Archive for the ‘Hound Advice’ Category

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!

Reality Bit. Twice.

October 8, 2008

No, Stella didn’t bite anyone. But both she and I got bit last Friday by an elderly dog that just freaked out.

Here’s the deal. Stella got toothy and protective of me and her treats. The older dog didn’t take kindly to her and bit her on the snout–twice. I was collateral damage and got whacked in the finger.

Stella seemed to be unaffected. In the dog world I’m guessing this is a pretty minor deal–maybe one step up from a growl.

As for me, I’m on antibiotics for what appears to be a pretty small wound but I’m told that dog bites, especially to a hand, are not to be messed with.

This was a learning experience–big time. Yeah, the treats were working great in gaining control of her and getting her to come my way when she was getting too amped. But in a relatively narrow, crowded environment, treats can be a cause of stress and can accentuate possessive behavior. And in a narrow, crowded environment, Stella’s propensity to get amped is huge.

I realized that taking Stella to a beach, one without a huge amount of running room other than along the shore, can be very uncomfortable for her. *We* love the beach but maybe, in many instances, it’s been stressful for her to negotiate. Take her off the beach and put her in a nice big open space and there’s no growling, no TeethFace. No Hannibal Lechter appearances.

So no more beach unless we proceed with a lot more caution. And maybe it’s best to only do the beach once in a while and head towards more open spaces.

Dogs are always honest. Stella, now that I understand a piece of the puzzle better, has been saying to us, “I”m not comfortable here.” She’s been saying it in lots of ways. But I dunno–we’ve just not been listening. Last week was an eye and ear opener. Finally, we listened. And maybe, finally, those lambs will stop screaming.

Reality Bites (If You Don’t Deal With It)

September 30, 2008

One dog year is equivalent to seven human years according to the experts. This puts Stella in the fourth grade en route to college in a year, marriage a year later and a full blown mid life crisis a year after that. But for the moment she’s an adolescent, a near teen. Which makes it easy for me to want to write off a lot of behavior as age related. But this latest issue, aggression, I couldn’t chalk up to an age or stage. Its consequences are just a little too steep to ignore.

The issue is she’s been going Teeth Face way too easily, snapping very quickly at other dogs both on and off leash. At first I buried my head in the sand, hoping it would pass, hoping it was due to a stomach ache or fleas but eventually I decided that reality in this case, could bite if I didn’t deal with it. So I put on a virtual rash shirt and started surfing–online.

What I learned is this: Dog aggression is a lot like ice cream–31 flavors and then some (apologies Ani.) There’s a variety of types and you can read a general description by clicking right here. You got your dominance aggression, defensive aggression, dog on dog aggression, dogs aggressive towards people.

Seems to me that Stella’s got a touch of the defensive agression going on. While she’s the fastest dog on the beach (hell, she should be, she’s a Greyhound) she’s still young and she’s a bit scared of the big dogs.

When insecure she protects herself by going Teeth Face. It reminds me of Anthony Hopkins playing Hannibal Lechter in Silence Of The Lambs. She waits for a moment, the eyes focus, the fur rises on her back. I can almost here the words…

“Well Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?”

The teeth come out–no biting–just those sharp Hannibals and big explosed pink gums. And, every time, she effectively sends the other pooches scampering off in fear that she’ll have them (with a bottle of chianti and some fava beans) for dinner.

After a few difficult days I think we’ve got the two word solution: Liver Treats. I bring a few chickens’ worth to the beach. I walk her in on leash—let her know I’m around and supplied with liver treats. I let her go but I call her frequently and nail that recall down. Before she can get into any sort of skirmish she’s called. She comes running. She gets distracted. She goes back and plays, never getting amped up.

Distraction is a beautiful thing.

I wonder if some day she’ll eventually be easy. But most of the day she is easy. I mean how much trouble is it to deal with something passed out in your living room as long as it’s not dead, doesn’t smell too bad and isn’t wanted by the authorities? But really I think I was pondering if she was always going to have one problem or another. Hell. I dunno. I’m the Dog Virgin, the anti Cesar Milan, the one you call when you need the questions, not the answers.

