7. Freezing on Walks

Why it happens: 

You may have heard that greyhounds have a reputation for stubbornly stopping on walks and refusing to move any further. They’re not being deliberately naughty, in fact, they’re actually incredibly scared.  

When dogs are feeling threatened or under stress, they have four options, flight, flight, fool around, and freeze. Freezing is a common response for greyhounds and especially when they have been exposed to too much too soon and are feeling overwhelmed. It can happen immediately or become a coping mechanism over time. Think ‘I’m coping, I’m coping, I’m coping, I’m NOT coping and freeze’. 

How to help your hound 

Take your time:

Walks are only enriching if the dog is actually enjoying it and because of the risk of freezing due to fear. We strongly suggest no walks for the first 3-7 days in a new home as their levels of stress hormones will be higher and they’ll be tired.  

You’ve got permission to forgo walks altogether and instead chill out at home spend time getting to know each other and building a relationship when you bring your new hound home. You can be creative and provide physical and mental stimulation in other ways through DIY enrichments, play chase games with long fleece tug toys, possum tails, chasing tossed treats, or just hanging out together. You want your hound to feel safe with you before heading out on the town together.  

Practice first: 

Before you set foot off the property work on some attention and loose leash walking games (see Coby’s settling in diary for some ideas). You ideally want to be able achieve a level of engagement somewhere with no distractions, like in your living room or yard, before you take your new hound out and about.

Quiet, please:

When you do take your dog out for walks choose to go someplace quieter; remember they’ve grown up rurally and aren’t familiar with the hustle and bustle of town life or the noise of traffic. Use walks as an opportunity for the dog to sniff and explore the new environment at their own pace, rather than to get exercise. You can meet your dog’s physical stimulation needs through playing at home; right now your focus is on ensuring your hound feels comfortable in new places. 

One paw at a time:

Rotate through the same 1-2 walking spots initially and build from there over a period of months, being somewhere familiar and predicable will help your hound to feel safe and less likely to freeze on walks.  

Give me space:

Set your hound up for success by giving them plenty of space to observe new things like other dogs, buses, and other people, from a distance. This way they have a chance to process and choose if they’d like to move forward to investigate, move further away, or stay where they are. There’s a risk that by doing too much too soon, your hound gets in the deep end and feels like they are forced to escalate their reaction to fight or flight. You gain nothing by rushing and instead risk having to do remedial training and behaviour work to help your fearful hound who has started freezing and refusing to leave the house because they think it’s too scary.