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Help- My Greyhound Just Bite Me

Guest Miadog

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Hi All:

I recently rescued a very sweet greyhound that is 5 years old from Hemopet in Southern Cal. Everything is going well, he seems to be adapting to his non- track, non-kennel environment until tonight. I have had him for 3 weeks... the only hiccup right now (and I love him dearly) is when we are laying in bed, sometimes he gets startled and growls or snaps at me at night. I read greyhounds don't like to be surprised but it has concerned me for the last week or so. Tonight it escalated big time. He was laying on the bed and I approached him, he was awake, I laid down next to him and I was petting him, in what I felt was an intimate moment. I touched his nose and held it gently, suddenly he lashed out and snapped at me, biting my head and my arm. Bleeding now. It's not too bad, I am fine. But more worried about him and why he reacted this way. Did I trigger something that happened to him on the track? Do all greyhounds have a sensitivity that I might not be aware of? Any guidance welcome. I just want to make his home perfect for him and better understand Pluto's breed. Thank you.


bit me:)

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How scary! Are you ok?


Greyhounds are used to having their own private space at the track. They essentially live in crates. Sometimes it takes a while to adjust to people getting so close and occasionally they will never like it. This isn't unusual. Three weeks is a very short period of time.


You might not want to get so close when he is one a bed, especially if it is his "quiet place". Leave him alone and give him space. I believe that he had been warning you with his growls and snaps. If he is sleeping on your bed, I suggest you kick him out and take away his bed privileges. If he was on his own bed, give him space and leave him alone when he is on it.


Personally I've nev experienced this so I'm sure people who have will chime in. Good luck and patience.

Xavi the galgo and Allen the cat. Missing Iker the galgo ?-Feb.9/19, Treasure (USS Treasure) April 12/01-May 6/13, Phoenix (Hallo Top Son) Dec.14/99-June 4/11 and Loca (Reko Swahili) Oct.9/95 - June 1/09.

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Many Greyhounds sleep with their eyes open which makes it really difficult to tell if they are really awake. Perhaps calling to him and waiting until he raises his head or gives some other indication he is, in fact, awake will alleviate this hiccup. You did nothing wrong. Greyhounds are just not accustomed to sharing space -- they do, after all, have their own 'apartments' while racing and I suspect he did while at Hemopet as well.


You have only had him for a very short period of time and many will suggest it is far too early to be allowing Pluto on ? your bed, or did you approach him on his bed. Either way, perhaps waiting till you are better acquainted with each other would be the more prudent approach.


Again, you did nothing wrong and did not trigger anything more than his inate startle reflex. Time should most likely fix that.


Congratulations on joining the cult of Greyhounds. They are like no other breed of dog, and as wonderful as any dog that has ever walked the earth. Good luck in getting to know each other better and building a strong bond. Patience is the key with Greys and they will reward you for that patience a hundred times over.

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Some hounds are more reactive than others when startled. Some of this has been covered above by others.


Our boy can be easily startled when sleeping. For now, you need to keep him off of the bed and other furniture until such time that his "startle" is under control. He should have his own bed on the floor (or several in various areas of the house. Our boy is easily startled and we have a "no petting unless he's standing up rule." No one is to approach him, touch him or have any contact unless he is standing up. We do this because he often sleeps with his eyes open, and even though we think he;s awake, we get the same reaction that you did because he can be sound asleep. It is strictly for everyone;s safety.


3 weeks is no time at all for him to get used to someone being in "his space."


If you search the sire for "sleep startle" you will find similar issues and info from others who have worked with hounds to reduce or eliminate this behavior.


Other will chime in with similar experiences. Just know that you should caution all guests, visitors, children etc that he is only to be petted when he;s standing and he comes to you for attention. The last thing you want is to have someone bitten and have to deal with the mess that comes along with that, when in reality the dog was simply giving a warning that he wasn't comfortable with the situation.


Good luck


Camp Broodie. The current home of Mark Kay Mark Jack, and Diva Astar Dashindiva.   Always missing my boy Rocket Hi Noon Rocket,  Allie  Phoenix Dynamite, Kate Miss Kate, Starz Under Da Starz, and Petunia MW Neptunia.


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I'm so glad you are ok and I'm so glad you came here for assistance! This is a workable situation, but it is a wake up call, for sure. Many of us have had something similar happen.


