“Help! My greyhound is aggressive.” is one of the many outcries I receive from our readers. Most greyhound owners can hardly differentiate between an aggressive greyhound, a playful one, and a greyhound that is responding to fear or intimidation.
Greyhounds aren’t aggressive dogs. They only growl, snap or snarl when they are upset, sense intrusion, or feel cornered. Improper socialization when a greyhound was a puppy is one of the main reasons that causes difficulty when he becomes an adult. Aggression is mainly fear-based, and you can work through it with patience, time, and training.
First, in order to label your greyhound as aggressive, you have to be able to determine what aggression is. Biting is definitely considered as aggression. However, growling, displays of physically threatening behavior, and snarling are survival mechanisms developed by dogs over time that prevent the need to fight. Anxiety and fear are the leading causes of greyhound aggression and can manifest in many ways.
Signs of Aggression
How do I know my greyhound is aggressive? Body language is the best way to tell when and if your dog is about to display aggressive behavior. General awareness of these signs of aggression will help you anticipate and hopefully stop the situation before it becomes dire.
Primary signs of aggression that you should look out for are baring teeth, a stiff body stance, ears pinned to the back, growling, biting, and snarling.
Why Is My Greyhound Aggressive?
1. Separation anxiety
Greyhounds have a different upbringing from all other dog breeds. They spend a lot of time from birth with other greyhounds, which could be his littermates or racing mates. The first time your greyhound is or has been left alone is most likely when you do.
- Use a crate: Your greyhound will be more comfortable using a crate. It will help keep your dog and the house safe. Having something familiar to your dog like a crate will greatly aide his transition to home life. Having never been in a home, it can be quite overwhelming for your greyhound. Put your dog in the crate 10 or 15 before you leave. This gives your greyhound a chance to settle in the crate before you leave and keeps him from associating the crate to you leaving.
- Exercise: Just because greyhounds are referred to as couch potatoes doesn’t mean they do not need exercise. A good walk and the chance to run in a well-fenced area regularly are sufficient exercise. Exercise will tire your dog out making it easier to relax.
- Visual of the outdoors: Leave the blinds down so that your greyhound can see outside.
2. Pain induced aggression
Greyhounds are excellent at hiding their pain, but if the pain is overwhelming, you will hear them growl or nip. From an untrained eye, it may seem like aggression, but it is a defense mechanism. Pet owners have been known to be injured while helping their pets; therefore, it is essential to be careful when handling a greyhound in pain.
If your greyhound suddenly starts acting out and aggressively, first make sure he isn’t suffering from any physical trauma that could be triggering it.
Take your greyhound to a vet for a check-up and ascertain that he is not hurt or in pain. If he is, your vet will prescribe the right medication for your dog’s ailment.
3. Territorial aggression and/or resource guarding
Your greyhound may display territorial aggression when he is guarding his space, food, or objects. Greyhounds that suffer from resource guarding or territorial aggression are often confused with being dominant, but they are often insecure. Controlling their territory and resources is a means of survival and safety. Any unwanted visitor to that territory is considered a threat.
Work with a positive dog trainer to help you:
- Desensitize your greyhound to triggers that set of the aggressive reaction.
- Create a plan that encourages your greyhound to listen and respond to your cues.
- Reinforce impulse control to manage reactivity.
4. Fear-based aggression
Unlike common belief, fear-based aggression is not caused by previous abuse in your greyhound’s life. Greyhounds that aren’t adequately socialized or socialized enough may display this form of aggression. Due to a lack of proper socialization, your dog may have a hard time accepting change, new people, and experiences.
- Show strong leadership: It is important that your greyhound knows that you are in charge, his protector, and the one making the decisions. Once he understands you are the alpha, he then can comfortably relax and leave you to the decision making.
- Reward calm composure: When your greyhound is barking, the best thing to do is to stay calm. Avoid talking to your dog in a high-pitched voice, as this only fuels the aggression. Stay quiet and slowly move away.
- Don’t try to comfort your greyhound: This may reinforce his belief that there is actually something to fear. Do not turn your back to your dog, either. Simply back away slowly.
- Control the environment: Greyhounds who display fear-based aggression need a safe space where they can relax and feel confident. In the event there are triggers bound to threaten your dog, move him to a quieter and safer area.
- Be patient: Don’t rush your greyhound. Avoid putting him in stressful situations until you are sure he can handle it.
