Are Greyhounds Affectionate? How to draw him out

This question is usually asked by new, first-time greyhound owners, who have previously owned other breeds. They are more used to the typical sloppy displays of affection shown by so many dogs, and the shy reserve of their new pet can easily be mistaken for cold-heartedness.

Greyhounds are calmly affectionate dogs.  An ex-racer is not used to having his own, private person; so it often takes time, attention, and patience for a loving bond to form.

Every time I’ve brought home a new greyhound, it has been a different experience! Each greyhound owner all seems to have his own story about this, so I did some checking in with others to see how they handled the early challenges of life with a new pet greyhound. I was amazed at all the tips and great advice they gave me!

Getting a Greyhound as your First Dog

When I went to the kennel pick out my first greyhound, I was spoiled for choice. There were so many beautiful, engaging dogs there. They were excited to see visitors. Several barked and shuffled in their crates, hoping to get our attention. Then, I saw one curled up in a ball, who looked completely disinterested in the whole situation. I asked the kennel manager, “Is this one depressed?”

 She replied, “Maybe, but once you have them home for a few weeks, their little personalities just bubble right out!”

I kind of thought you went to the kennel, and your dog “picked you;” but this poor thing wasn’t going to be picking anybody, and nobody was going to be picking her, either. She didn’t even want to come out of her crate. The manager, a seasoned greyhound trainer, plucked the dog, gently but firmly, out of her crate. She was clinging to her bedding with her toes! We took her outside, away from the noise, and the transformation, already, was amazing. She zipped around the perimeter of the pen, sniffing excitedly. My husband called her name, and she rushed over to him, tail wagging. I called her, and she turned around, came over to me, and tucked her head under my arm. I was sold.

I had never had a dog before, so I had no expectations. Because of that, I think Peaches actually had an easier transition to home life than she would have with an experienced dog owner. She did not have the pressure of being constantly compared to previous dogs. Greyhounds are competitive, but trying to live up to the ghost of a past pet is one race nobody wins. 

Greyhound: the Perfect Pet for Many

A greyhound is a perfect pet for someone (like me) who seriously dislikes constant, sloppy, rambunctious displays of doggie affection. Not that you won’t ever see goofy behavior from your greyhound, but it often takes time. Here are my top tips for forming the most rewarding possible relationship with your greyhound:

Choose Your Greyhound Carefully

If you run into one of those situations where your dog “chooses” you, that’s great! A greyhound who gives you a pleasant greeting is always a good bet. If you take a liking to one who is more reserved, make sure he has a docile temperament. Take him for a walk, and make sure if he’s not friendly, that he is, at least, cooperative with you. For example, I figured I would be okay with Peaches when I saw the kennel manager drag her out of her crate without a nip or a snarl, even though she didn’t want any part of it! 

Greyhound Groups Who Choose Your Dog

I am not comfortable with adoption situations where are they insist on matching you with a dog. There is something magic and memorable about choosing your dog. It’s an experience that doesn’t come around that often in life. If the kennel staffer has suggestions, that’s fine; but you should never, ever, feel pressured into taking a specific dog. 

Do Not Pick your Greyhound by Color

While it’s okay to enter the process with the preference of the dogs sex, be open about coat color. You may not believe this, but there are many dogs (of all breeds) who languish in adoption kennels simply because they have black coats. If you can be colorblind about your choice of greyhound, you may just end up with the gem of the kennel, simply because so many other prospective owners make this mistake, and overlook the many black and brindle greyhounds, in favor of white or the elusive gray greyhound. I’ve even heard of people putting their name in for a certain color, not even wishing to come down and look at the dogs, until one of the “right color” arrives. Who wants a choice of…one?

Be Cautious Adopting When a Greyhound Over the Internet 

What about adopting a dog blindly off the internet?  This is always going to be riskier than going to choose your dog in person, for everyone in your household, including the dog, especially if you have children. Feeling like the initial choice was made by you and your greyhound together is kind of a pact, the first step in building affection between you and him.

