The First Week
Things you will need:
1. Read at least one book about greyhound adoption. There are many very good books available that provide useful information about greyhound adoption. Our recommendation for the "best" book to read is Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies by Lee Livingood. We keep this book and Childproofing Your Dog by Brian Kilcommons in stock.
2. A crate. We highly recommend that adopters buy a crate before bringing home their new greyhound. Crates are available on-line as well as at many pet stores. We recommend either the plastic "airline" crates or wire crates. Plastic crates typically divide in half for storage or moving whereas wire crates can often collapse down into a flat (if somewhat bulky) object for storage or moving. Either type of crate will work for a greyhound as long as they are the right size. Most smaller female greyhounds will need a crate that is 42 inches long and larger females and males need the 48 inch long crates. If you have a larger taller male look for an extra tall crate 35 or 36 inches high (only available in wire crates). These will still be 48" long just taller. This is usually only necessary if you are adopting a male that is much over 80 lbs. If you decide to get a wire crate, you may want to look for the crates that have doors on the narrow end (as shown in the picture to the right) as well as a door on the wide side of the crate. This allows for much greater flexibility in placing the crate in your house. Folding metal crates are a little more expensive than the pin style metal crates but are much easier to move and put together.
3. Food, water and dishes. Most of our members feed their greyhounds a high quality dry dog food. Typically this is dog food that can be purchased in pet stores or tractor supply companies. When looking for a specific type of dog food, we recommend finding one that does not have corn or soy beans listed in the ingredients and has meat as at least two of the top 5 ingredients.Our favorite high quality affordable food is available at Costco and is their Kirklands brand. If you look at the ingredients it is comparable to the $50 high end foods but only half that price. That is what most of our foster homes feed. The reason to avoid corn is that dogs, cannot digest corn well and do not gain any nutritional value from it (only extra stool). We recommend avoiding soy bean because it seems to disagree with most greyhounds and can lead to a rather "smelly" situation. Furthermore, for that first week we recommend adding 2 heaping tablespoons of plain yogurt that contains active cultures to the food. The active cultures in yogurt helps settle the dog's stomach and can help prevent unwanted gastric side-effects, especially if you feed your new greyhound a different type of food than he was getting in his foster home. After the first week, you can experiment with other tasty morsels to add to your dog's food. Also, remember to always have fresh water available for your greyhound. Finally, for dishes, we recommend the stainless steel dishes. These are easier to keep clean than plastic dishes. Greyhounds eat soft food at the track so we usually add water to their food to make it soupy although we don't wait for the food to get soft. This helps prevent choking on the dry food at first. A raised feeder is NOT necessary for greyhounds and does NOT help prevent bloat as people once thought. Most greyhounds prefer to eat in their crates anyway.
4. Dog bed or a stack of old blankets. Although your new greyhound may not yet really understand what a dog bed is, it is a useful thing to have available when you bring him home. Greyhounds will frequently choose to curl up on a soft place (like a dog bed or stack of old blankets) instead of on the floor. Remember that your new greyhound doesn't have and shouldn't have a lot of extra fat as padding. He really needs a padded place to lie down and be comfortable. If you let him, he will be happy to be on your bed or couch, but a dog bed will also work just fine! You can buy dog beds large enough and fluffy enough for our greys at places like Target, Sams Club, Costco or on the web. If you get a dog bed or use a stack of old blankets and place it in a corner where your new greyhound can observe the activity of the family around him, you will probably be pleasantly surprised at how quickly he starts using the dog bed. Don't forget to get some blankets to put in his crate too. Bony greyhounds need lots of padding there too. We like to get a couple of twin sized comforters at the Goodwill. They fit in our washer better than the crate pads sold with the crates and only cost a few dollars.
5. Squawker. If you haven't owned or been around greyhounds much, you may not know what a squawker or a predator call is. A squawker is a wild-animal call that can be used to call your greyhound to you. When you squeeze it, it makes a sound that is generally very attractive to greyhounds. This is something they were trained with when they were learning to race and they associate it with getting to chase the lure - something they really enjoy. The main use for squawkers is in emergency situations. We don't like to think of our greyhounds getting away from us, but it can happen. In fact, the most likely time for it to happen is in the first few months of greyhound-ownership when you, as a new owner, are still learning what it is like to own and handle a greyhound. Greyhounds are so fast...it is amazing how rapidly they can get away. But, a squawker can be used to call your dog back! They often will not respond to their name, but will respond to the squawker. We know this from personal experience! Our recommendation is to have at least 2 squawkers; one for in your house and one for in your car, especially if you take your dog with you to go places. Sometimes you can find squawkers at outdoor sport supply locations. You can find them on-line in our Greyhound Crossroads Trading Post or Birdwell Enterprises.
