By Judy Kody Paulsen
Racing greyhounds have led a very structured life that presented very few changes on a day-to-day basis. Familiarizing them properly with a different routine can make the initial adjustment much less stressful for you and your new pet.
Remember that they have been in the company of other dogs since birth. They have essentially never been left alone and they could depend on seeing one or more humans at least four times a day, like clockwork. Greyhounds should be “weaned” gradually from this predictable environment, especially if brought into a home with no other pets where the family is gone most of the day. A retired racer can be taught to accept being alone provided each family member, during the adjustment period, is patient and doesn’t try to rush the process. Each dog responds differently, but in most instances they will learn to patiently await your return and suffer little or no anxiety.
Your greyhound should be brought home when someone will be present to supervise the adaptation for at least two or three days. When you arrive home with your new greyhound, make every attempt to stay with the dog the rest of the day and night. During this period, you can concentrate on introducing the dog to the house and the area it is to use for relieving itself. The following morning, leave the house (dog inside, preferably in the crate that you were instructed to use) for 10-15 minutes. Take a walk around the block, then return. That afternoon, repeat the same procedure, only stay away about an hour. The next day try two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. The first day the family leaves for work/school, someone should return home at lunch. Repeat this for the next two or three days, continually reassuring your pet that you will be back. Hopefully, by the end of the week, your greyhound will understand that someone will always return home. This helps alleviate the dog’s fear that it has been abandoned whenever you leave the house. Do not make a huge fuss when you come and go. Calmly release your dog from the crate, take him outside to relieve himself, and then act silly and happy as you praise him for performing. When you get him inside, give him a treat and lavish him with attention to let him know you are happy to be home with him.
Having more than one dog (be absolutely certain that they have been introduced properly) reduces the likelihood of anxiety when the dogs are left alone. Leaving a radio on helps, as this is a common practice in many kennels. When you are no longer using the crate, always “childproof” your house before leaving your dog. Close all closet and kitchen cabinet doors and be sure no food is within reach on any counters. Put shoes away and remove any articles that may be conceived as “toys.” Leave a blanket or dog bed on the floor where the dog normally sleeps, or leave the crate door open. Some greyhounds like the accessibility of their crate even when they are accustomed to their new home. Put the muzzle on your dog when you are gone.
Remember, the learning process can be very easy for some dogs, and not so easy for others, so be patient and you will be rewarded with a loyal, loving companion.
ADJUSTING: Greyhounds are very sweet dogs, and they will try their best to please you. Use common sense, be patient, and give him time to become familiar with his new world. A routine will help him feel secure. Track life was very regimented and he will be comforted by a consistent routine in your home. Your greyhound will feel safe if YOU establish the fact that YOU are the alpha pack leader. Don’t ever let your greyhound take control. It may be cute when he pushes you off the couch the first time, but it won’t be funny if he growls at you, your company, or a child when they attempt to sit on “his” couch. Stay in control! Your pet will thank you.
If something frightens him, try not to make a big fuss and unintentionally convey feelings of apprehension. If you don’t become upset, he will assume everything is fine and he will learn to accept whatever is frightening him. You should be the alpha in your home at all times.