If Your Hound Could Talk

Helping your hound settle in

While all GPA/N hounds live in the homes of experienced foster families for several weeks before adoption, they still have much to learn about home life and being a pet. Your hound is depending on you to help with his transition from retired racer to pet. Patience and attentiveness pay off in the long run.

You may be a novice with dogs or have many years of experience. Remember, however, that a retired racer has lived a different life than the average dog. So, listen to what the homevisit team and foster family have to say and follow their lead. They are experienced greyhound people who want your hound’s placement to be successful.

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS THE PERFECT DOG. There will be a period of transition during which you and your hound get to know each other and your respective routines. Luckily, greyhounds are eager to please and respond best to firm, clear commands delivered in a calm, even tone. Your hound is doing the best he can. Help him to do better.

To gain further understanding about your greyhound and his transition to being a loved pet, below are some of the things your hound would tell you, if he could talk.

In the Beginning

- I’ve been through a lot in the past few weeks — left the familiar life of the track and all my friends, been vetted, moved to a foster home — so give me time to settle in. No big crowds the first few days, no swarms of neighborhood kids; only a treat or two, no table food, lots of opportunities to go out to potty.

- Be patient and gentle; use soft, soothing one-word assurances such as "good" and "easy". Say "no" more strongly for unacceptable behavior. If you catch me relieving myself in the house, clap your hands, say “No” loudly and take me out.

- At first, I might seem withdrawn or afraid. I’ll probably pant and pace the house a lot for the first couple of days. It’s my way of getting comfortable.

- I’ll likely follow you everywhere at first (even into the bathroom)! That’s because I’m looking to you to help me figure out what’s okay. At some point, I'll pick a spot and lie down, so make sure I’ve got a fluffy comforter or dog bed in a quiet corner. When I do lie down, be sure to tell me I’m a good dog.

Housebreaking

- Take me out every couple of hours for the first few days, so I can do my business. Repeating trigger words like “outside” or “go potty” when you want me to do my business is a big help.

- While I’m inside, keep me in sight and at your side. Watch for signs that I’m looking for a place to "go" like pacing with my head down, sniffing along the baseboard or sidling up to furniture. Those are your signals to take me out RIGHT NOW!

- At first, crate me when you can’t watch me, even if you’re just taking a shower or putting in a load of laundry. That way I won’t slip up.

Exercise

- Leash walking is great exercise for me and a terrific way for us to bond. So, even if we have a fenced yard, plan to take me for a 10-15 minute walk every day. It’ll help us get acquainted, improve my leash-walking skills and let me get to know my neighborhood.

I’m a retired athlete, so I should stay in shape (within five pounds of my racing weight is best). Letting me run in your fenced yard is good. If we don’t have a yard, take me to a friend’s fenced yard or to a fully fenced baseball field and let me run. The good thing about me is that I’m a sprinter, so I run really hard and fast for about a minute and then I’m done.

IMPORTANT — No matter what, when I exercise, I need to be on leash or in a fenced area. I can see things up to a mile away and reach speeds of 45 mph in three strides. Once I start running, yelling and calling won’t bring me back.

House Rules

- If you don’t want me in a certain room use your hand as a traffic cop and say firmly but gently "no." Stand in my way to stop me and keep it up until I turn away, then praise me. Repetition and consistency are the keys to my learning. Putting up a baby gate or blocking doors with chairs will help me remember where I’m not supposed to go.

- Start now to block me from the sofa and your bed, if you don’t want me on them and show me where to lie and provide soft bedding so I can relax.

- I’ve probably never seen myself before, so I’ll be curious about reflective surfaces like mirrors, fireplace glass, the oven door or sliding glass doors. If my being mesmerized is a problem, call me away and feed me a treat.

IMPORTANT — Walk me up to storm doors, sliding glass doors and low windows and tap them. That’ll help me remember I can’t walk through them. Putting a couple of sticky notes on them can help, too, by providing a visual reminder.

Other Pets

- If I’m going to live with other dogs, especially small dogs or cats, have me wear my muzzle and keep me on leash until I’m clear that they are family. I’ve been trained to chase small, fast moving things outside, so be particularly cautious at first about turning me out with other pets.

IMPORTANT — Cats need to be kept inside for their safety and never in the yard when I’m out. I’d hate to lose my new home over a misunderstanding.

Kids

- If you have kids, I was selected for you because the homevisit team and my foster family have good reason to believe I’m okay with little folks. Even so, don’t let munchkins, or anyone else for that matter, get in my face, pull my ears or lay on me. Ditto kids running around the house with food in their hands. It’s just too easy for me to take it from them.

