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Multiple aggressions - newly adopted.


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Hello everyone!

I adopted my first greyhound 2 weeks ago. She's a 8 year old retired racer and I love her to bits....but she scares the c**p out of me! She's aggressive towards other dogs; has sleep aggression and food aggression.

The one that worries me the most is the aggression towards other dogs. Twice now she has knocked me off my feet and dragged me along the ground to 'get at' these dogs. Luckily for me it was on grass, had it been concrete I shudder to think of the outcome. I managed to get control of her (she's always muzzled on walks) and have since been using distractions to get her attention off them, or I will walk in the opposite direction if I see one coming in the distance. I should mention it's mainly smaller dogs that set her off, although she's gone after larger dogs too. The area I live in has dozens of dogs and every time I take her for a walk I'm dreading meeting some poor unsuspecting dog and it's owner. I should mention I also have a miniature poodle and she has not been aggressive towards her.

The sleep aggression is very scary too, but I know that's my own fault for letting her sleep on my bed. I've read through the posts on this topic, so will squeeze her large bed into my bedroom and insist she sleeps on it.

Food aggression is another trait I guess I can manage easy enough - just stay away from her when she's eating!

I just mentioned the latter 2 aggressions to illustrate the combination of traits that scare me about her. I have considered returning her to the place I got her from, but that would be a heartbreak and I don't want to do it to her. I suspect she has been somewhere else before I got her. She quit racing at 4 years old, she's 8 now and the adoption people couldn't tell me where she had been in the interim. 

I guess I'm just looking for reassurance from you experienced grey owners that it will all work out in the end and eventually she will become a well adjusted, laid back pet. Is she workable? 

Thanks!

 

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It will help some if you can change your attitude a bit towards her behaviors, all of which are very common in retired greyhounds.  Most dogs are not truly "aggressive" and all of what you are experiencing isn't either.  She has a very high prey drive towards dogs you are seeing out on walks, and/or she is highly "leash reactive."  The other incidents are more correctly resource guarding and sleep startling, not real aggression.

You have some decisions to make though.  Returning her is a viable option, particularly if you don't have a yard and must walk her for potties and exercise.  And any one of these behaviors could be a deal breaker if you just don't feel confident enough to deal with them, so do contact your adoption group and see if they have any advice for you (and to let them know you having issues).  It's a difficult decision, but please don't consider it a failure on your or her part.  It just wasn't a good fit for an adoption.  It happens, and most reputable groups will take their dog back and see if there's a better fit in their kennels for you.

One way you can go is to contact a good, greyhound-savvy, positive reinforcement only trainer to come to your house and observe what's going on and give you some in person tips and techniques to turn your girl's behavior around.  Your group might have a recommendation for you, or ask your vet, or other greyhound owners in your area.

Another way is to research her behaviors yourself and do what you can to manage them - which it seems you are doing.  Everything you described is what we would be recommending, so you just need to give it time, and both of you plenty of patience for them to take hold.  She's been with you such a very short period of time, and she needs to become settled into her new living situation before training will take much hold.

So.  For the leash reactivity, get the booklet "Feisty Fido: Help for the Leash reactive Dog" by Patricia McConnell.  It will help walk you through ways to help you keep control of your dog during walks.

For the sleep startle, have her sleep on her own bed elsewhere in your bedroom.  It will take some doing now that you've already let her sleep on your bed, but be persistent in luring her back to her own bed with a nice treat.  Don't try and move her by grabbing her collar!  Use a treat and call her over to her bed or, if you must, hook up her leash to urge her to move.  You have a few sleepless nights ahead before she will accept this new normal.   You may consider setting up an xpen a=or doing crate training if she is stubborn about staying on her bed.

Resource guarding her food *may* lessen over time as you build up a bond with her.  Just don't try and take any high value food or treat away from her with out "Trading Up" for it first.  Offer her a VERY YUMMY SPECIAL treat.  One that she can't resist.  And lure her out of the room or away from her bowl/treat and pick up what you need to take from her right away.

Just as an aside, she may not have ever been in a home before.  If she was a successful racers she may have spent the last four years since retiring on a farm being a momma dog, so everything is going to be new and strange to her about living in a home.  Give her and yourself time and patience in abundant supply!

Good luck.

