Questions and Answers for New Greyhound Owners
1. What kind of treats can I give my greyhound?
Hard, crunchy dog biscuits, such as Iams Biscuits, are fine. It helps keep their teeth clean and gives them some extra nutrition. Just don’t give them too many! A large size biscuit a day is enough, or a couple of smaller ones. About once a week you can give a rawhide chip (the flattened type) such as C.E.T. chews (available at most vets). This helps with the tartar that builds up on their teeth, gives them some good chewing, and they enjoy it! Stay away from the high-protein, high-fat snack treats.
2. Do I need to walk my greyhound every day?
Not necessarily. If you have a fenced yard, your dog may be able to get his daily exercise by running in circles if there’s enough room. But some greyhounds are not inclined to exercise that way. Activity levels vary with each dog. In any case, we strongly recommend a daily walk, if possible. Greyhounds quickly learn to anticipate this as part of their routine, and thoroughly enjoy their walks! It is a good bonding time between you and your dog. And a well-behaved greyhound is a sight to behold! You will meet many interested people this way and be able to brag about your wonderful greyhound!
If you do not have a fenced yard, a daily walk is vital. A couple of short 10 minute walks or one longer walk a day, aside from "potty excursions", is sufficient. Greyhounds do need some daily exercise and may become bored if they have none at all. They can skip a day or so, due to bad weather....it won’t hurt them. But on the whole, walking is a FUN activity for every dog, and should be a cherished time for you and your greyhound! Retired racers deserve a wonderful life, and taking a walk is one of the nicest things you can do for your devoted pet. If you are not an avid walker, your greyhound will help you appreciate the joy of walking. Soon you will look forward to this special time!
Greyhounds need an opportunity to run about once a week, and some type of "weekend" playgroup activity or access to a fenced enclosure is required if you do not have a fenced yard. Seek out a friend or neighbor whose yard you could borrow for a short time, so the greyhound can run free and play. They enjoy romping with you and running with a toy.
3. Will my new greyhound let me know when he needs to go out?
Not at first. Greyhounds are used to being let out at scheduled times, usually 3 or 4 times a day in a group. The concept of "asking to go out" is a new one, for a greyhound. It has never happened before! It is up to you to monitor your dog and be aware of his need to go out. Eventually, with time and trust, he will understand that letting you know is the necessary step. But he won’t know this at first. And each dog may develop a different way to let you know. Some may just pace around, hoping you will notice and suggest going out. Sometimes they will just come to your side and stare at you. Others may go right to the door and stand silently, expecting you to show up and open the door! In any case, you are responsible for interpreting this need and attending to it promptly! As you and your greyhound get to know each other better, you will pick up on signals.
It helps to say the same words each time, such as "Do you need to go out?" while headed to the door. Say it several times at first, so he associates the words with the action. It is also good to say, "Okay, let’s go out", to let him know you are aware of this need. Once he is out, it is useful to teach him the words "Go potty". It is better than saying "Hurry up!" or just "Go!" And always praise when he goes! (while you are in the training phase)
You will soon know your own greyhound and what to expect. Most greyhounds do not need to go out frequently, and are content to wait until you let them out. Some dogs need to go more often when they are excited, such as when family members are arriving, or if company comes over. An indoor play session may make an extra trip outside necessary. And rawhide treats can be hard on the kidneys, so be aware of this. It is always a good idea to ask if they need to go out, for any restless behavior like pacing around. Once your dog understands your words, you will know by his reaction if he needs to go out.
Important to remember: most accidents occur because you aren’t paying attention! The first few weeks you should be tuned in at all times to his behavior, ready to pick up on any signs that he needs to go out. This helps him learn and makes the process easy.
4. Is it okay to use a retractable leash for my greyhound?
It is not recommended for several reasons. You won’t have good control at all times. Greyhounds are used to a short lead, so giving them 6 ft at first may be too much. You want to teach them to walk well beside you and be aware of your control. Even when they become great walkers on a leash, as all of them will, you won’t be able to correct them on a long leash. If they should suddenly try to sprint after a cat or squirrel, you won’t be ready. And if a rabbit should cross your path, you’re in big trouble!
Another reason is, if you should ever drop the plastic handle part, it will drag wildly behind the dog. This may terrify your greyhound and make it difficult to catch him. And the faster he moves, the worse it sounds (scraping the street). Should you be unable to catch him, he will be in great danger, with a long cord dragging behind him.
