By Carolyn Flajnik
Unlike most rescue groups, Virginia Greyhound Adoption does not have a policy against placing retired racers with families who have children under the age of six. Virginia Greyhound Adoption prefers to evaluate each family individually and to help them understand the responsibility involved when adopting.
Your first step…Educate yourself by reading the following books. You must understand that dogs do not think like we think. Read books about dog behavior, training, and what makes them tick. From your dog’s perspective, you must take charge and be the “alpha pack leader” in your home.
Childproofing your Dog by Brian Kilcommons & Sarah Wilson, Warner Books
Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies by Lee Livingood
Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson.
Many greyhounds are happily living in homes with young children. It can be done if you are the type of parent who knows dogs and children and have realistic expectations for each. Greyhounds are very accustomed to wearing their basket muzzles. Unfortunately, people have preconceived, negative opinions about muzzles….You must get over it if you want to have your children and your greyhounds safely co-exist.
Several years ago I placed a five-year-old greyhound with family who had a 2 ½ year old child. For several very good reasons I was confident this placement would be a success. The family now owns three greyhounds (one female and 2 males) and the daughter, at the time of this writing, is 4 ½ years old.
This adoption was a success because…
- The stay-at-home Mom had prior experience with dogs. While she had no experience with greyhounds, she had previously owned a difficult pure bred who was an ongoing challenge until his death. She understood several important factors about her new greyhound…. He was a powerful adult dog who was not accustomed to being held and cuddled, a dog who was being thrust into a new and sometimes frightening environment, a dog who would require patience, training, and reconditioning to transform him into a loving, family pet.
- She knew her children. Her son was in elementary school at the time of my home visit. He grew up with a dog …he was a normal, active, noisy, boy. His little sister was only 2 ½ years old, was bright, active, and realistically, still a baby. While the children had both been taught to “be nice” to pets, their wise parents understood that children stumble, fall, toss toys, and on occasion throw very loud temper tantrums. All of these behaviors may frighten or startle an unsuspecting greyhound and cause him to snap. However, if the basket muzzle is placed on the dog when he is sleeping or resting, he can’t unintentionally injure your child.
- She knew that she could NEVER, EVER leave a young child alone with a dog. If you aren’t willing to take a few extra seconds to safeguard your child…wait to adopt.
- She socialized her GH by taking him to family activities. He was on the sidelines at soccer games & swim meets and he blossomed from the exposure.
- She trained her dogs to follow basic commands. Training will establish you as the pack leader and also help you open a line of communication with your dog.
- She never assumed a situation was safe. Before allowing children to hug or snuggle with your greyhound be sure your retired racer is comfortable with this type of affection. Greyhounds learn to love petting and hugging, but they are not familiar with it when they are fresh off the track. Don’t ever let a child use Racin’ Rover as a pillow. If they want a pillow, please get one off the sofa or bed.
- A baby gate can be a lifesaver. When you leave the room, when you are busy cooking, showering, or doing anything but watching your child and the dog, you must separate them…there are NO exceptions to this rule. The few seconds it takes to lift a youngster to the opposite side of a baby gate is time well spent. If you can’t use baby gates because of the floor plan in your home, put your greyhound in his crate, or at the very least muzzle him when you leave the room. The muzzle is your friend…use it! Develop the habit of slipping a muzzle on your sleeping greyhound if the toddler (or young child) is in the room. Even in your presence a child can stumble and fall on a sleeping greyhound who may react with a lightening snap. Don’t take irresponsible chances…use the muzzle, use the muzzle, use the muzzle.
- Greyhounds sleep in their own kennels during their racing careers. They are never touched when resting or eating. For this reason, some greyhounds are space or sleep aggressive. The adoption kennel director may not be able to test for this tendency, so be aware of the possibility before you take a chance with your family. A space or sleep aggressive dog will not welcome you near his bed. He will not want to be petted while he is resting, sleeping, or eating and to do so could result in a bite or at the very least a warning growl. Many greyhounds sleep with their eyes wide open. Call your dog’s name before you try to pet him.