Your Greyhound’s First Few Days In Your Home
Our greyhounds come to us from their racing kennels, and then live in one of our foster homes for a short period of time. Even though we work with our greyhound foster dogs to acclimate them to a home environment, there are still many strange things for them to learn in their new environment. Typically, our foster homes have other dogs (usually other greyhounds) for the newly retired racer to follow around. This is a huge help in acclimating them to a totally new set of circumstances, sights, smells, and house rules.
Your newly adopted greyhound may be tense and somewhat withdrawn at first. Sometimes, the greyhounds arriving from the track or foster home will cry or whine the first night or two. This is entirely normal behavior for a dog dealing with the stress of a new environment. It does not mean that they are unhappy or don’t like you. Being quiet and reassuring to your dog will go a long way toward helping him or her to adjust. Try to bring your new dog home on a weekend or at a time when you will be able to spend some time with him. Your new greyhound may be very afraid the first few nights because he is unsure and lonely. He is used to the security of his kennel, surrounded by a lot of other greyhounds.
Use of Crates to Help Your Greyhound Adjust: We highly recommend that you use a crate to assist your greyhound with the transition from the foster home to your home. For a deposit, we will loan you a crate for up to 30 days to help your greyhound adjust to its new home. Your greyhound was used to the security of his crate at the racing kennel, and providing a crate at his new home will really help with the transition, which in most cases only takes a few days. We do not charge rental on the crate, so it is a totally free service to you. You will just have to arrange to return your crate to us within the 30-day period. If you would like to purchase a crate of your own, they are available on-line for a reasonable price or you can purchase one locally from a pet supply store. Crates for greyhounds need to be large enough for your greyhound to stand up and turn around comfortably (at least 30” high). Put a blanket or comforter in the crate and your greyhound will be quite happy.
Introducing Your Greyhound to Your Pets: When your greyhound is delivered to you, the BAGA volunteer who fostered your greyhound will help you to make sure that all of the pets in your home, including your new greyhound, are compatible. We will assist you in introducing all of the pets in your home to the greyhound. The process goes like this: When you arrive at home, make sure that you give your greyhound adequate time to relieve himself before entering the house. If you have other dogs, bring them outside individually and introduce the dogs to the greyhound in a neutral place like the front yard. Once the dogs have started ignoring each other, take them for a short walk together and then walk into the house. The process is the same for introductions to cats except it takes place inside the home. We will normally introduce the greyhound to the cat with the greyhound wearing a turn-out muzzle and on a short leash. If the cat does not want to come up to the greyhound, do not force it. The cat will come out and meet the greyhound in their own time. Always remember, however, that even through the cat and the greyhound live happily together in the house, it is NOT OK to leave them in the yard together.
Introducing your greyhound to your home: With the leash on your greyhound, walk him around the house and let him become familiar with his new environment. It is said that a greyhound will immediately find the softest spot in the house to curl up and take a nap, and this is true. If permitted, a greyhound will make himself comfortable on the sofa or on your bed. Unless your want your greyhound to be a furniture dog, do not permit him to lie on the sofa or your bed. Instead, show him where his bed is and take him there. Greyhounds have never been allowed on furniture, so they will not know to go there unless you allow it. Please be consistent. Your dog cannot differentiate when it is OK to get on the furniture and when it is not OK.
Ease the transition by using a crate: Your greyhound will want to be close to you. If you take your greyhound’s crate into the bedroom with you, chances are very good that he will settle right down and go to sleep. After a couple of nights, try leaving the crate door open but with your bedroom door closed. If all is well, then try removing the crate and allow your greyhound to sleep on his dog bed in your bedroom with the door closed. Once your greyhound sleeps through the night on his bed in your room, you can probably leave the door to your bedroom open, or use a baby gate if you do not want your greyhound to have the run of the house.
Glass doors and mirrors: Your greyhound may be perplexed by his reflection in the mirror. Let him explore and get used to it. The same holds true for French doors and sliding glass doors that might also show a reflection. If you have large expanses of glass, as in large windows or sliding glass doors, your greyhound may not realize this is glass and may try to run through them. This can be extremely dangerous. We always recommend that you place a strip of blue painter’s tape, some decals, or post it notes at the greyhound’s eye level on the glass. (Some greyhounds we know have followed their owners along during this process and removed the post-it notes. In that case, go back to painter’s tape or decals.)
Going up and down stairs: If you have a flight of stairs in your home, one of the first things you will need to do is help your greyhound learn to negotiate them. Several of our foster homes have stairs, and those dogs will be familiar with going up and down. If they are not used to it, the volunteer who does your home visit will help you show your greyhound about going up and down stairs. If you have another dog in the house that is already familiar with climbing stairs, let your greyhound follow that dog for a few steps and then come back down. Hold your greyhound closely by the collar and go up and down a few steps, then try a few more until your greyhound is comfortable going up and down. For a dog, going down the stairs is more difficult than going up. This is because they will have no depth perception and think they are stepping into thin air. Hold your greyhound snugly on a short leash so he cannot jump and go down a few stairs. Once he is comfortable with this, increase the number of stairs until he is going down the full flight of stairs slowly and easily.
