The First Few Days in a New Home

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By The Greyhound Project, Inc. 

A retired racing greyhound has probably never been in a house before and things will be strange. Initially, your greyhound will probably be confused by the new environment. As a result the dog may be tense and possibly withdrawn. Unless completely terrified, greyhounds frequently exhibit very subtle signs of stress which may go unnoticed. It is normal for a new dog to be afraid at first. 

At first your new greyhound may stare ahead and seem unresponsive. This is typical greyhound stress behavior. Remember it is undergoing stress adjusting to its new environment. Quiet and calm is the way to go. A light and gentle massage all over (paws and all) with soothing words is great for both the dog and the new owner. 

Your new greyhound may be very afraid the first few nights. It is used to living in a crate where it feels safe and secure and surrounded by a large number of other greyhounds. The sounds, smells, shadows of your home are all new to it. Reassure the dog with words and your physical closeness. 

Make sure that the dog has an opportunity to thoroughly relieve itself before entering a new home. At some point the dog will pick a spot to lie down (on an old blanket or someplace it feels relatively safe). Let it remain quiet unless it comes to you. 

Frequently, the use of a crate can ease the transition for a new dog. Crates are available from a wide variety of kennel supply companies and should be large enough for the dog to comfortably stand and turn around. 

Be patient and gentle, speaking soft, soothing, one-word assurances. Speak "NO" more strongly for unacceptable behavior. 

If you do not want the dog in certain rooms use your hand as a traffic cop and say firmly but gently "NO," and stay that way until the dog gets the message. Consistency, repetition, and softness are the keys to successful training. 

Greyhounds like comfort and will make themselves at home on the sofa or the bed if permitted. If you do not want to share every soft surface in the house with your dog, start immediately to block it from those places and show it where it is acceptable. Please be consistent; a dog cannot differentiate between when it is all right to get on the bed and when it is not, and once allowed it will be nearly impossible to reverse the behavior. 

At night if you let your new greyhound into the bedroom, it will quickly settle down. Your closeness and scent are a source of security in a bewildering, new environment. Remember, however, once you have allowed the dog into the bedroom, you are committed. Like all learned behavior, your dog will respond and will expect to be allowed to continue the behavior.

If the dog is not allowed into the bedroom, please keep it nearby and develop it's confidence with soft words of assurance. 

Note that the literature suggests that training is accelerated and behavior enhanced when the dog shares the Master/Mistress's bedroom. You are the alpha figure and the bedroom is your den. This Master/Mistress is also preferably the feeder. 

Your greyhound may be perplexed by its reflection in mirrors, fireplace glass, French doors and the like. Let it explore. 

On the track greyhounds live regimented, scheduled lives. Your dog will adjust more easily if you establish a schedule for feeding and walking and stick to it. 

On the track, the dogs are turned out to relieve themselves four times a day. As a result your dog has not learned to ask to go out. They will learn how to let you know, but at first you need to take responsibility for establishing a schedule in place of the regular turn out your dog is use to. Time duty trips close to feeding time, usually within an hour before. 

Time portion-controlled feeding. Remember that the hand that trains is the hand that feeds. Typically, your dog will start bonding at feeding times. Although others in the family may want to share in the feeding, at first it is best for one person to do the feeding. 

Feed twice a day with high quality dog food. Note that an abrupt change in dog food may cause a brief period of diarrhea which can be avoided if the transition is made gradually mixing the old and new feed in decreasing proportions until the new feed is fully integrated into your dog's diet. 

If your new greyhound is just off the track, it may still be at it's track weight and appear very thin. Generally, you should be able to feel your dog's ribs and perhaps faintly see them through its coat. 

Avoid overfeeding; greyhounds are not designed to carry extra weight, which can cause health problems and be harmful. If your dog needs to gain weight, it should be done gradually over several weeks. 

Avoid underfeeding; it results not only in physical problems but behavior problems, as well. 

Greyhounds love rawhide bones but may not know how to hold them at first. Because their diet is closely controlled while they are racing and consists of mostly soft food, your dog's teeth may be stained and have built up tartar needing to be cleaned by a veterinarian. 

A new dog may startle easily at first -- don't sneak up on your dog from behind, come from the front. Speak softly. It will always hear you unless it is asleep. 

They tend to sleep deeply and need to be awakened slowly. If your dog is asleep, please do not startle it. Greyhounds may make sassy "grumps" if you do in the same way they would with a kennel mate. Over time it will adjust to soft intrusions. 

Your dog is use to being inactive for long periods, so leaving your dog to go to work or tend to other activities is not a problem if you spend some time helping your dog to understand it has not been abandoned. 

All of your dog's life has been spent surrounded by other greyhounds, so being left alone in a new house can be very unsettling. They may become very insecure if left with the run of the house when no one is around, and confining your greyhound to a small room without a crate seems to terrify some dogs. 

Although they have been confined to their crates when not involved in purposeful activities, they have also been surrounded by other dogs. Again the use of a crate for the dog while you are out can ease the transition for both the dog and the owner, and leaving a radio on during your absence can soothe an insecure dog. The kennels where your dog was raised frequently leave a radio on when there is no one around.

If you are going to be gone for the day, be sure to leave fresh water for your greyhound. If the dog is left in a crate there are various ways to attach a water pail to the side of the crate so it cannot tip over when your greyhound is turning around or moving. 

Greyhounds from the track are "crate trained" which means that they will not soil their crate unless they are very ill and cannot control themselves. They can make the transition from their crate to a new home with a watchful eye from you and a little patience. 

When it is duty time, let your greyhound loose only if you have a safe, enclosed area. Otherwise, use a leash and training collar (a web "slip" or "martingale" collar that the dog cannot slip over its head). After your dog has relieved itself, give it lots of praise followed by its regular feeding. With this sequence of activities the dog will learn to please you, stay with you, and know that it will be rewarded for acceptable behavior. 

Your greyhound is essentially a puppy at heart and a runner. Unlike other breeds, they rely mostly on sight and cannot easily find their way back as scent-oriented puppies can. Do not let it loose where it can lose sight of you or you of the dog. You will not be able to catch your greyhound if it starts to run, so do not let it loose where it can escape even unintentionally. 

Greyhounds from the track do not know what traffic is, and may be easily distracted by the new sights and sounds in its new environment. Your dog's safety and its life depend on your wisdom, care, and understanding. Never allow the dog loose where it might catch sight of something to chase across traffic. 

With patience, consistency, and practice, greyhounds can be taught typical obedience commands such as sit, stay, heel, down, and come. They are anxious to please, and they have a mind of their own. 

The most important command, return when called, is also the most difficult to teach any dog. Good books are available on dog obedience and training classes are available -- consult your veterinarian. Do not let your greyhound loose in an unfenced area. 

The Greyhound Project, Inc.
P.O. Box 5329 
Framingham, MA 01701