lake or lay down in creeks.  I was a little worried about how Jethro would do.Here were my favorite things about swimming: the dogs slept for hours after the class, I learned a lot about the hounds gait, and I can already see improvement in their muscle definition after one session.  I will continue with this training once a week for the remainder of the summer.  They will also continue with their FitPaws Peanut and free running.  We should be properly conditioned by fall.  They are already complaining that they haven’t lure coursed in over one month.
On another note, no seizures in 11 days!

 

Greyfest

 

A few weekends ago the hounds and I attended the annual Greyfest at the Georgia International horse park.  I volunteered to trim nails on the hounds attending the festival.  It was a lot of fun.  I was able to keep D&J close by while I was working.  

 

 

 

The festival is dedicated to celebrating Greyhound.  It is hosted by SEGA (southeastern greyhound adoption) and coordinated by the ever-organized Lisa Strickland.  They put on a wonderful event with several contests celebrating all that greyhounds are. 

 

 

They also have a contest called “Blur the Fur”.  This contest allows the greyhounds to run in a horse arena.  The hounds are encouraged to run by the sound of a squawker and visual stimulation of a lure.  The hounds love it!  The best part for the human was that your hound’s speed is clocked with a radar gun!  Darla was clocked at 41 mph.  That is fast!!

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately Jethro was still recovering from his toe surgery and was unable to run.  I will post photos of him running later.  We were given the okay to run last week! 

 

Darla continues to be seizure free.  We are going on one week without seizures, touch wood.  We are continuing our raw diet and I am continually pleased with how my dogs are improving. 

 

Photo credit: Cindy Frezon