Greyhounds: They really are dogs, after all
We can become so fond of our wonderful greyhounds that we tend to think of them as some kind of super-species of dog, somehow a little grander, a little "better" than the average dog. So perhaps "average" dog behavior can come as a surprise or a disappointment. Glamorizing our companions, romanticizing their actions and motives, is unrealistic and unfair to the dogs. The purpose of this document is not to scare you away from adopting a greyhound, but to make you think...and to realize, that greyhounds really are dogs, after all.
- All dogs are individuals. Like any dogs, there are some greyhounds that are more shy, some that are more assertive, some that are noisier and some quieter. Unique, perhaps, to greyhounds, is a tendency for their personality to unfold slowly over time, over as long to 6 months or a year, as they become accustomed to their home. So personality traits may develop that are not anticipated during fostering.
- All dogs may make noise. Greyhounds typically are less noisy than many other breeds but some DO bark, and occasionally one barks quite a bit.
- All dogs may jump up on people. This can be a dominance behavior, or it can just be a sign of high spirits. The owner can unknowingly stimulate this behavior by treating it as amusing or cute, and then become frustrated when the dog jumps on others. Basic rule: Do not tolerate this behavior (or any other) around your immediate family if you don't want it to occur with others.
- All dogs may dig. While greyhounds are not terriers, who are bred to dig, some enjoy it. Some engage it in when bored; others seem to like to lie in the cool soil of a fresh hole.
- All dogs may bite under the wrong circumstance. Some dogs can't tolerate people that get right in their face; some can't tolerate being stepped on or climbed on. Any dog may snap if in pain or startled. It is the owner's responsibility to come to know the dog very well and to be alert to signals that mean the dog is stressed, and to make sure that the dog is adequately supervised at all times, and to muzzle the dog in situations where biting is more likely (such as inspecting a wound). While alert supervision can prevent a large percentage of biting incidents, it can not prevent 100%.
- All dogs may seek out food. They may jump on counters, open cabinets, or dump trash cans to get to it. It is the owner's responsibility to "dog proof their house just as they would child-proof it, and also to realize that "dog proofing" is no substitute for supervision of the dog (or child, for that matter).
- All dogs can get into fights. Even greyhounds that normally get on well can squabble over a bit of food or a choice spot to lie down; a play session can turn into a fight if someone gets stepped on. The greyhound, with its thin skin & low body fat, may be more likely to become injured in fights. It is the owner's responsibility to monitor the dogs, and to anticipate situations where fights may begin.
- All dogs are pack animals. This means several things:
- Dogs will establish their own order in the pack. One dog frequently will establish him/herself as the dominant dog. What the owner wants is immaterial. Wishing that your oldest or friendliest dog were dominant won't make it so.. .allow the dogs to work it out. It is the owner's responsibility to make sure that the dogs realize that THE OWNER is the ultimate "alpha dog."
- Dogs in packs may behave differently than individual dogs. For instance, a pack of dogs may be more likely to be noisy or chase than an individual. A pack may even turn on an injured dog, even a member of their own pack. This may not be pretty but it is "normal" dog behavior.
- All dogs may chase. But greyhounds are bred for it, and better at it. A dog that is perfectly "cat safe" in one house may not be in another. Even the most small-animal safe dog in the world indoors may chase small animals outside, especially when in a pack. Greyhounds can and will chase & kill squirrels, cats, rabbits, birds, voles, etc, sometimes even with a muzzle on. This is, after all, what they've been bred for. It is the owner's responsibility to carefully monitor the dog when around small animals, using leashes & muzzles as needed to help keep ALL the animals safe.
- All dogs may have likes & dislikes. They may 'take to' some people more than others. Or they may have certain circumstances that make them nervous or snappy. It is the owner's responsibility to respect his or her dog and to not try to force them into situations which make them unhappy.
- All dogs can develop behavioral "issues." Some of these are inborn. Many of them are "acquired" from their life experiences. Many of them develop because of the owner's inexperience or unrealistic expectations of their dog's behavior. Most of these issues can be treated. It is the owner's responsibility to learn as much as possible about the breed and to seek help when needed. The dog deserves this commitment, and so does the adopting family.
This might all sound like a lot of work. It is. Taking a dog into your life, taking responsibility for that life until it reaches its conclusion, is not something that should be undertaken lightly. The reward for the preparation and hard work is a happy, contented, loving dog, in a happy, contented, loving family.