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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The advice above is sound. We adopted our boy at 7 1/2, and there was a three year black hole between retiring and him coming to us. He hasn’t ever shown resource guarding, but does have sleep startle and is reactive to other dogs. ‘Feisty Fido’ was recommended to us - it’s a short book and very easy to train him to ignore other dogs. That was probably about a year ago, and now he interacts well with most dogs (although he is still overwhelmed when dogs run at him, or if there are a few dogs milling around him). Generally when he passes a dog he is polite and then looks to us for a treat. We found by accident that he generally reacted better to other dogs when he wasn’t wearing his muzzle, but it was almost a year before we routinely stopped using a muzzle, and this isn’t something I would recommend until you get you to know yours a bit better.

Sleep startle - yes, just avoid touching or stepping over her when she’s sleeping. We’ve found that Buddy is much worse for sleep startle when he’s tired and if there are strangers in the house - unfortunately these two things normally go hand in hand because he is a nosey devil and refuses to sleep in case he misses something! Good luck!

Living with Buddy Molly b. 5 November 2010. Welcomed home 16/6/2018 ❤️

Won 17/112 races at Romford - our champion Essex boy

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Stop using the word "aggressive or aggression."  You will end up with your dog being labeled when in fact what you are seeing is a dog who has a normal prey drive for a dog, and is simply protecting their food.  What you are experiencing in the bed if the dog is sleeping when it happens is sleep startle, not aggression. 

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Always missing my boy Hi Noon Rocket. The home of Petunia, MW Neptunia and Kate, Miss Kate.

Don't believe everything you read on the internet. - Abraham Lincoln

 

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Greysmom and MerseyGrey thank you both for your very helpful, informative and encouraging replies. I checked out "Feisty Fido" on Amazon and it has very favourable reviews, so I will order a copy. I've been watching a ton of videos on YouTube, some are good, others...not so much, but I think training advice in this book will resonate better with me. 

Time4ANap OKaaay. 

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Thanks for your suggestion Gail. After the first incident I got her a harness, so I hook it up at both the front and on the back which gives me much more control.  Did your girl react to other dogs too?


I got “Feisty Fido” and find it very helpful. Working on “Watch” command at the moment.

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When first adopted, mine would growl if I stood near his food bowl.  That went away over time.  

He still reacts to dogs when we walk, but not always.  It's unpredictable so I just shorten the leash and carry treats which helps distract.

After 3 years, we still can't have people in the house.  He just doesn't like it.   He loves us, others not so much.

He has never got on furniture/beds.  You had to leave him alone on his bed previously, but that has gone away over time as well.

Time may fix some of your issues.  Training as mentioned above for the rest.

Good luck.

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After 3 years, we still can't have people in the house.  He just doesn't like it.

Kinda limits your social life. Have you tried having your guests give him treats when they arrive? 

Our walks in the last few days have been uneventful because we haven't run into other dogs but I'm always on edge that a small white barky dog is going to round the corner and all hell will break loose!

 

 

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Hey Anya,

It's tough  to start with, no question. Sounds as though you've been researching and taking time to try and resolve instead of just handing her straight back - well done for that! The above advice is superb - we've all been there, honest. You're not alone with the three issues. 

I just want to say that my boy was VERY growly/snappy with food (including stolen goodies), reactive and lungy with small dogs, squirrels, cats, foxes... (although timid around bigger dogs so at least I got some respite there!) and snappy if awoken or sometimes even touched (particularly on his back) when snoozing (or on our bed and being kicked off). 

* We've spent time and effort with "leave it" training which has proved invaluable both when out walking and he's looking as though he will react, or it he steals something I need to get back 

* Jiggling the duvet firmly moved him off the bed without having to touch him. We told him "bed"/rewarded him for moving to his own bed - now he will scowl, sigh and get straight off our bed when told

* Once we bonded and he started to recognise my tones a good, firm "NO" also started to work wonders in very extreme circumstances (eg if he grabs something he REALLY shouldn't have or is not responding to gentle encouragement/commands). It's used very rarely so if I do say it he jumps, looks at me meekly and stops whatever he is doing. 

It took a good few months before I could relax and completely trust him, and probably him me. And, if I'm honest, I was quite nervous of him to start with in certain situations. Now I absolutely adore him - he's a big gentle, soppy, playful giant.

Training, training, training, time and patience :-)

 

 

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Feefee147 Thank you so much for your post and your encouragement. You're describing Cleo to a "T"!

I spoke to my sister yesterday and told her about my experiences with Cleo and she's practically begged me to return her to the adoption people. Not happening! I'm not giving up on her because for the most part she is a very affectionate cuddle bug and smart too. 

