Choosing Your Hound
American Greyhound does not assign families a particular hound during the adoption process. We feel that the entire process works much better, and you will be much happier with a dog that you have chosen yourselves. That being said, we do provide guidance to you when making your selection, and will find and recommend the most appropriate dog(s) for your home.
First off, do not let color be the most important factor in your choice of a hound. Rather, look at each hounds energy level and temperament. Our adoption reps can assist you in selecting a hound that will fit in nicely at your home based on these factors, so please be as thorough as possible when filling out the adoption application.
Don’t rule out a male dog. Many people come to us thinking they want a female hound. They are a little smaller and many people have a couple misconceptions about male dogs. First, they will “lift their legs” all over my house (see the section on house- training) and second, they are afraid of coming home with an “alpha” dog (no dog wants to be an “alpha” dog, the humans should be “alpha”). If you take a look at the folks who have been with American Greyhound for a number of years, who are very familiar with these dogs, you will see the ratio of males to females in their homes is about 2 to 1. There has to be something to that.
We will discourage adoption of “not-cat-tolerant” dogs if you have cats or small dogs in your home. If you have small children there are certain dogs that have shown to be a risk with small children that we will absolutely not place in your home. This is for the safety of both your family and the dog.
A large number of retired racing greyhounds are likely “cat-tolerant” and live in foster homes with cats or other small pets. If you have cats or small dogs (bichons, Chihuahuas, toy breeds, etc) we encourage you to choose from our likely “cat-tolerant” hounds.
Likewise, if you do not have cats or small dogs, we strongly encourage you to choose from our “not-cat-tolerant” hounds. The behavior of likely “cat-tolerant” hounds is typically only cat friendly inside the home. Behavior of either will likely be similar when outdoors or when walking on a leash. American Greyhound strives to rescue the maximum number of hounds from the racetrack and to do this we must place both “cat-tolerant” as well as “not-cat-tolerant” hounds. Placing a “cat-tolerant” hound in a home with no need for such a pet puts other racing greyhounds waiting to be rescued from the racing industry in peril. Please keep this in mind when selecting your hound.
Your First Day Home
It is a common assumption is that spending a lot of time with your new hound and “bonding” on their first day home is the best thing to do. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your hound is a very social animal and as such, has always had many other hounds near him his whole life. Do Not Take Time Off Work To “Bond” With Your New Hound! Your new hound will “bond” on his own.
It is very important that you give him time alone on that very important first day with you. Take him home, meet any other animals, show him his crate and take him from his crate to the door he will exit from to go to the area where he will relieve himself. Then leave. Take a walk or drive, visit the neighbors, do anything, but be gone from the house for 10-15 minutes so your hound will become accustomed to being alone. Do this periodically over the day (or days if you are off work). The idea is that he not expect you to be there for him 24/7.
If one person will be home most of the time, it is still very important that you follow this instruction. Sooner or later, there will be a time when no one is home.
The repercussions of not allowing your new hound to acclimate to your home and the fact that he will spend time alone there is separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety can be as minor whining in the crate, to the extreme of breaking out from the crate, destructiveness, and relieving himself in the crate/house. It is always easier to prevent separation anxiety, than to cure it.
Make sure to talk with your adoption representative about what you need to do to make a smooth transition into the new home for your hound.
Introduction to Other Animals
Being social animals, greyhounds tend to get along well with other animals. Some won’t do well with small dogs and cats, but most will do very well with other large dogs. But, remember, if you have a dog now, he will have a tendency to want to defend his “home”. For this reason, introduce your new hound in a neutral area (backyard, Neighborhood Park, etc). Don’t be afraid to use the muzzle, and definitely, use a leash with both dogs.
Once you are done with this part of the introduction, take your new greyhound into your home. Then bring your old dog in. If done in the opposite order, your dog will want to “defend” his “home” from the new hound. But, when done with your new hound inside first, your old dog will tend to just accept this “newcomer” as part of the household. And, again, don’t be afraid to use the muzzle and leash inside the home.
Feeding Your Greyhound
Feed your greyhound a high quality food that contains very little corn. Corn is a filler and is not a grain that dogs digest readily.
A good quality food will typically be lamb or chicken based, and will contain rice as a grain (rice is very digestible for dogs). Use the ingredient label on the dog food to determine what is a good food and what is not. Do not use a food with corn as one of the first three listed ingredients (ingredients are listed in order of concentration).
Good ingredients to look for are Lamb, chicken, salmon, brewers rice, beet pulp (firms the stool), barley.
NEVER feed your hound chocolate, raisins, grapes, garlic, avacado or onions. These items can be fatal if consumed in large doses.
