We Need Your Help!
Greyhound Behavior Part 3
Greyhound Behavior Part 4
Once again, we are pleased to announce our annual greyhound reunion. This year's event will be held on Sunday, May 17, 1998 at the Middlesex County 4-H Fairgrounds on South Chelmsford Road in Westford, MA. The hours are 11:00 to 4:00. Admission is $3.00 and all greyhounds and children under 12 will attend for free!
We look forward to seeing lots of greyhounds and their owners attending this year. Scheduled activities will be the fun dog show, a nail clipping clinic, veterinary questions and answers, greyhound vendors, rabies clinic, bake sale, wonderful raffle items plus other exciting events. We will have soda, chips, coffee and bake sale items available for purchase. Bring a picnic lunch and spend the day with us so you won’t miss out on any of the wonderful events!
I am also looking for volunteers to help out prior to the reunion and to man (or woman!) the various tables the day of the reunion. If you can spare a couple hours of your time, please call or e-mail me.
Be sure to reserve Sunday, May 17, for a great greyhound day! See you there.
**** PLEASE be a responsible greyhound owner and do not let your dog run free.****
Although spring is here, adoptions are slow. We are again in need of funds for food and medical expenses. We have had a difficult few months with several dogs who needed medical attention for broken legs, allergies, and other unanticipated ailments. When we accept a dog, we make a commitment to care for the dog until placement in a loving home. That can sometimes be an expensive commitment.
Our gratitude is extended to the many families and people who have responded to our financial appeal last winter, and we are again asking for your help. If you can, please consider a spring donation. Every dollar you send goes directly to the care and feeding of the greyhounds. Also keep Greyhound Adoption Service in mind for gift giving for many of the upcoming springtime celebrations such as anniversaries, birthdays and other festive occasions.
Fund raising is part of maintaining the adoption service. The funds are needed to provide the dogs with the necessities for a decent life, and we are sure that you as adopters and supporters wouldn't want us to do anything less. Thanks for considering a donation to Greyhound Adoption Service, Inc.
Whoever said that beggars can't be choosers never had to clean up after 32 greyhounds every day!!! Dog food is one of the major expenses at the kennel. We appreciate either monetary donations with which we can buy dog food, or if you wish, you can donate dog food directly to the kennel. Many supporters who drop by the kennel for a visit like to bring a 40 lb. bag of dog food with them. If you do, we ask that you restrict your donations to certains brands and types of food. Greyhounds have sensitive digestive systems, and many types and brands of dog food cause gastric distress and diarrhea.
Greyhounds do best on lamb and rice dry dog chow (not canned or semi-moist). The brands which seem most digestible, and cause the least distress are (in no particular order): Proplan, Iams, Eukanuba, Exceed, Nutro, Mother Hubbard's Neura, and Blue Seal.
The brands sold in supermarkets - even the lamb and rice - do not seem to work as well. If you had to clean up after 32 greyhounds several times a day, wouldn't you want your dogs to have healthy digestive systems!! When the dogs' digestive systems are healthy, it also means that the dogs are able to absorb the most nutrients from their food. We don't mean to be fussy, but we do want what is best for the dogs and for the kennel. Thank you for your understanding. And keep that dog food coming!
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As a veterinarian and dog owner, spring means heartworm season. Once the warm weather is upon us, the mosquitoes will return and your dog will be at risk of contracting heartworm disease. Heartworm disease is indeed still a prevalent disease in this area. Heartworm disease is spread from dog to dog by mosquitoes. Adult heartworms which are several inches long live in the heart and major blood vessels in the dog and over time will cause life-threatening illness in your pet. The larva (immature form of the heartworm) circulate in the bloodstream and are transmitted from an infected dog to the next via a mosquito bite. Although heartworm disease is treatable, prevention is certainly the preferable means of protecting your pet. Preventatives are generally tablets given daily or monthly. I find most clients prefer a monthly form of heartworm prevention. The once-a-month preventative I most frequently recommend is called Interceptor. This preventative protects against heartworms as well as three common intestinal worms—roundworm, hookworm and whipworms. This preventative should be started by the end of March and continued through December. I do not feel it is necessary to give preventative during the coldest winter months although there is no harm in continuing year round if you prefer to do that. In my experience, the greyhounds which I have treated with Interceptor have not had adverse side-effects from this medication. Regardless of the type of preventative you give to your dog, I strongly advise a yearly heartworm test. Particularly if you are giving a once-a-month pill, an annual test is very important for the following reasons:
First, heartworm treatment, should it be necessary, is much better tolerated if performed early in the course of the disease. Secondly, if your dog vomits his medication out in the yard unbeknownst to you, he has missed his medication for an entire month. Third, by the time the symptoms of heartworm disease are detectable, the parasites have already caused advanced organ damage. Spring means the welcome return of warm weather, but with it also comes an increased parasite risk to our pets. May spring also be a reminder to you to protect your pet by an annual testing and preventative program.