Your comment (quoted below) is exactly where I'm at at the moment, so it's very encouraging to know that it can take several months to arrive at the "perfect dog" stage.

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It took a good few months before I could relax and completely trust him, and probably him me. And, if I'm honest, I was quite nervous of him to start with in certain situations.
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Re: your sister. and most especially if she has kids - it should be explained to her firmly that small children (and even big ones) need to leave the dog *completely* alone when she's on her bed or has a treat.  If they want to interact with the dog it's best to call the dog over to YOU and supervise their interaction, with your dog on her feet.  Watch her body language closely and cut things off if she gets anxious.

I mentioned it before, but all three issues you're dealing with are extremely common in retired racing greyhounds.  We literally have all been where you are now at some point, with some dog.  Our very first greyhound had horrible sleep startle, and she drew blood - not just once, but 3 times!!! - before my DH and I finally wised up. 

Training will be key.  Both to teach her some manners and to increase your bonding.  It really is all about developing trust and comfort between you. 

You're doing fine.  Just keep it up!!!  Time and patience!

Edited by greysmom

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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8 hours ago, Anya said:

Feefee147 Thank you so much for your post and your encouragement. You're describing Cleo to a "T"!

I spoke to my sister yesterday and told her about my experiences with Cleo and she's practically begged me to return her to the adoption people. Not happening! I'm not giving up on her because for the most part she is a very affectionate cuddle bug and smart too. 

Your comment (quoted below) is exactly where I'm at at the moment, so it's very encouraging to know that it can take several months to arrive at the "perfect dog" stage.

I chatted to my parents about my dog (snappy, growly ...etc) when I first got him and they had similar comments to your sister. I think it's hard for owners of other breeds who aren't used to greys and their settling in processes to understand, so I can completely understand why she might think perhaps Cleo would be better sent elsewhere. 

Daft as it sounds - I took heart knowing that, whilst a growly snap coming from a big 30-odd kilogram dog is bum-squeaking scary when you aren't used to it, it was just his way of telling me that he was nervous or uncomfortable so I knew to back off a bit and rethink. If he wanted to bite me he would have done, and I'd have needed some severe stitching up! And now, 8 months later, aside from the odd accidental elbow in the face when he's doing a zoomie (owwww!) he's soft as anything. But that did come over time, with bonding and trust. It definitely wasn't an overnight thing. 

I do feel for you regarding the walking. I'm only tiny (5ft 2) and if you feel they can pull you over you're going to be constantly on edge and worrying. Again, as above, "leave it" is a good tool. I also find making sure mine doesn't have too much lead when approaching reactive-activating fluffies helps wonders. You may find if Cleo can't get too much purchase she cant get the momentum to pull you over. 

It is a very slow process, most definitely. They are not speedy adjusters! But it sounds as though you are bonding well so you just need to keep reinforcing the good behaviour and letting her know when she is not acting appropriately. 

In a year you'll be on here telling all the newbies exactly the same thing and saying how Cleo was super reactive but is now a big adorable softie..... :-)

 

 

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On 10/20/2020 at 5:25 PM, Anya said:

The one that worries me the most is the aggression towards other dogs. Twice now she has knocked me off my feet and dragged me along the ground to 'get at' these dogs. Luckily for me it was on grass, had it been concrete I shudder to think of the outcome.

Are you using a collar or a harness? If you are using a harness it is easier for her to put her full body weight into going the direction she wants whereas with a collar you have more control. Some people use both with a double ended lead. The harness to stop them escaping and the collar for control.

Grace (Ardera Coleen) born 18 June 2014
Raced at Monmore Green, Wolverhampton UK - 68 Races, 9 wins, 5 second places
Gotcha Day 10 June 2018 

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HeyRunDog I'm using a harness with 2 rings - one at the front and the other on top. I find the harness gives me more control than just a collar alone. Besides if she takes off I think the collar would do her more harm.

FeeFee147 I'm only an inch taller than you, so you know how walking 60 lbs of pure muscle pulling with full force can be scary! Yesterday when I was getting ready for "walkies" I noticed her hind quarters were trembling like a leaf which told me she was nervous about the walk. Luckily we didn't run into any dogs and she quickly calmed down. Poor thing, I feel so badly that walks are a form of torture for her. I took her out to the back yard and she did her first zoomie! What a treat that was to watch.

Greysmom My sister lives 3,000 miles away, and in all likelihood she and Cleo will never cross paths :-). Nevertheless your advice is good and taken on board. Many times I've been approached by kids wanting to pet her, but I've always told them its not a good idea (even though she's muzzled).