- And another thing — if I take food from a child or pick up a child’s toy, tell the kids you’re the only one allowed to retrieve things from me. Sometimes I get confused about little kids and who’s in charge. Again, I’d hate to lose my new home over a misunderstanding.

- When the whole family is together, put my bed off to the side where no one can stumble on me.

IMPORTANT — Teach kids to respect my space by not letting them go in my crate or touch me when I’m on my bed. When their friends come over, for everyone’s well being, put me in my crate with a chewy, or baby gate me in a nearby room.

Bed Time

If you let me sleep in your bedroom, I'll quickly settle down. Your closeness and scent are my security. If there are other pets in the bedroom with us, give me a space of my own by putting my bed beside your bed and blocking the space from other pets.

- Make bed time calm and easy. Walk me or send me out to do my business. If I’m going to sleep in my crate, walk me to the crate and say “kennel up” or “crate up.” If I look at you like I don’t know what you’re talking about, toss a treat in. Or put my front feet in and give my butt a firm but gentle push while repeating “kennel up” or “crate up. Eventually, I’ll get it.

- Because being away from the track and other hounds and in a new place is a little scary, I may whine or whimper at night. Just tell me to hush. If the whining continues, use a squirt gun to get my attention.

- IMPORTANT — Greyhounds can sleep with their eyes open, so if you think I may be asleep, say my name first to be sure I am awake. When some of us are startled out of sleep, we can come up growling and snapping — that’s called sleep aggression. Your foster family will be able to tell you if I’m one of those. No matter what, be sure I’m awake before you pet me.

I Like Schedules

- At the kennel, we lived on a schedule. Get up at the same time. Go for training. Eat. I liked that a lot because I know what to expect. I’ll respond best, especially at first, if we stick to a schedule in which I get up, eat, go out, go for walks and go to bed at about the same time every day.

Chow Time

- Eating is a big deal for me and the person who feeds me is No. 1 on my list. I’ve always been fed in a crate, so if we have other animals, give me privacy at mealtimes. Pick a quiet, out-of-the-way corner. Better yet, feed me in my crate. I’m used to that.

- Remember to time a trip outside close to mealtime (usually 30-60 minutes after).

- Feed me twice a day using a high-quality dog food (look for foods containing around 23 percent protein) and in the quantity the homevisit team recommended. At first, I might be reluctant to eat. If I miss a meal or two, don’t worry. You can boost my interest by adding some water plus a tablespoon of plain yogurt or cottage cheese.

- On the other hand, if I inhale my food, help me slow down by adding a cup of water to my food. Other strategies include putting a tennis ball in my bowl so I have to eat around it or feeding me by tossing one handful of kibble at a time into my bowl.

- Be sure my water bowl is always full of clean, cool water. I enjoy drinking and need the water to help digest my food. Put my water dish in a convenient, out-of-the-way place so I can drink comfortably.

- IMPORTANT — For an hour before a meal and after, don’t let me run or play hard. Deep-chested dogs like me can get something called bloat where the stomach twists. It’s very painful and if it were to happen to me, I could die from it.

Leaving Me Alone

- When you need to leave — whether it’s for 20 minutes or five hours, always send me out to do my business beforehand. Don’t make a big deal out of leaving me. Put me in my crate. Turn on a light or two and the TV or radio. Fix me a Kong with a tablespoon of peanut butter rubbed on the inside and toss in a few kibble. (This is especially nice if you freeze it because it takes longer for me to lick it out.) Then walk away. I may howl a bit or rattle the crate door. Don’t let that bother you. I’ve lived most of my life in a crate. It’s familiar and a source of comfort.

- If I yank on the crate bars or tear up my bedding, put my muzzle on me. I can still lick on my Kong through the muzzle.

- Perhaps after several weeks here, when you think I’m settled enough, you can start slowly to introduce me to more freedom. Start by baby gating me in the room where I sleep at night and go out to get the mail. Build up the time I’m alone and loose.

If I do pretty well baby gated in the bedroom, slowly expand my space to perhaps include the bedroom and the hallway, then add the living room. You get the idea — a little more space and longer periods of time over a series of weeks. When you do it that way, I’m less likely to get scared and make a housebreaking mistake.

- IMPORTANT — Never ever put me in my crate with my martingale collar on. If the collar gets caught on something in the crate, I could panic and pull away and twist it. In the process, I could choke to death.