Fostering Information

What are some of the things Greyhounds need to be taught?

Many Greyhounds have never had to walk up or down stairs, and some find them awkward or even frightening at first, especially if the steps have a slippery surface. Greyhounds are very long in the body and also have a very high centre of gravity - this can sometimes make them a little clumsy as if they are unsure of where their feet are being placed. Gradual introduction to low sets of stairs initially (numbering no more than three or four) to gain the dog's confidence can later be followed by steeper stairs or those with varying surfaces (carpet, cement, wooden floorboards, linoleum etc.). Despite the above, many Greyhounds will have no difficulty with stairs right from the outset. They should not be permitted to race up or down several steps at a time, as injuries could easily occur.

Like stairs, often Greyhounds have never had to deal with slippery floor surfaces like tiles, linoleum or polished floor boards. As above, time and experience should sort out any difficulties here as long as the dog is introduced slowly and without force. If a new dog is very hesitant, placing squares of carpet pieces or mats across the floor at intervals may help, later increasing the distance between the mats, thereby requiring the dog to walk on the floor surface.

Some dogs will not recognise glass as being a solid barrier when first brought into a house. Showing the dog around each new room on a lead and gently tapping on windows or glass doors may be all that is required. Temporarily placing a strip or two of masking tape across glass barriers may make them more obvious. In cases where strong visual stimuli are present on the other side of the glass (eg. cats), and the dog is showing excessive interest, drawing the curtains or removing the dog from that room may be necessary.

The sound of such devices as televisions, hairdryers, food blenders, vacuum cleaners etc. can be frightening to any dog that has never experienced these before. Even the flushing of a toilet can be quite novel. In most cases, short exposure to such noises on repeated occasions (if carried out in a non-threatening manner) is all that is necessary.

Most Greyhounds do not come toilet trained as such. However, they are generally very clean dogs. Living in a kennel environment, most dogs do not like to soil their sleeping quarters, and will wait until turned out to relieve themselves. When first brought into the home, the Greyhound should be treated in a similar manner to a puppy being housebroken - taking the dog outside every couple of hours for the first day or so, especially after meals, play and long naps. Praise the dog as soon as it performs in an appropriate place. Gradually, over a few days, increase the intervals between toilet breaks until a mutually acceptable routine is established. The majority of Greyhounds will virtually toilet train themselves and never have a accident inside. Some males may need to learn the difference between indoor (potted) plants and outdoor vegetation.

Most Greyhounds are veterans when it comes to rides in the car, and usually love to go on an outing. Motion sickness would be a rare entity. However, getting into and out of a car may need to be taught. Most racing Greyhounds are transported in either a station wagon, panel van or dog trailer. Trainers will generally lift a dog into and out of the vehicle to avoid injuries. The easiest way to begin is to lift the front end of the dog and rest its forefeet on the seat or tailgate. Then transfer your hands to the rear end of the dog and lift the back legs in. Many dogs, with repeated practice will learn to hop in themselves, but some will always expect a helping hand. Experience at climbing onto a rear (bench) seat of a car and laying down whilst driving should be gained as not all adoptive families will own station wagons.

Although not all foster homes will have children, it is neccessary to ascertain a dog's reaction to young children. This could be done to some degree by visiting a local park or sports field, especially on weekends. Unlike adults, children tend to move rapidly, not always in a coordinated manner, and may shriek out in high pitched tones. To a young excitable Greyhound, this may be an incentive to chase. Such a desire may be exacerbated when rollerblades, skateboards or bicycles are added to the picture. The majority of Greyhounds are excellent with children in the home environment, preferring to walk away if harassed by a persistent child, but close supervision is essential as with any breed. Any tendency for the Greyhound to exhibit dominance posturing towards a child, barking, growling etc., should be noted.

Greyhounds are generally used to being around other Greyhounds, but many have little or no experience of different dog breeds, cats or other pets. It should be remembered that Greyhounds have been bred for centuries to chase and the prey drive in some individuals means they can never be fully trusted with small animals. Many, however, will learn to accept other pets if introduced slowly and carefully, always with strict supervision. Any introductions should always be carried out on lead, and with the Greyhound properly muzzled, until the dog's reactions can be assessed. If the foster carer has to leave, even for a brief time, the Greyhound should be penned, crated or closed securely in a separate room from other animals. Risks should never be taken with the safety of your own pets.

Because most racing Greyhounds are used to having at least one (and often many) other Greyhounds around them all the time, some have trouble adjusting to a more solitary existence. This may not pose an immediate problem if the foster home has other pets, especially dogs. However, the future adoptive home may not have other animals and separation anxiety may develop. When a Greyhound first enters a home it often becomes your second shadow (the "Velcro" dog syndrome), following you all over the house, even to the bathroom. Usually after a few days, this behaviour will ease as the dog becomes more secure in its new surroundings. It is important to provide the Greyhound with a place of its own to relax (dog bed, crate etc.) and to regularly ask it to "go lie down" or similar phrase. Where possible, the dog should be placed in an outdoor run or free in a secure yard on its own at least once a day for a short time.

Two things a Greyhound (or any other dog) may feel possessive about are food and its sleeping quarters. During the fostering period, the dog should learn to accept its food and foodbowl being handled in a non-threatening manner. Any foster dog should be fed separately from other pets, especially when first introduced. After the first three or four days, when the dog should be learning to trust the foster carer, food can be added to the bowl gradually by hand as the dog is eating. Eventually, by the end of the foster period, the dog should accept the food bowl being taken away and, ideally, food or other objects being taken from its mouth. Needless to say, great care should be taken in these circumstances and an assessment of the dog's temperament made before proceeding. The Greyhound should also permit its bedding to be handled, sat in etc. Sleep-space aggression is reported in some Greyhounds, usually in response to being woken or disturbed suddenly during a nap. Some Greyhounds do sleep with their eyes open, so it is important to ensure that the dog is awake before touching and surprising it. Greyhounds tend to sleep very deeply, and may take a while to arouse. As they are generally housed individually in racing kennels, they are not used to other dogs, children etc. tripping over them in their sleep.

Racing Greyhounds are quite used to being bathed, groomed and massaged. However, it is important to determine that the dog does not have any "sensitive" areas, which may indicate injuries. The dog should accept its feet being handled, nails clipped, ears cleaned and eyes and mouth inspected, as well as being groomed all over with a soft brush.