Archive for August, 2009

So You Want To Rescue A Greyhound Pup?

August 17, 2009

Lately the rescue group I got Stella from has gotten a lot of litters coming in. This has meant a few things for me: 1. I’ve needed to resist getting another pup on a near daily basis and 2. I’ve been asked to talk with prospective owners about the joys (and miseries) of raising a Greyhound from scratch.

There’s not a lot out there about raising a Greyhound pup because nearly all rescued hounds are track dog rescues and hence adults.

But occasionally there’s an “oops litter” or some backyard breeders or some circumstances that lead to pups needing adoption.

So I gathered my thoughts about raising a Greyhound pup to put them out into the world for anyone who is considering adopting a Greyhound puppy. Or anyone who’s just interested the hell and gone trip I went through. Kidding!

Although not someone with huge amounts of dog experience before I got my pup, (I’m the Dog Virgin) I have learned some things along the way. These things may help you decide whether or not a Greyhound puppy is for you.

If you’re on the fence hopefully I won’t scare you off it though. Because watching your puppy grow from deliciously cute to an exquisite, lightning fast dog, is an incredible experience to behold.

So here’s the little ditty I put together about Greyhound pups…

1. Greyhound Pups Turn Into Greyhounds

Know that your puppy will turn into a Greyhound one day so if you’ve fallen for a pup but don’t know a lot about Greyhounds you’ll want to, hem, bone up. For example, if you’re big time into a people-obsessed, dying to please Collie or Lab type of puppy this here’s a whole other ball game. Think cat versus dog and you’ll begin to get a feel for a Greyhound’s tempermant.

Hard to believe but the fat little pup you take home will someday be a tall, long legged, pointy nosed Greyhoundie. It’s especially good to keep this in mind when you go shopping for your pup. If you’re buying a crate, buy for the future. This means buy a huge one. Same goes for dog bowls, pillows and cushions they’ll sleep on. In twelve short months your 20 pounder could easily be 80 pounds.

Your pup will likely be high energy. All pups are. But your puppy will eventually turn into a Greyhound and 18 months down the line you’ll find that your dog is sleeping 23 hours a day just like those retired racers that sleep like cats all day long.

Your puppy will bound and run around like a goofy dog but somewhere at about a year old you will see that your puppy’s gait has changed and he’s running like the wind, or more accurately, like a Cheetah. This sight is absolutely thrilling. Congratulations: you now own the fastest dog on the planet.

2. Greyhound Pups Are Pups First, Greyhound Pups Second

Pretty much everything you read about raising any puppy applies to Greyhounds. So read anything and everything you can about raising a puppy. There is no shortage of books and there’s no shortage of free information online.

As for me, I kinda like the Dog Whisperer’s philosophy, especially as it applies to puppy raising: it’s all about exercise, discipline and affection—and in that order. If you can get your pup out at least once a day for a long romp (an hour minimum) plus a few walks, you will have a worn out and obedient puppy (they can’t argue if they’re exhausted.)

Puppies will chew regardless of how much you exercise them, so make sure you’ve got plenty of stuff for them to chew on and puppy proof your place beforehand so there’s nothing they can chew that will be harmful to him.

In terms of discipline and training, since you’re getting a puppy take advantage of it: sign up for Puppy Kindergarten. Keep an eye on behavior you find troubling. Research it online. Get help with a trainer. Problems with pups are hugely fixable if they’re caught quickly! Note: no dog is perfect. Your pup will come complete with quirks and a few things to work on here and there. No need to panic. Just be observant and take any concerns seriously.

Also, socialization is so key. The key to having a really great dog experience is to get your dog socialized as much and as often as possible. This can happen at parks, on walks or in classes like Puppy Kindergarten. Your pup will learn how to be in the world which will make him a happy guy. And you’ll have a dog that other dogs (and their owners) will want to be around.

Speaking of other owners, here’s another great thing: while your dog is socializing you get to socialize too. And what might start out feeling like chores (the walks, the park, the classes) actually may turn into a hugely positive addition to your life. You’ll thank your pup for the latest cool person you met on your last walk.

Take your pup places—to friends’ houses if they let you, eat at a restaurant outside where they let you have your dog—get them exposed to any and everything you can. You have the cutest puppy on earth and you’ll have swarms of people asking you about him. It’s a blast for you and it’s great for your pup. And it gets the word out about Greyhounds which is always a good thing.

3. Don’t Let House Breaking Break You

House breaking will feel like it’ll never end. Stella took a few months but we were down to a mistake or two a week with a couple of weeks. But it was a bit consuming at first. Keep it in perspective if you can.

The one tip I got that worked great: jot down when your dog pees for the first week or two you have him. You will quickly note patterns (Stella peed right after eating, right after exercising, right after walks.) Soon you’ll be able to get them out to the yard proactively. Note: every mistake they make is your fault. Yup, sad but true.

You will need to show your pup the doggie door or take him outside but you need to proactively get him out to do his business. From what I experienced and what I have heard, most of the Grey pups sleep through the night without incident. We also crate trained Stella (see crate training section below) so she never went in her crate.

There is a lot of information online and in books about housebreaking and I don’t think Greyhound pups really differ much from any other dogs. Except my bias is that I think they may be easier to break as they tend to be pretty clean dogs.

4. Leaving Your Pup

This goes for any breed but I feel it’s worth pointing out. You have a puppy now. Eventually you will have a dog. But you also have a life and you need to go out and live it, at times, without the dog.

