Help Us Help Our Dog
February 12, 2012 10:38 PM   Subscribe

Our greyhound Hoover lacks confidence, is unhappy, and seems to have other emotional problems. We're at a loss. Help us help our dog, please.

Some general introductory information about greyhounds: They have been raised as athletes, not as dogs. As adults, they spend their entire careers living in stacked crates at the track. They are let out of their crates 4 or 5 times a day for toileting, and for regular training. They generally are not shown kindness or compassion. They are leash-trained, but probably have learned few commands, if any. They are fed raw 4D meat. In spite of laws against it, many are doped up, and females are given hormones to keep them from going into heat. (Oversight is very lax). They receive no dental care and minimal health care. It is more common to kill a dog (or, increasingly, sell to a rescue group) than to invest in its health. If you were to think that greyhound racing and the care of greyhounds bears any resemblance to horse racing, you would be very wrong. The lucky racers that retire to rescue groups finally are met with loving volunteers who begin the long process of teaching these greyhounds to be dogs. They are talked to warmly, taken on walks, let out to romp, and introduced to solid food and the concept of play. If they get into a foster home, they are housebroken, and begin to learn the concept of toys and play, learn about glass windows and doors, may learn to use stairs, and may be exposed to other breeds of dogs or to cats, and generally begin to learn all that goes into being a housepet. It can take as much as a year before a greyhound fully comes into his eventual doggy personality.

A little over 4 years ago, my mom adopted our first retired racing greyhound. We were Hoover's first permanent home but he had been in foster for a few weeks before coming to us. Neither of us had been dog owners for years, and I think we were unprepared for the special needs of greyhounds, in spite of internet research and having been vetted by the rescue group. Hoover lived with my mom at first, but seemed to be lonely and have separation anxiety while she was at work, so he moved across the yard to spend his days with me. (Mom and I live in separate houses on the same property, and because of disability, I'm at home all day.) He seemed a little happier at my place, as he was allowed on the furniture here. We took him to the dog park regularly, where he would explore the perimeter or sniff the occasional dog-butt. Sometimes, a chihuahua might challenge him from the small-dog side of the park, and he would chase him up and down the length of the fence for a few minutes. If other greyhounds came, he would perk up a little bit more and hang out with them. We took him on neighborhood walks, but they weren't easy for me or my mom, and we tapered off them, and he would do all his pooping our yard. Hoover never particularly caught on to the idea of play. He might rarely play with a squeaky toy, but we were never able to engage him in play. He was content, more or less, to just lie around all day, which is pretty normal behavior for a greyhound. We discovered a few things that made him really happy: having his butt scratched makes him dance in a quite obscene fashion, having his ears rubbed quite vigorously makes him groan with pleasure, and several times a day he likes to lick his penis quite vigorously to orgasm (we let him do that one all by himself, LOL).

Even after some time with us, he still seemed somehow sad; we know that racing greyhounds have never NOT been with other greyhounds and thought he might like to have the company of another greyhound, so after about a year, I got Artemus. By some miracle, even though Artemus had never been in foster care, he came to us a fully-realized dog: immediately learned house rules, play, snuggling, and was certain that he was a 10 pound lap dog. Artemus tried to engage Hoover in play, and Hoover tried a little bit, but really just wasn't interested. And Artemus clearly was Alpha Dog in the new pack of two. Hoover adapted to Artemus' presence, but never seemed to bond with him, or with us, really.

Here are the issues we have with Hoover:

* Dislikes Touch: When he started spending days with me, he liked being on the couch near me, and would tolerate petting, but disliked being close enough to have our bodies touch or having a hand resting on him and would growl until I moved my hand, or until one of us would break physical contact with the other. When we got Artemus, Hoover reacted the same way with the new dog: if Artemus lay down close enough to Hoover be touching, Hoover would growl with displeasure and move away. Artemus really wanted to be friends, Hoover clearly didn't. 3 years later, Hoover still doesn't seem to like physical contact of the non-petting variety from either human or dog, but tolerates it.

