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Tips on Adaptation

The First Few Days at Home
Most retired greyhounds have lived their entire lives in crates at training kennels. They have never been inside cars or homes. They have no idea why they are being taken somewhere in a car, and no idea what is expected of them when they enter a house. They are confused, nervous, and usually a little scared.


The first one or two nights, your greyhound may not sleep much; don't fret, this is only temporary. They are very confused and curious about this new environment, so please be patient! Greyhounds can be very insecure during this initial adaptation and they are much happier if they can be in the same room where a human is sleeping. They often will check during the night to be sure you are still there, so expect an occasional nudge from a cold nose at the side of the bed!

During the initial adaptation period, stress will almost certainly affect your greyhound. One of the most common indicators of this is diarrhea. Change in diet will compound this. You may want to feed rice with boiled chicken or hamburger until the diarrhea begins to subside, then you can start to introduce a quality-brand kibble by mixing it with the rice and chicken or hamburger mixture. Chronic, excessive gas is not common in a greyhound and usually indicates the need to change their food to a better quality, or eliminate certain treats.

Persistent diarrhea, especially if watery or mucousy, is a sign that something else may be wrong with your greyhound. These dogs are exposed to many different types of parasites while at the racetrack, so there is a good possibility this may be the cause. Taking a stool sample to your veterinarian can help in determining the presence of any parasites, but is not a guaranteed method of diagnosis. A dog with watery, mucousy, bloody and/or frequent diarrhea needs veterinary attention, especially if accompanied by vomiting. A dog that loses interest in eating, along with the above symptoms is a sick dog. Do not ever hesitate to get help for a sick greyhound. If it is after hours, then a trip to an Animal Emergency Clinic may be necessary. Greyhounds going through the stress of adapting to a new home are particularly susceptible to illness and can rapidly deteriorate to a critical medical status.


Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is fairly common in greyhounds coming from a track environment. Although these dogs have been isolated in crates during most of their life at the track, they have been in the company of many other dogs in the same room. In other words, these dogs have never been alone! When taken from this environment and put into a home where they may be expected to spend several hours a day alone, they can become extremely agitated and frightened. This fear can create some very destructive tendencies.

Do not expect a greyhound to spend all day alone in your home until you have given it the necessary support and reassurance that you are not leaving for good! This reassurance is best accomplished if instilled within the dogs' first few days in your home. "Practice" leaving the dog for brief periods during the first couple of days. Start with periods of five to ten minutes where you leave the house (use the door you normally exit from when leaving) and then return. Don't make a big deal out of your arrival; just walk in, put the keys down, remove your jacket, etc., and go about your business. Repeat this several times and increase the period you are gone each time by five or ten minutes. If your dog exhibits excessive displays of anxiety by the end of the second or third day of this exercise, you might want to purchase a "Buster Cube" from your local pet supply store. These "toys" can keep a dog occupied for long periods of time during your absence.

Crating can also keep your dog out of trouble while you are gone, but long hours (over six hours at a time) are not recommended. Ideally, a dog should be let out of a crate at least every four hours (unless at night while sleeping).

By far, the most effective tool for relieving separation anxiety is to install a doggie door. This way, the dog has protection from the elements, but can be outside whenever the spirit moves him! Also, this reduces pressure on the adopter to rush home to let the dog out. If you do not want the dog to have access to the entire house in your absence, put up a baby gate to keep the dog confined to whatever area the doggie door accesses.


To housebreak greyhounds effectively, you must take the time to watch every move they make during the first 24 to 48 hours. Males are especially prone to urinating in the house the first day or two, so follow them everywhere they go and at the first sign of an attempt to "lift a leg," a loud "NO!" should be used. You can push the leg down or push the dog away from the object he intends to "mark" while you shout "NO!", but do not strike the dog, as this will only serve to frighten him and make the transition more traumatic for him and you. Keeping the dog on a leash during this period is helpful so you will be sure to be at his side during his explorations of his new home. Never punish a dog after the fact — discipline is effective only if done at the time of transgression. For the first few days, you will need to walk or turn out your greyhound regularly. Again, a dog door simplifies this whole process. Your greyhound will quickly learn that its new home is the "kennel" that must be kept clean. Also, the dog will quickly associate your fenced yard with its old, familiar turn out pen back at the training kennel.

To decrease the likelihood of the dog roaming the house at night and soiling indoors, either crate the dog or limit his access to the entire house by keeping him isolated in your bedroom with you. If you do not want to close the door to your bedroom, put up a baby gate in the doorway to keep the dog in the room with you. If you choose to crate the dog, be prepared for a fuss! Even though they are used to living in crates at the track, nothing you do will duplicate the environment to which they had grown so accustomed. Do not expect a crate in your home to provide the same sense of security the dog felt in his old, familiar surroundings!


Greyhounds and Kids
If you have children at home, you will be happy to learn that greyhounds are quite tolerant of and can become very attached to "little people." Unfortunately, the greyhound's profound ability to tolerate abuse can give children or adults a false sense of security in thinking the dog has no limit to the amount of physical contact it can endure before warning it has had enough. Greyhounds need their space, too. It is the adopter's responsibility to respect this need, especially during times of rest, and to disallow violation of this space by curious or overly playful children (or adults). Due to the number of greyhounds returned to adoption programs after altercations with unsupervised and curious children, we no longer place greyhounds in homes with children under five years of age. Excessively noisy environments and raucous behavior easily frighten some greyhounds, and they can become introverted in homes with a high activity level. If your dog begins to exhibit this tendency, it is best to notify GCNM so we can consider placing a more extroverted greyhound in your home and sending the other to a quieter home.

