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How can I help my greyhound settle into their new home?
As there will be many new sights and sounds for your new greyhound to adapt to, it is essential that you constantly look for signs that they may be uncomfortable, stressed or afraid. By recognising quickly when they are uncomfortable, you can remove them from stressful situations so that they can become calm and relaxed, rather than feeling overwhelmed. Read the following article for further information; How do I best communicate with my greyhound?
Learning a new name
It is very important for your new greyhound to learn their name as quickly as possible as this will help with training and general interactions. A simple way to do this is repeat their name every time you interact and particularly when you reward them. This will help to quickly foster a positive relationship.
Familiarisation and socialisation
Allow plenty of time for exploring, whilst keeping noise and movement to a minimum. Provide an opportunity to explore inside and outside, perhaps start with outside remembering that the yard must be secure. Keep them on the lead so that you are close by for reassurance and can direct them away from anything that might pose a risk.
It is important to introduce your new greyhound to novel things in a calm and patient manner. By working out a timetable, you can stagger these new experiences so that they are not overwhelmed and will be able to develop confidence to face changes later in life. Think of the things that you would like them to get use to such as meeting strangers, the vacuum cleaner, meeting new dogs, walking on different surfaces, going to the beach or walking down a busy road. It helps if you gradually introduce them to these things, i.e. put the vacuum cleaner out and let your them sniff it, praise and reward, then turn it on, praise and reward calm behaviour, and then start using it but not in their direction. The ideal approach would be to train them to use their mat/bed and for them to remain there whilst the vacuum cleaner is on and being used. Always praise and reward when you expose them to novel situations. If they show fear at any step, then discontinue immediately and leave for a day or two before starting again at the previous step.
Slowly get them used to glass doors, slippery floors (mats can help to start with) and stairs. Again, be patient and forgiving as they learn about their new environment. Being gentle and giving praise and rewards for desirable behaviour will quickly establish trust and a strong bond. With all family members being consistent in showing kindness and respect, your new greyhound will have all the reassurance they need. Be patient and never punish your greyhound, as this is likely to erode trust and could lead to behaviour problems.
Your greyhound will need time to adjust to many new noises such as televisions, phones ringing and pinging, door bells ding donging and the usual banter of family life. The good news is that once you recognise this, you can help by slowly introducing unfamiliar noises, sights and sounds.
The following video ‘Settling in your new adopted dog’ has some helpful general tips from Dr Katrina Warren (note that the advice regarding being off lead does not apply to all adopted greyhounds).
Coping with stairs
Stairs are likely to be a completely new challenge for many greyhounds as larger dogs aren’t really designed to negotiate stairs easily; for some it can be a daunting task. But there are things you can do to help them conquer this. Begin with a short, wide flight of stairs with good tread to build their confidence. Increasing grip, for example with temporary pieces of cheap, yoga matting helps. Don’t keep trying if they become agitated as this will lead to them making an unpleasant association with stairs, and don’t try forcing them as this will make it all the more difficult. Praise and rewards will help to get them there. Try to avoid them rushing downstairs as they may suffer a serious injury. Repeat this gradual process a couple of times to end on a good note and then try again in a couple of days. Once mastered, a higher flight of stairs can be attempted. But remember, your greyhound will attempt it at their own pace and when they are sufficiently motivated to be where the steps will take them.
Having their own mat/bed
It is best to set up a bed indoors and outdoors so that once you have introduced them to both areas, they can decide where they are most comfortable. Initially this may be outdoors but could change later. To help them settle inside quickly, it is best to keep excess noise and activity to a minimum and by leaving the back door open, they have the choice to go outside should they need to. Placement of their bed is important so as to avoid heavy foot traffic (not near doorways or passageways), noisy spots (not near television, speakers and children’s play areas) or very active areas such as the kitchen. Beds with defined sides can provide extra reassurance and security.
It is worthwhile calling them off their bed and rewarding them so that they become accustomed to leaving their bed when required. When you want them to go to their bed, reward with a treat and then treat periodically to reward them for remaining there.
Going to bed on the first night
With the excitement over for the day, your new greyhound may be tired but they may also be restless, especially when all goes quiet and they are left alone at bedtime. To provide that extra reassurance, allow yourself up to an hour before you actually want to go to bed to help settle them in for the night. Start by reading a book or watching TV and wait until they are settled, then leave the room so that you are just out of sight and return immediately. Repeat this several times, ensuring that you don’t leave until they are settled, as they may stand up. Then increase the time away, starting with a couple of seconds and increase to a minute. This helps them to feel that their bed is safe even if they are left alone. The aim is to keep doing this until they stop standing up as this is the signal that they feel there is nothing to worry about. You may need to keep the TV and a dull light or lamp on to provide that extra reassurance. Alternatively, if they can’t settle, then they may need to see you so you could place their bed outside the bedroom door. This can be moved to a laundry or other area once they feel secure in their new home.
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