6. Martingale collar and a leash. Greyhounds should wear martingale collars (a modified choke collar) when they are on a leash. As shown in the picture, martingales have an extra loop in the collar that, when fitted properly, allow the collar to be tightened so that it won't slip over the head of the greyhound. Greyhounds heads are as narrow as their neck and regular dog collars will slide off if the greyhound pulls backwards. We require that our new owners have a martingale collar or purchase one from us when they pick up their greyhound. At that time, we demonstrate to the owner how to adjust the collar so that it fits their dog properly. Some owners have their dogs wear two collars, one standard buckle collar to hang tags on and keep on the dog in the house and a separate martingale for use with a leash. You can use any standard leash (nylon or leather) with the martingale collar. We do not recommend using the retractable leashes with greyhounds. A greyhound that hits the end of a long retractable leash at full speed can dislocate your shoulder, break the leash or break its neck.
7. Fenced-in yard. At Greyhound Crossroads we do not require that our adopters have fenced-in yards. However, for those members that do, it is important to carefully go over the yard to make sure that it is dog safe. Greyhounds aren't typically diggers or jumpers, so usually you don't have to be too concerned about the dog jumping over the fence or trying to dig out of the fence. But, do make sure that there aren't any good sized gaps in the fence that the dog could push through and that the gates close and latch properly. Also, be sure to use some type of clasp to make sure that the latch on the gate doesn't come open easily or allow the dog to accidentally push it open.
8. Busy toy (Kong toy). A kong toy can be used to help fill your dog's time when you leave them alone. Many of us actually use them to encourage our dogs to get in the crate when we have to leave. You can fill the toy with peanut butter or cream cheese and let your dog spend time licking the treat out of the toy. Try freezing the toy with peanut butter or cream cheese in it to make it last just a little longer.
9. Enzyme cleaner meant for pet messes. No dog comes "potty trained". No matter how perfectly potty trained a dog may be in his foster home he will NOT understand that the same rules apply in your house. Dogs don't think like humans and have to be trained in each place they go in to. Your new greyhound is likely to have at least a few accidents while you are teaching him the rules in your home. Dogs occasionally get sick and throw up and have diarrhea so you will need the cleaner eventually.
Things to do at home:
1. Keep the first day or so as simple and stress free as possible for your new greyhound. Only introduce him to your immediate family members. In other words, avoid inviting in the neighborhood to show off your new greyhound. You will have time for that later. In the beginning, give your new dog a chance to adjust to his new home and new family. As tempting as it is to lavish your new friend with attention it is actually better if you can almost ignore your new dog for the first few days. Give him plenty of down time and don't encourage excitement. Dogs respond best to calm, laid back owners. Don't allow family members to force unwanted attention on a new dog and keep attention to a minimum. Supervision is important but too much love and affection can be overwhelming and unwanted. You want your greyhound to feel the need to seek you out to get affection rather than feeling like you are a bothersome stalker.
2. Don't be afraid of or concerned about using the crate. Use the crate if you have to leave the dog at home or if the dog is acting overwhelmed by too many people, too many new things, etc. In the crate, the dog is safe from household distractions and from situations that may be overwhelming to a new dog in a new home. If you are concerned about the dog in the crate, try giving them a kong toy filled with cream cheese or peanut butter, a stuffed toy, or even an old t-shirt that you have worn and not washed. The scent of their new owner can help dogs bond to you and help calm them when you are away. Remember greyhounds are used to living in a crate but aren't used to being in your home. Most are safer and more comfortable in the crate when you can't watch them. A crate is also essential for potty training properly.
3. Don't be afraid to use bribes to get your greyhound into the crate. The new crate at your house is not your dog's crate yet. Even a greyhound that prefers to be in crates may not want to go in a strange crate at first. Many of our members use string cheese, peanut butter smeared in a kong toy, etc to get our dogs to go in the crate. If the greyhound still won't go in, it won't traumatize them if you push them in. At the track there was no option about going in a crate and no such thing as a greyhound that "wouldn't crate". Greyhounds are very accustomed to living in a crate. Your greyhound should earn his freedom from the crate with good behavior. Allowing too much freedom too early causes potty training issues and can actually put your dog's life in danger if it gets ahold of something dangerous while you are gone. Allowing your greyhound to refuse to go in the crate teaches him that being stubborn or throwing fits keeps him from having to do things he doesn't want to do.