Make Sure Your Home is Greyhound-Ready

The biggest part of this is make sure there is a nice, clean, cozy bed waiting for him, kind of a “safe space.” If you have children, make sure you’re all on the same page, that this is not a dog they are going to be grabbing and hugging right on day one. Everybody needs to be prepared to stay out of the dogs face (literally) and off his bed. It’s good to have at least two places for your new greyhound to hunker down. He should have a dog bed in your bedroom. You’ll also want to put a dog bed in whatever room you spend most time in, usually the living room. If you have fairly soft carpeting, an old quilt is a good alternative. Greyhounds love to nest in these. 

As Cynthia Branigan says, “now is not the time for all the neighbors to come visiting.” Give him a day or two to get used to the new space and the people in it. At this point, your greyhound does not understand yet that this is his home. Now begins the time of building the trust required for your greyhound to feel affectionate toward you.

Establish a Routine Right from the Start

Greyhounds are creatures of habit. Your greyhound will feel insecure and unhappy, if he always feels like he doesn’t know what it is coming next. I’m sure you’ll have a regular schedule for his meals and walks, but you also want to start establishing some fun rituals with your dog. You can brush him with a hound mitt, or spend some time teaching him a trick or introducing him to his toys.  

He may seem aloof at first, but if you do it every day at the same time, he will come to look forward to it and enjoy it. If your greyhound is the shy type, be sure to gently praise him at the first show of affection.  A greyhound’s affection can be subtle: he will lean on you, or bump your hand with his nose (the greyhound kiss). Be sure to warmly acknowledge these displays.

Stay in Touch with Your Greyhound 

Spend time sitting with him, petting him gently and talking to him quietly. Greyhounds love it when you talk to them. I call greyhounds “fingertip dogs,” because using your fingertips is a good way to touch them. Greyhounds have thin coats, thin skin, and only half the body fat of the average dog, 16% as opposed to 32%; so they are very sensitive to the touch. 

Touch your greyhound gently, and keep an eye on his face to gauge his reaction. You will quickly find out what he likes and what he dislikes. For example, greyhounds have a sensitive spot behind their shoulder blades. Each of my greyhounds has disliked being touched there, and Peaches would actually let out a little yelp if I rubbed my hand across that spot.

It is not unheard-of for your retired racer to already be slightly arthritic. My second greyhound, Shannon, was like this. At first, I was disappointed, because he didn’t seem very affectionate. Luckily for me, he was very tolerant and gentle with me, while I figured it out that will he really needed was a much softer touch. See, in action, what a gentle touch can do for a greyhound, in this video:

Pet Greyhounds Require Patience, Patience, Patience

I cannot emphasize this enough. It is not unusual for it to take 6 to 12 months for your gailhound to really begin settling in. This is not to say that he will not be a pleasure to be around for that time; just recognize that it is a journey. I heard one owner say that you can’t “make the dog more affectionate;” but this is not really what you’re trying to do, anyway. Your greyhound’s affection will come naturally, once it has washed over him that he is really, truly, home. 

One of the most gratifying moments of my life as a dog owner came with my third dog, Lily, after she had been home for several weeks. I was sitting, putting on my shoes to take her out for a walk, and she was standing there, waiting for me. Suddenly, she gazed right into my eyes with a searching look, like she was trying to see right into my soul. Her eyes said, “You’re really keeping me, aren’t you? This is it? Really?” I could tell at that moment, Lily had discovered what love was, and all the reserve of the previous weeks fell away. We still had a way to go, but that was the turning point.

Be patient and gentle with your greyhound. With time & faith, love will find a way, and you will form a most extraordinary bond, which you will remember for a lifetime.

This video shows you just how cute and cuddly a greyhound can be, with time and plenty of loving patience:

Gail McGaffigan

The owner of the Greyhound Homecare website and YouTube channel, Gail has had retired racing greyhounds as pets since 1997. Please visit our channel, too!

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