Some greyhounds initially are reluctant to poop while on the leash with you standing so close by. If you don’t have a fenced yard and this is the case, we suggest trying a retractable leash to allow the greyhound more privacy. But wean them away from it as soon as you can. They become accustomed to your presence quickly.
5. Why should my greyhound sleep in my bedroom?
Greyhounds have never been alone before, and will feel more secure at night sleeping in the same room as you do. Once you establish a bedtime routine, he will sleep soundly all night and not bother you. And at first you need to know what’s going on, in case he does get awake. Keep the door shut, or use a baby gate, so he can’t get up and wander alone through the house. If your new greyhound starts to whimper or cry in the middle of the night, just reassure him with your voice. If that doesn’t work, you can try taking him out to potty. If all that fails, a firm "Hush now" will let him know it is time to sleep. After the initial adjustment period, your greyhound should feel very secure with you, and waking in the night is rarely a problem.
6. What kind of bed should I get for my new greyhound?
Anything that is soft and comfortable will be fine. It doesn’t have to be a deluxe bed from the pet store, if it isn’t within your budget. An old, fluffy comforter and blanket on the floor will suffice. Greyhounds do need some soft padding, since they have so little of their own! A simple bed you can put together consists of a foam mattress pad (egg crate type, full or queen works best for a roomy size) folded in half, covered with an old blanket or comforter, and your greyhound is all set! A papasan pillow makes a wonderful bed too. They especially love acrylic fleece blankets or throws to curl up on. Provide a special sleeping place in your living area as well as the bedroom, unless you allow your grey to sleep on the sofa. Greyhounds are well-suited as couch potatoes!
7. Are there any special precautions I should take to keep my greyhound safe?
Be aware of objects in your house that could be harmful to your greyhound. Being so tall, they can reach things that you may not realize. Keep things like shaving razors put away, rather than on the side of the tub. Don’t leave medications lying on a counter where they may be eaten accidentally. Be careful with wastebaskets. Greyhounds tend to inspect them and may pick out anything that smells interesting, and consume it. Most kitchen garbage containers are kept covered, but don’t forget about the ones in the bathroom. Panty hose, candy wrappers or discarded personal products are dangerous for your dog if consumed.
Teach children not to leave food, candy or gum lying around. A greyhound could choke on a half-eaten lollipop or gum balls. Chocolate is dangerous for dogs. Even a box of crayons may tempt him at first. The greyhounds has a keen sense of smell, like all dogs, and a natural curiosity to investigate new things.
Always be careful of that long wiry greyhound tail when shutting doors! Before anyone shuts a car door, make sure the tail is nowhere near. This is a special caution if you have children, who may not think of this when slamming doors shut. Greyhounds have lost their tails through carelessness.
8. Is it safe for my greyhound to be in the yard while children are playing?
If you have a fenced yard, be aware that your children and their friends sometimes forget to close the gate. Remind them, and warn any new children who come over to play of this rule....Never leave the gate open!! And tell them it is VERY important to make sure the greyhound doesn’t get out when they are entering or leaving through the gate. Even if the dog isn’t right there when the gate is opened, they can show up in 2 seconds!
Occasionally a greyhound will learn how to unlatch the gate by himself. It is wise to always put a padlock through the latch hole every time the gate is closed. It doesn’t have to be locked. It will serve the purpose just hanging there.
It is not a good idea to leave your new greyhound in the yard with several children if you are not outside too. A new greyhound feels most secure when their "special person", usually an adult, is with them. Children at play may frighten a greyhound at first. And should a child start chasing a timid greyhound, it may set a bad precedent for future relationships with kids. Until your greyhound is completely comfortable with children, and you are sure they respect the greyhound’s space, supervision is necessary.
9. Is it okay for my greyhound to be out in hot weather?
Summer and hot weather bring a great danger to greyhounds if they should overheat. Do not take your greyhound for long walks when the temperature and humidity are very high. An early morning or late evening walk is fine, but don’t stay out long at midday in the heat. Temperatures above 90 degrees can be fatal for a greyhound if they are outside too long or exercising too hard. During hot weather, see that your greyhound comes back inside promptly from your fenced yard. Limit outdoor play and running sessions. Many greyhounds enjoy a dip in a small wading pool, and this is a great way to cool down after a walk. Black and dark color greyhounds are especially prone to overheat.
If your greyhound seems overheated and is panting excessively, cool him down with wet towels. Wrap one around his tummy and back, and drape another over his neck. Put him in front of a fan while you sponge him down with cool water. Don’t let him guzzle a full bowl of water...put some ice cubes in it, and offer a little at a time. Most greyhounds are able to cool down without this help, but if yours pants hard for more than 10 minutes after exercising, be VERY cautious when the weather gets hot. You can take along a spray bottle of water on walks, to cool him off a bit. If you drive to a park to walk, bring a bottle of water and a bowl in the car, so he can have a drink before the ride home.
