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How can I help my adopted greyhound settle into their new home?

Greyhound on sofa
Image credit — Juan Gomez, Unsplash

There will be many unfamiliar sights and sounds for your newly adopted greyhound to adapt to in their new home. Therefore, 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 on how to recognise signs of discomfort or stress in your greyhound: How do I communicate with my dog?

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 association with their name and a positive relationship with you.

Familiarisation and socialisation

Allow plenty of time for your greyhound to explore, whilst keeping noise and movement to a minimum. Provide an opportunity for your greyhound to explore inside and outside. It is important that the yard is secure, before you let them explore it. Keep them on the leash to begin with, 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 your greyhound is 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 used 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. For example, to get them used to the vacuum cleaner, you can put the vacuum cleaner out and let your greyhound sniff it, praise and reward them when they are calm, then turn it on, praise and reward calm behaviour, and then start using it but not in their direction. This could be spread out over a few different sessions, just taking it one step at a time. 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 (but don’t go close to them until they are very used to it and calm when it is in use). Always praise and reward your greyhound when you introduce 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. For more information about how to read your dog’s body language, understand your dog and communicate with them, please see this article: How do I communicate with my dog?

Slowly get your greyhound 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 you. All family members should be consistent in showing kindness and respect so that your new greyhound can have all the reassurance they need. Be patient and never punish your greyhound, as punishment will 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, doorbells 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 leash 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 can struggle to negotiate stairs easily, and most greyhounds are unfamiliar with stairs not having learned to go up and down stairs as a puppy; for some dogs negotiating stairs 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. You can help them by improving the grip on the stairs, for example by fixing temporary pieces of cheap but grippy yoga matting to the stair treads. Don’t keep trying if your greyhound becomes agitated as this will lead to them making an unpleasant association with stairs, and don’t try forcing them as this will frighten them and make it more difficult to get them used to stairs. Praise and rewards will help to get them there. Try to avoid them rushing down the stairs as they may suffer a serious injury. Try letting them follow you slowly to give them confidence to go down each step at a safe pace.

Just take them up and down a short, wide and easy flight of stairs, slowly and patiently, rewarding them every step of the way. 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 for your greyhound indoors and outdoors. Once you have introduced your dog to both indoors and outdoors, 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. If it is safe, leave the back door open, so they have the choice to go outside should they want to. Placement of their bed is important; it should be somewhere quiet and peaceful away from 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 your greyhound off their bed and rewarding them so that they become accustomed to leaving their bed when required. When you want your greyhound to go to their bed, reward them with a treat when they do this. To avoid triggering sleep aggression, it is best to have a rule that no one approaches or physically interacts with your new greyhound whilst they are on their bed once they have settled down. See this article for more information: How can I help with my adopted greyhound’s behaviour?

Going to bed on the first night

When the excitement of their first day in their new home is over, 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 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 nearby 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 initially 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 the area you eventually want their bed to be once they feel secure in their new home.

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Updated on July 4, 2022
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