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Greyhound Guide
Greyhounds are always eager to please.Welcome to the wonderful world of Greyhounds. We hope it will be wonderful for you too. There will be a period of adjustment, as there is when any new member is added to your family. The purpose of this guide is to lay the groundwork for making the transition easier for both you and your new Greyhound. The purpose is not to take the place of books already written about Greyhound ownership.

Defining a New Greyhound

A Greyhound is, first and foremost, an adult and a puppy at the same time. Unlike a puppy, he has the body of an adult. Unlike an adult, he has the mind and experiential background of a puppy. Like an adult, he is physically coordinated and agile. Like a puppy, everything in your environment will be new to him. He knows the power and grace of his body but his mind is yours for the molding.

Probably 90 percent of all Greyhound problem behavior is taught, passively or actively, after he has gone to a pet home. The objects and events he encounters when he walks through your door will be those he has had no prior experience with unless he has been in a foster home. Positive or negative impressions he perceives from your reactions will shape his behavior. Understanding how your Greyhound grew up to be an adult puppy will give you insight.

Birth to First Year or So

Greyhounds are raised on Greyhound farms. The litter is not separated. They live together in long (300 feet) fenced areas called runs. They eat, sleep and play as a litter, with other litters housed on either side. They physically mature and build an athlete’s body. Nothing is expected of them mentally. The three important things about this period are: 1) A Greyhound is never by himself; 2) they rarely leave their run during this time; 3) they are not required to learn any social skills except from each other.

Retire with a retired greyhoundA Year and Half Until Retirement
From a year and a half to nearly two years old, a Greyhound learns how to run on an oval track. He is now housed in his own crate in a kennel with 60 or more other Greys. His life becomes very busy and routine with scheduled feedings, scheduled "turn outs" for going to the bathroom, scheduled weigh-ins, scheduled exercise periods called sprints or schoolings and of course, official races. Racing kennels are very hectic, noisy places active from before 6:00 a.m. until past midnight. Since kennel personnel do not live on the premises, a Greyhound soon catches on to the sounds of any approach. Here is what this means to you. His life at this point has had a rhythm and structure he could depend on. He was fed at certain times every day. The food was already in the bowl, it was put in his crate and he was unmolested until he was finished. He may be initially reluctant to take food from your hand because he was never hand fed and sees no reason you should have your mitts on his eats. He will become accustomed to hand feeding if you persist.

His group was taken to the turn out pen four or more times a day where they went to the bathroom and interacted with each other. He was never asked to indicate if he had to relieve himself. He knew well in advance when people were approaching; he was wide awake by the time they did. He was never touched while he was asleep. He was never alone. He was used to a schedule. Life revolved around his group. Being by himself in your, by comparison, quiet abode can be anything from dreadfully boring to borderline terrifying in the beginning. In a racing kennel with from 60 to more than 100 other greys, there was no need for him to have a separate identity. He was never asked to think for himself, behave in a certain way or communicate. He may not have needed to learn his name. He probably does not understand the word, "No". About the only prohibition in his racing life was getting too rowdy or rough with other Greyhounds during turn out times.

Transition Time

This is why you have an adult body with a puppy mind. Until he left the track, he had no exposure to stairs, mirrors, furniture, sliding glass doors, swimming pools, ceiling fans, kitchen counters, flower arrangements, trash cans or anything else you have in your house.

In your home, life will not revolve around him. He might be alone for the first time in his life. Some new Greyhound pet owners will expect him to understand when he is being spoken to, bark when he needs to eliminate and to know the difference between his food and theirs. Some will expect him to take responsibility for house rules, when he has never lived in a house. Vocalizing when he needs to go outside or not getting up at 5:00 a.m. are not in his awareness, yet.

He has never been near anything he could knock over; watch your vases, knickknacks and beverage containers. He is by no means stupid, but he is going to be surprised, if not overwhelmed. The first week will be the hardest for him. He will experience a form of cultural shock. In complete contradiction to his previous life, everything will be unfamiliar and he will never know what to expect next. Signs of sensory overload are withdrawal, refusal to engage in play, panting when it is not hot (hyperventilating), dripping clear fluid from the nose, loss of appetite and ability to focus, shedding, soft stools, whining and separation anxiety when left alone. He may keep his ears flattened against his head as if to cut out overwhelming noise.

Being by himself for the first time in his life and loss of routine will be the most stressful situations he has ever encountered.The more time you can spend with him, the faster the bonding process will happen. Closeness is reassuring to him and his ability to watch how you live will allow him to find his niche. Keep him in the same room with you as much as possible. This will also help prevent him from learning something you do not want. (Think of him as a four-year old child who does not understand your language.)

Taking him for walks where he can explore, be entertained and get his mind off his sensory overload is nature’s greatest tranquilizer. He must be leashed on all walks for his own protection! He is a defenseless puppy, remember, with no concept of danger. The sooner he discovers a routine or pattern in his new life, the more comfortable he will be. The are many important things you should do during transition time. Take him out to eliminate about every four hours at set times in the beginning. 