Your new hound came from the track “crate trained”, meaning they won’t mess in their crate. In their foster home, he was taught that the entire house is now his “crate”. Your hound may have spent as many as several months in foster care and probably hasn’t messed in the house since his first few days there (and may not have had any accidents at all). But, remember, yours is a new house to this dog, and he will need a refresher to learn that “your” house is now his “crate”.
Don’t let your dog have free run of your house right off the bat. I have a program that I use with fosters that are fresh off the track, that will also work well with a newly adopted hound. For the first week (more or less, depending on the particular hound), the dog is not allowed free run of the house. He is either outside, in his crate, or under my direct control. And by direct control I mean your hands are on the dog or even on a leash. Some have the concern that your dog will not be given a chance to learn. In fact, they will learn, by being taken to the yard, where they are expected to relieve themselves. But, if given the ability to move around the house on their own, dogs will develop bad habits.
If you do not have a fenced yard, some hounds will not readily have a bowel movement on a leash (they have never had to deal with this in their life). You will have the best luck taking him to the same area for relieving himself each time. Also, If he does not have a bowel movement after taking him outside directly after eating, bring him back inside, close the door and unhook his leash, re-attach his leash and take him right back out (dogs have no sense of time and once back outside will not realize he had just been outside and may more readily have a bowel movement). When outside with him, try turning your back to him and avoiding eye contact. By no means let him have run of the house until he has had a bowel movement outdoors on the leash (often hounds will not poop on the leash if he can sneak off and poop indoors by himself).
Handling Your Greyhound
We have all seen people with dogs which can be allowed to run loose and never run away. Greyhounds are NOT one of those dogs.
Your new hound must always be kept on a leash or in a fenced in area. No matter how long you have had your hound and how much you trust him, never violate this rule. You are asking for nothing but heartache if you think you can overcome generations of breeding and months of training. Keep Your Hound Safe!
And another note on leash walking your new hound, NEVER use a retractable lead. A couple things can happen when using a retractable lead, and both of them are bad. Your hound can accelerate to full speed in only three strides. By the time he reaches the end of the retractable lead he will be at full speed. This is where the two bad things can happen. First, when he reaches the end, he will likely pull the handle of the lead out of your hand. When the handle retracts completely it will make a loud pop that will terrify your hound and cause him to run even farther and faster. Or, second, you may be able to hold the handle of the retractable lead when he reaches the end, which could cause considerable damage to his neck and throat.
A third negative that comes from using a retractable lead is that dogs walked on them tend to be very bad walkers (pulling hard and roaming from side to side). The appropriate place for your hound while walking is right beside you, with slack in the leash. Dogs walked on a retractable lead tend to walk out in front of their masters. When I see this I have to wonder,” who is leading who?”
Bathing Your Hound
Your new greyhound has very little oil in their skin, and because of this, thet will seldom need baths, unless they becomes soiled. You will find that unlike other breeds, your hound will not have a dirty dog smell. Even when caught in a rainstorm, they will not have that foul, wet dog smell. Excess bathing will cause the skin to dry out and flaking dandruff may become apparent on the dog. If you can make a habit of washing the dogs bedding each week, you will find that your dog remains remarkably clean without bathing, as any amount of soil or dirt is wiped off by the clean bedding.
If bathing is necessary (they become soiled in the mud, has an accident in his crate, etc), be sure to use a very mild pet shampoo (not a human shampoo), if it says ok for kittens, it is ok for greyhounds. Make sure to completely rinse your hound, as residue left over from the shampoo can cause an irritation to your hound’s skin. Often, small amounts of mud or other soil can be washed off your hound with a wet cloth, which will help avoid bathing him.
Crating Your Hound
Please consider using a crate with your new hound. Your new friend, in his previous life, lived almost exclusively in a crate and sees his crate as a source of comfort and security. Canines in general, being den dwelling animals by nature, enjoy a cozy, snug crate (den) to make them feel secure. Many issues can be corrected or prevented all together, by the use of a crate. And, NEVER use the crate as a punishment for your new hound.
The best location for your hound’s crate is in your bedroom. You spend more hours per day in your bedroom than any other room in your house. And, your scent permeates it, which is just about the most perfect thing to your hound. Your scent will relax and provide comfort to him while you are away. Barring the crate being placed in your bedroom, it is best to find a place near your room, where your scent is likewise strong. NEVER place your hound’s crate in a laundry room, utility room, basement, garage, or any other area removed from the rest of the household. Your new hound is a very social animal and wants to be near you. Separating him from the rest of the family will cause him much stress and is very likely to be the beginning of many problems for you. Also, consider sleeping in some old ratty t-shirts or sweatshirts that you can place in your hounds crate while you are away. The smell of you on these items is very comforting to your hound.
