An Obedient Dog is a Happy Dog

..... or why and how I encourage all dog owner's to complete at least basic obedience 

By Audrey A. Schneider 

People who visit our home at meal time often remark at how funny it is to watch four dogs scurry quickly on the word ‘places' to each one's own section of the kitchen and plop into a sit. It is not unheard of for those who know greyhounds to exhibit amazement at the fact that two of the four dogs are, indeed, greyhounds. 

I'm often asked where my belief in the comment that I used as the title of this article comes from. It has to due with numerous experiences over the years a few of which I would like to share. Three of our canine gang are over seventy pounds and of the two greyhounds one is a bouncy, happy-go-lucky, bowl'em over type. Don's Mom joined us for Christmas and all the dogs were thrilled to see her (they know Grandma will share a bit of food now and then). At 80 years old there is no way that my crew can greet her at their most excited! So, when I hear Don drive in with her, I immediately get everyone settled in the living room in long downs so we can get the two leggeds settled. 

Then the boys are encouraged to be social. The other time this is really beneficial is if you have a child or person coming to your house who is not really sure they like big dogs. 

The joy of watching some friends young son get to know the gang and grow from sitting very tentatively as far back on the couch as he could to quite happily traipsing amongst them was incredible. This time the technique I used was everyone in a long down and then I released them one by one for introductions (note: we haven't had much practice at the one by one release so the scene a fly on the wall would have observed was at best "how, how, how do I let Stretch know he can move while convincing three others not to" which resulted in a series quiet Stretch ok, ok, Chris stay, ok, stay, Imp stay, Chris stay; you get the drift). 

Another member of our gang is a 40 pound mixed breed who was a nipper, not house broken, and terrified of thunder / fireworks. The nipping was decreased significantly as he learned more self confidence (to the best of my knowledge he has not even attempted such behavior after he had been with us for around 6-9 months). The house breaking was helped because I could use long downs or go lay downs to keep him in my area until such time that he understood that inside is NOT, NOT, NOT outside. That took less than a month. Thunder and fireworks are still a problem though. The good news is he's not destructive, the bad is that he still tends to be a basket case; but we've now got the trembling, crying down to a manageable (it's really hard for me to watch a terrified animal and not reassure it) because his job at the sound of thunder / fireworks is to go to one of two places in the house and do a long down. The theory behind the last (courtesy of Job Michael Evans) is that it is the dogs job is to concentrate on the long down, the humans are not reinforcing the fear by fussing, and as far as Impy is concerned it is Mom's job is to keep the loud noise away. I know this sounds odd, but I can assure you that I now of a vast number of dogs that this has significantly helped. 

To round out the longer stories: if you are pleased with your dog's behavior you will end up in a self perpetuating "happy cycle", there will be very few places that your dog won't be welcomed with you, and, last but not least, when you are carrying 25 pounds of hot spaghetti sauce to the basement you will be certain that you won't get tripped! 

Teaching greyhounds functional obedience (i.e.: the critters in our home aren't competitive show dogs so the style is sometimes lacking but the implementation usually works pretty well) is not all that difficult and there are two approaches you can take. If you have trained a dog before I highly recommend you buy, or borrow from the library, "Play Training Your Dog" by Patricia Gail Burnham. Although the cover sports the traditional golden retriever all the pictures within are of her greyhounds! It is a delight to read and very easy to implement. Although this book is targeted at people who plan to show their dogs it is really easy to extract tricks to use with the Greyhound. 

If you've never trained a dog before take yourself and your hound to a class. This is to train you as much as it is to train the dog. I will never regret the time I took to learn how to interact effectively with my first dog and from there extensive reading has allowed me to hone my technique as my family has extended. The only caveat here is that you should probably go observe the teacher for at least one class without your dog. There are some really hard handed instructors out there. If you do not like the interactions you see between the instructor and the people / dogs in the room get out immediately a seek alternate instruction. Take the time to ask other Greyhound owners in your vicinity for recommendations because on the whole greyhounds tend to require a much lower correction level than many dogs seen in dog classes. 

Lastly I would like to remark that the easiest way to have obedience be a joy for both you and your Greyhound is to build it into everyday life once the Greyhound has mastered each skill. A long down while you eat dinner prevents noses from joining you at the table. A sit while you check ears or toenails works just as well as the dog standing. A down or sit stay while preparing the greyhounds food will guarantee a reward when you give the ok to eat! 

Happy training to all! 

© 1993 Audrey A. Schneider Audrey 
(613) 942-5844