His body will be adjusting to new foods, schedules and transitional stress.  Feed him a good quality kibble, mixed with water, twice a day in measured quantities.  (Purina One, ProPlan, Iams, Eukanuba are suggestions.)  Read the labels: Canned food does not have the nutritional value of quality kibble and can give him diarrhea. If you want to put weight on him, it is better to feed small portions three or four times a day.  Overfeeding will cause diarrhea and/or vomiting.

If housetraining problems arise, adjusting either your a.m. or p.m. feedings to coincide with his digestive processes is the most likely solution. (He may have loose stools the first week because of the change in his diet.  The flora in his digestive system will need time to adjust.) Talk to him. Before you accompany him outside, ask him, “Do you have to go outside?”  The more you talk to him, the more he will understand how you communicate.  Speaking to him is a part of the bonding process.The fewer the surprises at this point, the better. 

After time they will enjoy sleeping in open space
He is not used to be awakened by touching, so call his name or make some innocuous noise.  It will take some time for him to adjust to the complete difference in his new surroundings each time he wakes up.  Be very gentle when approaching a new Greyhound who is lying down.  You may bend over to pet him, but to him it looks like you are going to fall on him.

Since he has not slept in an open space since he began his racing career, he might find a crate or an ex-pen more reassuring in the beginning.  When you must leave him alone, think of a crate or ex-pen as if it were a crib or playpen for keeping a child safe from harm.Confining him when you cannot supervise him or when you are going to leave is a safety precaution for him.  Whether you use a room, a crate, or an exercise pen, his “alone time” should be in a limited area to begin with.  If he gets into things, causes damage or is injured, it will be because he was not properly protected in an unfamiliar environment.  Again, think of him as a four-year old child when you leave him alone.

Only when he feels comfortable in his new life, by understanding what you want, can he begin to mentally mature and bloom into a unique and special personality. Greyhounds are extremely sensitive, intelligent and will live up or down to your expressed expectations. Let him drag a short leash around. When he does something you do not wish, step on the leash so he must listen and then scold him in a low, unpleasant voice with eye contact for about 10 seconds. When you are through, turn around and walk off. He needs to understand that you must scold his action, but that when he has gotten the point, it is over. This makes for a dog that does not run from or fear discipline. If you do not tell him what pleases or displeases you, he cannot know.

Greyhounds can be silly at times
Greyhounds live for praise. When your adult puppy does something funny, laugh. If he picks up an "authorized" toy, tell him he is good and softly applaud him. If he is food oriented, teach him that responding to his name will get him a treat. It is just as important to tell him what is right as it is to tell him what is wrong.

When he has settled in, it may become your most difficult time. He will go from being cautious and stressed by all the newness to intensely curious. He may pick up anything new to him (which will be everything). Like a "little kid", he may put everything in his mouth or carry it off.

If a human adolescent finds toilet papering a house fun, why should not your Greyhound? A settled-in Greyhound will relax, become playful and welcome toys. Everything will qualify as a toy until you tell him otherwise. (You might learn why a throw rug is called that. Is there really a difference between a stuffed toy and a bed pillow?) He will begin trying to figure out your next move, especially if you have been interactive with him. Anything you do with him three times in a row becomes law. Be sure to express your approval or disapproval at every opportunity. How else can he learn your rules?

Just Plain Don’t!!

Don’t leave your Greyhound in the yard unattended. Someone will leave a gate open or he is going to become lonely and leave.

Do not leave him alone with young children. Recent studies indicate that children under 12 lack the concept that their good intentions can cause pain. His lack of collagen and a fat pad between his skin and muscles make a Greyhound very sensitive to touch. A handful of Greyhound is pain, not play. This unsupervised time is when problems arise between dog and child.

Do not leave food down all day (free feeding). If he is fed with other animals in the same room, do not leave him unattended. He will stick his nose in someone else’s bowl and they will chew it off. Since leaving his litter, he has not had to share or compete for food.

Do not let him sprint in the yard or dog park, or take him jogging in hot weather. He has no protection from the heat. The first sign of heat stress is darkening of the gums. (His gums should be the same color as your hands. White gums are an indication of anemia or shock.) Hot surfaces will burn his feet. Don’t assume because he is wearing a muzzle, he cannot cause injury, accidentally or otherwise.

Do not tether your Greyhound to anything. He has never been tied up in his life. He will injure himself.

Do not give him any medications, prescription or over-the-counter, or put anything in his eyes or ears, without specific instructions from a veterinarian. This includes tick and flea preparations, herbal and other so-called "natural" products.

Do not put a harness on long-backed breed, particularly a Greyhound, unless there is a medical reason he cannot wear a martingale collar. Pulling and putting pressure over the "hinge" part of his spine can cause vertebral alignment problems. Some Greyhounds become psychologically stressed by harness use. A Greyhound in a harness is not under control; if he bolts he will injure himself.

A Note About Children
Family dogs

There are two areas which can cause misunderstandings between children and any dog. It is not children themselves, but conduct that adults no longer engage in, that cause the problem. First is forcing one’s affection without regard for the recipient’s feelings. Second is loud, rambunctious behavior.

