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Welcoming Retired Racing Greyhounds into Your Home: A Guide to a Smooth Transition


Retired racing greyhounds make wonderful companions, but their transition from athlete to house hound requires a thoughtful and patient approach. Here’s how to ensure your new greyhound feels safe and supported as they adjust to their new life with you.


Taking Things Slowly

When a retired racing greyhound first arrives at your home, it’s crucial to take things slowly. These dogs have spent their lives in a very structured environment, and everything in your home is new to them. Start by providing a calm and quiet space where they can feel secure. Allow them time to explore and adjust at their own pace, rather than overwhelming them with too much too soon.


High Prey Drive

Greyhounds have a natural high prey drive, which is not something we can change but must manage. Providing outlets that cater to this instinct is essential. Activities like mantrailing and scentwork are excellent for boosting their confidence and giving them a job to do. These activities can tire them out both mentally and physically, helping them adjust to their new role.


Sensitivity

Retired greyhounds are incredibly sensitive dogs, especially to raised voices. It’s important to keep the environment calm and avoid shouting, even during exciting moments like watching football on the telly. Never scold them for something you perceive to be wrong; gentle guidance and positive reinforcement are key to building their trust and confidence.


Encountering New Things

Your home is filled with many new sights and sounds for a retired greyhound. From the television to the oven, and the lawnmower to the printer, these are all noises they’ve never encountered before. Be mindful of reflections from TVs and windows, and consider closing curtains or putting up screens to reduce visual stimuli. Gradually introduce them to these new experiences, ensuring they always feel safe.


Reducing Stimuli

To help your greyhound settle, it’s important to reduce stimuli that might encourage chasing behaviours. Keeping their area small initially can help them feel more secure. Gradually expand their space as they become more comfortable. Ensuring they have a quiet, safe place to retreat to can also help reduce anxiety.


Building Confidence

Having humans around all the time can be a big adjustment for a retired racing greyhound. Be mindful of the potential for separation anxiety and work on building their confidence. Gradually acclimate them to being alone for short periods, increasing the time as they become more comfortable.  Allowing them to follow you will help them to feel safe, you can leave them nice things to eat or chew in another room.  As they feel secure, you will see them start to leave you or stay in the room as you leave.


Startle Response

Greyhounds can have a heightened startle response, so it’s important to give them plenty of space and not touch them without letting them know you’re there. This ensures both their safety and the safety of everyone in the household. When they are sleeping, speak to them calmly before approaching.  They do love to be touched and will invade your space at every available opportunity when they are awake.


Mental Stimulation

Now that your greyhound is no longer racing, providing mental stimulation is crucial. Engaging them in activities like scentwork or mantrailing can help keep their minds sharp and provide a satisfying outlet for their energy. Remember, a mentally stimulated greyhound is a happy greyhound.




Love of Travel

Many retired racing greyhounds have a love of travel, often enjoying car rides. They’re used to travelling to races, and this can be a comforting and familiar activity for them. Just ensure that their travels lead to enjoyable experiences, reinforcing the positive association.


Toileting

Toileting a retired racing greyhound is much like having an adult puppy in the house. Schedule regular toilet breaks, especially after meals, naps, and play sessions. We've found that their evening meal often triggers the need to toilet most, so be ready with that lead to get them outside quickly. Consistency and patience will help them learn the new routine.


Training in the moment

Capturing behaviours is a positive reinforcement training technique that involves rewarding your dog when they naturally perform a desired behaviour on their own. Simply put, it means "catching" your dog in the act of doing something you like and immediately rewarding them for it. For example, if your greyhound lies down on their own, you can use a treat or praise to let them know that this behaviour is good. Over time, they will begin to understand that this action leads to positive outcomes and will be more likely to repeat it.


Capturing is a powerful and gentle way to teach your dog new behaviours without any force, making training a fun and rewarding experience for both of you.  Little things like standing on 4 paws while you place their dinner down, no cues or pressure, just wait for that second of stillness and pop the bowl down.  You have just successfully captured a behaviour you like and rewarded it – big time!


Door Manners

Retired racing greyhounds often lack what we might consider "door manners." These dogs are accustomed to bursting out of traps with a single-minded focus on the race ahead, and they can reach speeds of up to 45 mph in just six strides. This instinctive behaviour means they might dash out of doors quickly and with great force if not carefully managed. To help them adjust, it's essential to teach them patience and control around doors, ensuring their safety and the safety of others. Gradual training and positive reinforcement can help them learn to wait calmly, preventing any unintentional high-speed escapes. Try dropping a treat behind you before you open the door, this will teach them to slow down on approach!


One Month In: Our Journey with Argento the Retired Racing Greyhound

Welcoming a retired racing greyhound into your home can be incredibly rewarding. By taking things slowly, managing their prey drive, and providing plenty of mental and physical stimulation, you’ll help them transition smoothly from athlete to beloved house hound. Patience and understanding are essential to ensuring your new companion feels safe, supported, and happy in their new environment.


Argento has adjusted remarkably well to our routine. He’s happy to settle by my desk during the day or relax on the sofa in the evening. To help him wind down, we make sure he gets both mental and physical exercise, giving him a good reason to rest and process everything he's learned. His toileting habits are improving too; we just need to be quick to take him out after his evening meal, which tends to trigger an immediate need to pee.


At night, he sleeps soundly, with access to both his own space and ours, ensuring he feels secure. We’re always ready to take him outside if needed. Argento now enjoys exploring the garden off-lead and we continually reward him for any engagement he initiates during this time. He plays happily with his toys when we’re busy and seeks interaction when he needs it. While he hasn’t started playing with Mika yet, they both enjoy a game of ‘find it’ with treats in the garden or on walks. Mika’s presence is also helping Argento with his recall, as greyhounds love a bit of friendly competition!


Do you share your life with a retired sighthound (or one who has done a job in the past and now shares your sofa)?  We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences with your retired greyhounds!


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