If you’ve been looking for a relaxed, placid companion to snuggle up with, then a greyhound may just be for you! These gorgeous dogs have had a tough start to life as racing dogs, but they don’t let that stop them!
They really shine as companion animals, and most owners will agree that they are one of the easiest dogs to own! Contrary to popular belief, Greyhounds do not need much exercise. They are sprinters, and a daily walk of about 20-30 minutes will often do the trick; then they are ready to sleep for the rest of the day. They are inside companions and most Greyhounds are easily toilet trained within a few days. They are low shedding, friendly, well mannered, gentle, and do not tend to bark. Many greyhounds also get on with small breed dogs, cats (and even rats!) when introduced correctly. Although greyhounds have often never seen a couch in their life, they know exactly what to do when one appears and will happily curl up beside you (or sprawl out all over you) to watch Friday night footy.
This guide is designed to be used by new owners and foster carers to assist with transitioning their greyhound from kenneled race dog to companion animal.
The aim is to guide you through the stages of transition and provide you with tools and steps of evaluation. There are also websites for checking the guidelines and of your local council in regard to Greyhounds as companion animals.
Racing greyhounds are used to fairly regimented lifestyles, with few options or choices to make on a daily basis. Learning how they are supposed to behave in a domestic setting can be quite an adjustment, so the more interaction and enrichment you can introduce to them, the more quickly they will acclimatise.
New found freedom and exciting surroundings may lead to a return to a temporary ‘puppy-hood’ so be sure to establish some ground rules and shut doors or use baby gates to block access to areas you don’t wish your greyhound to access.
Greyhounds are generally quiet, well-mannered and affectionate dogs and usually settle in well to their new surroundings. However, each dog is an individual and for some, becoming a house pet can be a major transition, while others will adjust to the comforts and pleasures of home very readily!
No matter where your dog fits in this rehabilitation process, please remember that your affection, understanding, patience and consistency will make all the difference.
Routine is very important for this breed. Too much change causes stress and potential set back of behaviours.
Most greyhounds do not come into Shelters toilet trained after living in a kennel environment. They are more accustomed to waiting to be turned out (from their kennels) to relieve themselves.
When first brought into the home, the greyhound should be treated similar to a puppy being housebroken. You should take the dog outside every couple of hours for the first few days especially after meals, play and long naps.
Do not scold the dog if it has an accident and you are not there to catch it in time. When catching the dog in the act, say a firm NO and immediately take the dog outside. Corrections can only be made at the time it is occurring not afterwards.
To give your dog a great start, you will also need to help it adjust to various parts of your home.
Many greyhounds have never had to walk up or down stairs and some may find them awkward or frightening at first – particularly the open-backed type (with no risers).
Your greyhound will need a gradual introduction to them, beginning with a few steps initially and/or coaxing with food rewards.
Physical help (ie. manually moving one leg at a time) may be necessary and/or a hand on the collar and a knee behind them to ensure they do not injure themselves (by jumping, backing up or going too quickly). Even the most frightened or tentative dogs learn stairs after a few days.
Like stairs, greyhounds may not have ever walked on slippery surfaces such as tiles, polished floorboards or lino. If a dog is extremely hesitant, place towels or mats at intervals across the floor and increase the distance until its confidence improves.
Noise in the home
Loud noises and the sounds of household appliances such as televisions, vacuum cleaners, and hair dryers may be frightening for a dog who has not experienced them before. Exposure to such noises over a short period, when carried out in a non-threatening manner, is usually all that is necessary to ensure your dog becomes comfortable with them.
Greyhounds on beds
Due to possible sleep aggression, it is not recommended that you allow your greyhound to sleep on either yours or your children’s beds. They sleep very deeply and if woken in fright, may react.
Glass doors, mirrors and windows
Most greyhounds will not recognise glass doors, mirrors and windows as solid barriers at first and will need to be shown this fact. Lead them gently around each room, tapping on the windows or glass panels. Removable tape may be necessary at the greyhound’s eye level to prevent accident or injury.