Judy Kody Paulsen is the founder and director of Greyhound Companions of New Mexico. The following articles first appeared in Greyhound Companions of New Mexico’s Newsletter. It was also published in A Breed Apart. Judy Kody Paulsen graciously granted permission to Greythound News to reprint the articles. Greyhound Behavior Parts 1 and 2 appeared in our last newsletter.
Changes In Greyhound Behavior...
Greyhounds can display a somewhat exaggerated response to situations by which other breeds would be minimally affected. It is not uncommon to hear of a well adjusted greyhound that suddenly develops undesirable qualities after having been the "perfect pet" for months or even years of living in the same home. With careful attention to the situation and by scrutinizing the entire home environment, it is possible in almost every case to determine why this is happening.
A greyhound that suddenly starts soiling the house or destroying things is most probably reacting to a change in its environment. This could be anything as trivial as moving a piece of furniture to the more disturbing cases of dissent among family members. The handling of discipline in these situations is critical. Admonishing an animal at the moment it is misbehaving is crucial to your success in discouraging future accidents. A popular misconception is that animals know what they've done because "they look guilty" as soon as you get into the room. Nothing could be further from the truth. Practically nothing could be more psychologically damaging than to punish an animal when it has no idea why it is being chastised.
Never, never, never punish a dog unless it is caught in the act. A significant key to effective discipline in any situation is to intervene at the time of the transgression. Even if this means "setting up" the surroundings to produce the behavior, e.g., having someone walk out the front door and get in the car to leave while someone else stays behind to "spy." Covert observation works surprisingly well with greyhounds! They can be rather sly when they think no one is watching, but when caught in the act, they tend to remember the consequences very well.
"Induced" Behavioral Problems ...
Often there will be a complaint from an adopter that the greyhound seemed perfectly well adjusted, then suddenly became rebellious or "bratty." Greyhounds that inexplicably begin to exhibit undesirable traits such as destroying things or "marking" or soiling inside the house are displaying symptoms of what I have termed "induced" behavioral problems. These symptoms can manifest themselves after any change within the dogs' usually predictable environment. Greyhounds have lived such structured lives while at the training kennel or the racing track that they are poorly suited to alterations in their routines.
A physical change inside the home to alter its appearance in any way, the addition or loss of a family member (animal or human), a traumatic event in which the dog was involved (anything from a loud noise to an injury to the dog), quarreling among family members: all have the potential for creating an insecure dog. Much like the child that begins wetting the bed, the problem is psychologically rooted and cannot be dealt with by conventional punishment methods.
Unfamiliar Furniture & Other Items...
Limit the dog's access to the areas it seems most inclined to soil. They will almost always confine their elimination to a particular area or will mark the same area repeatedly. It is imperative to make these areas off limits to the greyhound when you cannot be there to watch them.
In the case of male greyhounds, when items to which the dog is unaccustomed are brought into the house (a piece of furniture, a box of things from the garage, a suitcase), it is best to avoid placing them on the floor near an area where the dog has marked before. If you are bringing in new furniture or rearranging your furniture, be sure to watch closely whenever the male is in the area; it is very likely he will attempt to mark the unfamiliar object(s). (This is particularly disturbing when you've just added new, expensive speakers to your sound system!). Do not allow the dog access to the area unless you can be present. This may require setting up baby gates or another type of barrier or crating the dog when you leave the room, even if just for a few seconds. Allow the dog in the area when you are there so you can quickly discourage any tendency to mark. Eventually, the dog will lose interest or get admonished often enough that he will become wary of the item(s) and probably will avoid the area.
Females generally do not mark; however, in some female greyhounds, there is a tendency to do this as a result of male hormone therapy while at the track. Close observation of her behavior when she is first brought into a new home will provide clues that indicate that this may be a trait you'll need to watch out for, just as in a male.
Both sexes of greyhounds are probably equally sensitive to conflict within the family. Greyhounds seem to be especially perceptive about this type of emotional turmoil within the household. Sometimes they will retreat to another room and just ignore it; however, many times this can have a profound effect on a greyhound's behavior, especially if one or more members engage in shouting. These types of confrontations are known to produce high stress levels in humans; therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the same or worse can occur in sensitive animals.
