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Odd Behavior From New Greyhound


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We adopted Finn on May 30, so we've had him less than 2 months. He turned 3 a couple weeks prior to the adoption, and the adoption group only had him there a couple of weeks (he'd just retired) and didn't have time to do any cat/small dog/children testing on him. We liked his demeanor when we met him, he seemed relaxed and wanted to hang out with us rather than run around the yard. Unfortunately, we live 1.5-2 hours away from the group's kennel - so we couldn't really come back repeatedly to truly learn personalities.

 

He is a really sweet boy and initially we were concerned he would develop SA, as he didn't want to be apart from us for even 10 seconds. We bought a couple wireless cameras so we could watch him when we left the house and after leaving him alone (with our other greyhound) every day for varying amounts of time, he eventually learned we always come home. We never make a big deal about coming & going and now, he settles down quickly and we are able to leave when we need to. He also learned to walk on leash pretty quickly, and he learned down & wait pretty quickly.

 

Recently, just in the past 1-2 weeks, he is refusing to go "down" before walks - something he'd mastered previously. It now takes a good 5 minutes to get him down - though when we use treats, it is immediate. I am reverting back to using treats for a week or so and slowly taking them away to see if this helps, though I find it odd that he has become so stubborn all of a sudden. This is probably totally unrelated to what happened last night...

 

Last night, he displayed some very odd behavior that actually has me a bit worried.

 

He is a bit of a growler - he has growled at our other greyhound, my husband and me a couple of times when we get too close to his bed. This hasn't happened a lot and it's not a regular occurrence, maybe 3-4 times with our girl, and 1-2 times with both my husband and me. He's never snapped or anything, just a growl - though the vast majority of the time, he snuggles up to us and wants us as close as possible. I try to pay attention to see if he is relaxed or giving us "crazy eyes" (as we call them) - as we've had a truly space aggressive greyhound once and we do not want to push him. It doesn't appear to be true space aggression, I think he is just adjusting to life in a home (he had just retired a few weeks prior to the adoption, so this is all very new to him). He has growled a few times with treats, too - his dog bowl, we have taken away while eating and he never growls, but 2-3 times he has growled about his treats. Otherwise, he is a total love bug - very affectionate, very nice and very friendly towards people.

 

Last night, he and our girl were on their beds (on the floor) in our bedroom. I always "tuck them in" by coming over and giving an ear scritch, sometimes I sit on the floor with them for a minute or two for affection. When I leaned over him to pet him, he growled a little. I gave a gentle correction and it was over, but I assumed he wanted to be alone, so I didn't linger. About 45 minutes after "lights out" - I had to use the restroom, not atypical for me, so I got up and went to the bathroom. As I was going, I heard a low, extended growl coming from the hallway - I thought maybe our girl had wandered to his bed and he was warning her, but as I pushed open the bathroom door to go back to bed, Finn was standing there growling at me. I gave a correction, he didn't stop or move. I said his name and still nothing. I walked to the other door that leads directly to our bedroom as I was going to turn the light on so he could see me, and he went to that door and continued to growl at me. By this point, my husband was also awake and correcting him. After turning on the light, and when my husband physically stood up - he stopped and went back to bed - but the entire encounter actually scared me a bit.

 

In 11 years of owning 5 different greyhounds (and having a husky as a kid for 15 years) - I've never had a dog do this to me. Our space-aggressive boy growled, snapped, barked plenty - but only when he was lying down and we got too close, too quickly. We understand that even the most gentle dog can startle and growl/snap/bark and we are always cognizant and respectful of that - but me going to the bathroom didn't even involve walking directly past his bed, which is in the corner of the room opposite the door, and it's something I do on a regular basis.

 

My husband thought he didn't recognize me, which is odd. My concern now is that my mom is coming here for 2 weeks to watch them and the house while we are on vacation in September and this cannot happen. This was not a normal "warning" growl that is quickly over, it was extended, and he followed me into two different rooms - while I was correcting/speaking/saying his name and my husband was, as well.

 

Any thoughts/ideas? Sorry if this is too much info!

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Not too much info at all, it's best to get all the incidents down. Did he follow you and continue to growl ? I hope someone will give you some good advice. All i can think of is his Thyroid numbers ok? I forget if its high or low but one of those can cause aggression. His eye sight is good? I will watch this in hopes of you getting a good answer!

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Did he recognize you, when your husband switched the lights on? Perhaps he has problems with his eyesight in the dark.

You wrote that he is not used to you wandering the house at night. Can it be that he was irritated with your "strange" behaviour. I would get up and move in the dark more often. So he can learn that it is quite normal for you to do that.

