Monday, February 18, 2008

How are we all Doing?
Getting to Know each other...

Well, we have got to know each other very well, and we gel as a pack now. The behavioural problems of Lily are practically non existent and we have had obedience, good toilet behaviour, and excellent recall from her and she can be let off on her walks! Not advisable for ex racers though, so I don't recommend this with a dog like Dizzy. Ex racers run in a straight line and can run for miles and end up running in traffic. Lily never raced, and being nervous stays close and does what we call a circle of joy, and her little smiling head bobs up and down as she dashes around us. If something spooks her, she comes in for the security of the pack and looks to us all to defend her rather than run away.

A greyhound will grin, and this is not at all a sign of aggression
but more a sign of being totally relaxed

No more fear or aggression and lots of Nose kisses....

So what about the biting, the backing off and the throwing herself against the wall? Most of the anxiety causing this has been greatly reduced. Lily adores Steve (and he is a man) and she is curious about strangers, rather than terrified. She still paces around and wants all escape routes open when we have a new visitor, but little Lils will wait until the visitor is concentrating on us with his back to her, and she will trot up and do what I call a 'nose kiss'. The nose kiss is used for her to show her approval of a new person, just one touch on the hand or the back of legs with a cold wet nose and then she retreats. She will then come in for more nose kisses, each one lasting longer than the last and eventually she might even let someone stroke her neck.

What would we advise for nervous dogs when visitors come?

I would advise, if your dog is like ours, that when a visitor comes in and the dog shows signs of anxiety and stress like pacing, circling, panting, that your visitor does not look at the dog or pay any attention to it. This would just re-inforce the anxiety. What seems to work with us is for the visitor to completely ignore the dog, and allow the dog space and freedom to back off. Never let your visitor corner a dog like this, or like my father keep badgering and chasing after a kiss or a cuddle. Some new visitors will say they love dogs and have experience and lunge in for a cuddle, or pester the dog. However, the dog does not know of experience. Their anxiety tells them to exercise caution, they will see the visitor approaching as a sign of dominance or aggression and this can have disastrous results. Your dog always uses the pack mentality rules, they will look to other members of the pack, especially the leaders to see how they react to a visitor and if they see the visitor relaxed, facing you, chatting, invading your space rather than theirs but see that you have accepted them, then they become curious and even start wanting to come and say hello themselves.

Nosy Girl!

Other meanings of the Nose Kiss...Learning to speak 'Dog'

Lily also uses the Nose Kiss to express her need to go to the toilet outside. The Nose Kiss means 'Attend to Me', that cold wet touch on my hand alerts me to her, then she looks me full in the face and I say "Does she want to go out?" and she nods her head upwards in the air, sometimes with a suppressed "Roo" and that means "Yes". Then the Nose Kiss may be used again if she is desperate for a 'toilet' but I am not moving fast enough. She dashes ahead, circles around, and touches my hand faster and more frequently, which hurries me up.

Dizzy learns to come down the stairs, as well as go up!
Greyhounds from kennels, may never have attempted stairs, so make sure you can lift them down as they will climb up and get vertigo and 'statue' i.e. freeze and get stuck!

Eager to please...the difference between collies and greyhounds

We have found that greyhounds can be very willing to please, they may pick things up at a slightly slower speed than our previous border collie but then there is a fundamental difference in how they use the learning. Border collie's quickly learn to do something, and then quickly learn ways of not doing that thing if it doesn't suit them. They manufacture loopholes in the contract. You might ask them, for example, to go and do their toilet in a paved garden on holiday and they will say "Ah, but last time you asked me to go on grass, I don't see any grass here, so perhaps I can forget that rule?" A better of example of that is begging at the table. We said categorically no to that trait with our BC, but, he would beg at the table of my parents. He might argue that we taught him not to beg to us, and when there are new people, the rules do not apply, and if they did they must be reinforced by my parents.

Greyhounds as creatures of habit

Greyhounds, take their time taking in the meaning of what you ask, then they modify their behaviour slowly to adjust to what you really intend, and then bingo, when they have hit the jackpot, they can't stop doing that thing. Creatures of habit, once you have made them learn a command, they will want to carry it out and the only thing that over-rides the command, is not a desire to find a loophole around it and then displease us, it will be the overwhelming instinct of FOOD only that breaks down a greyhounds behaviour into mayhem.

Food V Good Behaviour

However, even when the battle between wanting your food and wanting to please you is going on, you can still find that greyhounds after an initial feral fuss over the food on your plate, will go and quietly lie down whilst you eat.