4. Use your dog's muzzle when you feel unsure about how the dog may react around other members of the family. This is especially necessary if you have other dogs, small dogs, cats, or even small children. We aren't saying to keep your dog muzzled forever, just use the muzzle judiciously in the first few weeks while your dog is adapting to his new home. Remember that your greyhound's job has been to chase small furry things up until now. Even the ones that seem small animal safe need time to get adjusted to seeing fast movements around them without chasing. You will receive a muzzle with your dog. Greyhounds always had their muzzles put on before leaving their kennel to go outside at the track. Most look on a muzzle fondly because it is associated with going outside. Don't feel bad about using the muzzle that comes with your dog, it is your insurance policy that keeps your other pets and even a greyhound that gets into things safer. Hold onto that muzzle because it can come in handy to prevent licking and chewing at hot spots or stitches. Greyhounds prefer the muzzle to wearing those horrible Elizabethan collars known as the Cone of Shame.
5. We recommend that you keep a collar and ID on the dog at all times. As mentioned above, you may choose to use a house collar and then have a separate martingale collar for leash use. Having a collar on your grey will help you control your dog when necessary. Retired racing greyhounds are used to being led around by their collar, so they generally respond well to being led to something or away from something in that manner. You will be given one of our ID tags when you adopt your dog please have your dog wear it and get one of your own as soon as possible.
6. Always use a martingale collar when you are controlling them outside a closed-in area. Greyhounds heads are often smaller than their necks so can slip out of standard buckle collars very easily. Martingale collars are modified choke collars and are required for greyhounds. Remember, a loose greyhound is often a lost or dead greyhound. Lets not let that happen to your new family member!
7. If you have children under 10 years of age in your home, work with your greyhound from the beginning to help the greyhound understand that these small humans are "above" him or her in the pack structure. There are a few simple things to help this: (1) Whenever the dog and child passes through a door, hold the dog back by the collar so that the child goes through first. (2) Have the child, at unexpected times, call the dog to him or her, pet the dog and at the same time give the dog a yummy treat. (3) Don't allow the dog to "own" a dog bed. Instead, when the dog first comes into the house before the dog is allowed to settle down on the dog bed, have the child sit on the dog bed and call the dog over. The child can then give the dog a treat and pet the dog, etc. Gradually have the child share the dog bed with the dog. This teaches the dog that the bed is the child's and the child is allowing the dog to use it. (4) Have the child feed the dog. An adult can prepare the food and then an adult should hold the dog by the collar. Then the child takes the food and puts the food down on the floor. Then the child should step away from the food and "release" the dog by saying "OK" or "Get it" or "Yours." Only then does the adult release the dog so the dog can get the food. This teaches the dog that good things come from the child and that the child "owns" the food and is sharing it. If you have questions on how to help young children and greyhounds adapt to each other, please let us know. We have many suggestions!
8. Plan to feed your new dog twice a day. The best thing to do is ask the foster parents how much they were feeding your new dog. That will give you a good idea of how much food your dog is eating. Feel free to add good tasting things to the food for your dog. We recommend adding 2 heaping tablespoons of plain yogurt containing active cultures to the food for at least the first several days to a week. The active cultures in the yogurt helps to settle the stomach. You may also want to consider adding Omega 3 Fatty Acids (fish oil) to the food as a supplement. Omega 3s often help your dog develop a full, soft, shiny coat. In addition, you could consider adding a Glucosamine supplement to the food especially if you have adopted one of our older dogs. As in humans, Glucosamine often helps with the joints. After the first week or so, you can experiment with adding other delectables to the food for your dog. They always like extra "treats" with their food! As tempting as it is to fatten up a skinny greyhound, remember that they are supposed to have a couple of ribs showing and the tips of both hipbones. A fat greyhound is more unhealthy and prone to injuries than one that is at racing weight and on the thin side. Do NOT over feed your greyhound!
9. Give your dog frequent chances to go outside to do its "duties" especially during that first week or so. Be sure to watch your new greyhound closely in the house to prevent accidents. We recommend leashing the dog to you for the first few days if it is out of the crate. This way if the dog starts to go you can correct and get it to the proper spot. Every accident becomes a learning experience and the dog never has the chance to begin eliminating in the house. Graduate to having the dog in the room with you by closing doors or using baby gates so you can still watch it. You want the dog to develop the habit of going outside in the proper spot from the start. A bad habit takes much longer break than the few days of supervision it takes to do it right in the first place. Also, as with a puppy, if your greyhound has been sleeping for a while (and they do that a lot), take her immediately outside to relieve herself after she wakes up. At the track when they come out of their crate they go straight out to potty. You greyhound will expect that even if they have only been in the crate for a short time. An important thing to remember is that our retired racers do not know how to "ask" to go outside when they have to relieve themselves they always went out on a set schedule at the track. It is our job to teach them that and to learn their signals in the meantime - usually sniffing, walking quickly or circling. Most greyhounds learn not to mess up in the house with surprising ease, especially if you are careful with them from the beginning.