Small children are often curious about dogs and don't always realize what causes pain to a dog. For that reason, the introduction of the greyhound to children is critical. Kids naturally touch, poke, and taste things that interest them. If a dog's tail interests them, they may try to pull it. Someone has to define the limits for the kids and the greyhound, and that someone is you! Your supervision can lay the foundation for a mutual friendship between the greyhound and the child that can last for many years.

Children and adults should never approach and touch a dog when it's sleeping. Do not attempt to remove toys or chew bones from a dog. Do not allow anyone to lie on a greyhound (this not only can scare the dog, but also produce severe injury due to the greyhound's fine bone structure).



Greyhounds and Other Pets
Greyhounds are a social breed. They usually try hard to get along well with other dogs, but that does not mean they never get into conflicts over turf, status, food, and possessions. Whenever two strange dogs are first introduced and asked to share what was once the property of only one of them, there will inevitably have to be some adjustments. With your help, chances are very good that they will come to enjoy each other's company. Refer to Behavior Series Part 4.

Never leave more than one dog unsupervised with a bone or chew.

Sometimes the adopted greyhound will act like a puppy for a while, as it has never had the freedom and responsibilities that most pet dogs learn to handle when they're puppies. The behavior will pass in time, and your greyhound will become a mature, responsible adult dog. Greyhounds don't inherently dislike cats, but they do have an inherent urge to hunt small animals. The instinct to pursue is what makes greyhounds such able racers. Introducing your new greyhound to your cat out in the open is an invitation to disaster. The cat's natural reaction is to run away from the strange dog, and the greyhound's natural reaction is to chase the cat at a speed the cat cannot begin to achieve. Introduce your cat and greyhound indoors where you can control them, and make them aware of each other's presence before bringing them together. The cat must know the dog is present so it doesn't panic. The greyhound must know the cat is a member of the family. You might consider having the cat on your lap to reinforce family identification. Greyhounds have a good sense of family and the "pack." GCNM can also loan you a muzzle for your greyhound to eliminate any risk during the introduction. Refer to Behavior Series Part 5.


Feeding Your Greyhound
While at the track, racing greyhounds are accustomed to eating raw, ground meat mixed with kibble and often one or more of the following: pasta, rice, barley or cooked vegetables. Occasionally, if an appetite needs stimulated, canned fish or baby food will be used. We recommend feeding your greyhound a quality dry kibble, perhaps a little water added at first to avoid choking on rapidly ingested kernels of food. If your greyhound tends to gulp down food and coughs it up, try spreading the kibble over the bottom of a large pan so that large mouthfuls cannot be taken at once. Most adopters start their greyhounds on about two cups of kibble twice a day, although this may vary according to the brand of food. It is wise to weigh your greyhound when you first adopt it, and every month thereafter for a few months. You can then adjust the amount of food to maintain an even, optimum weight. Of course greyhounds should have plenty of fresh, clean water available at all times. It is recommended that all large breed dogs be fed from an elevated dish. This prevents gastric problems that could develop into serious complications.

Food is high on the list of things coveted by a greyhound! Garbage must be completely out of reach for a greyhound or it will most certainly be construed as an invitation to scavenge. Anything edible that is within reach of a greyhound — tabletop, countertop, stovetop, etc. — will most likely be ingested. Even inedible items that are permeated with the aroma of food we have handled (think remote controls in use while we are munching popcorn, etc.) are targets for consumption by curious greyhounds! They are particularly adept at swiping anything being casually carried about by a child (or unwary adult), so be prepared to share your food if you persist in making it available to the watchful greyhound. These dogs have never had free access to food at the race kennel where they lived, and they assume anything within their reach must be theirs. So don't blame the dog — you've been forewarned!

Greyhound Health
Greyhounds are bred to be strong and healthy. If properly vaccinated, fed, and maintained, most greyhounds should remain in good health throughout their lifetimes (between 12 to 15 years). Recent research has proven some retired racers experience diseases and health complications, probably as a result of the environment they were kept in, along with various other factors that only affect racing greyhounds.

These factors may affect the longevity of some greyhounds and may create a financial burden on the adopter. We ask that you take this into consideration when making your decision to adopt. Most often, greyhounds are healthy, active examples of canine grace and athleticism, but it is almost impossible to predict which ones may develop problems.

GCNM can refer you to veterinarians who are experienced in treating greyhounds.

Exercise, Training, and Handling Your Greyhound

In retirement, a greyhound's needs are no different from those of any other large dog. You should walk your greyhound some distance two or three times a week, or allow him access to a fenced area for play. Please refer to article entitled Running and Retired Racing Greyhounds: A Dangerous Combination


Greyhounds are extremely sensitive and intelligent, and they respond quickly to voice commands. Physical discipline is not necessary, and any type of discipline should only be done if the dog is caught in the act (never after the fact). Contrary to popular belief, a dog does not know what they are being punished for unless the correction is done at the time of the transgression. Greyhounds are easily trained, but always use kindness and patience in dealing with them, as they respond much more readily to this approach. Refer to Behavior Series Parts 1-5 for more information.

After the initial adjustment period, you will find your adopted greyhound has become a loving pet, faithful companion, and an enthusiastic, comical, bright-eyed member of the family. You will then have joined the growing number of people who have discovered greyhounds make the most wonderful of pets!

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