* Peeing Indoors: Hoover is housetrained. In my house, he uses the doggy door to go outside to pee or poop. At mom's house, he is given frequent opportunities to go in and out as he desires. Given their living conditions as racers, grehounds are accustomed to peeing at infrequent intervals. Yet, Hoover still sometimes pees in Mom's house in a manner that doesn't seem to be either 'marking' or inability to wait. It seems almost spiteful, but in spite of what, we're not sure.

* Plaintive Barking: He often barks for reasons we can't understand. He is well-fed and -watered. He doesn't need to go outside. He has been given loving attention. But he seems to be trying to tell us he is profoundly unhappy, or needing something, or frustrated, and we just aren't getting it. Often it will happen while we are cooking or eating, but he is not begging, at least not for food. And it happens at other times just as frequently, or more. Generally, if told to go lie down, he will do so, but at these times, he won't. We can't figure out what he wants or how to make the barking stop. [Most greyhounds rarely bark. Hoover does frequently, and has taught Artemus, although Artemus tends to bark only to alert or when dogs are nearby.]

* Whining: Hoover will often whine. He will be on his dog bed, and just start whining. Anthropomorphizing again, it sounds like he is letting us know how pitiful his life is, and how sad he is.

* Compulsive licking: He often licks at his paws. He doesn't appear to have any wounds or sores, or to be in any pain. He's just as likely to lick the couch as to lick his paws. He does this a LOT, and it seems to be a way of self-soothing.

* Food-guarding: In spite of being free-fed eats very quickly, sometimes to the point of choking. He does not overeat, however. His food-guarding consists of growling or barking in warning if Artemus is nearby, but also sometimes when no one is near.

* Needing Permission to Come in the House: In spite of having long used the doggy door, he often thinks he needs permission to come inside. He never has ANY trouble exiting the house, but about 25% of the time he wants to come inside, he will either stand in silence on the other side of the door, seemingly working up his nerve to come inside, or will whine, as if asking for permission. In every case, I use a loving, welcoming, confident voice to encourage him to come in, but sometimes it will take as much as a minute or two of this before he feels he actually can come inside. When he finally does, I praise him and tell him what a good boy he is and remind him that he lives here and he can come and go freely. As far as I know, he has never had a negative experience with coming inside, and only very recently had a negative experience going outside. (He heard a squirrel outside, and he and Artemus both tried to exit the doggy door at full speed at the same time. Hoover broke a toe in the process.)

* Territory: Hoover used to enjoy occasionally getting up on my bed, and being the 'top' dog while there. But he seems to have decided that that is Artemus' domain. He seems to be relinquishing the couch to Artemus, too. Sometimes, when Artemus leaves the couch Hoover will take his spot and hang onto it no matter what interesting thing may be going on outside, seemingly preferring to be in the power position inside than be with the rest of us somewhere else. Artemus often sleeps on my bed at night, and then Hoover will reclaim his spot on the couch. Sometimes in the middle of the night, I will wake up to hear Hoover barking/crying outside, and Hoover will not come inside until seems assured that I have had Artemus move from the couch to my bed. Only then will Hoover come inside and find some peace for the night on the couch.