It is important to use markings on glass to make greyhounds aware of the glass panel. Frosted safety squares, circle packs are a cost effective pack which can be spaced across your glass surface to prevent accidental bumping into the glass panels. There are many companies who supply glass safety decals online or you can use masking tape.
Travelling in cars
Most greyhounds are experienced travellers who love to go out in the car. Many will lie down as soon as the vehicle starts moving. Be aware that your greyhound has probably only travelled before in vans or dog trailers.
They will need to be taught how to jump safely into and out of a car and may experience ‘sprung seating’ for the first time. All dogs should be tethered into a safety belt based harness for car travel.
Greyhounds have no road sense. Your greyhound can see a distance of up to one kilometer ahead and their instinct is to chase. If they sight something to chase their speed goes from 0 to 60 kilometers and amongst cars and traffic disaster can occur in a flash. You should NEVER let your greyhound off leash in an un-fenced or traffic dense area!
Greyhounds are not designed to swim! They can relax in a wading pool but they cannot swim in a back yard swimming pool.
Why? Their legs are too long and there is no ‘webbing’ to enable them to dog paddle. Please be mindful of allowing your greyhound near the edge of a swimming pool unless they have ‘Floaties’ on and you are very close by. A greyhound will not know what a backyard swimming pool is.
Introducing your Greyhound to other pets
Greyhounds are accustomed to mixing with only greyhounds and usually enjoy other canines when introduced correctly. Some greyhounds will get along well with cats and other small animals, but others are too reactive to live with them successfully.
For the first several weeks, keep the dogs and/or cats separated when you are not at home or cannot supervise their interaction. Watch them carefully when they are interacting.
Any introductions should be carried out with your greyhound on a lead and properly muzzled until its reactions can be accurately assessed.
Risks should never be taken with the safety of other pets until you are totally confident that it does not pose a threat.
Don’t ever let your greyhound chase any of your small animals, even in play. Play can turn to hunt quickly and no cat or small dog is fast enough to get out of the way of a determined greyhound.
Your greyhound should be walked on-leash at all times, or at least until it is ascertained that it is safe to enter off-leash areas.
*Dog parks are not ideally safe for greyhounds as they are not familiar with socialising with other breeds. Playtime can lead to skin tears and vet visits so we recommend avoiding dog parks.
Currently, you must check your local council guidelines to ascertain if your greyhounds need to be muzzled when walking in public. We have more information on this later in this booklet.
Introductions to other dogs
It is best to introduce your greyhound to your other dog(s) on neutral territory. With all animals on leads, have them meet outside under control and take them for a walk together. When arriving back home, walk them around your property on lead and then bring them into the house.
Introductions to cats
Introduce your greyhound to your cat indoors with the greyhound muzzled and leashed. Hold the leash in your hand. Leave the cat on the floor. Greyhounds do not have any awareness or fear of cats. Greyhounds have been trained to chase smaller fast moving animals so for the safety of your cat you should leave the muzzle on your greyhound if they are in the backyard together.
Children and greyhounds
Greyhounds are tolerant and friendly by nature and are generally good with older children. However, an important question is: “Do your children know how to behave with animals?”
Most greyhounds have never been around children and can be wary or frightened; children tend to move quickly, a little uncoordinated and can be noisy.
Close supervision of young children around any breed of dog is essential. Most greyhounds will move away if harassed by a pestering child, but it is best not to assume this, especially early on.
Encourage your children to always be gentle and kind to your greyhound and if they are too young to understand this we recommend supervision at all times. Below are some useful tips to help create safe boundaries for both your greyhound and the children living in the house.
Let sleeping dogs lie
Greyhounds require peaceful environments while sleeping so please do not pat, poke, jump near or shock a greyhound while sleeping as they may growl or snap and please teach children to call a greyhounds name first before you wake it.
A greyhound needs their own private space to have quiet down time.
Greyhounds benefit from quiet time and privacy and children should be taught that there are boundaries. For example, children should be taught that feeding time is privacy time for your greyhound and if your dog retreats to its bed, children should be educated that this is his quiet time.
Hands off the food
Never allow children to take away or interfere with your dog’s food or dog dish. However, if you observe any dominant behaviour towards a child from your dog around her food (such as barking etc) correct immediately.