10. Consider giving your dog raw bones as a supplement to their diet. Check our forum for information. Several of us give raw soup bones or other large uncooked bones to our dogs just as a supplement to their largely dry dog food diet. The uncooked bones provides extra calcium and does an amazing job of keeping the dogs' teeth clean! If you have adopted one of our older dogs or if your dog had multiple tooth extractions as part of their dental, talk to us before giving the raw bones to make sure that your dog can chew them up.
Things to do soon:
1. Get an identity tag to put on the collar of your dog, include dog's name, your name, address, and cell phone number. These are very handy just in case your new greyhound gets away from you somehow. You can get very nice engraved ID tags on several web sites and at some pet stores.
2. Get flea medication and heart worm medication. We recommend using Comfortis for flea control. It is a pill that works for 1 to 3 months per dose. Topical flea treatments like Frontline and Advantage just don't seem to work to control fleas for us anymore but are safe for greyhounds to use. Trifexis is a heartworm preventative that also controls fleas that is very effective. Most other heartworm preventatives your vet prescribes are fine for greyhounds. You can get these products at most veterinarian offices. You can sometimes get them at a cheaper rate from an animal shelter, a "traveling vet" or online.
3. Take a basic dog obedience class. This is a very good idea no matter what dog you adopt. Basic obedience will help you bond with your new greyhound. Plus it helps your greyhound learn that you are in charge. Once you have taught your new greyhound some basic commands, such as sit, down, and stay, you will often find it much easier to control your new family member. We highly recommend Jane Fink at Anderson Dog Works in Anderson SC, the trainers at Speedy Paws in Greenville and the trainers Jae-Mar-S in Augusta. Another thing we recommend is using "nothing in life is free" training methods for your new dog. For example, once you teach your grey to sit, then make him sit for any treat, to get a leash on for a walk, to get food, etc.
4. Find a vet that is familiar with greyhounds. Greyhounds have some fairly specialized medical issues that you would want to make sure that your vet is familiar with. For example, greyhounds tend to be very sensitive to anesthetics and are frequently misdiagnosed with kidney failure and enlarged heart by vets that aren't familiar with them. Before you have your vet do any type of serious work on your greyhound you would want to make sure that he or she knows about this. There is a book on medical issues in greyhounds called Care of the Racing and and Retired Greyhound. An excellent website on greyhound health issues is greythealth.com. Ohio State University does greyhound health research and has info on their website. Please look through those so that you can be informed about greyhound issues. The vet that handles most of our greyhounds is Dr. Jenifer Dixon at Clinton Animal Hospital in Clinton, SC. She probably is the vet most experienced with greyhounds in South Carolina and is always available for a second opinion.
5. Find a suitable kennel or reliable pet sitter for those times that you need to be away from home for one or more days. To see a list of recommended kennels and persons within Greyhound Crossroads who are interested in trading pet sitting duties, please visit our forum for adopters - Crosstalk or post on our Greyhound Crossroads Facebook page.
6. Get your greyhound officially registered in your name thru the National Greyhound Association. The NGA offers us the chance to get an adoption certificate through their website. Just follow the pet certificate link on the left side. You first get the form from the NGA, then send it to the person who owned your dog as a racer (the NGA provides the address and name of the owner) with a stamped-self-addressed envelope. Your dog's racing owner has to sign it and return the form to you. Then you send the form back to the NGA with a $30 check and they will mail you (surprisingly quickly) a very nice official pet certificate for your new family member. The certificate contains information about your dog's breeding history and identification information such as the ear tattoos and color markings. If your greyhound were to get lost and the NGA is called to identify the dog by its tattoos they could correctly tell the caller where the dog belonged rather than sending them to its previous racing owner. Be sure to keep this information updated if you move!
7. Become more involved in Greyhound Crossroads! We love to have our new members contribute to our on-going efforts in greyhound adoption. One way to help is to volunteer at our Meet and Greets and fund raising efforts. An updated list of our current events including Meet and Greets is posted on our home page along with contact information for the primary organizer of the event. We are organizing progressively bigger events all the time and need more help to handle them (all to spread the word of greyhound adoption and help these wonderful animals find a good home!). We can always use more help. So, don't be shy! Volunteer to come and help if you are interested. For more information on events go to Crosstalk the forum for our adopters.
8. Visit our Favorite Links for much more information about greyhounds and greyhound adoption. There are many links to health information, historical information, and other good stuff about greyhounds, and, of course, links to things you can buy for both you and your greyhound!