Hoover now lives primarly with me. He sometimes will stay at mom's overnight, and seems to enjoy his only-dog status when he is there. He will spend the evenings there too, sometimes, but seems to often be really restless while he is there, wanting to go out and come inside again frequently, as if unsure what he wants. Almost certainly, we are missing the mark in our doggy-parenting. We have not had any training, nor have the dogs. Money is an issue, but if we could budget it, I think my mom would not likely be willing to put in the consistent effort that training would require. At his last vet visit, we suggested to the vet that we thought Hoover might benefit from an anti-anxiety or anti-depressant med. She seemed to think that was unnecessary, and recommended a trainer. We've tried a ThunderShirt to help with anxiety, but don't notice any change. Can anyone help us understand Hoover's unhappiness? Can you recommend any training resources online that might be helpful, or organizations that might be willing to help us with training or behavior modification at a reduced fee, or any method that might be effective even if not used consistently by all his people? Do you think it's significant that I am his primary caregiver, and also suffer from pretty intractable depression? Would he be happier with a happier owner? We love him, but are finding it difficult sometimes to like him. It's breaking our hearts to think that he is unhappy and we can't think what might help. Can anyone help?
posted by QuakerMel to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak with any deep knowledge of dogs beyond reading a few books and receiving some advice from the rescue I got my dog from. My dog (Piedmont, actually) was in a rough emotional state when I got him. He marked, he whined, he had territory issues, he had some touch issues, and he wouldn't even eat with me in the room.
I found that clicker and crate training seemed to work the best. Somehow the regular regimen of the clicker training, and some mentally challenging play like hiding treats or a "Hide a Squirrel" toy seemed to help with everything. Once he started sitting staying, sitting, and coming when called, he stopped peeing on things, stopped barking, and generally started responding better to positive attention. He's a completely different dog from when I got him.
The books Scaredy Dog and How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend, along with Karen Pryor's stuff on clicker training were of the most help to me.
posted by piedmont at 11:29 PM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm going to second positive reward training: basically, discipline as play, giving your dog the chance to follow orders in a happy way. You're giving Hoover a lot of freedom -- free-feeding, free access in and out of the house, etc. -- which is understandable, given what he came from, but it may be a bit overwhelming. This isn't exactly the same as the boredom of border collies, who will start redecorating the house as best they can if given too much free time: the analogy that comes to mind is that of a military veteran who needs someone giving orders in civilian life, even if those orders are for nice things.

There's a previously that's semi-related, which points to a lot of breed-specific resources -- the people who adopt greyhounds (for whom I have so much respect, because they're such fantastic dogs) seem to have a really good online community.
posted by holgate at 12:15 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Ask the greyhound rescue people! This sounds exactly like the kind of thing they'd have an opinion about.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:29 AM on February 13, 2012

Two resources that I highly recommend reaching out to: the group that you adopted from should have suggestions and knowledge to help you help Hoover. Also and possibly more importantly, the forums at Greytalk are full of experienced greyhound owners and you are likely to get many useful ideas if you post your questions there, which I strongly recommend.

A few points to consider: greyhounds thrive on a routine -- are you giving this to your hounds? Positive training is bonding; it builds trust and gives the dog the satisfaction of having a "job". Leash walks similarly are not optional. Dogs really don't do things out of spite; it's not helpful to project on them.

I have two greys and have to say I take exception to nearly every point in the introductory information posted. I hope this is not misinformation that the adoption group is spreading.
posted by vers at 5:16 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hi! Former (and future) greyhound owner here. They're really awesome (and quirky) dogs, aren't they? Here's my take on some of your Hoover issues:

-Some hounds just bolt their food. You can buy specialized bowls to help with this, or you can try spreading his food out on an old cookie tray, or put an upturned can in the middle of his bowl so that he has to eat around it.

-The food-guarding and space-guarding are going to be your biggest issues. You can work on training this out (for the food issues, search around for "trading up" training), or you can just deal with it. Sometimes people need their personal space, and sometimes dogs need their personal space too. But I would at least try rewarding him (with food) when you touch him when he's on the couch.

-The rest of the issues sound like Hoover is insecure. I would try setting up a schedule for him. On the track, hounds have a very set schedule. Pee now, poop now, time to eat, out into the pen for some play, now time to sleep. Rinse, repeat. That's what Hoover's used too, and now that he's in your home, he's never quite sure what to do. It's time to eat, but does he have 10 minutes to eat? Half an hour? Time to pee. Is it time to come in? Wait, maybe it's time to play time outside? Maybe he should just wait by the door until you tell him what to do. Try taking Hoover and Artemus out for walks (even short 15-minute ones) three times a day (after your meals). If you can manage a nice long walk in the evening, or if you could find someone to give them that walk for you, that would be even better. Tell Hoover when it's time to go out in the yard, and when it's time to come back in. After dinner, time to visit your mother. At night, tell him it's bedtime, and give him his space (whether that's on the bed, or on the couch, just keep it routine). The key is that you show him that he doesn't need to worry about most things. You're the leader, you'll make the decisions, all he has to do is listen to you and everything'll be fine.