5. Psychological trauma
Greyhounds are very sensitive, and psychological trauma from past experiences, especially those that involve physical mistreatment, affects their overall behavior.
- Create a safe space: A clear structure of safety would be handy for a dog that exhibits psychological aggression. In the newly created safe place, allow only positive vibes and things to happen. This was way your dog won’t feel like any pressure has been placed on him.
- Give your greyhound choices: Offering your greyhound choices, whether it is about the environment, care, or schedule, gives him a sense of control. Teach your dog appropriate behavior that allows them to, in turn, get what they want. This way, they learn that they have control over what happens to them. The reward reinforces your greyhound’s confidence to choose.
- Support: Both animals and people who have undergone psychological trauma greatly benefit from social support. The sense of belonging, experiencing love, and security helps build trust, thereby breaking through the trauma. Repetition and routine are vital in rewiring your greyhound’s brain. It takes time to accumulate repetitions, but remember, recovery takes patience and time.
6. Sleep Aggression/Sleep Startle
Your greyhound hasn’t experienced touch when asleep because, in racetrack kennels, the sound of the door opening is meant to wake them up before they are touched. Your dog is used to enjoying long periods of uninterrupted sleep, and this is why his immediate response may be a snarl or snap. This doesn’t automatically imply that your dog is aggressive.
- Do not touch or disturb your greyhound when he is resting or sleeping.
- If you have to wake your greyhound up, use his name, or make a sound that will wake him without touching him before approaching your dog.
- Ensure their bed or sleeping place is separate or enclosed to give your hound privacy. Preferably, a crate would be ideal. This will keep them safe and feeling secure.
- Avoid sleeping with your greyhound. This includes sleeping on the couch with your dog as you watch TV. You may move your hound’s bed closer but not too close to get disturbed if you start moving around.
7. Unfamiliar displays of affection
Imagine this, you are used to a set time schedule for everything, and the only people you know are the one who lets you out for pee brakes and the one who feeds you. Then, all of a sudden, you have a new owner and suddenly people shriek when they see you, make a beeline for you, try to touch, hug and kiss you. Revolting isn’t it and quite a change of pace, right? That’s precisely how your greyhound feels to these unfamiliar displays of affection that he has never experienced before in his life.
Your greyhound’s reaction to unfamiliar displays of affection may be fear-based aggression because he feels threatened.
- Learn the ways through which your greyhound perceives and shows affection.
- Politely tell strangers and visitors how to approach your greyhound. Give them rules of interaction with your hound.
- Proper socialization also goes a long way in breaking down human interaction to your hound. Through socialization, your hound will be able to differentiate basic interaction from threatening situations.
What Should I Do When My Greyhound Is Aggressive?
Aggression is a complex and multifaceted issue. There is no “magic pill” that will turn your greyhound into a soft tempered dog. However, with a lot of patience and the right approach, you help manage your greyhound’s aggression. When it comes to behavioral issues such as aggression, prevention is the most important aspect.
If your greyhound is fearful, controlled exposure would be a great way to help solve the resulting aggression. Controlled exposure to sounds, sights, and experiences on a constant basis will allow your greyhound to get accustomed to the day to day occurrences.
Careful and gradual exposure to the stimulus that is causing aggression or fear with positive reinforcement to help foster calm behavior is a great way to help your greyhound overcome a problem. Your dog may not make a full recovery, but he will be able to associate certain events such as a doorbell ringing or a person approaching with good things such as treats or toys.
Increase his daily exercises
Exercise is a great way to release endorphins that make both you and your dog feel happier. An exhausted greyhound doesn’t misbehave, and they are also very easy to tire out. After a good round of exercise, your greyhound will opt to sleep mostly, and he’ll generally be happier and less likely to be aggressive.
Controlled environments imply that as the pet owner, you are observant of what your greyhound is learning. For example, going to an off-leash park where your dog may be bullies or threatened isn’t a great way to socialize him. Your greyhound may feel the need to defend himself and hence begin an aggressive learning curve.
What Are the Differences Between a Playful and Aggressive Greyhound?
Greyhounds love to play; it’s a great way to explore and socialize with both people and other pets. Part of the fun is roughhousing, which is healthy and safe. However, it can become dangerous if taken too far.
Here are playful habits that are often confused for aggression:
Nitting is when your greyhound exhibits joy and love by nibbling your side or arm with their front teeth. It can easily be misinterpreted as aggression. However, if the nibble is hard enough, it could leave a bruise; therefore, as a greyhound owner, you should be careful.