This can be done by an adult having the dog under control from a distance and allowing the greyhound to see the child come and place the food bowl in front of it. This establishes the child as higher in the pack.
Hugging and climbing
Children should never hang off your dog’s neck, hug your dog or be allowed to climb on or over your dog. This is a very unsafe way for children to interact with any dog, let alone a greyhound.
Open doors and gates
Greyhounds can ‘dart’ quickly and can dash down the street in a blink of the eye. Teach your children (and everyone in the family) to shut the car door and the front door, ensure the garage door is down and to close any gates.
Home alone enrichment
Companion animals living in domestic situations benefit from enrichment programs. Establishing a daily enrichment program helps to prevent anxiety, separation stress, boredom, frustration and loneliness. In general it is good for mental & physical stimulation.
For those times when we can’t be with the dog we need to make sure he has an interesting environment to amuse him in our absence. Normal healthy dogs sleep for a good part of the day so it is important that they have appropriate places to rest where they are not exposed to excessive heat, cold or weather conditions. They need food and plenty of fresh water.
For those times when they are not sleeping, eating or drinking we need to supply some ways to occupy their time and attention before using any of the suggestions in this handout or any other enrichment source, check to make sure it is appropriate for the type, size and age of your dog.
First and foremost you must be sure that the toys and activities that you give your dog will not harm him in any way. Below are some ideas for safe enrichment.
Shell/clam wading pools are a great way for dogs to cool off in warm weather.
Make sure the dog can get in and out of the pool. You can float toys or pieces of vegetable like carrot in the pool as an added attraction. Make sure the pool and water is kept clean and free of debris.
Greyhounds love to dig so create a sand pit area in the garden or use a wading / clam pool. Hide toys or treats in the sand in order to use their playtime!
Kongs are wonderful toys that are readily available at the shelter or pet stores. The Kong is stuffed with food and left for the dog to work on during the day. Make sure you have the right size for your dog.
REMEMBER that food toys can be a problem in households that have more than one dog. Make sure you supervise the first time you use food toys. Check out the www.kongcompany.com website for ideas.
Baby cot mattresses with clean bedding or linen on top make great sleeping arrangements for greys.
The Treasure Hunt
You can do this with your greyhound or use it as a home alone enrichment tool. Instead of giving his dry food in a bowl, go out in the yard and scatter the food over the grass. Encourage the greyhound to look, search and find. Give a positive response when a piece is found. That should keep him busy for a while. If he is used to having a Kong try hiding that for him to find.
Treats you can recycle
Get your butcher to cut the ends off the large marrow bones. When the dog has finished getting all the marrow out you can recycle it! Wash the bone then smear peanut butter, cream cheese or mince in the open end, fill the hollow center with dry food and seal the other end with the peanut butter etc. This will keep him occupied for quite some time.
If you have more than one dog, please supervise while bones are being chewed or eaten. Remove all bones once the greyhound has either finished consuming or playing with the bone.
Play dates with other dogs
If you have friends who have dogs that are compatible with your greyhound, you might like to have them visit. Please note though, that although greyhounds are one of the quietest breeds around, they can be very noisy when playing with other animals.
Sometimes, a greyhound will make a guttural growl when playing off leash, which can be easily mistaken for aggression. They may also nip when chasing, therefore it is a good idea to muzzle your greyhound when first introducing a potential playmate to observe how they interact.
Keep the muzzle on when playing until you are comfortable and confident that your grey shouldn’t nip. If they do, go back a step and use the muzzle again. Praise friendly, balanced play and
correct intense chasing by distracting your grey and giving out high value treats (such as cooked chicken pieces or cheese) when they come. Let the dogs play again when they are both in a calm state.
Regular daily walks of 20-30 minutes are sufficient for your greyhound, although some will happily take more outings and walks if you offer this. Some greyhounds have had enough exercise after 15 minutes, while others will go for 40 minutes.
Always build up to longer walks. Greyhounds are not really the best choice as jogging companions – they are low-energy dogs who display short bursts of energy only and are not built for endurance.
You should never tie a greyhound to a stake or a tree. If they take off at high speed whilst tied up, a broken neck, other injury or even death can result. Retractable or long dog leads are not recommended for the same reason.