-Training is always good advice, but if you can't afford a trainer, Karen Pryor's books are great. Even simple stuff like getting the dog to track your hand and touch it with his nose can keep him engaged and keep his mind busy.
posted by specialagentwebb at 5:23 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think others have made great suggestions about some of those issues (I agree with the scheduling and insecurity answers), but I want to address the Barking and Whining ones.

Our grey, Batman, sounds pretty similar to your Artemis - only minor adjustment problems. Sometimes, even though he is well-fed, well-exercised, and has plenty of toys to play with if he chooses, Batman will lay on his bed, look at us 'forlornly', and whine. We figured out eventually that he just likes the sound of his voice. Most greyhounds are not barkers, but IME some just... are.

(You are not the first dog owner with depression to think that you are making your dog depressed or unhappy - you're really, really not.)

Training can absolutely help a dog even though only one person in his life is putting effort into it. I would say that if you decide to put Artemis on a more set schedule, you need the buy-in from your mom on this issue, but otherwise positive-reinforcement clicker training is often only consistently done by one owner.
posted by muddgirl at 5:44 AM on February 13, 2012

Also, you didn't mention whether or not Hoover and Artemus have crates at your place or your mom's place. I know that some greyhound owners think that they might be 'cruel' due to their use at the training facility, but IMO if it is what they're comfortable with, it's cruel not to use them part-time. When we started crating Batman at night (always a positive experience, with lots of treats, always in our bedroom where we are sleeping), his night-time anxiety disappeared completely.

It also might give Hoover somewhere to go where he feels comfortable and safe at other times of the day, while y'all are working out what environmental factors are at play in his stress and insecurity.
posted by muddgirl at 6:46 AM on February 13, 2012

Response by poster: vers: Tucson Greyhound Park has a terrible reputation nationally, and a lot of sketchy things go on there, including vets that knowingly and blatantly break the laws and a lack of police interest in enforcing them, documented abuses (see videos from Grey2K) and killing of injured animals when rescue groups are on the way to pick them up. If your experience has been that other tracks are better, I'm glad to hear it.
posted by QuakerMel at 6:58 AM on February 13, 2012

Find a local trainer via a rescue group. I think even 1-2 sessions would help you and Hoover out tremendously.

This is not helpful as we never figured out what he wanted, but my greyhound barked at 9pm every night. He would do it from the couch, didn't want food, didn't want out, would usually go with us if we got in bed but that didn't seem to be his point. It was especially strange because he would just bark into the air - like, he wasn't barking *at* me like he would if he wanted out and I wasn't paying attention, he was just having a bit of a bark. You might, out of curiosity, just track the random barking and see if maybe he's (or possibly something he can hear/smell and you can't) on a schedule.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:43 AM on February 13, 2012

Your go-to resources are: 1. Greyhound adoption groups in your area; 2. forums; 3. A dog trainer, preferably one with greyhound experience.

As an owner of a greyhound (my second) I know that they are quirky dogs, but coming at them with such a strong Oh Woe is You; Your Life Has Been So Hard vibe does not help give them confidence. Yes they can be sensitive souls and you don't want to use too strong a hand, but at the same time it's OK to expect obedience and appropriate behavior. Coddling them only makes self-confidence issues worse. They are dogs first, greyhounds second.

Nthing what others have said about routine. Routine, routine, routine! My previous greyhound (Alina) had a nervous bladder her whole life, and if something in our routine was shifted, or, for example, we moved a piece of furniture, we could expect accidents in the house for a few days until she felt settled again. This is despite the fact that otherwise she was an exuberant, confident hound. We used baby gates to contain her to easily-cleaned rooms and put down puppy pads when later in life her age and illness made her house training issues worse. I think moving back and forth between your house and your mom's may be making things difficult for Hoover on that front.

I agree with others that training Hoover -- teaching him sit, stay, come, and other tricks -- would also help his confidence greatly. Incorporate it into his routine. Make him sit or lay down before he gets dinner, or before he gets to go for a walk.

Compulsive licking - both of my greyhounds have done this to an extent, and it is always, always worse in the winter when their skin is dry. I have to have a white noise machine at night because the licking drives me insane and keeps me up. I think it's somewhat normal as long as he's not licking to the point of sores or losing fur.