Your hound’s crate should be just big enough for him to walk in turn around and lie down. For all but the very largest greyhounds, that would be a 42” crate. Provide some sort of bedding inside the crate (ie blankets, comforters or similar type items that can be easily washed in your washing machine). Avoid using large dog beds or pillows inside the crate, as they are not able to form the beds into nests.
Never close your greyhound in a room by himself. It would seem, in our human minds, that if a crate is good a whole room to themselves would be better. But, what makes a crate good is that it is snug and cozy, and no enemy can sneak up on the occupant, just like a wild canine’s den. I have known of greyhounds being put into a room and the door shut, tearing up almost the entire carpet, chewing woodwork, or destroying other items in the room.
Coats for Your Hound
Though a greyhound’s body temperature is much warmer than that of most other dogs, they don’t tolerate cold weather as well as most other dogs. For this reason, you will want to consider purchasing a coat for your hound.
It is not necessary to put the coat on every time he goes outdoors in the winter. But, you will want to evaluate each situation. If the hound is just going out to relieve himself, then only the coldest weather would dictate wearing of a coat. If going for a walk of more than 10 minutes in weather below 20 degrees, I would use the coat. (Some recommend a cut off of 30 degrees for use of coats. You will need to evaluate your personal dog. Just like humans, certain dogs are able to tolerate cooler temperatures better than others). Usually when I drive somewhere with my hounds in the winter, I put them in their coats, so if my vehicle were to break down, they would not suffer.
Heartworms are a very prevalent parasite in the Midwest, carried by mosquitoes. When a mosquito carrying the microscopic larvae bites your dog, the larvae enter your dog’s veins and migrate to the arteries of the lungs, causing lung inflammation and heart failure, and eventually lead to the death of your dog.
Treatment for heartworms is very costly to you and painful for your hound. It involves multiple injections of an arsenic based drug, administered in several steps, which requires the dog to remain inactive over a period of up to 8 weeks. This treatment can cost up to $1000 or more.
But prevention is easy and affordable. A number of different heart worm preventatives are available, through your veterinarian that allow your dog and you to avoid the painful and costly treatment. And, as an added bonus, many heart worm preventatives also prevent many intestinal parasites as well. Talk to your vet about the heart worm preventative that is right for you. Because of the prevention of intestinal parasites and the possibility of winter warm ups that may hatch a mosquito or two, American Greyhound recommends year-round heart worm preventative.
Gastric Torsion (Bloat)
Gastric torsion (often referred to as bloat) is a common hazard in all dogs with deep chests. It occurs when the dogs stomach turns or twists, cutting off circulation to the stomach and ultimately causing the tissue of the stomach to die. Unless treated immediately, it is very likely to be fatal.
That being said, using a few simple rules you can keep your dog safe from bloat:
- Always feed your hound from a raised feeding dish. The dish should be a minimum of 9-10 inches off the floor and could be as high the seat of a chair.
- Feed your hound at least two meals per day, rather than feeding just one large meal. This keeps the stomach from becoming over filled, which may lead to bloating. Breaking the meals up to three per day is even better.
- Do not allow your hound to drink excessive amount of water with his meals.
- Do not allow your dog to exercise heavily for one hour before and after meals.
By following these simple rules, thousands and thousands of retired racing greyhounds have moved from the track into a forever home with very low incidence of bloat.
On the outside chance that bloat does occur, here are the symptoms to watch for:
- Dry heaving or unsuccessful vomiting because the stomach is twisted.
- Dogs will drool, pant or pace.
- Some dogs will exhibit stomachs that are distended and firm.
- Dogs in the later stages of bloat are in shock and are usually found lying on their sides, panting, extremely weak and lethargic
If you suspect bloat, get your hound to a veterinarian as soon as you can. Be aware that these symptoms can also occur for other reasons.
Stairs and Shiny Floors
At the race track, your hound never encountered stairs or hard shiny floors. Some hounds will adapt to these without any trouble. Others are terrified of one or both and will require some simple training techniques to make them feel comfortable enough to walk/climb on them.
First off, let’s talk about stairs. Many people will instinctively try to calm or coddle a hound who is displaying fear of stairs. Nothing could be worse for acclimating him to use them. The hound displays fear of the stairs, the human coddles and reassures the hound, who sees this as a reward for his behavior, and wanting to please his master, continues to display fear of the stairs. The proper method for acclimating a hound to using stairs is to take the dog by the collar or a short leash and begin walking up the stairs, using a normal pace, holding your head up and your chest out. When the hound moves up or down the stairs without displaying fear, praise him or reward him with a treat. You will have your hound going up and down your stairs in no time at all.
Shiny floors can be equally troubling to your new hound. As you did on the stairs, grab him by his collar or a short leash and walk him across the shiny floor until he has become comfortable with walking across this surface. And again, praise and reward him only when he does well. And, like the stairs, you’ll have him used to the shiny floor in no time at all.