On top of adoptions, GGA also does behavioural consults and rehabs. Recently there has been an influx of behavioural consults related to bites and “aggression”. This hasn't all been newly adopted hounds, either. Whether you’re a new adopter or an old hat, the following is worth heeding and remembering.
Your greyhound is a dog first and foremost, a Canis lupus familiaris. Some adopters forget this, and immediately want a snuggle buddy, or fail to provide what greyhounds have had their entire life up until now - structure, rules, schedules, and their own space.
If you rush the transition from track life to house pet, you will be setting you and your greyhound up for failure. Your foster family has worked hard to assist in this transition, but there is still work as an adopter that you need to continue.
What do we mean by transition? While it is true that greyhounds are loved, pampered, and exposed to many things from whelping to retirement, there are certain things and certain situations that are all new. Let us explain. Previously your retired racer lived in a large kennel with his or her pack and possibly even littermates. They had humans they knew and that loved and doted on them. They had a strict routine. They knew exactly what was expected. Maybe - most importantly - they had their own space that was theirs alone, where they ate, relaxed, felt safe, and slept. No one else was allowed into that space. Without question it was theirs!
Now, remove all that familiar environment/routine/expectations. Take away all the humans and all the greyhounds they knew, and that space that was theirs alone. Thankfully greyhounds are raised well and raised with love which usually leads into establishing the groundwork for a well-adjusted pet. But the whole change can be super confusing. Your new greyhound is going to be looking to make sense of his or her new world, they will be looking for routine AND they will be looking to claim their own space.
Do you see where we are going yet? Space is a resource. It is a resource that your greyhound values greatly and greatly enough to defend any space they see as “theirs”. So, if you have rushed the transition - either as a foster or as an adopter - and you’ve decided that ‘they don’t need a crate’ too early and stop supporting your greyhounds transition to using it or even worse never bothered to get a crate in the first place (the very crate that your adoption group recommended using), you have stopped using their muzzle, you have allowed your greyhound free run of the home and allowed him/her up on the furniture… your greyhound now sees your home and all those comfy spots as theirs, and there is nothing stopping a growl, a snarl or a bite when you try to make use of these. This is where the problems can begin.
Let's all say it together: "crates are good!" "muzzles are good!" "rules and boundaries are good!"
Now that we have that out of the way, stop anthropomorphizing your greyhound, stop the pity party, and stop feeling ‘bad’ or ‘guilty’. Understand that your Canis lupus familiaris needs and thrives on rules and boundaries. One day you might be able to allow free run of the house, and one day you might be able to allow them up on the furniture - if they even want to! - but today, and for the next three to six months even, is not that day. This is not us or your adoption group being mean. It is to support decompression and instilling proper manners. At the risk of sounding too much like Cesar Millan, you do need to establish "rules, boundaries and limitations", and your greyhound needs to respect you as the owner, as their leader, and as giver of all the good things (read: resources).
So - let's set our greyhounds up for success!
GGA preliminary protocol to stop resource guarding of space:
- Acquire a crate and use it.
- Get a dog bed.
- Use the crate! This is not the same crate that they left behind at their kennel, and they know it. You will need to put in some crate desensitization work. NO, this does not mean that your greyhound hates its crate and NO this does not mean you can skip this step and decide to not use the crate. We at GGA are here to help and support, so if you’re having trouble - LET US KNOW.
- Feed your greyhound in the crate, especially if you have other resident hounds. Eventually this can be transitioned to outside crate feeding, but until your greyhound has earned this, and your pack has figured out their relationship, eliminate any resource fights by doing what your retired racer knows - meals in their crate.
- Use the muzzle for the first week or so. If you have to make corrections that the greyhound does not like, this will make it safer and reduce a bite risk. No, this does not mean that greyhounds are vicious attack dogs. Greyhounds are actually lovely sweet dogs. However, if you’ve adopted a more stubborn hound that insists their chosen behaviour over yours, such as that the couch is now theirs, the muzzle will help mitigate any serious ownership disputes.
- Do NOT allow your greyhound on any furniture for at least 3-6 months (it could be much longer, or even never) or until you have established ownership of the home and contents (read: resources). You will have YEARS ahead of a happy relationship to enjoy, so do not rush this period.
- Do NOT bother your greyhound while he/she is in the crate. We all agree that this is their space.
- Do NOT bother your greyhounds while he/she is on the dog bed. We all agree that this is theirs, unless they prove otherwise. The exception to this is if your greyhound growls aggressively at you while on the dog bed, in this case the greyhound loses this resources until they have earned it back. Do not ignore this or run away or hope that with time this behaviour will go away.
- Enjoy floor time with your hound. Greyhounds by nature seek out affection and attention. So if you want to spend some Netflix time with your hound, have a seat on the floor. See how your greyhound reacts. You may find that you have a lapdog! But - do NOT pressure your greyhound into coming and laying beside you or on you.
- We at GGA are here to help and support, so if you’re having trouble - LET US KNOW. All of our rehab protocols are specific to you and your situation. Greyhounds are strange. They make strange noises. If you are unsure if your hound is growling at you or groaning with pleasure, take a video and ask your adoption group.
Once you have established a relationship with your greyhound and ownership of all the resources it is important to do occasional check ins to ensure they have not forgotten or chosen to start ignoring the lessons.
Remember, nothing in life is free! Your greyhound - like any other dog - should be made to work for any resource that you provide. This can lead to a very rewarding relationship for years to come.
Disclaimer: Like all dogs, greyhounds take work. You can not and should not just welcome your new hound home, drop the leash, sit back and expect a perfect dog. You also cannot shove a greyhound into the little mental picture of what you think/want your dog to be. If you want a cuddle bug, ‘adopt’ a stuffed animal. They all have their own personality, and they all like/hate different things. Some personality quirks (ex. some will never want to cuddle you) you will just have to accept. BUT by no means should you ever accept bad behaviour!!! If you are not prepared to put the work in then do not adopt a retired greyhound...stick with a stuffed animal.