Whining - My current hound (Blink) is a whiner too. He does it when he wants attention. He does it when he wants to go outside. He does it when he wants to play with his squeaky toys. He does it when he's bored. He does it when he wants to go upstairs to his crate. Some dogs are just more vocal than others. It's ok to tell him to shush if you know all his needs have been met.

Coming in/out of the house - We're going through something similar with our Blink Dog right now. He slips on our hardwood floors all the time and that makes him panic when he's about to go through the same area where he slipped before... which makes him bolt and then he is more likely to slip again. It's annoying but mostly we grab his collar and expect him to walk normally through and into/out of the house.

Territory - We don't let Blink on the couch or bed, because he will get growly at us if we touch him after he's settled there or fallen asleep. Even though it almost seems like it comes out of him without intent on his part, like it's just a reflex, it's still unacceptable. Maybe neither dogs being on human couches/beds is a worthwhile rule to institute?

On preview: Agreeing with muddgirl about crating. Alina didn't like crates, but Blink Dog LOVES his. Loves it. Asks to be let upstairs so he can go hang out in there. It is his safe place and his favorite place to be and it definitely helps him feel more confident/settled.

Good luck! Also chiming in alongside vers that tracks can be run very well and ethically, and the dogs thrive having a job. I've had a behind-the-scenes tour of Dairyland park (now closed due to financial reasons) in Wisconsin and saw it with my own eyes. Be careful talking about racing on Greytalk, too. There are knowledgeable industry folks there that are amazingly helpful to the pet owners, and to keep the peace the mods don't let heavily anti-/pro-racing comments stick around.
posted by misskaz at 7:44 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Greyhound owner here.

Definitely seek out a trainer - most of the work is really training YOu to learn how to interact with the dog and help it understand it's new life. Contact your rescue group - they should be able to provide training resources and recommendations.

Nthsing a routine. Witht he licksing and all, sounds like maybe he needs more walks and attention.

Our pup is also a bit shy and it took us a while to figure out how to coax him out of his shell.

We took our dog through a basic obedience class, and he's now on his second class of nosework (which unexpectedly, he LOVES). Ours isn't big on playing with stuffies... unless they make a deep honking noise. Experiment with different sounding stuffies. Ours loves honking hedgehogs and those AKC ducks that quack.

Definitely get him a bowl with ridges to prevent gobbling, or a Slow Down ball - metal or ceramic ball you can put in his bowl.

If he's food motivated, you can really use that to reinforce training. We play games in the condo where we call him to us, have him do paw, sit, down, whatever, and then treat him. He gets a kick out of finding where we've hidden (even in our small condo.)

Ours also loves his crate, and we make it into a Dog Cave in winter by putting blankets on it. We let him on the bed whenever we're not home, but if we're home, he's off. If yours is growly, then you need to kick him off permanently and give him some nice dog beds.

We put down some runners in our hardwood floors, because our poor dog was sliding into the trash can and leaving dents.
posted by canine epigram at 8:09 AM on February 13, 2012

Not an expert on greyhounds in anyway, our Rat Terrier though was a rescue that had been abused and starved when we got him and he had a lot of similar issues. He used to have nightmares, do the plaintive barking/whining thing and weird personal space issues, he also had trouble understanding what other dogs where trying to say to him in regards to being friendly or wanting to play and just assumed that everyone was going to hurt him.

Things that helped the most where starting clicker training with him and going to agility classes. He came completely out of his shell at the agility classes, when we started he couldn't even be in the room with any other dogs because he just freaked out and needed private classes within a few months he graduated to group class, which we never thought he would be able to do. The training went a huge way in to increasing his self confidence and in teaching him that it is fun to play and do things with his person. You don't even have to go to classes, there is a lot of great info online on positive training or clicker training and it's very easy to pick up, even just working on the basics will help him.

We worked on his food and toy guarding issues by feeding him is dinner by hand one piece at a time basically. We both spend ages taking his chews or toys away from him and then praising him lavishly and then giving them back to him so he is a lot less guarded about things like that. You can also get special bowls to slow dogs down with their eating.

