Tips on Adaptation
The First Few
Days at Home
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.
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 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!
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).
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.
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!
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.
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!