And when your mum comes to visit you, tell her to always turn the lights on, when she moves through the house in the dark.

I started to switch the lights on after tripping over Col at night. He had left his doggie bed and slept in the middle of the hallway. Black dog + dark carpet = happy accident.

Sorry for butchering the english language. I try to keep the mistakes to a minimum.

 

Nadine with Paddy (Zippy Mullane), Saoirse (Lizzie Be Nice), Abu (Cillowen Abu) and bridge angels Colin (Dessies Hero) and Andy (Riot Officer).

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Odd. It sounds like he was startled as he was sleeping, and it just continued - sort of like a human sleep-walking incident. Once he got completely woken up, he was fine. I would think about a couple things: Behavioral and medical.

 

Behavioral - if it's really dark in your house, and/or you have a lot of shadows, you might try using a small night light or a flashlight if you get up in the night a lot. If he can see more clearly he might wake up a bit better. Also, when your Mom is there, set up a baby gate or xpen blocking off nighttime access to the hallway between the bedrooms and bathroom, just so there's no way he can get that close while he's sleep-walking. Going back to using some basic obedience training will be good. Greyhounds change so much in the early months of adoption, especially if they are new off the track, and it sounds like he's beginning to settle in and more of his (stubborn) personality is coming out. It sounds like he would benefit from the NILIF method at this point.

 

You know about space aggression and sleep startling, so just be aware of his responses that way. Correcting him when he growls probably isn't doing what you think it's doing. He's growling to tell you he's uncomfortable, and not letting him growl may make him jump over that step right to snapping and/or biting.

 

Medical - might be worth it to have his eyes checked over really well by your vet. There are several eye issues that might make it difficult for him to see and/or see in the dark. It might also be useful to have a full thyroid panel run, even though the evidence is mostly anecdotal that low thyroid can increase aggressive behavior. I don't think he was really being aggressive, despite the growling and following you around.

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

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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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I'm sure that was pretty scary! I've got a growler, too, but we've learned his triggers and when he growls, we back off from whatever we're doing that's making him uncomfortable. He'll still growl at night if we're about to roll over on him, but he's gotten much better over the years. Anyway, first I'll say this: don't correct growling. If you turn off the growl, he may go for a bite instead.

 

Second: I think you need to do a vet check and also a behavioral consult, as others have stated.

 

Good luck!


Meredith with Heyokha (HUS Me Teddy) and Crow (Mike Milbury). Missing Turbo (Sendahl Boss), Pancho, JoJo, and "Fat Stacks" Juana, the psycho kitty. Canku wakan kin manipi.

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

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I agree that ruling out anything medical is a good idea, but given that he is young and newly adopted, this is probably more likely to be behavioral. I think that it's always important to look at the big picture, so there's no such thing as too much info! LOL Everything can be relevant to a dog's behavior, as anything that causes stress in a dog's life will increase reactivity and the potential for aggressive behavior. Has anything changed in your household routine or schedule recently? Even changes that seem insignificant to us can be a big deal for a dog.

 

Why does he have to "down" before walks? Had he been offering that behavior happily and voluntarily without treats up until the last 1-2 weeks? Can you think of anything that's changed? You mentioned that, "It now takes a good 5 minutes to get him down." How have you been responding to this refusal to down, and how do you eventually get him to do it?

 

You've mentioned taking away his food bowl and and correcting him for growling. These are also things that can increase stress levels and suppress warning signs. Taking away the food bowl can actually create or exacerbate possessive behavior. Imagine how you would feel if someone randomly took away your dinner while you were eating. For the growling over treats, I'd work on tossing him something better when you approach and working on trading exercises.

 

And keep in mind that growling is not a bad thing. It's simply a form of communication, and the only way a dog has of telling you he's uncomfortable. It's possible that the night time growling episode may be related to previously being corrected for growling. What kind of voice and body language were you using when you were correcting/speaking/saying his name during that episode? If you were using a confrontational approach, that can exacerbate the situation by making him feel uncomfortable and threatened.

 

Many dogs use calming signals before resorting to growling, but they're easy to miss if you don't know to look for them. Here's a good article on calming signals:
http://www.greenacreskennel.com/dog-behavior-and-training/canine-calming-signals-and-stress

 

With a newly adopted dog, the most important things to work on over the first few weeks is establishing a consistent routine and building trust. In those first few weeks, I do very little training and do not pressure the dog with any expectations, other than going outside to potty, and crating for meals and when I leave. It's simply a time to allow the dog to settle in, get to know me, and get comfortable with our daily routine.