His personal space issues where really helped by lots of gentle touching from us. Everything was reinforced with lots of praise and treats, we think he was so used to being touched by anything else as being a bad thing that got him into trouble that he was super hesitant, so we let him know that touch was a good thing and we liked it and he was a good boy for doing it. He still grumble growls at our other dog (who is the alpha) if he gets too close but the alpha is a very gentle dog and just ignores him and snuggles him anyway. Which is hilarious to watch, one dog happily snuggling another who is muttering away complaining, but is actually liking it so doesn't move, it's like he thinks he has to complain.

Some dog lick their feet a lot due to grass allergies itching, it might be worth checking with the vet or trying some benadryl. It sometimes doesn't show up as sores or anything, just licking at their feet.

I hated crating with a passion, but strangely enough our Rat Terrier needed it desperately, having a safe place to call his own helped him feel braver. We've never locked the door on his crate, and it has now evolved into him just needing a highsided bed to snuggle down in that is his and his alone, but having a safe space that was completely closed in made a huge difference to him at first.
posted by wwax at 8:21 AM on February 13, 2012

I have a rescue lab mix who has some similar fear issues, including being intermittently freaked out by coming back inside the house. When we first got him he was so fearful that he hid under the hedge or under the back porch for hours. He has gotten a lot more secure and functional over time just through training, acceptance, and routine, but he's still a pretty anxious little guy. On the door thing, there are still often times that he will want to come inside but seem too fearful to do so -- he just kind of freezes up a couple feet in front of the door and can't/won't move to come in, tho he plainly wants to. No reason for it that I can ever figure out, except that it seems to hit him when there is activity inside the kitchen when he decides he wants to come in. One thing that helps is my husband uses a special whistle and words ("time to come in your house now Harry") and that seems to help him make up his mind to dash in. Sometimes though we just have to go out there with a leash and lead him in.

At this point, it's just how he is -- which is the main thing I came here to say. My Harry is just drawn that way; that may be the case with your Hoover also. You love your grey and are giving him a warm and happy and loving home. His personality may just be fixed this way to some extent. Don't feel guilty about it, and don't blame it on yourself at all. Just accept his issues and help him work on them to the extent you can, and just work around them and keep loving him like he is if you can't.
posted by Cocodrillo at 9:02 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hoover sounds very lucky to have you.

In a perfect world I tell you to consult with a board-certified veterinary behaviorists. But I realize the cost of this can be prohibitive.

Fantastic online training resources abound at:
Dr. Sopia Yin's website
Patricia McConnell's website (she was worked extensively with working dogs, so much of her writing is applicable to Hoover in a way that other texts may not)

I'd also recommend that you get a copy of Karen Overall's Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals. The title sounds pretty dense, but the text is very accessable.

If you decide to go with a trainer I'd checked out the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers to find qualified trainers in your area.

These are all resources I have consulted when dealing with my crazy canine companions. The best thing you can do for Hoover is to continue to educate yourself.

Good luck!
posted by OsoMeaty at 9:37 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another resource I'd reccomend (perhaps when you are further down the line) is the series Tips for Tired Trainers on the After Gadget blog. Sharon has a host of medical issues that make dog training very difficult for her, so she's adapted some of the advice given by McConnell and other positive reinforcement trainers to work better for her lifestyle. She is also home-bound and frankly, I think her blog is a treasure.
posted by muddgirl at 9:47 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also one more thing: With my Harry, we found that just three sessions with a trainer/behaviorist helped immensely with one of his more annoying issues, freezing up on his walks and not wanting to budge. It was, like, $80 a session and well worth it. (His primary focus wasn't training the dog, it was training us to deal with the dog, but it worked.)
posted by Cocodrillo at 9:48 AM on February 13, 2012

TGP is not a good place. If it disappeared overnight, it would be a great thing. The dogs that come out of there are often in pretty rough shape.

Sounds like Hoover does indeed need a job. We don't have greys (we have cats, and cats and greys don't mix) but we've got pooches, and routine is extremely important. That's part of their job. One of ours gets pretty wiggly when we take him places, so he wears a little backpack with his clean up bags in it. That's another job for him. If Hoover goes for a couple of walks everyday, that's part of his job. If he knows that he needs to do a trick at 6 pm for a treat, that's part of his job. It's also why training helps - a dog that understands what it's supposed to do is a more confident dog.