Thanks everyone for your continued interest in my grey ownership growing pains!

 

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5 hours ago, Anya said:

I took her out to the back yard and she did her first zoomie! What a treat that was to watch.

Ahh that’s lovely! Zoomies are terrifying (how do they have so many flailing elbows?) but lovely. She’s obviously settling well 😀

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On 10/23/2020 at 10:07 AM, Anya said:

Kinda limits your social life. Have you tried having your guests give him treats when they arrive? 

Our walks in the last few days have been uneventful because we haven't run into other dogs but I'm always on edge that a small white barky dog is going to round the corner and all hell will break loose!

 

 

Very limiting.  We have tried treats, greeting outside first, muzzle, etc.   He is just a neurotic greyhound.  He has scars on his nose from something in his past, so not sure what motivates his behavior.  Behaviorist wanted to drug/sedate him.  We declined.  He is a good dog, just very afraid which manifests as aggression but is fear in reality.

Waiting for the pandemic to lessen and when it's safe to gather again we may try to have people over.

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I feel so bad for him NewGrey2017. If only we could wave a magic wand to get rid of their fears...life would be so much easier for them (and us). I've no idea how Cleo will react to other people once the lockdowns are lifted. The only other person in my house in the past 8 months is my BF and she's used to him now. I have an invitation to his family's house next month where there will be 4 - 6 people and I'm mulling over whether I should go or not. If I take her with me she might react negatively but I don't want to leave her at home alone for so long. Ack! Decisions. decisions!

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3 hours ago, NewGrey2017 said:

Very limiting.  We have tried treats, greeting outside first, muzzle, etc.   He is just a neurotic greyhound.  He has scars on his nose from something in his past, so not sure what motivates his behavior.  Behaviorist wanted to drug/sedate him.  We declined.  He is a good dog, just very afraid which manifests as aggression but is fear in reality.

Waiting for the pandemic to lessen and when it's safe to gather again we may try to have people over.

 

Stepping on my :sbox for a minute:

Anti anxiety medication is a perfectly reasonable treatment modality for helping dogs to overcome anxiety.  It's NOT a cure-all or a crutch, any more than it would be for a human suffering from PTSD or life-altering anxiety.  Medication is a valuable *tool* that helps your dogs brain be in the right chemical status to accept de-conditioning training.  Once the crippling anxierty is mitigated that dog can be helped forward in his behavior.

If your dog had an infection, would you decline antibiotics?  If he had parasites, would you not treat the problem and let your dog be eaten alive from the inside out?  If your dog had an upset stomach would you decline medication to calm his system?  Why would you discriminate/eliminate against a whole class of drugs just because the issue in with his brain chemistry and not some other part of his body?

Mental health is mental health whether it's human or canine. 

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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1 hour ago, greysmom said:

 

Stepping on my :sbox for a minute:

Anti anxiety medication is a perfectly reasonable treatment modality for helping dogs to overcome anxiety.  It's NOT a cure-all or a crutch, any more than it would be for a human suffering from PTSD or life-altering anxiety.  Medication is a valuable *tool* that helps your dogs brain be in the right chemical status to accept de-conditioning training.  Once the crippling anxierty is mitigated that dog can be helped forward in his behavior.

If your dog had an infection, would you decline antibiotics?  If he had parasites, would you not treat the problem and let your dog be eaten alive from the inside out?  If your dog had an upset stomach would you decline medication to calm his system?  Why would you discriminate/eliminate against a whole class of drugs just because the issue in with his brain chemistry and not some other part of his body?

Mental health is mental health whether it's human or canine. 

He did many months on Clomicalm and then another anti-anxiety (name escapes me) with no change.  We have used adaptil diffusers and collars. He is on thyroid meds and we spent a lot of money to get that dosage right.  We spent months clearing the hookworm infection he was delivered with.  We include Olewo carrots and Forta-flora probiotic with every dinner because of his upset stomach.  Our adoption group disbanded within a year of his adoption, so there has been no help there.

And...I was not talking about anti-anxiety meds, they wanted to SEDATE him.  And...they said those drugs could have the opposite effect and make him aggressive.  I have no fear of the dog and he is fine around me and everyone who lives in our house.  He lives a happy life and is a member of the family.  He just prefers a small pack.

In the future please just ask me questions if you are curious to know our dog's story.  I'm happy to share if it will help another owner.  This exchange reflects poorly on both of us and doesn't help Anya.  

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