Tips & Tricks #15 - Crate training your Greyhound

Why should I crate train my Greyhound? Crate training your greyhound is a great way to ensure a smooth transition from a kennel environment into a home. A crate gives your greyhound its own space in an unfamiliar house, helps with toileting, cat training, child safety and also protects your home from any mischief a new greyhound could get up to.  It is suitable for almost all types of greyhound as it provides comfort and security for the more nervous and shy dogs, and safety and protection for the more outgoing and mischievous types.

Step 1: Setting up the crate.
Greyhounds in particular are used to having their own space in their kennel environment. Providing them with their very own "den€ will provide familiarity and comfort. Although some dogs may prefer to be out exploring this fun new "house€ environment there is plenty you can do to help your dog feel at home in his crate. Start by ensuring that you chose a crate big enough (they should be able to turn around easily, XL or XXL is generally suitable for most greyhounds). You should also make sure it is located somewhere he can keep an eye on his new "pack€ (your family) so a lounge area is ideal. The crate should have a nice soft bed with blankets to nest in, and it is a good idea to have it as the dogs only bed to start with. Treats, chews and toys are also a good enticement for a dog that would rather be out exploring than relaxing in his "bedroom€.  Remember to keep children and other animals out of the crate so the dog is able to feel that it is his space.

Step 2: Introducing your Greyhound to the crate.
Crate training a retired greyhound is slightly different to training other types of dogs as they are used to living in a kennel environment. After your dog has had a chance to check out his new house environment, put him in his crate for some quiet "reflection time€. You may need to entice or gently push him into the crate to begin with as it is likely he would rather be out exploring than in bed!  Discourage children or other pets from disturbing him so he can relax in his own space. It is a good idea at this point to briefly leave the dog alone for a short time so he learns that people coming and going is a normal and nothing to worry about. Throw the occasional treat into the crate without making a fuss of the dog, so he learns to be calm and relaxed.

Step 3: When to use the crate.
For the first few days it is best to have your dog in his crate when you are not keeping an eye on him, such as while you are cooking tea or out of the house. This helps to ensure you are always there to correct or prevent any unwanted behaviour and bad habits from forming (such as peeing on the curtains or stealing the sausages that are defrosting in the sink). Your dog will happily sleep in his crate overnight (remove his collar if there is any risk of his getting it caught on the crate). Remember to toilet your dog regularly while he is learning to be clean in the house (every hour or two, first thing in the morning and last thing at night) by leading his straight from the crate to his designated toilet area and praising him when he goes. A small plastic water bucket clipped to the side of the crate is a good idea if your dog is being left in his crate for longer periods of time, but remember that a crate is to be used as a training tool not simply for a convenience.

Cat training:
If your Greyhound has a "cat tick€ it means it has been selected by our kennel staff as "cat trainable€. In most cases this will mean that the dog has meet the office cat and showed little or no interest in him. It is important to remember that this dog is evaluated as "cat trainable€ NOT cat "trained€! A crate is an essential tool when helping your greyhound learn to safely live with your cat. It allows your greyhound to observe the cat being part of your family, and removes the risk of your greyhound from being able to chase to cat. To begin with the greyhound should be muzzled and in his crate for the first few interactions with the cat. Put the dog in the crate with his muzzle on and give him some time to settle in. When he has relaxed let the cat enter the room (it is best not to let the dog see you carrying the cat in if possible as picking up the cat makes it even more interesting to the dog.) Give the cat and the dog time to calmly observe each other. If is fine to quietly pat and reassure the cat but try and prevent it from being too active. Any undesirable behaviour such as whinging, whining, barking, staring intensely, scratching at the crate etc. should be corrected by using a squirt bottle. Remember to keep these sessions very brief to begin with (5 mins max) as you want to make your dogs first experiences with the cat as stress free as possible. Gradually extend these sessions and give the dog time to spend observing the cat being part of the family such as sleeping on your knee in the evenings. Never leave your greyhound alone with the cat (even in his crate) when you are not there supervising.

Step 4: Phasing out the crate.
Once the dog is more settled and understands the house rules the crate door can be left open more often for him to come and go as he pleases. It is best to do this at quiet times of the day while you can still keep an eye on his such as in the evening. Many dogs will still chose to use the crate as a bed but if you would like him to have another bed now is the time to introduce it (either near the crate or in an area he often spends time such as a sunny window). It is a good idea to crate your dog while you are out of the house until you are completely confident he understands the house rules. Practice phasing out the crate by shutting him in the room with the crate (with an open crate door) while you leave the house for short periods of time, gradually extending this to longer periods. For a dog that has settled in the house the crate can still be used on occasions such as for providing quite time for a dog that may become overly excited or anxious when guests are visiting.

Trouble shooting FAQs:

My dog wont go into the crate? It is understandable that some dogs would rather be out exploring rather than in the crate. You can try to tempt your dog in with treats and toys, or alternatively place your dog in front of the crate and push him in with your hands on his thighs. Some dogs may plant their front feet and lift their back legs up, just keep gently pushing. Once he is in the crate praise him and offer him a treat. Greyhounds are used to being physically moved around in their racing life, so we promise that he won't take offense to you man handling him!

My dog wont come out of the crate
It is important not to punish your dog for not coming out of the crate. If he won't come out try opening the door and calling him from across the room, luring him out with treats, or clipping a lead on and gently pulling him out. It is important to use the lead not just grabbing him by the collar as it can be frightening for a greyhound that is uncertain to be grabbed at. Once he is out of the crate praise him and offer him a treat.
My dog whines and whinges when we go to bed at night
Try to ignore this behaviour, remember your hound has a lot to learn in his new life. Alternatively, you can move the crate to somewhere where the dog can still see you (such as a hallway outside the bedroom) and gradually move it further away from the bedroom over the next few nights as the dog settles in. You can also try leaving on a light or the tv or radio quietly playing.
My dog has peed in his crate
Be sure to toilet your dog at least every two hours, first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and immediately after eating while he is settling in. It is also a good idea to feed your dog outside as many dogs are fed outside in their racing lives so they can toilet at the same time. Signs your dog may be asking to go to the toilet such as whinging, looking at the door, turning in circles, standing up, or barking in the crate. While your dog is settling in it is a good idea to keep his diet as similar to the kennel meals as possible to avoid tummy upsets (this includes making sure your dog doesn't have too many treats).