I know funds are an issue, but I don't know of any programs to help with that. An eight week course will run about $100. Call the Humane Society - they have a fantastic facility on Kleindale Rd. for training. Cactus Canine does Koehler training, and I don't recommend that for your dog - it's effective but it can be rough, and it's best used with really stubborn dogs. The nice thing about the training is that you go for a day and then work with your dog the rest of the week - hey, that sounds like a job for Hoover. I'd recommend training before anything else.
posted by azpenguin at 9:59 AM on February 13, 2012

"Cats - and - greys - don't - mix." Please don't take this personally azpenguin, but this is such a terrific example of propaganda needing fact-checking. Many, likely a majority of, greyhounds can in fact live peacefully with cats.

OP, I know it's a tangent, but moving greyhounds into adoption programs is entirely dependent on goodwill and cooperation between racing owners/trainers and adoption groups. To that end -- greyhounds moving on to enjoy retirement -- it does not help the cause to repeat old information or broadcast unnecessary animosity to the racing industry. You are correct in a sense about the Tucson track, but I'll hope conditions continue to improve there as they have (almost) everywhere else.

You've gotten a lot of good tips above on training, communication, routine and crating/safe space, and I hope it helps you and Hoover finds ways to enjoy each other more.
posted by vers at 10:27 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Trai, our grey, was just fine with cats; in fact he and Toonces used to nap together on his bed every afternoon. Trai was also very skittish and "spooky" when we adopted him. For a long time whenever we petted him he just stood stock still and lowered his head - he didn't know what affection or stroking was. It took a long time and lots of patience before he slowly came out of his shell. I still remember the afternoon (we'd had him for about a year) when he walked over to where I was sitting on the sofa and placed his head on my knee and looked up at me. I stroked his head and ears and he sighed and left his head in place. Trai never really learned how to play; he had lots of toys and he never touched a one.

As far as getting him to come in after going outside for his toilette, for the first four months or so I always went out with him and stayed while he attended to business, whether it was night or day, snowing or sunny. And then I'd walk back in the house and he'd follow me (he was pretty much my shadow at the time). And I always gave him a "cookie" (that was the word he knew) - a Marro Bone or a piece of cheese - when he came back inside. Eventually I started letting him out by himself and he simply did his thing and then trotted back to the door and waited to get inside (perhaps the cookie was an enticement). Even though he had no use for toys, there were some things Trai absolutely loved, one of which was going for a walk. We never even went very far, two or three blocks max usually, but he went completely giddy whenever I got his leash out. Even if it was snowing or freezing, Trai loved his walks. Maybe Hoover would enjoy going out on regular walks with you as opposed to just being let loose at the dog park. (Just curious, why are neighborhood walks difficult?)

Compulsive paw-licking is usually a sign of boredom or anxiety; licking the paws releases endorphins and the grey does this sometimes to soothe himself. Other than checking with your vet, I can only tell you that what eventually seemed to cure Trai of his licking and nervous pacing/whining was me keeping up a constant patter of "baby" talk to him....(drove Mr. Adams nuts!)...while preparing dinner I'd scoot his bankie (doggie bed) close to the kitchen door and I'd coo "Is Trai a good boy? Oh, that's such a pretty play bow! Mommy is so clumsy she spilled breadcrumbs all over, look at that!" He'd watch me, ears pricked up the entire time and sometimes give me a greyhound smile. I think for some reason talking to him and mentioning his name made him feel "secure" or like he wasn't being ignored...? I dunno, but it seemed to soothe him. Best of luck with Hoover!
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:08 AM on February 13, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you all for your advice and feedback. We've yet to implement any of the wonderful suggestions, but there has been an interesting development. We believe that as a result of you helping us to have a better understanding of our grey's behavior and mindset, we have been more compassionate in our interactions with him. There has been a subtle shift in us and also in him. He has been barking a bit less, and is back on the couch and initiating fur-to-skin contact.
posted by QuakerMel at 8:42 AM on February 18, 2012

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