Chapter 2 – Out and about
What your greyhound should wear
Greyhounds have thinner skin than other breeds and therefore feel the heat and cold more, hence the walking-out coat that should come as part of the homing kit. When you start to think about wearing a scarf, or the dog is going to stand about in a cold wind, put the coat on. Use your dog’s ears as a thermometer – if the ears are cold, so is the rest of the dog. Similarly, be very careful in summer – beware of heatstroke and never walk your dog in the heat of the day; mornings are better than evenings when the weather’s warm.
The collar used is of a shape particular to this type of dog and they do not wear theirs as loose as other breeds. As you can see, these dogs have narrow heads, so that if the collar is not fastened correctly (just behind the ears and with room for only two fingers fitting snugly between collar and neck) and the dog backs up unexpectedly, the collar will slip over its head and your dog will be gone. Please do not be tempted to use a retractable lead, thinking it will give your dog more freedom – they are extremely dangerous both for your greyhound, bearing in mind its powerful acceleration, and anyone else who might get in the way of the uncontrollable trip-wire.
Get an identity disc for the house collar as soon as you can, with your details engraved on it, as required by law. You could leave the rescue’s disc on as another point of contact, in case you lose your dog, are out searching and have no mobile signal should someone find the dog and attempt to call you. The rescue can endeavour to keep the dog safe and arrange for you to be reunited with it.
The muzzle is for safety. These are ex-racing dogs, bred and trained to chase small, fluffy objects and they will not have met other breeds. For the first few months, always leave the muzzle on when walking the dog in public places. In that time, you can get “up close and personal” with all shapes and sizes of dog (although we’d advise you to pick the calm, laid-back ones to start with), without worrying about your greyhound picking up a chihuahua, having mistaken it for a rabbit!
Meeting and greeting
The more dogs you meet on your daily walks, the more accustomed to them your greyhound will become. Ask a likely candidate’s owner if they wouldn’t mind walking for a little way alongside your dog, with you in between them. This is less confrontational and is more likely to help your dog relax more quickly. Also, the more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your dog will be. Don’t put it in a situation that it finds too stressful and can only react to by over-reacting.
Some greyhounds take longer than others to get used to other breeds and some dogs are very “keen” (i.e. have a very strong chase instinct) and will always have to wear a muzzle. They are used to it, so it is no hardship for them. Use your common sense, err on the side of caution and remember – off-lead dogs can seemingly appear out of nowhere and having a muzzle in your hand rather than on your dog is not much use to anyone.
If you want to introduce your dog to other breeds in a more controlled environment, you can find reputable training classes in your area via your vet. Just don’t expect too much in the way of advanced obedience and please don’t make your greyhound sit – it is not comfortable for many of them. All you’re ever likely to need is “Leave”, “Down”, “Stay” and “Come”. Your dog will have to learn its name first; not all the dogs recognise the names we use in the kennels, so by all means start again with one of your choice and teach it as you would with a puppy, but remember that these are hounds and their selective deafness is one of the characteristics of this particular group of dogs!
Two twenty – thirty minute walks a day is fine for most greyhounds. Contrary to popular belief, they do not need huge amounts of exercise, as they are bred for sprinting. If you wish to take them out for longer, you may have to build up to it, as they do not have the stamina to begin with and you risk having to carry your dog home, halfway through your walk. These are definitely not, nor will ever be, the best dogs to accompany you on your daily jog – they will often develop sore joints and pads or exacerbate old racing injuries and become lame.
Letting your greyhound off lead
Do not let your greyhound off the lead in that first period. Its instinct is to chase, especially if something is running away from it. If you think you have reached the point when it may be safe to let it off the lead (i.e. it doesn’t seem to want to chase other breeds of dog and you’ve done a lot of recall practice), there are things to consider – always leave the muzzle on to begin with, so you can observe how it behaves with small breeds when running free. Most importantly, where do you walk your dog? A greyhound moves unbelievably fast and covers enormous distances in such a short space of time and that, coupled with stereoscopic vision (i.e it is constantly scanning the horizon for movement), mean that if it sees a squirrel or a cat in the road on the other side of your usual urban park, it will be away, out of the gate and under a passing car, before you have time to collect your wits and no amount of calling, flapping your arms about or running in the opposite direction will make any difference to the dog – it is on a mission. Always choose somewhere completely enclosed so that if your dog does not come back when called, you can catch it (eventually). If you don’t have anywhere near you that’s suitable, or you’re at all unsure, then walk your dog on the lead – it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Never leave your greyhound tied up in a public place – if it doesn’t injure itself trying to chase something or run away from something, it will be stolen.