Toilet training

House training greyhounds is generally not a problem. When first brought into the home, your greyhound should be treated in a similar manner to a puppy being house trained. After the greyhound’s initial visit to the garden, we suggest you take your new pet for a short five minute walk (or visit to the garden) every hour or so on the first day, every two hours on the second day and every three hours on the third day. During this time it is unlikely that your greyhound will have had a chance to have an accident inside and at the end of this three day regime they should be familiar with the idea that any toilet areas are outside.

If your dog has an accident inside please bear in mind that punishment does not work and can actually make matters worse. Punishing your dog for these accidents can cause unneeded stress and can lead your greyhound to urinate discreetly in the home. Instead, try to anticipate when your dog needs to eliminate and take it outside and praise it when it does what is expected. Any accidents inside the home should be washed thoroughly with an odour-eliminating product, such as Pet Goe or Delete, this will take the smell away and prevent the dog from returning to the same place.

Be sure to take your greyhound to the toilet immediately after food, when it gets up in the morning and before it goes to bed as these are the most likely elimination times. Do not expect your dog to be able to spend an entire day locked indoors without having an accident – toilet training takes time and patience but thankfully only a small amount of both. If you leave your dog inside while you are out, you should turn the dog out for toileting before you start getting ready to leave.

Pacing up and down, whining, sniffing intently on the ground, scratching at the door and circling are all signs that your greyhound may need to go to the toilet. Greyhounds are generally very clean animals and actively avoid soiling their sleeping quarters. They also learn quickly, so housetraining is rarely an issue, just be patient.

Introducing your greyhound to an existing dog

Greyhounds may not be used to the behaviour of other breeds of dogs and they may not have interacted with them in a way we would expect of many pet dogs. Most of the time this is about allowing the greyhound to become familiar with other breeds. During the green collar assessment process at GAP, greyhounds are tested for their compatibility with other breeds, including smaller dogs. To be issued with a green collar, the greyhound must have not shown any aggression towards the other dog.

However, even after you have been issued a green collar, while you are still getting to know your new greyhound we recommend walking them with their muzzle, especially if you are expecting to interact with a lot of new dogs. Remember the first few weeks of home life is full of new experiences for your greyhound and they can often feel overwhelmed. Wearing a muzzle in the short term can give you piece of mind.

If you already have a dog it is recommended that you arrange the initial meeting in a neutral area such as a local park or on the street. This way your new greyhound isn’t entering your current dog’s territory. Allow them to smell each other while they are still both on loose leads. Go for a walk with the dogs until they are relaxed together, and then take them back to your house or garden. Firmly reprimand your dogs in a low, deep voice with a stern NO if either dog exhibits antisocial behaviour such as snarling or persistent animated growling.

Introducing your greyhound to a cat

Greyhounds are a sighthound and their natural instinct is to chase. If you own a cat you will need to spend time introducing your greyhound to your cat and teaching it not to chase the cat. Some greyhounds can be taught to get along with cats and live alongside them peacefully but, for the safety of your cat, we recommend constant vigilance during the early months of living together.

We recommend leaving the muzzle on your greyhound if it is in your garden with the cat. You should also never leave them alone together until you are certain they are comfortable with each other and the greyhound will not chase the cat if it moves quickly. You need to constantly reinforce to your greyhound that it is not OK to chase cats.

The first time you introduce your greyhound to an existing cat, try to follow these steps:

  • Ensure initial introductions are inside the house, with the greyhound on a lead and muzzled and the cat on the floor (not in your arms). Before you begin, arm yourself with a water spray bottle or a water pistol (have the nozzle set to a strong squirting spray, not a mist).
  • Allow the greyhound to approach the cat and gently sniff it while you still have hold of the lead. If the greyhound lunges for the cat or attempts to bite at it, reprimand the dog with a firm NO, followed by a squirt in the face with the spray bottle (make sure you don’t squirt the cat).
  • When the dog behaves correctly and shows no interest in the cat, praise the dog profusely, you may even like to provide it with a small treat or food reward.
  • Please note that even if the greyhound completely ignores the cat indoors, outside may be a different matter. Even the most cat tolerant dog may chase a cat in the backyard, especially if the cat runs away from the dog. Take care to closely monitor the greyhound when it is around the cat during the first few weeks. For added peace of mind don’t forget that you can always put your greyhound’s muzzle on, think of it as a training device until you are certain your greyhound and cat will get along.
Greyhounds and children

Young children and babies should never be left unsupervised around a dog of any breed. Children should be educated to be calm and gentle with the dog and to have respect for its space, particularly its bed.