About the only thing that can resolve a behavioral problem stemming from this type of stimulus is to remove it (the stimulus or the greyhound). If the quarreling family members cannot be kept under control, remove the dog from the scene. If this is a frequent occurrence, do the dog a favor and return it to the adoption program for placement in more peaceful surroundings. It is very likely a greyhound could never learn to accept such eruptions, and even though it may appear well adjusted at times, it is only a matter of time before it exhibits some type of undesirable behavior.
Fear of Thunderstorms...
Some dogs can sleep right through the most violent thunderstorms, while others are veritable predictors of them in that they begin to pant and pace the floor before the lightning even starts.
This type of fear can occasionally cause a dog to eliminate on the floor, especially if it is alone during a particularly intense storm. Think about what the weather was doing while you were away if you come home to a soiled carpet--it's possible your dog did this in response to anxiety resulting from a storm.
Be careful of how you relate to your dog during thunderstorms: you could be giving it the wrong message. If you are on the floor and consoling him as he trembles with each crack of thunder, you may be reinforcing his behavior. Try not to overreact to your dog's insecurity about the storm. It is best to go about your business as if nothing is going on outside. If you show any concerns or nervous reaction to the noise, your dog can develop the same tension.
Some animal behaviorists have had a small degree of success in training the dog to ignore this stimulus by desensitization. This involves introducing the dog to sounds of thunder at low levels, as on a stereo, for brief periods, gradually increasing the noise level until the dog becomes desensitized. This is not always successful, and sometimes when it appears to be, the dog relapses at a later date. Sedatives can be used if the case is particularly bad; however, my experience with these is that the storm is over by the time the sedative take effect.
I try to turn up the TV or stereo or have a conversation (even if it's with myself!) during the loudest part of the storm, and that seems to help some. Punishment of a dog that eliminates in the house during a period of fear is counterproductive and would be cruel to even consider. Leave the poor thing alone and just clean up the mess!
The Bottom Line ...
"Induced" behavioral problems in greyhounds are most often a product of our own behaviors. Eliminating the stimulus or learning to work around it is the only answer to peacefully coexisting with your pets. Greyhounds are extremely sensitive--that's what makes them so lovable and affectionate. Maybe we can learn some valuable lessons about ourselves in observing the behavior of our greyhounds. It's never too late to change, especially if it benefits our greyhounds!
As more retired racing greyhounds are being placed into homes, we have the opportunity to observe their characteristics as pets. As mentioned in the preceding articles of this series (1, 2, 3), retired racers have dispositions unique to the environment in which they are raised and trained. Fighting among greyhounds at the track rarely produces severe injuries, due to the fact that they are muzzled during racing and turnouts, however once the greyhound is in a home environment, conditions can drastically alter the outcome of a conflict between pets. We, as adoption and rescue groups, would prefer to reinforce the reputation of the greyhound as docile, non-aggressive and non-confrontational, however, we would be remiss in ignoring the competitive spirit that can sometimes engage them in life threatening battles with other pets.
Most fights in the adoptive home appear to occur between greyhounds, rather than with greyhounds, and other breeds. A majority of the fights among greyhounds are between retired racers rather than greyhounds of non-racing origins. This would support a theory that retired racers are more conditioned to compete with one another, thereby being more likely to challenge another greyhound.
When greyhounds are greeted by their adopters or visitors to the home, there is usually much excitement. This usually occurs upon your arrival home after long or short absences or upon the first stirrings among the family in the mornings. My nomenclature for this display of exuberance is "greeting agitation". Most often, this brief encounter at the door or upon awakening just produces frenzied tail wagging, some jumping and perhaps, for the vocal greyhounds, a bit of barking. Occasionally, if several pets are involved, this excitement can produce hostility among normally compatible pets. An errant claw or tooth can activate the defenses even in a submissive greyhound and a fight can ensue before you are in control of the situation.
If the dogs have sight of you or a visitor approaching a door or gate or if they are signaled of an arrival by the sound of a door bell, garage door or other audible/visible sign, their excitement mounts until they are in immediate physical contact with the arriver. You should enter into your home or yard as quickly as possible to avoid prolonging their arousal. Keeping overly excitable dogs separated from the others may be necessary.
If your dogs are crated while you are away, let one out of its crate and allow it to settle before letting the next dog out. Do not encourage excitement by getting overly demonstrative and affectionate. Keep your voice down and limit your greeting to a brief touch on the head or back. Ideally, you should ignore the dog(s) until they have settled, but this is difficult for most people if they have been away from their dog(s) for an extended period!
