Let's talk about greyhounds and children. Statistics show that a fair number of the returned dogs had some unsavory interaction with a child.
Most retired racing greyhound have not been around children. Greyhounds have no reason to dislike children and in fact most greyhounds really seem to enjoy being around them. Until they are accustomed, the activity level of smaller kids may make the dog nervous. While living at the race track, greyhounds have their crate which is only theirs, they don't ever have to share that space with anyone. They come into a home and they are given a dog bed or in some cases allowed to get on furniture. Soon this area becomes their own and they can require a transition period to become used to sharing their space. A small child walking over or tripping over a dog or even just startling a sleeping dog to give affection can cause an instinctive defense reaction and result in a bitten/snapped at, frightened child. With some stellar monitoring and consistency, children and greyhound can be wonderful companions. It's important to remember that no matter how much we love our dogs and consider them family members, they are animals.
The following are some general guidelines to help develop a happy relationship:
- LET SLEEPING DOGS LIE - Do not or let a child, jump on or even pet a sleeping greyhound. Some greyhounds sleep with their eyes open. When a sleeping dog is startled it may growl or come up with teeth before it is fully awake and realizes that the culprit is its best friend. If you must wake your sleeping greyhound, call its name and have it walk to you.
- DO NOT LET YOUR CHILDREN CRAWL UP TO, RUN UP TO, LAY ON, KISS, HUG, PET, JUMP ON A DOG THAT IS LAYING DOWN AND/OR SLEEPING. Greyhounds do not understand the meaning of a child (children) rushing, crawling, running up to it or trying to kiss or hug it, when it is laying down (even if it is awake!). A dog may choose to get up and walk away, do nothing, growl or it may even snap or bite. Greyhounds sometimes sleep with their eyes open so it is very difficult to tell if one is asleep or awake. ALL of these behaviors are a warning to some degree that the dog does not like what is happening to it and they are trying to tell the child (children) to knock it off in the only way they know how. They may start off with simply leaving the area or turning away from the child, this will escalate to a growl, or defensive posturing and will then likely escalate to the point that if it isn't stopped they will bite. Dogs (ALL dogs) have teeth and will use them if they feel threatened. It is up to you as the parent to understand the body language of your dog and to enforce the rules of the house with the children so that this type of incident does not occur. Few if any dogs will "just bite" someone, they usually have been giving warning signs for weeks or months that have been missed or dismissed before they finally resort to a bite, greyhounds are VERY docile, for them to resort to biting a person it takes a LOT of stress, ignored warnings and eventually fear for their own safety to make them do it. In very rare occasions a dog can be just wired wrong and be a biter. This may be recognized prior to placement in a home however circumstances can perpetuate a biting dog.
- PRIVACY & QUIET - All dogs are entitled to privacy and quiet when they eat and sleep. Children must be instructed to not bother the dog during its "quiet" times. This has to be consistently enforced. The greyhound's crate is his / her "room" and should be respected, they will quickly learn to go there when things get too busy as long as they can count on being left alone while they rest in their crate. If you choose NOT to use a crate, then a room or area of the home should be set aside for the dog as it's private area, this is where their bed should be and they can also be fed in this area.
- CRATE - Do not let your children crawl into the greyhound’s crate. Initially, we recommend that you utilize the crate when your children are actively playing. It is also a good idea to use the crate when children have friends over to play. This way your new greyhound has a chance to experience and get used to children while in the safety and security of his/her crate. The use of a crate or some other method of confinement when you are not DIRECTLY supervising the dog/child interactions is mandatory. A muzzle can also be used. Just as you would not leave a toddler or infant alone unsupervised, children of any age and dogs should never be left alone unsupervised.
- FEEDING TIME - Do not let your child take away the dog’s food or interfere with its mealtime in any way. If you have very young children it's recommended that you feed your greyhound in its crate to avoid any chance of a children interfering with him/her while eating. Food is a high ticket item and can become an issue especially if the dog has not been taught to respect the kids as superiors not equals.
- DOOR BOLTING - Be extremely cautious about leaving doors and gates open (this goes for car doors also). Greyhounds move so quickly that they will be out the door and down the street in a blink of the eye. Teach your children and their friends about the importance of keeping doors and gates closed at all times. Make sure you have a hold of your greyhound by the collar before any door is opened to let anyone in/out of your house. It is a good idea to actively teach your dog the command for "wait" and use it consistently, this will reduce their desire to bolt through open doors. It can be started with letting them out of their crate and going in their crate and then built upon every day with your potty walks. Make the dog stand and "wait" they are not allowed to pass through the opening without the release command (usually a word like OK is used). If you are going out, attach the leash then say ok, let's go out. If you are letting them out of the crate, they must wait even after you open the door until they get the release command "OK, come on out". The key is be consistent, reward the positive behaviors and your dog will learn quickly what is expected of him/her.
- KINDNESS - A child old enough to have a dog share their home is old enough to treat it with kindness. If they are unable to understand this, they may not be ready to have a dog as a pet. Many times rough housing with a greyhound can go bad simply because the dog just doesn't understand the game.
- FURNITURE - We suggest that dogs should not be permitted on the furniture or to sleep with anyone on their bed for at least 6 months, they should NEVER be permitted to sleep with a child until they have been totally established in the household, this can take up to a year. This is true for any breed of dog, not just a greyhound, to allow them equal status (by letting them sleep with a child) you place them on equal footing which can cause many behavior problems that are avoided completely by removing this temptation.
- BACK TO SCHOOL - We highly recommend dogs that live with children be taken to obedience school by an adult, to learn basic obedience and to aid in the establishment of whom is in charge (you and the other two legged people in your home!). Most basic obedience classes are held in the evening, one class a week for 6 to 8 weeks. Many veterinarians or boarding kennels may also be able to recommend an obedience class.
These are general guidelines and all dog/family relationships are different.