A dog’s bed provides a timeout area so when it has had enough it has somewhere to retreat for a rest. Children should be taught to not approach a sleeping or resting dog. Instead, ask the children to call out the dog’s name and have the dog come to them. Remember the adage “let sleeping dogs lie”.

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 play. Such a desire may be exacerbated when rollerblades, skateboards or bicycles are involved. The majority of greyhounds are excellent with children in the home environment, preferring to walk away if harassed by a persistent child but, as with any breed of dog, close supervision is essential.

Children should be involved in obedience training with their dog. It is important that the dog understands its position in the household hierarchy is below any children. Your dog can be taught its position through regular obedience training. However, it is often a case of teaching a child how to behave around the dog as well as training the dog how to behave around children.

To establish this hierarchy with babies and small children we suggest an adult holds the child while giving commands to the dog to follow. If the child is old enough to follow simple instructions, assist them to do basic obedience training with your greyhound.

Children should be taught to always ask permission before touching a dog, they should never approach from behind as this could result in a dog biting from surprise. Children should also be taught not to try to pat a dog on the top of the head as this may be a threatening gesture to the dog. Ideally the dog should be given time to sniff the stationary child by moving towards them; not the children moving towards the dog.

Some general tips for dogs and children:

  • Children should not follow after a dog that is trying to move away from them, the dog may feel threatened and bite in self defence.
  • Children should be taught not to hug and kiss dogs. While for humans this is a show of affection, for dogs being grabbed around the neck can make them feel threatened.
  • Children should be taught to handle animals gently and carefully.
  • If a child is feeling uncomfortable or threatened around a dog they should be taught to stand still, arms by their side and turn sideways to the dog. Squealing or running away will most likely excite a dog and exacerbate the situation.
Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is when a dog has formed a strong attachment to somebody or something and the dog becomes anxious when that thing is taken away. Most domestic dogs suffer from some form of separation anxiety.

There are three main types of separation anxiety:

  1. Anxiety when an owner is absent.
  2. Anxiety when separated from an owner by a barrier.
  3. Anxiety when the dog doesn’t get an owner’s attention. This can include having to share the owner’s attention with another person, dog or other pet. This is the most common type of separation anxiety.

A variety of behaviours can be signs of separation anxiety including:

  • chewing
  • digging
  • barking
  • escaping
  • over-excitability when interacting with people
  • stealing or hoarding
  • chasing tail
  • not eating
  • not toileting
  • vying for attention
  • aggression (an extreme form of separation anxiety – uncommon in greyhounds).

Many of these behaviours can be caused by conditions other than separation anxiety so the condition can sometimes be difficult to diagnose.

Separation anxiety can also make other existing behavioural problems worse. For example a dog with a fear of thunder will be worse if it also has separation anxiety.

The main thing to remember with treatment is to avoid causing the dog additional anxiety. First you have to manage the condition, then gradually increase the dog’s independence, and then increase control and treat the condition. Always seek the help of a professional if you are unsure.

Alternatively contact the staff at GAP for more information or to book an appointment with an animal behaviourist.

Destructive behaviour

Destructive behaviour is a term that humans apply to any behaviour they find unacceptable, such as digging or chewing. However most of this behaviour is normal dog behaviour.

Be mindful that destructive behaviour can be the result of boredom, lack of physical exercise or separation anxiety, among many other things. Try investing in a Kong and stuffing it with treats to keep your dog entertained while you are away. You could also use uncooked bones or provide your dog with a sandpit to dig in.

Remember you should never reprimand a dog for any destructive behaviour after the event. Dogs do not understand the reason behind your anger and will just end up scared of you if you hit or yell at it when you arrive home to find a hole in the garden. Find out the cause of the behaviour and treat it appropriately or consult a professional animal behaviourist.

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