10. Should I take my greyhound to obedience school for training?
This is rarely necessary. Greyhounds are used to taking commands from people, and will be glad to see you as the "pack leader", with your consistent training and direction. Leash walking is usually very easy and your greyhound will take to it quickly. It is rare to see a greyhound pulling his owner on a leash! Other commands, such as "STAY" and "DOWN" are harder for a grey. There are very intelligent dogs, but generally not into pleasing, like other breeds. In this respect they are a lot like the ever independent cat! They do seem to understand the concept, however.
The STAY command doesn’t work like the typical obedience school lesson, where the dog will stay perfectly still until you call them up. Their natural desire is to be near you at all times, especially when you are addressing him! In order to adapt this concept, you may have to make it physically impossible for him to follow you, such as crating him. The way to teach STAY is to hold your hand out, palm facing them, like a traffic cop. Go into another room, telling him STAY with your hand up, and put a baby gate up or close the door. He will understand this after a few times, but he may not always willingly comply!
Teach him to LAY DOWN, as you point to his bed or spot. This is very easy to teach, since greyhounds love to rest! Always praise when he does what you asked. This command will be very useful, especially if your greyhound should start to beg at the table while you are eating. Saying "No. Go lay down" works well for most greys, except the confirmed "food hounds" who may need a reminder at every meal! Still, if you are consistent in your training, you will soon have a well-behaved greyhound to brag about.
Trying to teach a grey to SIT is often a futile exercise, since it is not a natural position for most of them. But every dog needs to learn and obey the word COME. This is usually easy to teach, especially if you call their name first. Other words to teach are WAIT and OKAY. This is easily done while leash walking. Stop, and say WAIT. After a few seconds say OKAY and proceed. Giving him a word of praise and a pat will help him to learn quickly. Once your greyhound knows these words, it will be helpful in many other situations. He may not react like a show dog, but he will understand what you expect of him, and it will help him feel more secure to learn your words as well as body language.
If you still feel you need some kind of help in this area, wait until you’ve had your greyhound for a few months. It is too stressful to put a greyhound through obedience school when he is still adjusting to home life and learning so many other new things. And you may find it is unnecessary after a little more time.
11. Will I always have to crate my greyhound?
If you have established a successful crating routine in the first few weeks home, it is best to continue crating the greyhound according to your routine. The more times you put a greyhound in and out of the crate initially, the better the transition goes. And the longer you continue to crate, even if your greyhound starts to balk at going in, the easier the whole routine gets. It is natural at some point for the greyhound to fuss at going in the crate, since he would clearly prefer spending time with you out of the crate. But that doesn’t change the fact that you still have to leave the house without him most days. And he is far better off, and safer, in his crate.
Most greyhounds are perfectly content to sleep in their crates while their owners are away. There is actually less of a tendency to fret and worry about where you are when the greyhound is crated. Their routine has always been to sleep during the day while in their crate. But without the security of a crate, the greyhound may pace around looking for you, or be restless in other ways. A nervous, restless dog is likely to get into trouble of some sort, whether it is chewing something he should not, or getting into things around the house. A bored or stressed dog may chew up and swallow objects that could hurt him. Finally, with more activity going on, there is a greater need to eliminate, and accidents could happen if you are not there to let him out. Keep in mind that there is less need to eliminate while resting or sleeping. But a dog who is pacing loose in the house will not be able to wait all day to go out.
The biggest mistake people make is to give up on crating too soon, as in the first few months. If a greyhound seems unhappy in his crate when you put him in before going to work, this doesn’t mean he will be perfectly fine and content by leaving him out loose! In fact, he may be even more stressed, being alone with all that space, not knowing how to settle down without your reassuring presence. The longer you have a greyhound, the better-adjusted they feel, and the less they will mind being home alone.
If you decide to give up on crating after a period of time, there are some things to keep in mind. First, you must know your own dog! What are his tendencies when you leave him inside to do some yard work, etc.? Is he anxiously watching you from the window or is he asleep? When you are home all day, what does your greyhound do as you are going about your daily activities? Does he settle down to sleep or does he seem dependent on you for direction? Does he seem relaxed at home? Is there any tendency to get into things that are off limits?