House training: On the track, greyhounds have the same routine every day, including their turn-out schedules. They are typically turned out into an exercise pen four or five times each day. As a result greyhounds do very well with routine and the more you keep a consistent schedule with potty times, the better your greyhound will do. When he first comes to your home, your greyhound will not know how to ask to go out. This will come in time, but at first, you need to set a routine for going out. Keep this routine as close as possible to the routine used at your greyhound’s foster home and slowly adjust it to your schedule. We recommend taking your greyhound out to relieve himself or herself as soon as you arise in the morning. This is just a quick trip outside. Even if you have a fenced yard, we recommend for the first few days keeping your dog on a leash until he relieves himself (usually only a few minutes). When he does, praise him to let him know that is what you want. Take him back inside and feed him. Most dogs will need to go back outside within 30 minutes to one hour after feeding. Take your greyhound back out after feeding—again, keep him on a leash until he has relieved himself. Take him out again at mid-day if possible, or as soon as possible after you arrive home from work. He will need another potty break after you feed his evening meal, and then a potty break before bed time. By all means, keep your schedule as consistent as possible. Do not take your greyhound out every couple of hours on the weekends and then return to a regular schedule on Monday. Keep as close to the same “go out” schedule as you can each day. By taking your greyhound on a leash to the same spot to potty the first few days will also help him to realize this is what is expected of him, and he will learn to quickly relieve himself when taken to that spot.
At the track, your greyhound is used to being inactive for long periods of time. You will have to leave him to go to work or attend to other activities. This is not a problem, so long as you help your dog to understand that he has not been abandoned. Since your greyhound has spent virtually his entire life surrounded by other greyhounds, he can become anxious at first if left alone to run free in his new home. Confining your dog to a small room with the door closed may terrify him, so that is definitely not a good idea. The use of a crate to ease the transition will help both the dog and the owner. At the track, the greyhounds are “crate trained”, meaning that they will not soil their crates. This typically makes the house training experience and easy one for the greyhound and the owner. Once your greyhound is doing well in his crate, try leaving him in a small room with a baby gate for a short time (an hour of so). If he is OK, try if for longer periods of time (2-3 hours), then ½ day, than an entire day. You will soon have your greyhound adjusted to your (his) schedule.
How to help your greyhound adjust to being alone: One thing you can do to help your greyhound adjust to being alone is to leave a radio on while you are away. At the racing kennels, a radio is usually playing. Just the sound of a human voice can go a long way to soothe an insecure dog while you are away. Keeping your greyhound occupied while you are away by use of a Kong or other interactive play toy is also highly recommended.
Exercise Walks: At some point during the day, you will need to take your dog for an exercise walk or if you have a fenced yard, allow him to roam around and go for a short sprint if he wants to. Greyhounds without a fenced yard will enjoy a 20-30 minute exercise walk daily. Greyhounds are bred to be sprinters and have low to moderate exercise needs. This means that a short walk is normally sufficient. If you are planning on your greyhound becoming your jogging partner, your jogs will have to be very short. If you like to walk and want your greyhound adjust to longer walks, this will need to be done over a period of time. Start with ½ mile, then ¾ mile, then a full mile, etc.
Martingale Collars: When walking your greyhound, be sure to use your martingale collar which was provided when you adopted your greyhound. This is the only type of collar that is safe for a greyhound, since they can easily back out of a buckle collar if they are frightened. Buckle collars to hold your greyhound’s tags are fine to use inside the house, just change to your martingale collar for your walks.
Greyhounds need to be on leashes: Greyhounds from the track do not know what traffic is, and may be easily distracted by the new sights and sounds they will encounter on their walks. Greyhounds are sight hounds and can see far into the distance. It is of vital importance to always keep your dog on a hand-held leash when he is not in a totally fenced yard. If a greyhound were to become frightened, or even interested in an object they see and were to take off, they would be far too fast for you to catch them, and they could run right across traffic. We also do not recommend that you use retractable leashes on greyhounds. You do not have enough control of your dog, and retractable leashes can easily become tangled around you.
Teaching your greyhound not to bolt out the door: There are two important commands to teach your greyhound right away—the “wait” command and the “come” command. Both are for the safety of your dog. The first is to teach your greyhound not to go out an open door without your permission. This is accomplished by getting your dog to watch you at the doorway instead of bolting out. Use some small treats and stand at an open door with your greyhound on a leash. Call his name and when he looks at you instead of wanting to go outside, give him a treat. Continue this process every time you go out until he learns to look to you first. Use the voice command “wait”. Once he has learned the wait command, you can then walk out together. This same procedure can also be used to teach your greyhound not to jump out of an automobile without your permission.
Teaching your greyhound to come when called: The other important command is what we refer to as “come on recall”, to come when you call him or her to you. If you have a fenced yard, make it a practice of calling your greyhound by name to come in and give him a small treat when he comes. Do this every time he is let out until he consistently comes when called. If you do not have a fenced yard, you can practice this in the house until he comes consistently when called.
With patience, consistency, and practice, your greyhound will become a wonderful family pet. Greyhounds do well with typical obedience commands. It is their nature to want to please you and they thrive on your attention. Greyhounds are sensitive and gentle. Be kind, gentle, and calm around them and they will become wonderful family companions.
If you have any questions, or if you experience any issues, please call us right away. We have experienced volunteers who will be happy to help. If you are in Citrus County through Sarasota County, please call 813/272-2332I. If you are in Fort Myers, Lee County, Bonita Springs, or Naples, please call 239/985-9035.
Here are more greyhounds relaxing and enjoying life in their adoptive homes.
For more information on your greyhound’s first days in your home, please read the article by Kathleen Gilley, “What Your Adoptive Greyhound is Thinking” elsewhere on this website.