Jennifer &

Willow (Wilma Waggle), Wiki (Wiki Hard Ten), Carter (Let's Get It On),

Ollie (whippet), Gracie (whippet x), & Terra (whippet) + Just Saying + Just Alice

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Hi all, thanks for the replies!

 

In response to JJNg - we've always practiced "Down" before walks with all of our dogs as a way of keeping things calm and happy. They want a walk, and they have to be calm and "down" before we'll go - we have a "free dog!" command that we give to set them free when they are okay to come out and walk with us. He learned down really quickly, and though he doesn't Sphinx when he goes down, he never appears to have any issues or be in pain at all. He'll go down immediately when treats are around, but we're trying to get away from that, as it was just his reward when initially learning the command. We're going back to using it intermittently and he seems to be improving. No other changes at all - environmental or otherwise. It's just my husband and me (no kids) and our other greyhound - and nothing has changed, no new furniture or arrangements in the house.

 

As far as taking away his food bowl, we only did this when we first got him to test to see if he was okay with it. I had to do it one other time because he eats like a wild maniac and one night he was choking on his food, so I had to take the bowl away. We've done the same with treats & toys - again, to test him. This isn't something we do on a regular basis, but yes, we wanted to see if he showed signs of aggression.

 

We have a correction sound we make, almost like a buzzer. It's never hostile or angry, just the sound. When he followed me the other night, the bathroom door was closed and he was standing outside growling. I tried speaking to him at first, just saying, "Hey buddy, it's me" so he'd hear my voice - then I opened the door so he could see me and he continued growling. I gave the correction sound, not very loud since my husband was asleep and said "hey Finn, it's me buddy" again a couple times, and when he continued growling, that's when I went to the other door to turn the light on so he could see me (and he followed to the other side to continue growling). My husband was half asleep and just said his name to "snap him out of it" - not really correcting. I didn't want anything harsh since I assumed he had no clue it was me, but since I do this pretty much every night, I didn't touch him on the way to the bathroom (the bed is in the corner, I didn't directly pass by it) - I only wanted him to know it was me.

 

We did have a new dog check-up at the vet which showed nothing out of the ordinary.

 

It hasn't happened again - do dogs sleep walk? Could he have been half asleep and just protecting his house and people, not realizing it was me? We have a nightlight in the hallway where he was initially growling, and there is one by his bed - not a lot of light, but we have them all over so the dogs can see at night if they need to, since we do not have a lot of street light in the house. Since I was speaking to him, and then turned a light on, I'm just amazed it didn't snap him out of it until my husband spoke - though I'm sure he was louder than me.

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I'd set him up for success by letting him sleep in a secured X-pen or large crate in your bedroom for several weeks while he adjusts to family life. A baby-gate works well if you can create a space where he still feels he's in the family's sleeping room.

Agree with JJNG's post.

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Bear in mind that I don't know you and I can't see what you have been doing with him or how you're doing it, but by what you have written it sounds as if you've been fairly confrontational with him from the outset. IMHO, taking food or treats or toys away to test a dog is going to result in one thing, and one thing only; stress to the dog. Many dogs cope with these small stresses without batting an eyelid. Many do not. Repeated small stresses can result in a dog who is looking for confrontational behaviour from you and fearing he is going to get it, which does not make for a happy relationship.

 

As Jennifer (JJng) has said, best thing to do with a new dog is very little other than essentials, and just let them settle in and learn the routine. I use this time to bond with them and teach them that they can trust me. I do this by making sure always to speak gently (low, slow, soothing voice), and with frequent brief touches to the shoulder (a non-threatening area) when I put down the food, give them a treat, pop on a leash, or simply pass them in a doorway. I do not get down to their level while they're on their bed, and I do not test their boundaries. During this initial period, I make opportunities to tell them they are a good dog and give them praise. And after this initial period, I have a dog who is willing to be taught things, and who is eager to fit in and to please - and I can then start training and correcting.

It is not too late for you to do this. Begin tomorrow as if Finn had just arrived in your house and try stepping back and relaxing around him. Don't ask for downs, don't buzz at him (except in emergencies), don't try to train, but work on trust and bonding. It could be that he's simply over-stressed and will respond well to this. See Spoon Theory for Dogs if you need convincing about the stress.

In the meantime, yep, put on a nightlight so he can see you. If he growls at you again in the dark, try telling him 'good boy!' instead of correcting him. Just occasionally it works wonders in these cases! But do keep yourself safe. It doesn't sound as if he'll bite but as I said, I can't see him or what he's been doing around you.

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The plural of anecdote is not data

Brambleberry Greyhounds My Etsy Shop

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