I would strongly advise, never feeding straight from the table (I know we all crack up and do that occasionally) but if your hound is on their bed, lying there with big saucer pie eyes, and they are quiet (suppressed rooing doesn't count, nor does any faint nose whistling) then you can reward them with a treat on their bed, whilst reinforcing the command "On your bed, what a good girl/boy, On your bed". This is so much better than throwing stuff to snapping hounds from the table.

Dizzy is allowed on the sofa as a very special treat. Remember that in Dog Language, sit on my sofa is interpreted as, you have been promoted to pack leader, and you might find a greyhound's behaviour becomes bossy or unacceptable in other areas. E.G, we had a few snaps when we tried to get the dogs off the sofa for any reason, and this was out of character so we had to regulate when and where the dogs sleep.

Patience is Key...Not all greys like to sit

Your greyhound does have endless patience, and a sense of nobility and loyalty. Some people may find their greys do not like to sit, and with ours, it was causing great distress and Dizzy even screeched and snapped at my head thinking I was trying to hurt him. We decided, after a couple of months trying, that we would not enforce the 'Sit command'. Our greys behaviour was more advanced than the sit command, but not being able to sit easily held them back and way behind the smallest of puppies in training classes; we didn't find it dignified in the end. If you are trying to teach them something, and they don't seem to be getting it, don't abandon your efforts. They will surprise you and suddenly get something you would have thought impossible.

Table Manners

An example of this, is teaching our hounds to behave respectfully over their dinner habits. Our dinner behaviour went something like this:

Day 1: Cupboard and food noises in the kitchen causes hounds to dash frantically underfoot and climb the surfaces like mountain goats and snapping at anything going like a couple of turtles.

Day 2 onwards: We decide that the hounds must give us time to prepare food without tripping up and snapping at any crumbs in the air. Steve holds the hounds on the kitchen step, outside the kitchen doorway, and I use the command out.

Day 3: We keep repeating the 'Out' Command, and keep them there even when the food is put down for them to eat. Steve puts a hand in front of their chest but not touching, and lets go of their collars whilst I say 'Out'. First of all they charge forward as soon as they are let go, but his hand stops and corrects them and pulls them back

Day 4 onwards: Steve increases the time he releases them and then corrects them.

Day10 onwards the hounds finally get the idea they must stand outside the kitchen, and must only come for their food when released.

Day 14: After about 2 weeks of this training, the dogs can stand quietly (but saliva dripping) on the step, outside the kitchen, and we can put their bowls down and they can stand their waiting to be released. The self control, when food is down there on the floor, is so powerful.

Peeep! Peeep! Peeep! thunder, thunder thunder (8 paws in motion)

Day 30 ish: Once they understand their need to be respectful at dinner times, they start to enjoy doing this and then when released, their food is the best and biggest reward they could have. We introduce a dog whistle, we blow on the whistle for three long peeps after mentioning their name, and we stand near their food, so this reinforces the recall and introduced a whistle command which means "Come her as fast as you can" as whistles will carry across the park on a windy day, and will excite them but not trigger the prey instinct as much squeakers and squawkers.

We all Speak Dog...

Training for our two greys, is quite relaxed. Lily is quicker than Dizzy, but has slight BC traits of picking and choosing when to hear a command. On the whole, we have got to know each other, and we all speak Dog albeit with slightly different dialects (Greyhound Dog, Human Dog, Border Collie Dog).

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Will You Play With Me......

Many dogs from kennels, will be buoyant and playful, but not actually know how to express that apart from rushing around like a mad thing. I have always felt strongly that dogs learn to behave the way we would like, not by fear and punishment but by play and reward.

However, dogs often come home and initially do not know how to play. It took a while, but we got our dogs to play. I would recommend, having something soft like an old sock, and throw it high in the air, then catching and running with it, the movement often triggers their chase and play. You can let them mouth the sock, but with supervision only as my vet says a grey left alone with a sock will chew the whole thing and can get obstructions.

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When your dog it in a playful pose, front paws down and tail in the air, you can go and pat the bum lightly, or give it a gentle nudge and in dog, this means "Will you play with me? Chase me go on!” Get down on the floor with them, even do a play bow yourself, get their interest focused on you, and control that toy, letting them have it, then them letting you take it away. Don’t stand for any aggression or territorial behaviour over a toy, either with you or other members of the pack. Playing can all turn a bit nasty if the dogs have pent up energy and turn on each other, so do distract them from this if you can! If you make sure as well that you don't play close to dinner, either before or after and leave about an hour and half, this is safer for your dog’s metabolism and they won't get bloat. Each day, you may get a slight bit of interest in play, and this will increase each time. A dog that can play on its own, with toys you have provided (and you know are safe to leave with them) is a happier dog and won't miss you so much if you have chores to do in a different room.