(Read chapter 1 through 3 in the greyhound category)
My father had trained hunting dogs when I grew up, so I thought I had a few tricks up my sleeve to deal with Poppy’s separation anxiety.
The adoption agency recommended to keep her in a kennel since that’s what she is used to. Since not leaving my house was not an option, I outfitted an oversized dog kennel with comfy cushions, water and food and coaxed her in several times a day for an hour or so, staying with her the entire time. No problem so far. It’s recommended to leave only for a few minutes at first, extending the time longer and longer over a couple of days. But as she was perfectly happy with me sitting by her kennel, she didn’t take kindly to me leaving and soon the battle of the wills began.
First it was just pacing and whimpering. Then the howling began. Ever heard a greyhound howl? It’s ear piercing and heart breaking and in the long run will bring the police to your front door since your neighbors within the next 2 blocks might think you are running a torture program in your basement.
I spend extended time sitting out on my doorstep explaining to concerned passersby that there is no reason to call the authorities, hoping for that ‘aha’ moment when Poppyseed would realize the pretty good deal she got hooking up with me. But instead she started biting the kennel wire until her mouth bled. That was when I noticed there was something wrong with her front teeth. She must have done this before and had worn her teeth to a stubble gnawing on her cage. A light bulb went off – she hated her kennel! She probably had always hated her kennel. I decided to let her roam the house. My fears that she would destroy everything in it didn’t materialize, but the howling continued as soon as I was out of sight.
The nice thing about greyhound adoption outfits is that they really know the breed and are willing to work with you, so all kinds of suggestions started pouring in.
To be continued.
Timing is everything! Dogs will only recognize the meaning of a reward or a correction if the time between them is very short. Most behaviorists say that one must deliver feedback within a second of the behavior. This is not only because dogs have a short attention span and memory. If you like him to sit but don’t give feedback the second he puts his bottom down, he might be already back up. In that case it’s better to not reward at all then to reward the wrong behavior. Move the treat out of sight and say “UH OH!” Then ask him to sit again and reward immediately. Rewarding or correcting your dog immediately also teaches him to act fast and not hesitate when a command is given.
Consistency is another must. Mixed messages confuse dogs and can make them anxious and non responsive.
Can he jump up at you or not? If you allow him to greet you by jumping up at you, but yell at him if he does the same comming back from a muddy run, what message are you giving him?
This goes for anyone handling your dog which is sometimes hard to enforce. Especially people who don’t have dogs, need to be educated unless you want to spend hours un-training the bad behavior. In my experience this is especially difficult around food. Because dogs can be incredible cute and persistent around the good smells of home cooking, it is difficult to keep people from feeding him with table scraps. Unless you don’t mind your dog getting obnoxious as soon as you sit down for your dinner, you need to be as firm with your friends as with your dog. A good trick is telling them your dog is allergic to people food.
Using consistent commands is also important. Dogs can, with training, associate the word ‘come’ with coming to you. But it confuses them when you have taught them the word ‘come’ but then ask them to ‘come here’ or ‘here’ . What in the world does ‘here’ mean, he might think.
One of the biggest mistakes is to punish your dog when he finally comes back to you after you told him to do so for the last ten minutes. Grind your teeth and reward him for coming back at all. If you yell at him you will have taught him that it was a mistake to come back and he will stay away longer next time. (By the way, a good trick to get your dog to come to you, if he is not yet properly trained, is running away from him. If you run after him he’ll think it just a fun game, if you run in the opposite direction he’ll want to follow you. Have your treat ready when he does.)
Most dogs react more to the tone of voice than what is said. Try saying ‘Good Boy’ in an angry voice or ‘Bad Dog’ in a high pitched happy voice and you know what I mean.