Take short walks in the early morning or late evening. Be alert to any signs of heat distress in your dog. Many greyhounds enjoy cooling off by walking or lying in a shallow pool of water. A child’s wading pool can be ideal.
Greyhounds are sight hounds and most will chase anything, including a plastic bag! Your new pet can go from standing to 40km/hr very quickly.
It is therefore important that your greyhound be kept on a lead
at all times when not in its own yard or not in an enclosed or secure area. Typical of hounds, greyhounds do not always come when they are called and they have no road sense, so keep this in mind when taking her out and about.
Muzzles and the law
It will depend on your local Council guidelines if a muzzle is required for walking your Greyhound in public. Council requirements may differ and can change so please keep up-to-date through your Council’s website for greyhound muzzling requirements. For example, Gold Coast City Council has useful information here.
Below are some recommendations and suggestions for feeding your greyhound a healthy diet.
Changes in diet
Your greyhound may go off its food for a few days after the adoption. This is usually a result of stress and should pass fairly quickly as the dog settles in to your home. Your dog also may suffer slight diarrhea as a result of stress, change of diet and change of routine. This is all very normal.
Dining alone and defending the dish
Greyhounds are used to dining alone in their kennels and not having to share food or space while eating.
If your greyhound is coming into a home that has an existing dog you must remember to feed each dog in a separate location. This ensures both dogs get their full meal and that the greyhound does not try to ‘Defend its Dish’ and food.
Diet recommendations and routine
It is recommended that greyhounds be fed two meals a day. The preferred quantity for each meal is between 2-2.5 cups consisting of good quality dry food and 200-400 grams of fresh meat or wet food.
Choices may include a few raw chicken wings or several necks, a brisket bone, or some dog biscuits. Eggs, sardines or other fish in oil are an important supplement, and grated raw vegetables are also a good inclusion now and then for roughage. Hard foods such as kibble and brisket bones are necessary for keeping teeth clean and healthy.
Click here for a great homemade recipe from Friends of the Grey
Foods that are too rich for a greyhound’s stomach include:
Preventing Twisted Bowel /Bloat Syndrome
Technically, Bloat/Twisted Bowel Syndrome is called Gastric Dilatation- Volvulus, or GDV (also referred to as gastric torsion). Bloat is inflammation and twisting of the stomach which significantly reduces the dog’s air intake.
If bloat occurs, your greyhound will lie down and gasp for air, or pace continuously. If your greyhound gets bloat, you will need to get to a vet as soon as possible. Below are some suggestions on how to avoid this condition.
No exercise directly before or after eating
To prevent bloat, do not walk your greyhound after a meal or allow any strenuous exercise directly after it has eaten and do not allow your dog to gulp excessive amounts of water when eating. Waiting one hour before and after eating is a good guide.
Racing greyhounds are not fed from elevated dishes. However, once a greyhound goes into an adoptive home, many things in the environment change. Often, adopters are told to feed their new charges from elevated dishes. Advertisements for elevated food dishes refer to gastric problems as the reason you should use raised dishes for large or giant breed dogs.
In determining whether or not to elevate a greyhound’s dish, it is important to consider musculoskeletal problems, which are common for retired racers who often have old injuries. Eating from raised dishes can reduce strain on the neck and back and lessen discomfort on arthritic joints, as well.
Some greyhounds eat very quickly. To teach them to slow down, we suggest using a muffin tray and separating their food portions into each cup. The greyhound will have to work to get their food out and in time will learn to eat at a slower pace.
Raw food diet
Greyhounds are used to eating meat in their diet as racing dogs, and should adjust to a raw food diet relatively easily. Like any diet, the raw food diet should be transitioned over a week or so to reduce stomach troubles.
The raw food diet is one of the healthiest diets you can give to your greyhound, or any dog for that matter. Dogs have a short digestive tract, a jaw which only moves up and down as well as sharp teeth designed for tearing, not chewing, which makes them primarily meat eaters. As such, they do not digest grains (commonly found as fillers in dry food) very well, leading to health problems later on.