Greyhounds have rarely been restrained by humans, except for veterinary care, medications or physical exams. Children will grab and squeeze a dog in a display of affection, much as they do their own parents. When the Greyhound resists this frightening or uncomfortable use of force, the child reacts by squeezing tighter. The Greyhound now has only two choices to deal with this rapidly deteriorating situation. Defensively, he can scream; offensively, he can nip. A facial bite can only happen if the face of the human is in direct proximity with the face of the Greyhound! An adult who physically forces himself on a dog will elicit the same response.The second area of difference between children and adults is a child’s tendency to be boisterous, by screaming and dashing around. Many Greyhounds will see this as an invitation to play; others will find it intimidating. Since this breed has not had experience interacting with children, he may play much rougher than he or the child intends.

Conclusion: It is imperative a child never grab or hold a Greyhound by the head! Do not allow a child to lay on a Greyhound. Any rough housing between dogs and children should be discouraged. Chase games should prohibited. Children will chase a dog into a corner and panic him. Children often grab each other with their hands. A dog only has a mouth. There are many forms of play that do not require physical domination-type interaction. If children cannot be supervised when around any animal, they should not be left together. Take the child with you when you leave the room.

Do not let a toddler approach a laying or sleeping Greyhound! Should the child fall on the dog, the dog will be traumatized and become apprehensive or fearful around all children! Be much more watchful if the Greyhound is shy or timid. The frightened dog is more likely to nip as a panic reaction, called fear biting. Do not hit, swat, spank or use a newspaper to punish your Greyhound.

Miscellaneous Information

The canine family has only four choices to express displeasure: escape, growl, snap or bite. They begin with trying to remove themselves from whatever or whoever is bothering them. If that does not work, they will growl. They will, logically, escalate to whatever level works to protect themselves from the unpleasant situation. The calmer, more stable the Greyhound’s personality, the slower he will be to irritate or to be provoked into defensive behavior. Greyhounds do not tend to be barkers. Barking is usually a sign of sensory overload, much like screaming is for people. Do not be concerned if your Greyhound is not as noisy as other breeds.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) estimates that 80 percent of all dogs over the age of three years have periodontal disease. Your Greyhound has come to you with clean teeth. It is your responsibility to keep them that way. The bacteria involved in gum disease also causes kidney and heart valve damage. Inflammation causes pain! Your Greyhound will feel sick and have a compromised immune system if you do not practice routine dental care.

Ten Reasons to Seek Veterinary Care
1. Bleeding, e.g., nose, gums, tip of tail, blood in stool or urine.
2. Skin tears or lacerations.
3. Lumps, bumps, swellings or bulges.
4. Shaking or tilting of head.
5. Not eating or drinking for more than two days.
6. Any sour smell in ears or discharge from eyes.
7. Inflamed gums/periodontal disease or bad breath.
8. Lameness lasting longer than three days.
9. Coughing.
10. Gum color very pale or dark red.

Greyhound Particulars

The average race lasts right around 30 seconds and most Greys race less than three times per week. They are initially sprinters. Their endurance for jogging, all-day lure coursing, etc., must be built up gradually. Summer-time heat and humidity will put him at risk for heat stroke.

Greyhounds can go on hikes
The racing Greyhound has been raised and raced on sand. He comes to you with paw pads as soft as a puppy. Any exercise on hard or rough surfaces should be approached gradually. Be especially careful of hot pavement!Greyhounds have always been fed a soft/wet diet. If you feed kibble without water, your Greyhound may cough or appear to be choking. Add more water or soak the food for ten minutes before serving.

Some Greyhounds will display a fainting-like behavior when being bathed. This is attributed to the water being too warm, resulting in a drop in blood pressure. Routine bathing is not recommended and may result in flaky, itchy skin.

At no later than 90 days after birth, pure-bred racing Greyhound pups will receive tattoos in both ears, as is required by the National Greyhound Association (NGA) for registration.In the litter’s left ear is the registration number. Since the entire litter carries one registration number, identifying your Grey’s siblings is simple. The right ear carries the date of birth in the following manner. If there are two numbers and a letter, the first numeral represents a month from January to September. The second numeral is the last digit of that decade, e.g., 49A means April 1999. If there are three numbers followed by a letter, the first two numerals represent a month from October to December. The third numeral is the last digit of that decade, e.g., 120 means the Grey was born in December 2000. There will always be an alpha character at the end. The person filling out the registration application assigns to each pup a sequential letter, starting with "A". Other than that, the letter has no special significance.

Greyhound pups from winning lines may sell for between $3,000.00 and $30,000.00. The average stud fee in Greyhound advertisements is $750.00.

As soon as you and your Greyhound have become connected, call your point of contact and volunteer to help other people and Greyhounds come together!- edited by Judy Pfaff

Many thanks to Kathleen Gilley for the wisdom offered herein.  Her first language is "greyhound" and she's forgotten more about this awesome breed than most of us will ever know.   


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