So you’ve welcomed your new greyhound into your home. Ideally, you know something about how your ex-racer fared through the testing process following his track life when he became a part of the adoption program. You may already know he may not do well with c-a-t-s, or small children and maybe you were even cautioned about his attention to small dogs. Perhaps your home was dog-less before he joined your family, or maybe he’s coming into another greyhound home or a “dog” home with no other greyhounds. Whatever the scenario, it is now up to you to continue the socialization into your hound’s new world.
Whether your dog is a single or now lives in a multiple dog household, he should be looked at as an individual canine with an emerging personality. I say emerging because as many of us already know, an adopted dog begins a sort of transformation from the track to your home which over a period of weeks and months allows this dog to form canine to human bonds. This process may include novelties such as tennis balls, squeaky toys, stairs, children, other pets, road trips, and a soft bed in or outside of a crate.
Living in a world of non-greyhounds, regardless of whether you have others or not, is also a new experience for many of our fast friends. As a dog trainer of all breeds, including dozens of greyhounds, people often ask me about the best ways to socialize a new dog with other dogs outside of the dog’s own home pack, if there is one. The question of dog parks often becomes a part of the conversation. I, and most other trainers agree, believe that dog parks are best suited for already socialized dogs. This does not mean you take your newly adopted dog and turn him loose in an enclosed park to see how he fares. The running factor alone is enough to bring out chase aggression in other dogs, and even so-called “play” mouthing could send your tight-skinned hound to the vet for a suture job. Your dog might also prove to be the aggressor, or at the very least, his curiosity towards that cute, little white dog might leave you anxious and perplexed as to what to do next.
Generally, my advice towards new adopters is to start in the dog’s home environment; that is, to take Swift for a neighborhood walk, without the company of other household dogs. By focusing your attention on Swift, you’ll see his initial reactions towards kids, bikes, men, women, cars, other objects, perhaps even c-a-t-s. Swift will begin forming his own opinions and learn about his new environment without initially feeding off the other dogs’ reactions; however, if Swift is shy or timid, taking him out with his more confident housemates and/or a friend or neighbor’s dog might prove extremely beneficial from the start.
Dog on dog socialization should also include obedience training in a group class or with a private trainer. Either way, be sure to ask whether the trainer is greyhound-savvy, otherwise you may want to keep looking for other options. Although many greyhounds can be taught to sit, it isn’t essential, especially at the beginning of your dog’s new life. But I have had people tell me the trainer of their group class didn’t quite get that, nor did they always understand the prey drive of a keen sighthound.
If you’ve done your “homework” with Swift for a few weeks or months, then perhaps you are ready to visit the nearby dog park. Dog parks can enhance your dog’s life and social skills. They can also help with the training. I advise adopters to take Swift for a training walk on the outside of the park, alternating working on his attention, heeling, and other new skills while also letting him absorb the goings-on inside the park, watching, taking it all in, sniffing. Many dog parks also have a small dog area and this is an ideal way to gauge Swift’s reaction to watching the smaller dogs move around and interact with each other. When I do take my own hounds into a dog park, I have already assessed the other types of dogs already there, playing style, breed types (for instance, herding breeds can be mouthier or more assertive as they “herd-play”), and I don’t necessarily take the leashes off until I see how the others will meet and also how attentive their owners are. On occasion, I have left dog parks when play was too aggressive and owners did little to monitor their dogs’ behavior. Fortunately, many parks are large enough to allow for different play areas. Most dogs fare better with more space and no leashes. Leashes can certainly accentuate dog aggression but are a necessary part of our dogs’ lives.
If your hound seems too keen with his scrutiny of the other dogs, especially the smaller variety, entering the dog park is not a good idea. This may be the time to enlist the aid of a private trainer to further assess your dog and help you continue his training and socialization. Hooking up with other greyhound people or more experienced dog owners may further help you and your dog. Greyhounds make great companions for us humans and most can learn to live happily in a multiple dog environment while others may very well be suited for solitude.
Marian Pott is the owner/operator of Miramar Dog Training and lives in Half Moon Bay, California. She shares her home with two greyhounds and two German Shepherds, one cat who would prefer a zero dog household, and three other humans (husband, daughter, son). Questions about this article may be addressed to: firstname.lastname@example.org; or call 650-712-1192.
Editors Note: Every year, GFFL receives calls from adopters whose greyhounds have been attacked at a dog park. In every case, the owner of the attacking dog has magically disappeared or has given a phony name and telephone number, leaving the adopter to pay for expensive veterinary bills. As the article states, dog parks can be a good place for socializing your greyhound. However, checking for aggressive dogs or aggressive play before entering the park and maintaining unwavering vigilance while at the park is critical for keeping your greyhound safe.