My rescue greyhounds Sandy & Dennis have been ‘retired’ from the racing industry for over a year now, but every day we face the behavioural consequences of the lack of socialisation & deliberate nurturing of chase instinct/prey drive which they, like all racing greyhounds, will have experienced during their early lives. I love my boys to bits but it takes time & patience & a lot of work to counter the resultant fear, nervousness and aggression as they struggle to adapt to life outside racing kennels
Sandy has a ‘high prey drive’. This means that as well as automatically wanting to chase (& destroy) anything rabbit-like that we come across, he can sometimes be a little indiscriminate & want to do the same with other animals such as livestock, the neighbourhood cats, & even small, fast moving &/or fluffy dogs.
Dennis is a bit of a troubled soul – he is a nervous & impulsive dog. This manifests itself in lots of ways such as fear of being handled, mistrust of new people & fear of novel objects/things including other dogs that are not greyhound-shaped.
Behaviour Adjustment Training
Local canine behaviourist Lisa Hird, who we met at the end of last year, introduced me to a training philosophy called Behaviour Adjustment Training (BAT), which I am now using to help Sandy & Dennis (& any other dogs in my care) learn to live in a world where exposure to their fears/prey objects is pretty much mandatory.
BAT teaches owners to listen to what our dogs are telling us through their body language, & respond by meeting their needs through adjusting their environment. It teaches dogs to communicate calmly & appropriately, without resorting to aggressive/’unacceptable’ behaviours (such as lunging, snapping, barking etc.) &, importantly to me, it is kind & force free. For more information about how BAT works I recommend you go to Grisha’s website & I highly recommend her book, Behavior Adjustment Training: BAT for Aggression, Frustration and Fear in Dogs.
I see the potential for BAT to play a big role in dealing with the behavioural challenges inherent in sighthound rescue. After only one month of practicing BAT I feel like I know my dogs so much better than I did before & am already noticing significant improvements in Sandy & Dennis s’ behaviour. However, in the meantime I am still walking 2 dogs who it would really be better all round if other dogs didn’t come running up to their faces to greet…
The Yellow Dog Project
By using leads, head collars/haltis & muzzles I am doing my utmost to be a responsible dog owner & ensure that nothing should come to harm whilst I am in the process of working through my boys’ issues. (I am very hopefully that with BAT over time we will be able to safely dispense with the head collars & muzzles.) However sadly not all fellow dog owners respect that & feel it is acceptable for their own out of control off lead dog to rush up to us because ‘It’s OK, they’re friendly!’ (How many times have I heard that one?!) I know this sets back my dogs’ behaviour a whole lot, & I can’t imagine it does much for the other dog’s general well being either.
Dennis out for a walk
I was really encouraged to learn of the Yellow Dog Project, promoting the idea that some dogs need space (for whatever reason). The campaign started in Sweden but has now spread to many other countries, including UK, & is very simple: By tying a yellow ribbon (or some other yellow indicator) to a dog’s lead, an owner can show other dog owners that their dog needs some space.
posters downloadable from www.theyellowdogproject.com
Now yellow ribbons probably aren’t going to get through to the idiot dog owners who see me approaching with a dog who is clearly leaded, muzzled & wearing a head collar & let their little fluffy run up regardless, nor are they an excuse for people with dogs who may harm other dogs to strut around with them uncontrolled/unmuzzled, but it’s a start – a common code, which with time will hopefully increase awareness & maybe even change common practice. So Sandy & Dennis wear their yellow ribbons on their leads whenever we go out for walks.
If you have a dog who needs space why not join the campaign? You can obtain free yellow ribbons from the Yellow Dog UK website (with a small charge to cover postage & packaging NB message them if you’d like more than one & they will happily send at no additional cost). We’ve also created some special yellow dog bandanas & treat pouches to tie in with the Yellow Dog Project.
hand printed yellow treats pouch (demonstrated by Gizzy!)
The bandanas can be seen from further away than a ribbon (& have fun designs on them too!) & the treats pouch can handily be clipped to the top of a lead, making it both easily accessible to you for treating your dog (for good behaviour of course!) & easily visible to other dog owners. Bandanas & treats pouches can be purchased via our Etsy shop. (If you would prefer one of our other designs printed on a bandana, or even have an idea of your own for what you’d like to see, just get in touch!)