It is very easy to give your greyhound a raw food diet. Pre-packaged, frozen complete raw food diets can be bought at most pet stores and include such brands as Leading Raw (Barf) or The Complete Pet Meal (Brisbane-based). These frozen mince patties just need to be defrosted the night before and supplemented with soft bones (Chicken necks & wings) each day to help keep teeth clean.
As a greyhound is naturally lean, choose the meals with the highest fat content to maintain a stable weight.
The other option is to prepare the raw food diet from scratch. A true raw food diet is made up of meat cuts from the butcher or your local supermarket and some vegetable matter.
Nearly all meats except for pork are recommended, with chicken being the easiest meat to base the raw food diet around. Generally speaking, a greyhound’s diet should be 80-90% raw meat and 10-20% vegetable matter.
You should be feeding your greyhound 4% of its ideal body weight until it achieves its optimum weight as a companion animal; the percentage can be dropped to 2-3% once the desired weight is achieved.
Of the raw meat fed, 10% should be bone, 10% should be offal and 80% muscle meat.
Chicken necks and wings are a fantastic source of soft bone which can be consumed on a daily basis. Offal consists of: giblets, hearts, liver, tripe, etc. Pick out a few that your greyhound will eat, as these components may taste quite strongly to them. Muscle meat can be thighs, fillets etc.
Nearly all vegetables can be consumed, just find out which ones your greyhound enjoys, as like your children, they may be picky!
It’s a great idea to supplement your greyhound’s diet with a few healthy foods to ensure a bit of variety.
You can always supplement your dog’s diet with extra healthy foods such as: raw eggs (helps with dry skin), plain yoghurt (also helps to reduce flatulence), molasses (helps with joints), omega 3-6-9, sardines and coconut oil. Under supervision, roo tails or marrow bones can be given a few times a week.
*If your greyhound isn’t keen on a raw diet, there is a great recipe above for Mutt Loaf.
Greyhounds do not have a lot of hair so this makes them easy to care for. A quick brush with a rubber-grooming glove and a rub of the coat with a dry towel makes for a great looking dog.
Massaging the dogs coat with the tips of your fingers will bring up the naturally occurring oil on the skin and is a great ‘well being’ tool for your dog.
This breed is not suited to a weekly bath, perhaps monthly unless particularly soiled. Excessive bathing will add to their problem of dry and flaky skin. Mild oatmeal based shampoo and matching conditioner is the best option.
Use tepid water only when bathing your greyhound. If the water is too warm your greyhound might become faint or woozy as their blood vessels are so close to the surface of their skin. Ideally plug your greyhound’s ears with cotton wool balls to stop shampoo run off heading down the ear canal.
It is recommended that greyhound’s ears are checked weekly. Have gentle baby wipes or a damp tissue in hand and clean the outer ear with a soft wipe motion.
As the weight of the dog is placed on their feet, please ensure you regularly trim their toenails using good quality clippers. This is generally done with the dog standing and by bending the foot backwards to find the underside of the nail. If you are unsure visit a Groomer/Vet Nurse and ask to be shown the correct technique.
To help keep teeth clean, wrap some gauze bandage around your finger. Dampen and gently rub around teeth and gums. Dog toothbrushes are also acceptable to use.
Greyhounds are a unique breed, with sometimes quirky and amusing behaviour traits. Below are some of the more common ‘greyhound traits’ and some tips for managing certain behaviours that may be problematic for some owners.
Greyhounds are the ultimate ‘lounge lizards’ or ‘couch potatoes’ and will generally make themselves at home on your bed or lounge fairly quickly.
If you do not want your greyhound on the furniture, provide the dog with a comfortable, soft bed of their own and position the bed so that the dog can take in most of the household activities without being in the way.
For outside, a steel-framed bed with a soft blanket is ideal. Your greyhound will soon learn the command ‘on your bed’.
‘Counter surfing’, also known as ‘self- service’ – where they steal food from bench tops or tables – can be another vice of some newly introduced Greyhounds.
They can often reach these quite easily and not knowing any differently, believe that any food they come across is theirs for the taking. A stern “NO” when catching a dog in the act is usually all that is needed, otherwise a quick spray with a squirt bottle filled with water will deter such behaviour.