We opted to crate train Stella which means when we leave she’s left in her crate. Dogs like dark caves so a crate feels good to them. They also won’t go to the bathroom in their crate. A dog is taught by their mother to not soil the place they sleep in. So you will not come home to a mess.

One advantage of crate training your dog includes always knowing where your dog will be when you’re gone. You will also know that your house and its contents will remain in tact while you’re away.

If you do decide to crate train your dog never ever make the crate a punishment. A crate is a safe, happy place with treats, soft bed, darkness and quiet. We direct a fan in our dog’s crate to keep her cool if temperatures rise. She sleeps in it at night and relaxes there when we’re gone. And it’s never a problem when we ask her to go in.

The disadvantage of crating is that you can’t go out for huge long stretches of time–especially when you’ve still got a young pup.

The other way to go is a doggie door—that gives you more flexibility, for sure. You just need to make sure your pup doesn’t destroy things in your house when you’re gone.

Some people also opt to have a dog walker or friend come in and take their dog out for a break. Doggie daycare is another option if you need to be gone for longer stretches. Some of these options come with a price but having a strategy of how you want to handle leaving your dog is definitely something to mull before you bring your bundle of joy home.

Finally, if you are leaving your pup at home whether it be in a crate or not, start out with very short stretches of time. And do not make a big deal of leaving or coming back. If you want your pup to think it’s no big then act like it isn’t. Note: even if you don’t ever have reason to leave the house leave anyway. Get your dog used to you being gone. You do not want a dog that cannot ever be crated or left alone. You want a happy dog but you also want a happy you and happy you is one that can leave your house without a big scene.

5. Leashing Your Pup

As mentioned, eventually you will own the fastest breed of dog on the planet. You will also own a dog without a real great sense of direction or concern for anything in the way of what they want to chase. Your dog will run after a cat or squirrel with so much focus and speed that nothing else matters to them in the world—and that includes cars. These dogs are bred to hunt by site so when they see something interesting move they’re off to the races.

Given that you have a pup, do tons of recall training but still, unless you’re in a very safe area away from harms way, you gotta keep your pup on lead.

Recall training tip: go out to a safe enclosed area with your pup, a friend and some treats. You stand way at one end, your friend at the other. One of you calls the pup and he comes running to you. Treat him. A minute later your friend calls your pup and she treats him. Within just a few minutes you’ve accomplished two things: you’ve gotten some training under his belt and you’ve exhausted him!

She Never Had Me At Hello

August 11, 2009

It was never love at first sitehound. I wasn’t sure I wanted the daily responsiblity. I wasn’t sure I wanted the attachment to a dog. And I was definitely unsure of getting a puppy–that was one I really had not bargained for.

Though I’ll never know for sure, Stella didn’t seem sold on the situation right away either. No licks, no bounding to say hello, not much in the way of eye contact. Sure, she would freak out if you left the house for five seconds, but when you were there she would go for an entire day without ever coming in for a visit.

So guarded we were–the both of us. Me because of my fears and neurosis and baggage. Stella because that’s who she is–not an easy sell, not demonstrative, not a people dog as much as a dog’s dog.

I always thought that you’d have an instant love connection with your dog like people do with their babies. I never thought that this connection might take time to grow, that I would change along the way or that, gasp, my heart might learn a new trick or two.

At the two year mark I can safely say all of the above. I’ve changed. I’ve learned to really appreciate a pet personality different from the one I thought I could order up as if ordering from a menu. I wanted that kicked back male Greyhound who was more pillow than dog. I got a protective, cautious female who would show you her teeth and the door if you tried to get too close to her on the couch let alone lay on top of her.

Initially I was disappointed. Who was this odd creature laying around the house who obviously could care less about me other than the roles I played as kitchen and janitorial staff member? Who was this creature who clearly preferred Llewis to anything else in the house? Who was this creature who obviously was so much happier with other hounds than hanging with me?

I thought dogs were supposed to follow you around the house, lick you on the face, ask you how your day was. I thought dogs weren’t like cats. I thought that they were unselfish.

But didn’t I want a cat-like dog? Isn’t that why I wanted a Greyhound? And wasn’t that Lab that came over for a few hours one evening enough licking and love for the rest of my time on earth?

But as I was asking and answering these questions, struggling on a daily basis, occassionally freaking out too, something else was going on.

Stella was changing.

In the past two years Stella’s not only put on 45 pounds and grown out some killer legs. Stella’s morphed from a slow-to-trust pup who never wanted me in her face to a relaxed girl who lets me bug her anytime and doesn’t mind getting nuzzled by me (or, as it so happened at a PawsToRead event, 20 seven year olds.) She’s a well behaved dog who happily greets friends but doesn’t knock them over. Four on the floor pretty much holds with her. Her cautious nature which disappointed me at first has been a real plus keeping her injury free. She’s smart to not get into trouble–with dogs that don’t smell right to her and in physical situations that look dicey.

She went from a pup peeing every 45 minutes, sometimes in the house, to a dog who gently knocks on the door to be let out.

Stella goes gently into this good crate whenever asked. No kong required. She’s great with children. I never worry.

So while I was learning to let go and let Stella, Stella was on her own journey–a two year crash course from puppy to adulthood. Looking back I have so much more empathy for the puppy path now. Since a dog’s lifespan is relatively short, the amount that they need to grow both physically and behaviorally is awe inspiring. I look back and wonder if I want a do-over. Not for her, she’s turned out great. But for me. Knowing what I know now I would have definitely enjoyed and appreciated many more moments having a framework to put them in.

Ah, but this is life. Full of lessons. And the biggest lesson yet? If dogs don’t teach us about living life, we are definitely not listening hard enough.