Retired racing greyhounds are not used to having to share their sleeping space with anyone else. My first piece of advice is to not let him sleep on your bed with you at this point in time, second is that you respect his space when he is sleeping on his bed. He has to learn to trust you, you are still new to him. The old adage, "Let sleeping dogs lie" is based on truth. Carl was snarky when I made the mistake of letting him up on the couch and on my bed too soon. When he snapped at me I verbally corrected him and made him get down. It didn't take long for him to figure out that he had to live by my rules on the bed and furniture, but some dogs never can.


Someone on GT posted this after I brought Carl home and this made it all very very clear to me, their previous lives are very different than other dogs. Not bad or sad, just different and we need to keep that in mind.


This is an excerpt from a 1998 seminar given by Kathleen Gilley. It bears



"What is your new adoptive greyhound thinking?


This breed has never been asked to do anything for itself, make any

decisions or answer any questions. It has been waited on, paw and

tail. The only prohibition in a racing Greyhound's life is not to get

into a fight----------------or eat certain stuff in the turn out pen.


Let us review a little. From weaning until you go away for schooling,

at probably a year and a half, you eat, grow and run around with your

siblings. When you go away to begin your racing career, you get your

own "apartment," in a large housing development. No one is allowed in

your bed but you, and when you are in there, no one can touch you,

without plenty of warning.


Someone hears a vehicle drive up, or the kennel door being unlocked.

The light switches are flipped on. The loud mouths in residence, and

there always are some, begin to bark or howl. You are wide awake by

the time the human opens your door to turn you out. A Greyhound has

never been touched while he was asleep.


You eat when you are fed, usually on a strict schedule. No one asks

if you are hungry or what you want to eat. You are never told not to

eat any food within your reach. No one ever touches your bowl while

you are eating. You are not to be disturbed because it is important

you clean your plate.


You are not asked if you have to "go outside." You are placed in a

turn out pen and it isn't long before you get the idea of what you

are supposed to do while you are out there. Unless you really get out

of hand, you may chase, rough house and put your feet on everyone and

everything else. The only humans you know are the "waiters" who feed

you, and the "restroom attendants" who turn you out to go to the

bathroom. Respect people? Surely you jest.


No one comes into or goes out of your kennel without your knowledge.

You are all seeing; all knowing. There are no surprises, day in and

day out. The only thing it is ever hoped you will do is win, place or

show, and that you don't have much control over. It is in your blood,

it is in your heart, it is in your fate-- or it is not.


And when it is not, then suddenly you are expected to be a civilized

person in a fur coat. But people don't realize you may not even speak

English. Some of you don't even know your names, because you didn't

need to. You were not asked or told to do anything as an individual;

you were always part of the "condo association"; the sorority or

fraternity and everyone did everything together, as a group or pack.

The only time you did anything as an individual is when you schooled

or raced, and even then, You Were Not Alone.


Suddenly, he is expected to behave himself in places he's never been

taught how to act. He is expected to take responsibility for saying

when he needs to go outside, to come when he is called, not to get on

some or all of the furniture, and to not eat food off counters and

tables. He is dropped in a world that is not his, and totally without

warning, at that.


Almost everything he does is wrong. Suddenly he is a minority. Now he

is just a pet. He is unemployed, in a place where people expect him

to know the rules and the schedule, even when there aren't any. (How

many times have you heard someone say, "He won't tell me when he has

to go out." What kind of schedule is that?) Have you heard the joke

about the dog who says, "My name is No-No Bad Dog. What's yours?" To

me that is not even funny. All the protective barriers are gone.

There is no more warning before something happens. There is no more

strength in numbers. He wakes up with a monster human face two inches

from his. (With some people's breath, this could scare Godzilla.) Why

should he not, believe that this "someone," who has crept up on him,

isn't going to eat him for lunch? (I really do have to ask you ladies

to consider how you would react if someone you barely knew crawled up

on you while you were asleep?) No, I will not ask for any male input.


Now he is left alone, for the first time in his life, in a strange

place, with no idea of what will happen or how long it will be before

someone comes to him again. If he is not crated, he may go through

walls, windows or over fences, desperately seeking something

familiar, something with which to reconnect his life. If he does get

free, he will find the familiarity, within himself: the adrenaline

high, the wind in his ears, the blood pulsing and racing though his

heart once again--until he crashes into a car.