If you can get the dogs into a large open area immediately, such as a fenced yard or spacious room of the house, the added space will give the dogs room to be animated without provoking one another upon your arrival home. Encourage visitors to ignore the dogs initially so they are not all competing for attention from the newcomer at once.
Playing with your greyhound is a great source of therapy for you and the dogs, but it can also erupt into a brawl if certain precautions are not taken. Racing greyhounds are rarely engaged in common play such as tug-of-war, chase, catch, or wrestling while they are in the structured racing environment. The primary interaction with people, while in training to race, is for the business of racing, not for play. They can become easily confused when their adoptive family encourages them to interact in play with people or other pets.
Overly spirited play among greyhounds and other pets, or people and greyhounds, should be discouraged, at least initially. Introducing a new greyhound to the family should be done under subdued circumstances when it comes to play and recreation. Do not engage in rough play with other pets in the presence of a newly adopted greyhound unless someone has the greyhound under control and can prevent it from lunging toward those involved in play. Allow the greyhound to observe the playful interaction between people, or pets and people, so that it can become accustomed to the sight and sound of harmless interplay.
Some retired racers learn to play compatibly with other pets, while others will retain an aggressive streak. Be on the lookout for indicators of aggression during play and if this tendency is frequently present, then you should eliminate the activities that produce this behavior.
Generally, the larger the play area, the faster the greyhound can run and the more likely you are to have a collision between pets. Collisions not only can severely injure your dogs, but also could create a pain-induced fight response. A fight that occurs when no one is home could very likely be the product of pain-induced aggression resulting from injury during play.
Fighting over turf, such as sleeping quarters, is understandable if you take into consideration that racers have never had to share their sleeping space. Always be sure that your greyhounds have separate beds - do not expect them to share one bed, no matter how large it is. Greyhounds will randomly select a bed on which to sleep, they do not insist on having the same bed each time; but they usually want separation from one another while sleeping. It is best to provide at least a foot of space between beds, preferably several feet. Occasionally greyhounds will lie down together and even rest their heads on one another, but this is the exception to the rule and when it does occur, it is tolerated if it is of their own volition rather than encouraged or forced.
Isolating several pets in a small area can also invite disaster. It is advisable to separate them with baby gates or by crating. If you have not seen signs of aggression among your pets and there has always been peaceful coexistence, chances are you will not have a problem, but observation is the best defense against fighting among greyhounds. Leaving "chewies" out when there are multiple dogs and no supervision is another invitation to disaster - even among dogs that have never shown any possessive tendencies. Watch for the subtle signs of dominant behavior, which can often lead, to fighting.
And When There Is A Fight...
Even greyhounds who have never shown any tendency for discord among themselves can fight. A dogfight is a most unsettling sight, not to mention the sound. Immediate intervention is the key to preventing or limiting injuries. Shouting "NO" is amazingly effective if done at the top range of one's voice, but you must persist. Stomping your feet and making any abrupt, loud noises will help distract the dogs from one another. Shaking cans containing rocks should get their attention if you are an ineffective screamer! If you are outdoors, spray them with water. Trying to physically separate fighting dogs can be extremely dangerous. If you cannot resist the urge to intervene physically, grab for a collar from behind the dogs so that once separated, you will have control of the dog. Fighting dogs can direct their fury on anyone or anything, so be prepared to keep a tight grip on the collar until the frenzy subsides. Never stick your hands or feet between gnashing teeth. As hard as it is to stand by and watch, this is safest for you although it may be devastating or even fatal for your dog.
After The Fight...
Once dogs have had an altercation, there is usually a cooling-down period wherein the involved dogs will show signs of trepidation around one another. During this period it is best to separate the dogs whenever you are not present. (If dogs have shown repeated tendencies to fight, they should be separated indefinitely when left alone.) This change in attitude toward one another could last anywhere between a few days to several weeks. Discourage all posturing whenever you witness it (raised, non-wagging tail, stiffness of walk when approaching each other). Be sure to show equal amounts of attention toward both (or all) dogs.
Within time, the dogs will be back to their previously compatible existence, but don't let your guard down. Although repeat altercations between normally compatible dogs rarely occur, it is your responsibility to recognize the signs of friction between pets.
Most fights can be avoided if you observe all interactions while you are with your dogs and take precautions to change the environment. Above all, do not become complacent when introducing new pets, as this is the most critical point at which you can make the determination of how the personality types will mesh. Keep on your toes during the first one or two months of bringing in a new pet, for this is when you could see potential fight situations present themselves.
Once again, it's up to you...