Crate Expectations

September 12, 2008

Note: This post could also be titled, Separation Anxiety In Your Young Greyhound. Or, Maybe It’s Not A Good Idea To Crate Your Dog Only Two Hours After You’ve Left Them In A Completely New Environment. Or, Live and Learn.

Poor Stella. Poor friends who so generously said Yes to keeping her for the weekend while we visited Sin City (me for business, P for tag-along purposes.) I thought I thought of everything (another good post title, actually.) Food, chewies, stuffies, phone numbers, detailed instructions, pillow, portable crate. Ah yes, the portable crate.

The last times we’ve left Stella she stayed with Greyhoundies who have, in addition to two hounds, a huge warehouse which is home to Barkstix, a business that makes yummy all natural dog treats. In other words, dog heaven. And then we left her with friends who were remodeling their place. Doggie daycare, never a problem. Smooth sailing. Never any separation anxiety. Separation affinity, in fact.

Well, I guess I was wrong. Turns out the key to making these things work out has been that Stella was not left alone. Stella’s not really attached to me or P. in as much as she just needs some company. Something three dimensional with a pulse will work.

So our friends who said they had to go to a play that evening that I left her, the ones I assured could go to that play and just crate her, did like I said and put her in. Not so fast. Within about a minute, after walking down the stairs, they heard barking, whining, blood curdling screaming going on. And then, she appeared, escaped from the travel crate and likely ready to destroy everything of value in the house if they were to leave her unattended.

Needless to say, they never got to the play.

Fortunately, I was able to get doggie daycare to take her so my friends could get on with their lives. But things continued on a downward spiral over there too as she could not shake the separation anxiety (“SA” as those far too in the know call it.) She gracefully jumped high fences, whined, barked and simply would not crate for love nor money. Basically, she was a huge pain in the butt–you know, the kid that the teachers call you in about–the kid at private school they have to put up with because the parents are paying the tuition.

Fast forward and she’s back at home not having really skipped a beat. As the Dog Whisperer likes to say, “Dog live in dee moment.” Owner, however, live in the dee past. And I’ve become way too well versed on SA but maybe, hopefully, better equipped to diminish the chances of putting Stella and friends in this situation again.

Bones Would Rain From The Sky

August 19, 2008

Somewhere along the line, possibly day one of dog ownership, I decided that I had taken up residence with a living, breathing, black and white crossword puzzle. And not one of the easier ones either. I’d adopted a New York Times Sunday edition puzzle. And ever since I’ve been puzzling away at it.

So when I discovered a book last month that could give me a few clues–maybe not every clue but say twelve across and seven and eight down–I was thrilled. This book is Bones Would Rain From The Sky and is due back to the library in two days. I’d hurry up and get reading but it’s so good I’ll be buying it and reading it over and over and passing it along to some friends.

I found out about Bones by listening to The ROO Show–a podcast dedicated to Greyhoundies. The podcast isn’t bad but it was short lived. I think they discontinued it after a few episodes. I also liked the Greyhounds Make Great Pets podcast–also discontinued.

Anyway, as I’m jogging around this endlessly long lake I listened to all the ROO episodes and was struck by this one where they interviewed a woman about her favorite animal behavior books: Bones came up number one.

I was intrigued, honestly, by the title. It comes from a Turkish proverb:

If a dog’s prayers were answered, bones would rain from the sky.

So sue me: I judged the book by its cover. But something about that quote resonated with me. And happily I also ended up liking what was inside–alot. While this is no “how to” book, it has been deeply helpful. It’s not about teaching Spot to come or to sit or to stay. It’s about getting to know your dog for who she by understanding the world from her end of the leash.

Bones asks you to step into your dog’s world and not humanize it or judge it but to accept it for what it is. This world is not our world–its physicality and langauge are quite foreign from ours. Author Suzanne Clothier asks us to get to know our dog as dogs. As simple as this sounds it’s actually deeply profound. As is her assertion that dogs will never, ever lie to you. Simple but profound. If your dog will always tell you the truth–and they will–all we have to do is to learn to listen.

After reading through maybe 25% of this book I already felt more comfortable relating to Stella and more attuned to trying to really see the world from her perspective. Instead of chalking up her not sitting next to me one day to her being moody or aloof, I realized that sitting where I sat would put the sun right in her eyes. It would move her away from her favorite hole. It would not allow her to stretch her very long legs.