Often, the first contact with his new family is punishment, something

he's never had before, something he doesn't understand now,

especially in the middle of the rest of the chaos. And worst of all,

what are the most common human reactions to misbehavior? We live in a

violent society, where the answer to any irritation is a slap, punch,

kick, whip, or rub your nose in it. Under these circumstances,

sometimes I think any successful adoption is a miracle.


He is, in effect, expected to have all the manners of at least a six-

year old child. But, how many of you would leave an unfamiliar six-

year old human alone and loose in your home for hours at a time and

not expect to find who knows what when you got back? Consider that if

you did, you could be brought up on charges of child abuse, neglect

and endangerment. Yet, people do this to Greyhounds and this is often

the reason for so many returns.


How many dogs have been returned because they did not know how to

tell the adopter when they had to go out? How many for jumping on

people, getting on furniture, counter surfing, separation anxiety, or

defensive actions due to being startled or hurt (aka growling or

biting)? So, let's understand: Sometimes it is the dog's "fault" he

cannot fit in. He is not equipped with the social skills of a six-year old human. But you can help him."

Sunsands Doodles: Doodles aka Claire, Bella Run Softly: Softy aka Bowie (the Diamond Dog)

Missing my beautiful boy Sunsands Carl 2.25.2003 - 4.1.2014

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Guest Clawsandpaws

I agree with every one else but wanted to add: even if you are sure he is awake, many dogs simply do not want their space invaded. It might not be forever, but for right now, be respectful of his bed (keep in mind that ANYTHING he is laying on can be considered his bed) My grey, regardless of whether or not he was awake, would give warning signals that he did not want to be touched, pet on his bed, or while laying down. He snapped several times at my exboyfriend who did exactly what you were doing. So we learned to respect our pups limits, and only gave affection while he was standing up.


Dudley and I did "bonding exercises" meaning, desensitization, hand feeding, walks, obedience training, and eventually he learned to trust me to the point where we can be serious cuddle buddies (it has been almost three years since I adopted him) he now SAFELY sleeps in bed with me every night, no growls, no snaps. That does not mean EVERY dog will ever be okay with certain things, but I think many can.


What you consider to be intimate, a dog considers to be intimidating. I don't think this is an aggression issue, or even territorial. He just doesn't know you, and maybe you missed some of his warning signals, but a lack of communication caused him to feel like the only way he could get his point across was to bite. It is a shame, but you can work with him from here! Some dogs are more tolerant than others. Good luck!

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He's lucky to have you for his dad! Anyway like the others have said its no biggie-not aggression or probably not even a space issue per se. Most likely just a communication issue. 3 weeks is a very short amount of time to get to know anybody and get used to a new place. Canines have a different culture than humans. What we think is one thing they can perceive as entirely different. Hugging and bending over them/cuddeling etc can be especially scarey to the canine who has not learned and adjusted to these threatening moves(in the canine world) that humans' make. Check out the Patricia McConnel books-they will help you understand. In the meantime just give him love and work on building engagement with him and give him lots of time to adjust to living so closely with a whole new species for the first time. And really biting itself doesn't mean anything other than that he was trying to COMMUNICATE with you -and that is how dogs communicate with each other as well. If he would have wanted to hurt you he could have/it could have been much worse if he had wanted. But all he wanted to do was communicate. That is good! Also think about this. You now know that even if he is pushed beyond his threshold he may bite but it won't be a bad one because he will still exercise the bite inhibition he had the good fortune to learn as a pup. That is another big plus to come out of this. Take care and have fun with your boy! He sounds like a truly great guy to me.


One more thing-don't forget the muzzle. They are used to it-it is no biggie to them-and it may be helpful to you when you begin to interact closely with him again at first. You see if you have the least reservations or slightest fear because of what happenned-and it is perfectly understandable-but if you do he will smell it! Fear scent is very strong. This no doubt will unsettle him- he's thinking that if you're afraid than maybe he needs to be afraid too! and you can see how this would mess up any attempt to get close again. So consider using the muzzle at first when you begin to get close to him again-snuggling or whatever-and things will likely go much better since you won't be putting out that fear scent. And then you will see he can be trusted and you will know when you can just remove it without fearing him. But take your time on everything and don't rush him. He'll let you know when he ready to move forward.