There are other things to consider. Do you have another DOG who has free roam of the house? Is there ever any problem between your pets, such as dominance, jealousy or possessiveness? (toys, sleeping spots, etc.) Do your dogs ever play rough or start running through the house in play? CAUTION: If you have a multi-dog household, we do not recommend leaving a greyhound uncrated! There is always a possibility that you could come home to a tragedy. Consider the consequences of the greyhound and the other dog/s getting into a tiff while you are away. The tendency of dogs, being pack animals, is for all to get involved in a fight and attack the weaker one, esp. if any blood is drawn. The consequences of this ever happening are not worth taking a chance. All it takes is for one dog to get agitated, perhaps by something going on outside, and this could spark a sudden negative reaction to the nearest dog. If you have a CAT, what is the greyhound’s reaction when the cats runs through the house? If there is any tendency for too much interest, this could escalate into a tragedy. Unless the greyhound and cat have peacefully co-existed for at least 6 months, it is not wise to leave them unsupervised.
If you have another dog that tends to be nervous or restless while you are away, this behavior could rub off on the greyhound just by association. Within the crate, the greyhound is not likely to be disturbed, but uncrated may be too stressful. An anxious dog who barks when the phone or door bell rings, etc. could stir up the greyhound too much. You must decide what your household is like and its potential for problems!
If your greyhound is afraid of thunderstorms, (most are not, but a few are) what does he do? Will he be able to calm down if he is uncrated? If you are away when a storm comes up, this could cause additional stress since you are not there to calm him.
Before attempting to leave the greyhound uncrated, it is best to close off as many rooms as possible, leaving him in the living area he is most comfortable in. (family room or bedroom) Remove any hazards, such as trash baskets or any food or medication he could reach. Leave on a TV or radio, as if someone is home. Try driving away and returning after a few minutes to see what he is up to. If things are okay, try going for a longer period. An adjustment like this should be a VERY gradual process, increasing the time away if there are no problems. Trying to rush this into a few days could thwart the whole process and cause more stress for your greyhound. Remember, greyhounds like their same routine, and knowing what to expect!
You must ultimately be the judge of your own greyhound’s temperament...under ALL conditions. And the longer you have your greyhound, the easier this is! A few weeks or months is not always long enough to be able to tell, since the greyhound may be still in a transition period. The quiet, shyest types tend to come out of their shell the more time that goes by, and the more active spunky ones tend to settle down with time. Either way, a consistent routine and crating, starting from day one, is the way to go. Some greys are so adaptable, they can easily adjust to being left uncrated, in time. But if you’ve left a greyhound uncrated and come back to a problem, such as an accident or destructive behavior, your negative reaction can be a set-back and cause more stress. Remember, stress is the cause of housebreaking accidents, unless there is a medical problem. And if a negative behavior is repeated, this could easily turn into a nervous habit that is hard to control. Finally, you are responsible for your greyhound, which includes protecting him from possible harm. He trusts you to make the best decisions for him according to his own needs. Just as you would treat each child accordingly to their own temperaments and needs, you must know your own dog and do what is best for him!
12. Will I eventually be able to let my greyhound off the leash once I have had him awhile?
Never. Don’t assume your greyhound will come right back to you if he should take off running. It doesn’t matter how many years he has been your pet, it is not worth taking a chance! Greyhounds love to run, and taking him off the leash is just an invitation for him to take off. Once he is off the leash, you have no control whatsoever. If he should sprint away, whether chasing something or just for fun, there is no hope of catching up with him! No matter how fast you think you can run, it won’t matter. A greyhound can dash out of sight in seconds!
Even if your greyhound isn’t inclined to leave your sight, he doesn’t have the same "street smarts" that most dogs do. He won’t be looking out for traffic, and may be too busy exploring to pay attention to where he is and where you are. If you run after a loose greyhound, all excited or yelling, he may either think you are playing or that you are upset with him. In either case, his instinct may be to run from you! Greyhounds love to sprint around in a fenced yard when you are there, playing "You can’t catch me!". Off the leash, a greyhound may interpret your running after him as a game. In the case of a shy or submissive type, they may run away out of fear, if you race after them nervously.
A lost greyhound is an emergency situation. Don’t let it happen to your beloved dog. It is ALWAYS irresponsible to allow a greyhound off the leash!
13. What should I do if my greyhound accidentally gets loose?
Grab a leash and go after him, but try to stay calm if he is within sight. Call gently, say "Let’s go get a treat!" while approaching slowly. Or say "Let’s go for a walk!" and shake the leash. It is a good idea to have a distinctive whistle when you call him in, as from a fenced yard... It may help him hear you from further away, and he is more likely to respond to this if he is used to hearing it when you mean "Come on in now!" We also recommend having a squawker on hand for emergencies like this. It has an irresistible sound appeal to retired racers, since they are trained with this. If they can hear it, they will race back to you.