I also learned that growling is a dog’s way of honestly communicating how they feel. And that most growls are good–the dog is letting us know that something isn’t sitting so good with them. Stifle growling, correct your dog when he growls and you’re telling him that you don’t want to hear from him when he’s upset–that you don’t want any warning signs before he gets really, really upset.

For example, Stella very mildly growled at me the other day. I kissed her snout while she was sleeping. Dialogue is as follows:

Stella: I’m really, really, really tired. I ran 8 miles with you and then you took me for zoomies on the beach. I’m exhausted.

Me: Can I pet you? Please? Let me pet you. You look so cute all exhausted. You look like a corpse!

Stella: (No response, sleeping, snoring.)

Me: Oh, let me just give you a kiss on the snout you’re so damn cute. SMACK.

Stella: (light growl=> translation: Please let me sleep? Please?)

Stella has growled lightly at me maybe ten times in her whole life and five of those times it was because I was bugging her. The other times did require some discipline. But in this case, Stella was being honest and direct: I’m trying to sleep—bugger off, would yah?

Clothier points out that humans have their version of growling each and every day and we all learn to deal with it for the most part. This could be anything from eye rolling to getting a nasty email from the boss to fisticuffs. Same for dogs. Growling intensity can vary but if you can listen, especially when it first starts, you can learn a lot and save you and your dog from a lot of unecessary drama. This was a huge piece of the puzzle for me. I now know that a mild growl is Stella’s way of letting me know she’s not happy versus freaking out and not listening or respecting what is being communicated.

I could go on and on. Maybe I have. But here’s the bottom line: Bones Would Rain From The Sky tells us that the answers to understanding our dogs are out there–we just need to approach this puzzle with open ears, open eyes and, most of all, an open heart.

It’s All About Me. And Her.

February 26, 2008

 

Yeah, Stella’s around. And yeah, she’s doing great. She’s the best dog ever and not because she’s perfect—far from it–but only because she’s mine.

Anyway, this entry isn’t about HER. It’s about ME. I’m back from the dead albeit I still have this hoarsey, Kathleen Turneresque voice. I’ve decided that, after three weeks with this voice, I may permanently own it.

Or, if I could give it a few days complete voice rest, I could wave buh bye to the Body Heat voice and welcome my old self back. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from having lost my voice it’s this: I have a big mouth. And I do not seem to want to shut up. I’ll painfully squeak out every last syllable even if it costs me another week in laryngitic hell.

But aside from that, I’m back.

Taking my place amongst the living, swimming hard, running hard and breathing like a normal person makes me feel, well, alive. The one dog related thing I will talk about since this is a doggie bloggie is: TGFDD.

Thank Gawd For Doggie Daycare.

In the first few dire months of having Stella, after one doozie of a fight with my beloved about caring for her, I decided that I, or rather, we, needed help.

We researched and visited a few places and decided to go with a doggie daycare place that was small, well managed and, when you walked in, aside from the barks here and there, you had no idea dogs were on the premises. That’s how clean this place is.

In addition to some help in the beginning taking her off my hands here and there as a puppy I’ve found doggie daycare to be perfect for times when you’ve just got too much on your plate for the day and you do not want to crate the critter for hours on end. You can have yourself a productive, guilt-free day while your pooch hangs with her peers.

I’ve used doggie daycare when I’ve had company visiting. When I’ve had too many work obligations. And when, most recently, I’ve been sick. It’s a dream come true. While you sweat out your 102 degree fever in bed, unable to read or even watch T.V. the people of doggie daycare are watching, playing with and socializing your beast.

What a blessing. To be allowed to be spew, hurl and sweat in peace and quiet.

This happened with the flu most recently and a quickie case of food poisoning a few months ago. I was never more appreciative of doggie daycare as a service until I was too sick—sick as a dog in fact—to really deal with Stella.

And that, my dear doggie friends, is my plug for DD. The only downside: It’s not cheap. If you buy the 20 pack at my place you can get it for $25/day. So while I don’t go there super regularly, it’s a great resource to have in your back pocket when you need it.

As I feel better I am gearing up for a trip. It’s a trip where I may get to hear zebras bark. Any guesses as to where I’m going??