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Greyhound Behavior Part 4
Fighting Greyhounds?
By Judy Kody Paulsen


Fighting greyhounds?
Fighting Greyhounds?
As more retired racing greyhounds are being placed into homes, we have the opportunity to observe their characteristics as pets. As mentioned in the preceding articles of this series, retired racers have dispositions unique to the environment in which they are raised and trained. Fighting among greyhounds at the track rarely produces severe injuries, due to the fact that they are muzzled during racing and turnouts. However, once the greyhound is in a home environment, conditions can drastically alter the outcome of a conflict between pets. We, as adoption and rescue groups, would prefer to reinforce the reputation of the greyhound as docile, non-aggressive, and non-confrontational; however, we would be remiss in ignoring the competitive spirit that can sometimes engage them in life-threatening battles with other pets.

Most fights in the adoptive home appear to occur between greyhounds, rather than with greyhounds and other breeds. The majority of the fights among greyhounds are between retired racers rather than greyhounds of non-racing origins. This would support a theory that retired racers are more conditioned to compete with one another, thereby being more likely to challenge another greyhound.

"Greeting Agitation"
When greyhounds are greeted by their adopters or visitors to the home, there is usually much excitement. This usually occurs upon your arrival home after long or short absences or upon the first stirrings among the family in the mornings. My nomenclature for this display of exuberance is "greeting agitation". Most often, this brief encounter at the door or upon awakening just produces frenzied tail wagging, some jumping, and perhaps, for the vocal greyhounds, a bit of barking. Occasionally, if several pets are involved, this excitement can produce hostility among normally compatible pets. An errant claw or tooth can activate the defenses even in a submissive greyhound and a fight can ensue before you are in control of the situation.

If the dogs have sight of you or a visitor approaching a door or gate, or if they are signaled of an arrival by the sound of a door bell, garage door or other audible/visible sign, their excitement mounts until they are in immediate physical contact with the arriver. Enter into your home or yard as quickly as possible to avoid prolonging their arousal. Keeping overly excitable dogs separated from the other dogs may be necessary.

If your dogs are crated while you are away, let one out of its crate and allow it to settle before letting the next dog out. Do not encourage excitement by getting overly demonstrative and affectionate. Keep your voice down and limit your greeting to a brief touch on the head or back. Ideally, you should ignore the dogs until they have settled, but this is difficult for most people if they have been away from their dogs for an extended period!

If you can get the dogs into a large open area immediately, such as a fenced yard or spacious room in the house, the added space will give the dogs room to be animated without provoking one another upon your arrival home. Encourage visitors to ignore the dogs initially so they are not all competing for attention from the newcomer at once.

In the yard at play

Competitive Play
Playing with your greyhounds is a great source of therapy for you and the dogs, but it can also erupt into a brawl if certain precautions are not taken. Racing greyhounds are rarely engaged in common play such as tug-of-war, chase, or wrestling while they are in the structured racing environment. The primary interaction with people, while in training to race, is for the business of racing, not playing. They can become easily confused when their adoptive family encourages them to interact in play with people or other pets.

Overly spirited play among greyhounds and other pets, or people and greyhounds, should be discouraged, at least initially. Introducing a new greyhound to the family should be done under subdued circumstances when it comes to play and recreation. Do not engage in rough play with other pets in the presence of a newly adopted greyhound unless someone has the greyhound under control and can prevent it from lunging toward those involved in play. Allow the greyhound to observe the playful interaction between people, or pets and people, so that it can become accustomed to the sight and sound of harmless interplay.

Some retired racers learn to play compatibly with other pets, while others will retain an aggressive streak. Be on the look-out for indicators of aggression during play, and if this tendency is frequently present, then you should eliminate the activities that produce this behavior.

Generally, the larger the play area, the faster the greyhound can run and the more likely you are to have a collision between pets. Collisions not only can severely injure your dogs, but could create a pain-induced fight response. A fight that occurs when no one is home could very likely be the product of pain-induced aggression resulting from injury during play.

Separate beds

Sleep Space
Fighting over turf, such as sleeping quarters, is understandable if you take into consideration that racers have never had to share their sleeping space. Always be sure that your greyhounds have separate beds — do not expect them to share one bed, no matter how large. Greyhounds will randomly select a bed on which to sleep. They do not insist on having the same bed each time, but they usually want separation from one another while sleeping. It is best to provide at least a foot of space between beds, preferably several feet. Occasionally, greyhounds will lie down together and even rest their heads on one another, but this is the exception to the rule; when it does occur, it is tolerated if it is of their own volition rather than encouraged or forced.

Isolating several pets in a small area can also invite disaster. It is advisable to separate them with baby gates or by crating. If you have not seen signs of aggression among your pets and there has always been peaceful coexistence, chances are you will not have a problem; but observation is the best defense against fighting among greyhounds. Leaving "chewies" out when there are multiple dogs and no supervision is another invitation to disaster — even among dogs that have never shown any possessive tendencies. Watch for the subtle signs of dominant behavior that can often lead to fighting (see Part 2 of Greyhound Behavior).

And When There is a Fight...
Even greyhounds that have never shown any tendency for discord among themselves can fight. A dogfight is a most unsettling sight, not to mention the sound. Immediate intervention is the key to preventing or limiting injuries. Shouting "NO" is amazingly effective if done at the top range of one's voice, but you must persist. Stomping your feet and making any abrupt, loud noises will help distract the dogs from one another. Shaking cans containing rocks should get their attention if you are an ineffective screamer. If you are outdoors, spray them with water. Trying to physically separate fighting dogs can be extremely dangerous. If you cannot resist the urge to intervene physically, grab for a collar from behind the dog so that once separated, you will have control of the dog. Fighting dogs can direct their fury on anyone or anything, so be prepared to keep a tight grip on the collar until the frenzy subsides. Never stick your hands or feet between gnashing teeth. As hard as it is to stand by and watch, this is safest for you although it may be devastating or even fatal for your dog.

After the fight

After the Fight...
Once dogs have had an altercation, there is usually a cooling down period when the dogs involved will show signs of trepidation around one another. During this period it is best to separate the dogs whenever you are not present. If dogs have shown repeated tendencies to fight, they should be separated indefinitely when left alone. This change in attitude toward one another could last anywhere between a few days to several weeks. Discourage all posturing whenever you witness it (raised, non-wagging tail; stiffness of walk when approaching each other). Be sure to show equal amounts of attention toward both (or all) dogs.

Within time, the dogs will be back to their previously compatible existence, but don't let your guard down. Although repeat altercations between normally compatible dogs rarely occur, it is your responsibility to recognize the signs of friction between pets.

Most fights can be avoided if you observe all interactions while you are with your dogs and take precautions to change the environment. Above all, do not become complacent when introducing new pets, as this is the most critical point at which you can make the determination of how the personality types will mesh. Keep on your toes during the first one or two months of bringing in your new pet, for this is when you could see potential fight situations present themselves.

Once again, it's up to you.

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