Jump to content

Play or prey drive / prey drift

Recommended Posts



We've recently fostered a real live-wire of a girly, which has made me realise I have no experience with playful hounds.

She's a poppet around the house and with people, but she LOVES to play and I have early concerns about her behaviour other dogs. We've started to slowly introduce her to our sliding scale of sedate-up-to-animated dogs, and she is very civil with them unless they are being playful. We have confirmed she's happy with calm dogs, however, if a dog is being playful (even if it's just playfully moving around the room) around she becomes very interested. 

When our older boy greyhound is quietly playing (he's a shy boy!), she is desperate to play with him - she will almost always push it too far for him (he has a v low tolerance for play) and he will growl and she will back off and leave him alone. This has been the same with another semi-playful dog we've introduced her to - wants to play, will play a little rough, will get told off, will leave alone.

When we've introduced her to a more playful (also smaller) sighthound, again, she is desperate to play but her body language gives me cause for concern (stiff back, head up high, thrashing tail, noses the dog to get them to move). We've allowed her to play a little (supervised, muzzled etc), but the other dog quickly got uncomfortable and growled at her (again, this makes me think that the other dog is picking up on her possibly malevolent vibes). Initially, she is happy to be told off and will back off- but fairly quickly she wanted to go again. I believe the smaller, more scampering movements of the younger smaller dog are more triggering to her than the slow lumbering of the dogs we've already had success introducing her to. Incidentally, the owner of this dog suggested it was because his growl was less of a "I don't want to play with you ever" and more of a "Calm down and lets pick this up in a bit" (I'm not convinced..)

We're not in a hurry to de-muzzle her or have playdates etc, and we know she will need very slow considered training, but I am curious about other peoples journeys with dogs showing this sort of behaviour in early days. I've always had / been around dogs, but they've generally been very nervous rescues with zero interest in playing with other dogs (or the 2 clearly dog aggressive dogs who always needed to be muzzled, kept away from dogs which at least was a clear directive!) , so when I see other dogs playing happily in a way that LOOKS incredibly aggressive (wrestling and biting), I'm curious about how people get to a point where they understand their dog might LOOK like crazed, but trusting that they're under control?


I do appreciate this doesn't happen for all dogs so I don't need to be told some dogs will always need to be muzzled and supervised (as I say, my family had 2 rescue hunting lurchers who could be dog aggressive and needed careful management to ensure everyone was safe and happy) but I'm curious about other peoples processes to trust (or not trust!) their interested / playful hounds.


I should add that she's been very quick to learn other house rules about pushing around our older boy etc, which were initially concerns.

Edited by lulah62
Link to post
Share on other sites

This sound slike very normal play behavior from a younger dog.  So depending how old she is, it may, or may not, be a cause for concern.

FWIW, when my own dogs (3 female greyhounds, ages 2 1/2, 5, and 9) it often sounds like WWIII in the yard, and I expect animal control to show up at any moment because someone has called in a complaint.  They bark, they wrestle, they bite (inside muzzles), they runrunrun and chase, they bark and growl some more.  It's lound, often very violent looking (to a human), and completely normal.

Here's a short video made years ago, or some pretty *mild* play behavior.  The black male and brindle female are 5+ yr old adults.  The smaller white female is a puppy about 7 mos old here.  She's now our 9 yr old senior pack member.


So mostly my advice is to "let them play."  Dogs are very good about telling others what they are comfortable with, and it sounds like she's fine with that.  The best way to learn is to have a mature adult correct a younger dog.  Again, it can look and sound very violent to us humans - proper dog-to-dog behavior often can - but that doesn't mean either party is being overly aggressive or trying to cause trouble.

That being said, I *always* supervise my dogs - they are never unsupervised out in the yard.  And if it becomes *too* over-the-top or the bigger ones seems to be bullying the smaller ones, I step in and redirect the play to more individual efforts.

The only other thing I'll add is that greyhounds often play very differently from other dogs.  They usually want to run and chase, rather than mix it up in close quarters, and other breeds can be confused by the signals they get from playful greyhounds.  Remember that greyhounds grow up just hanging around running and playing with their littermates until they're about 12-14 months old, so they have some built-in habits regarding play that other dogs don't acquire.

I'm not sure any of that was/is helpful for you.  It will all come down to your instincts and ability to read her body language.  It may help you to video the behavior and watch it back yourself without the sound.  Or you may be able to find a greyhound-savvy canine behaviorist who will do a consult with you.

Good luck!

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

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Greysmom, that's so useful to see other greys playing! It was strange seeing her so keen to play and realising it's completely alien behaviour to me, so that video and your explanation really helped.


Our girl is 4, but she is very puppyish - it's already been a steep learning curve for her and she's doing so well. She's a smart cookie!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi lulah62. Play should be fairly even between potential playmates. As a rule of thumb, one dog chases or instigates play, and then the other chases etc. If one dog is always the chaser or instigator, or is disrespecting another dog's space, I'd be inclined to manage the situation.  Peace.

Link to post
Share on other sites

When she first arrived at home, my then 4-year-old Nutmeg was quietly respectful to my elderly male and judiciously ignored the cat.  But the first few times she was with a small dog, as with you, I didn't like her body language.  Head up, ears up, verrrrry alert, rough.  I and the other owner broke it up a few times before anything could escalate.  She settled down and was her usual angelic self for the rest of her life, even with incredibly aggravating family dachshunds.  Paws crossed it's just a learning phase for your girl.  

Greysmom -- wonderful to see that video!  Toni and Whiskey were all about trying to ditch Lillypuppy, weren't they?  :lol 


Ellen, Milo, and Jeter

remembering Eve, Baz, Scout, Romie, and Nutmeg

Link to post
Share on other sites

It sounds similar behaviour to our Sully.  We've only had him a month, but like yours he is very calm and gentle with other dogs so long as they are stationary, even as far as basically ignoring them, but if they do anything more than walk he suddenly sticks his ears up, goes rigid and looks at them as though they are a rabbit, before bounding over and trying to grab them.  This is especially the case with small dogs.

I think it's basically just a case of de-sensitizing him to other dogs and getting him to realise they don't suddenly become prey when they run.  How to do that is another matter.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/5/2020 at 4:31 AM, mansbestfriend said:

Hi lulah62. Play should be fairly even between potential playmates. As a rule of thumb, one dog chases or instigates play, and then the other chases etc. If one dog is always the chaser or instigator, or is disrespecting another dog's space, I'd be inclined to manage the situation.  Peace.

This feels like common sense but hadn't actually occurred to me to monitor! It was definitely one sided with the little dog, so I'm confident we did the right thing separating them (even if she wasn't about to eat him, it still was a bit uncool of her!)


On 9/5/2020 at 9:11 PM, EllenEveBaz said:

Paws crossed it's just a learning phase for your girl.  

I hope so too! Good to know your girl calmed down so quickly. Dolly has gone from not being able to walk on lead, to walking very nicely within weeks - so she's definitely a quick learner.


On 9/6/2020 at 9:05 AM, GreyKnight said:

We've only had him a month

This is about the same time we've had our girl, so keep me posted how you get on! We joke that Dolly has "no manners" as she's so chaotic where our boy has always been very quiet and considered, but she's calmed down so much with other elements. Like you say, maybe it's a matter of desensitising them with managed exposure


Thanks for everyones advice- it's so reassuring to hear other people's stories

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...