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Greyhound Behavior Part 3
Changes in Greyhound Behavior After the Initial Adaptation.
By Judy Kody Paulsen


Tearing it up

Changes in Greyhound Behavior
Greyhounds can display a somewhat exaggerated response to situations by which other breeds would be minimally affected. It is not uncommon to hear of a well-adjusted greyhound that suddenly develops undesirable qualities after having been the perfect pet for months or even years of living in the same home. With careful attention to the situation and by scrutinizing the entire home environment, it is possible in most every case to determine why this is happening.

A greyhound that suddenly starts soiling the house or destroying things is most probably reacting to a change in its environment. This could be anything as trivial as moving a piece of furniture to the more disturbing cases of dissension among family members. The handling of discipline in these situations is critical. Admonishing an animal at the moment it is misbehaving is crucial to your success in discouraging future accidents. A popular misconception is that animals know what they've done because "they look guilty" as soon as you walk into the room. Nothing could be further from the truth. Practically nothing could be more psychologically damaging than to punish an animal when it has no idea why it is being chastised.

Never, never, never punish a dog unless it is caught in the act. A significant key to effective discipline in any situation is to intervene at the time of the transgression. Even if this means "setting up" the surroundings to produce the behavior (i.e. having someone walk out the front door and get in the car to leave while some else stays behind to spy). Covert observation works surprisingly well with greyhounds! They can be rather sly when they think no one is watching, but when caught in the act, they tend to remember the consequences very well.

"Induced" Behavioral Problems
Often there will be a complaint from an adopter that the greyhound seemed perfectly well adjusted, then suddenly became rebellious or "bratty". Greyhounds that inexplicably begin to exhibit undesirable traits such as destroying things and marking or soiling inside the house are displaying symptoms of what I have termed "induced" behavioral problems. These symptoms can manifest themselves after any change within the dog's usually predictable environment. Greyhounds have lived such structured lives while at the training kennel or the racing track that they are poorly suited to alterations in their routines.

A physical change inside the home to alter its appearance in any way, the addition or loss of a family member (animal or human), a traumatic event in which the dog was involved (anything from a loud noise to an injury to the dog), quarreling among family members — all have the potential for creating an insecure dog. Much like the child that begins wetting the bed, it is psychologically rooted and cannot be dealt with by conventional punishment methods.

Unfamiliar Furniture and Other Items
Limit the dog's access to the areas it seems most inclined to soil. They will almost always confine their eliminations to a particular area or will "mark" the same area repeatedly. It is imperative to make these areas off limits to the greyhound when you cannot be there to watch them.

Greyhound at home

In the case of male greyhounds, when items to which the dog is unaccustomed are brought into the house (a piece of furniture, a box of things from the garage, a suitcase), it is best to avoid placing them on the floor near an area the dog has "marked" before. If you are bringing in new furniture or rearranging your furniture, be sure to watch closely whenever the male is in the area; it is very likely he will attempt to mark the unfamiliar object(s). (This is particularly disturbing when you've just added new, expensive speakers to your sound system!) Do not allow the dog access to the area unless you can be present. This may require setting up baby gates or another type of barrier, or crating the dog when you leave the room, even if just for a few seconds. Allow the dog in the area when you are there so you can quickly discourage any tendency to mark. Eventually, the dog will lose interest or get admonished often enough that he will become wary of the item(s) and probably avoid the area.

Females generally do not mark, however, in some female greyhounds, there is a tendency to do this as a result of male hormone therapy while at the track. Close observation of her behavior when she is first brought home will provide clues that indicate this may be a trait you'll need to watch out for, just as in a male.

Family Conflict
Both sexes of greyhounds are probably equally as sensitive to conflict within the family. Greyhounds seem to be especially keen about this type of emotional turmoil within the household. Sometimes they will retreat to another room and just ignore it. However, many times this can have a profound effect on a greyhound's behavior, especially if one or more members engage in shouting. These types of confrontations are known to produce high stress levels in humans, therefore it is reasonable to assume the same or worse can occur in sensitive animals.

About the only thing that can resolve a behavioral problem stemming from this type of stimulus is to remove it (the stimulus or the greyhound). If the quarreling family members cannot be kept under control, remove the dog from the scene. If this is a frequent occurrence, do the dog a favor and return it to the adoption program for placement in more peaceful surroundings. It is very likely a greyhound could never learn to accept such eruptions and even though it may appear well adjusted at times, it is only a matter of time before it exhibits some type of undesirable behavior.

Is the storm over yet?

Fear of Thunderstorms
Some dogs can sleep right through the most violent thunderstorms while others are veritable predictors of them in that they begin to pant and pace the floor before the lightning even starts.

This type of fear can occasionally cause a dog to eliminate on the floor, especially if it is alone during a particularly intense storm. Think about what the weather was doing while you were away if you come home to a soiled carpet — it's possible your dog did this in response to anxiety resulting from a storm.

Be careful of how you relate to your dog during thunderstorms, as you could be giving the wrong message. If you are on the floor and consoling him as he trembles with each crack of thunder, you may be reinforcing his behavior. Try not to overreact to your dog's insecurity about the storm. It is best to go about your business as if nothing is going on outside. If you show any concerns or nervous reaction to the noise, your dog can develop the same tension.

Some animal behaviorists have had a small degree of success in training the dog to ignore this stimulus by desensitization. This involves introducing the dog to sounds of thunder at low levels as on a stereo for brief periods, gradually increasing the noise level until the dog becomes desensitized. This is not always successful, and sometimes when it appears to be, the dog relapses at a later date. Sedatives can be used if the case is particularly bad, however my experience with these is that the storm is over by the time the sedative takes effect.

I try to turn up the TV or stereo, or have a conversation (even if it's with myself!) during the loudest part of the storm; this seems to help. Punishment of a dog that eliminates in the house during a period of fear is counterproductive and cruel. Leave the poor thing alone and just clean up the mess.

The Bottom Line...
"Induced" behavioral problems in greyhounds are most often a product of our own behaviors. Eliminating the stimulus or learning to work around it is the only answer to peacefully coexisting with your pets. Greyhounds are extremely sensitive, and that's what makes them so lovable and affectionate. Maybe we can learn some valuable lessons about ourselves in observing the behavior of our greyhounds. It's never too late to change, especially if it benefits our greyhounds!


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