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the only hiccup right now (and I love him dearly) is when we are laying in bed, sometimes he gets startled and growls or snaps at me at night.


Unfortunately, this is the problem. Too much, too fast. He's not ready to share his space, and it's sounds like he's starting to exhibit resource-guarding behavior. This is very common in greyhounds because, keep in mind, these dogs have never been forced to share their resources (food, bed, toys, treats). It's all very foreign. I'm a bit surprised nobody mentioned this when you went through the adoption process.


The training part involves going very slowly with a desensitization protocol. At least for awhile, you'll have to enforce a NO FURNITURE policy. I really can't stress this enough, for the safety of both you and any guests you might have in your home. He cannot be on the furniture. Allow him to have his own bed, then gradually get nearer and nearer by tossing high value treats at first. Work up to sitting next to his bed and feeding him. Over weeks and months, you may get to the point where he makes enough progress and you feel comfortable letting him back up on your bed. Or, he may always be a dog that just needs his own space. Many greyhounds owners have dogs that are perfectly behaved, affectionate, and loving as long as they're on their feet. The other part of the time, it's "let sleeping dogs lie." If that's the case, hopefully it's something you'll be able to accept.


Another thing that should be mentioned... and you probably figured this out already, it's generally never a good idea to grab a dog's face. In "dog language," this is very threatening behavior. Maybe something you could get away with if you had a puppy or lab or something. But I would think that most greyhounds (including my own) would never tolerate a person they didn't know very well grabbing their muzzle.

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I agree with the others: it's far too early to let him share your bed without having first built up the trust between you. The Kathleen Gilley article is a good one and should help you understand where Pluto came from, and what he's been used to. Many have never seen a child, a cat, or another breed of dog - let alone animals like cows, sheep and horses. They won't know about trucks and buses, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, glass doors, slippery floors, televisions, fire, ponds etc etc.


Even here in England where they do not routinely live in crates, but in kennels (usually two to a kennel) the life they've led before adoption means that they do not behave like any other adult dog you might adopt. They need to get used to their new life, their new environment, and their new family, and this is necessary before you do any serious training or take any liberties with them.


To a dog, grabbing a muzzle is a definite threat. Hugging is not done in the dog world as is often taken as a threat. Face to face eye contact is a threat, and approaching with your hand over their head is also seen as threatening. All the things we humans do so naturally to show affection are open to misinterpretation by your dog. Add to that the fact that Pluto is still getting used to the fact that people can 'creep up on him' while he's asleep and touch him without warning, and I can well understand why he bit you. I'm so sorry that this happened. Sorry for the bite you got, and also sorry for Pluto because he almost certainly has no idea what he did wrong. He was behaving instinctively. :)

It would be worth reading up on dog body language and social signals - and bear in mind that greyhounds can be very subtle about giving them, so you need to pay attention. There are various resources on the internet, and a couple of books I always recommend; The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell, and Bones Would Rain From the Sky by Suzanne Clothier.

I hope some of that helps!


The plural of anecdote is not data

Brambleberry Greyhounds My Etsy Shop

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Welcome to the world of Greyhounds. My advice is to seriously take the advice given above. I have nothing additional to offer because I've never had this issue with my girl, but those who have responded know what they're talking about.


We'd like to see a picture of Pluto.

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Lots of good advice above. The biggest thing I would add is lots of patience, patience, patience and patience. Do bonding exercises by playing (if he plays) or a gentle stroke or scratch when he walks past. After some time he will start seeking you out. You are now his world. Speak to him calmly and lovingly when in the same room. Treats are a great way to bond. Use small training treats so you can give more. When working with a new pup I like to keep a plastic container of treats where I most often sit. Watch out those because he will learn quickly to help himself :chow Feed him his food by hand. You can wash your slobbery hands when you are done.

And watch the love grow. :beatheart

Welcome to the sometimes confusing (for both of you) and enchanting world of greyhounds.

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You've gotten some great responses above. I would just add that you really need to NOT take this personally. We - humans, that is - tend to think that they are biting *US* when, in fact, they are just communicating in the only way they have.