If you can get your greyhound’s attention and he still won’t come to you, you could try turning and walking away, or even running the other way if he enjoys a chase. If he thinks you are leaving, or that you want to play, this might work.
Keep in mind, if your greyhound should disappear from sight, he is not likely to wander too far. You have a big advantage if you routinely walk your dog through the neighbor- hood. Greyhounds are such creatures of habit, and are not an adventurous breed. If you walk your dog regularly, he is likely to wander the same way. However, he could get disoriented if he was chasing something, and is out of his familiar area. But he is then likely to wander around, rather than run further.
Once he is out of his familiar grounds, he may become stressed when he finally realizes he is lost. The longer he is gone, the more frightened he will become. And if the weather is either very hot or cold, he will soon be in trouble. In case you cannot find him after searching your neighborhood, call us at Greyhound Friends, and we will dispatch some volunteers, if at all possible, to help you look for your dog.
!!! Be Aware !!!
A common way that greyhounds get out is if the door isn’t pulled shut tightly enough. Many times a storm door doesn’t "latch" unless pulled. Children going in and out are a hazard if they are not careful about this. And your kids’ playmates will not be aware that a greyhound shouldn’t be let out, unless they are told. Most greyhounds are not trying to escape! They are just naturally curious, and may like to look out the glass door or watch the children go out. Teach children to be consistently careful when going in or out.
Another potential danger is when a repairman or delivery person enters your house. Again, they are rarely aware of greyhound rules, and may prop the door open before you realize it! If there is equipment to bring in or take out, such as for carpet cleaning, BE PREPARED. The safest thing is to crate your greyhound before you expect someone to arrive. A greyhound will feel more comfortable in his safe crate, especially if he tends to be shy. If someone comes to the door unexpectedly, secure your greyhound first (crate, or put them on a lease) before opening your door.
Don’t’ forget, if you take your dog’s collar off at night, always put it back on first thing in the morning. he should wear it at all times during the day. A loose, scared greyhound is difficult to hold onto if he is not wearing his collar! A person who should come upon him won’t be able to lead him to safety without a collar. But with a collar on, nearly any adult will be able to walk him, since greyhounds are used to being handled that way.
14. What kind of toys do greyhounds like?
Greyhounds love soft stuffed-animals with a squeaky in it. Any shape will do, and a stuffed ball or football in a fleecy material with a squeaky inside, is a popular choice. It’s a great indoor toy that your greyhound can toss around and carry from room to room. Try several types like this, to see if yours has a favorite color or shape. A greyhound can entertain himself with this sort of toy and may get very attached to his stuffed toys! Don’t try to take it away if he seems too possessive while playing. Wait until he is through playing if you want to put it away. They often take their stuffed toys to their bed for safekeeping. Just make sure he doesn’t chew it apart and eat the squeaky inside.
Greyhounds have never had a toy or any possessions of their own, and may not want to "share" it with anyone at first. Never let a child interfere with the dog’s toys! They may be even less likely to share their toys with children. After your greyhound has been a pet for awhile, you will know better just what to expect and how he reacts to sharing his toys.
Some greyhounds may enjoy the soft plastic squeaky toys for dogs, but others lose interest in that type quickly. If he is inclined to chew that type apart, it is not a good choice. Instead, get some flavored nylobones from the pet store. It is good for their teeth and gums, and some dogs have stronger chewing needs than others. Never get rawhide bones with knots on the end. Greyhounds can choke on that type.
Supervise your new greyhound closely the first month so you’ll know what his natural tendencies are in all types of situations. He’ll need you to let him know what he should and shouldn’t do. If you are conscientious in the beginning, you’ll be able to correct any unwanted behavior.
Greyhounds adapt wonderfully to home life, and will quickly learn the house rules! They thrive on routines and structure, so set up a correct routine in the beginning. Always be gentle but firm in correcting them. Gentleness is what they respond to, esp. if your greyhound tends to be shy or submissive. If your greyhound has a more dominant personality, be extra firm, but no yelling. They associate harshness with the person, not with their own behavior! You will be respected as a "pack leader" by your actions.
Having a greyhound is one of those things that gets easier all the time. After a few months you will wonder how you ever got along without one! It is about that time you may get "greyhound fever", and start thinking about getting a second one. It’s very easy to have two, and twice the fun! We’ll be waiting for you!