This is when your greyhound’s lower jaw clicks against the upper jaw, continuously making a clicking sound. For some greyhounds, it is loud while for others, it’s a quiet whisper. Chattering is a sign of excitement.
Like chattering and nitting, air snapping too is as a result of greyhound excitement. It looks like your greyhound is biting or snapping at the air.
Leaning is the greyhound version of a hug. It depicts trust and affection. Considering the sheer height of a greyhound, your feet should be firmly planted on the ground.
You may observe your greyhound walking excruciatingly slowly under hanging leaves or a tablecloth that can lightly graze his back. This is referred to as trancing. It is a very pleasurable activity for your dog.
This is displayed when your greyhound puffs his cheeks and then slowly releases the air making a faint sound, especially when lying down. Poofing shows that your dog is in a completely relaxed state.
Baring of teeth is often misconstrued as aggression. However, for a greyhound, smiling involves showing its teeth, and as long as it isn’t followed with a growl, it’s just a smile. You may also notice your greyhound baring his teeth when taking a treat from you. This isn’t a sign of aggression. It’s just an easy access tactic.
Signs or precursors to aggression are as shown below:
- A stiff stance and arched neck
- A fixed stare
- Dilated pupils with a still, straight tail is a sign of a greyhound about to attack.
- A snarl followed by a growl is a sign of trouble.
What Should I Do to Reduce the Instances of Aggression?
- Set a consistent routine and structure at home.
- Recognize the signs of anxiety and removing your greyhound or the cause of distress from the vicinity.
- Expose your greyhound to positive sights, experiences, environment, and sounds.
- Train your greyhound to stay calm.
- Avoid the use of punishment as a means to treat aggression.
- Avoid aggression triggers where possible.
FAQ’s About Aggression in Greyhounds
Do greyhounds attack small dogs?
In order to answer this question, it is essential to differentiate between prey drive and prey aggression. Prey drive is the subconscious canine need or motivation to chase, which is high in greyhounds. Prey aggression, on the other hand, is the motivation to attack with the intent to kill.
Prey drive in greyhounds is strong and is characterized by freezing, excessive tail wagging, focus or fixed eyes, and lunging. Prey drive, however, can be managed/minimized through training and socialization. Retired greyhounds have been raised and trained to chase and may lack the ability to differentiate a lure from a small lure-like dog.
If you notice your greyhound is exhibiting prey drive signs, take control and remove your dog from the situation immediately. Without proper redirection or removal of the situation, it is bound to escalate fast.
Will my greyhound attack my cat?
Your greyhound’s ability to tolerate cats can be categorized into three classes. Either your dog will be cat intolerant, cat trainable, or cat safe. To clearly identify which category your greyhound lies in, you will need to conduct the cat test. Joanne Johnson, a renowned trainer, proved that greyhounds could cohabit with cats. She is credited with thousands of injury-free training. Read more about whether you greyhound can attack your cat in this article https://dogswhisperer.com/are-greyhounds-good-with-cats/
Do greyhounds attack visitors?
Many triggers can elicit a fearful response from your greyhound. Approaches from new people and dogs is a common trigger. Many people unknowingly greet dogs in an unnatural and threatening way while looking directly into the dog’s eyes. Some people will even try to hug or kiss your hound. This approach for a greyhound, considering he isn’t used to direct interaction with people, poses as a threat and prompts fear aggression.
- Socialization: Proper socialization of your greyhound will help avoid or reduce the magnitude of fear that your dog experiences in such instances.
- Politely ask visitors to follow your guidelines when interacting with your greyhound.
- Ensure your dog has a safe space or crate where they can retreat to when they feel fearful of visitors, especially children.
- Do not punish your greyhound for displaying a fearful reaction to visitors. Punishing will only exacerbate the situation and make him more nervous and aggressive.
What can I do to calm my aggressive greyhound?
The best way to calm an aggressive greyhound is to squat down while facing sideways, avoid eye contact, stretch your arm towards your dog with an open palm low to the ground, and allow them to sniff it. This reassures your hound that you aren’t a threat.
Finally, human instinct pushes us to get a quick fix for everything; greyhound aggression has none. Managing your greyhound’s aggression is a process that requires time, patience and gradual exposure to an aggression-causing stimulus to establish improvement in attaining a calmer composure. Dumping your greyhound just because the task ahead seems daunting only exacerbates his fears and aggression.