"Sleep Startling" is a very common behavior for dogs just in their new home. I've had a dog draw blood on me, as well, and my husband has had three of our dogs bite him on our bed. He is very stubborn and determined to cuddle with them, so he has not yet learned his lesson! :rolleyes: Of the three bad sleep startlers we've had, one could *never* (as in n-e-v-e-r) sleep with us, one can with caution, and one is now completely safe to sleep with and approach on her bed.


So just be patient. And give him time. He's got a LOT of things to learn and get used to in your home in a short amount of time and it can takes months to years for some to fully settle in.

Chris - Mom to: Lilly, Felicity (DeLand), and Andi (Braska Pandora)


Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby), Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Atom

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He is still working to get to know you, this "living with humans" rules, and trying to figure out the human language and how to relate it in their own mind to what they know. It's a hard study!


I agree with the "let the dog have his own bed" and never bother him in his bed, and to maybe hold off on the letting him on your furniture with you for a while. The trust isn't there yet, and he doesn't yet know how to share your space (which he will feel is actually "letting you share his space") without a bit of defensiveness.


The holding of his nose caught my attention and I am glad that someone else mentioned that it is a threatening thing to a dog. You didn't mean it that way, but communication is highly dependant on how something is perceived rather than how it was meant by the one "saying" it. And I bet there was at least some body language that happened, like a stiffening of the body, or a tightening of his lips, or even his eyes going into a fixed hard stare to indicate that he wasn't cool with it but when you didn't perceive his "saying" that he was uncomfortable, he felt he needed to say it more directly (unfortunately with teeth, which connected).


Give him some distance when he's lying down, try learning some of the body language of dogs (some are called "calming signals" to try to diffuse situations while others are more of a warning system that if you don't "hear" him telling you he's uncomfortable he may have to turn up the volume), and work on getting to know him and his idiosyncracies and what he likes and doesn't like and get that trust back for both of you. And any time he growls, back off and give him space. Do not punish growling, because that's usually the last warning you get (and the most easily read by humans) before the dog feels he needs to tell you with a snap (not intending to hurt you, this is usually fast, and while it can damage our delicate skin when it connects, it is actually not a true bite which is a teeth and bite down hard intending to do real damage). Dogs will tell rude dogs off with snaps, which sometimes do connect, but usually only a scrape unless the skin is delicate or their fur is short - it is a lot worse with human skin!


Good luck, and this shows that at this time he is not comfortable with cuddling - even if you feel it is a bonding moment, he obviously does not care for it at this time. He may come to love snuggle times, or maybe never will be comfortable with it.

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Do not punish growling, because that's usually the last warning you get (and the most easily read by humans) before the dog feels he needs to tell you with a snap (not intending to hurt you, this is usually fast, and while it can damage our delicate skin when it connects, it is actually not a true bite which is a teeth and bite down hard intending to do real damage). Dogs will tell rude dogs off with snaps, which sometimes do connect, but usually only a scrape unless the skin is delicate or their fur is short - it is a lot worse with human skin!


Good luck, and this shows that at this time he is not comfortable with cuddling - even if you feel it is a bonding moment, he obviously does not care for it at this time. He may come to love snuggle times, or maybe never will be comfortable with it.


I've put those parts in bold because I completely agree with them. So very true.


Many dogs are never going to be comfortable with snuggling, but just as a FYI, Jeffie would have bitten me when we first had him if I hadn't given him a lot of respectful space, and now he loves a cuddle. He'd had one too many changes since he was adopted for the first time as an oldie and had some health issues which hadn't been detected, too. It took me a year for us both to be comfortable with me lying next to him for a cuddle, but now he loves it - he can't get enough and does this cute thing with his paws over his ears and little air snaps to encourage me!


He doesn't sleep on my bed, but next to it. I can step over him during the night to get to the window, and I've even stumbled into him in the dark without him reacting. This is because he now trusts me completely. It took work - a lot of work - but since you're committed to Pluto and you love him, you won't find it a hardship!



The plural of anecdote is not data

Brambleberry Greyhounds My Etsy Shop

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Thank you all so much for your feedback-- super helpful. Can't thank you enough... overall I got that it is perhaps way to soon to feel that we can have the kind of cuddle bond I moved quickly on:) And I am going to move him off the bed for now. Set up his own sleeping area that he owns. I also liked the suggestion of no petting unless he is standing-- so as not to startle. I learned a lot more from these posts. What a great resource. But starting with these suggestions sounds like a great first step. Pluto says thank you too:)

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