Most greyhounds are quite sensitive and these gentle disciplinary measures are usually sufficient.
Possessiveness and sleep-space guarding
A greyhound may be possessive about food and its bed. The dog should learn to accept its food and food bowl being handled. It should also accept its bedding being handled.
There have been reports of ‘sleep-space aggression’ in some greyhounds. They tend to sleep deeply and due to being accustomed to sleeping undisturbed in individual kennels, they are unused to being startled in their sleep. It is best to ensure the dog is awake and aware before anyone touches it.
If your dog is ever disturbed whilst sleeping and you notice it wakes with a ‘fight’ reaction (ie it snaps or makes a startled growl) then work with the dog to make it accustomed to being touched or disturbed when asleep. For example, call its name, gently touch its leg or foot until it understands that there is no need for fear.
Greyhounds on beds
Due to possible sleep aggression, it is not recommended that you allow your greyhound to sleep on either yours or your children’s beds. They sleep very deeply and if woken in fright, may react.
Most greyhounds have never learned to play. Their lives have been all about the business of being trained athletes. Giving them time to learn how to play is a vital part of their adaptation to life as a family pet.
If you find your new greyhound doing any of the following don’t be too concerned – it’s rather endearing and you should be flattered.
You can give your dog the best opportunity to settle well into domestic living by teaching him or her ‘acceptable’ behaviors using basic commands such as; “Heel”, “ Stay” and “ Stand” .
Majority of greyhounds can not sit. They find it uncomfortable.
Greyhounds will discover soft human beds or lounge chairs soon after arriving but a soft bed of their own, located in a quiet area should be provided with encouragement training to go “On Your Mat”
Consistency and firmness will create a happy, well-mannered dog, as set rules and commands reduce confusion and promote desirable behavior.
It is important that some basic ground rules are established early for your dog. Start how you intend to carry on – and do not set up the dog to fail.
Greyhounds are used to walking on a lead and generally do not pull. It is important to ensure that your dog responds when on a lead and walks calmly beside you.
Generally, a greyhound should never be allowed to run off-lead unless in a fully fenced yard or enclosure. Their amazing speed and a complete lack of road sense make a dangerous combination, particularly when venturing near roads.
Establishment of set meal times and regular exercise and toileting opportunities will help a new greyhound to feel at ease. A greyhound that is suddenly given the freedom of an entire house and a choice in what it does may feel anxious or revert to a second puppyhood (temporarily).
Greyhounds are sensitive, gentle creatures and will respond more quickly to positive training methods over forceful and aggressive tactics.
If you employ gentle training methods in short sessions before the dog gets too bored or distracted, your intelligent Greyhound will learn quickly.
New owners will be required to provide adequate ongoing treatment and care of their greyhound – Continuing monthly heart worm prevention (or provision of yearly heart worm prevention injection if preferred). Three monthly intestinal worming (Milbemax) or others and monthly regular flea/tick treatment is also required.
There’s also regular dental checks, health checks, follow up vaccinations and nail care to be considered. Some ex-racers may suffer arthritis as they get older, often the result of strain or injuries experienced during their racing career.
*Special note specifically for greyhounds:
Some greyhounds are prone to corns in their foot pads. If you notice your greyhound limping, perhaps check for corns (small round bulbous circle on their foot).
As most greyhounds have had a soft diet during their racing career, it is not unusual to find that some greyhounds have bad teeth. Brushing their teeth with specifically designed dog toothbrushes can help stop the build-up of tartar. Bones and hard food are another way to help with this. It is also recommended that regular teeth cleaning be done by your local veterinarian.
Dressed for success
Greyhounds have little or no body fat and short, smooth coats. As a consequence, they tend to feel the elements more than other dogs.
They are not essentially ‘outdoor’ or ‘backyard’ dogs. They should sleep indoors at night and have adequate shelter during the day if left alone. A greyhound that gets overheated or too cold can lose condition very quickly and their health can deteriorate rapidly.
A warm coat is required for those cold winter days and nights. However, never walk your greyhound with a coat on as they can overheat.
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