My Greyhound Hates Me? How to win your pup’s heart

I recently got a comment on my video about greyhound statuing from Tammy, who is concerned that her greyhound doesn’t seem too crazy about men or going for walks.  

Of course, your greyhound does not hate you.  You just need time to get to know one another.  This requires a gentle, patient approach.  Greyhounds are creatures of habit, who resent surprises.  Provide him with a secure foundation by setting a firm routine of meals, treats, walks, and even a scheduled time when he can count on your attention being focused on him.  Take the time to discover what kind of touches he likes and dislikes, and talk to him, so he starts to enjoy the sound of your voice.

If you’re off to a “ruff” start with your greyhound, you’ve come to the right place!  Read on to hear of Tammy’s plight, and my suggestions for getting her new pal to give hubby…and walks… a chance.

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“My Greyhound is Timid When it Comes to Men”

Here’s Tammy’s situation:

“I recently adopted a gorgeous greyhound, and she is just wonderful. I do have a couple of questions and wondered if you might be able to help.

1. She seems to be very timid when it comes to men. My other half is the most wonderful man, and very patient with her; but she’s very wary around him, and I just wondered if you had any advice to help in building her confidence and also her relationship with him?

2. I know you mentioned that greyhounds don’t normally statue out of fear, but this little one is one timid bean! Her tail will often be between her legs when she does statue, and it’s only a few occasions where it isn’t fully tucked under. She’s sussed all my tricks, including walking in a circle, high value treats and hiding her favourite toys in my coat to help distract her. As you can imagine, our walks are currently lasting around 5-10 minutes max and we barely make it anywhere. If you have any other advice, it would be wonderful! Thank you so much, your channel is brilliant ✨ “

Winning Over your New Greyhound: The Basics

I didn’t want to leave Tammy hanging while I wrote this article, so I made sure to set her up with some basic ideas to try:

“Aww, she sounds a bit overwhelmed. It can happen.  Greyhounds love their routines, and starting from scratch can be quite an upset for them. 

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Have your beloved take on as much of the feeding and treating as he can. 

2. She may not take treats from his hand, in which case she’ll appreciate it if he just places the treat in front of her.                

3. Ask him to sit with her for 10 minutes a day. Pet her with fingertips, and be sure she sees the hand coming. If she seems uncomfortable with even that, read the sports page to her or enjoy a piece of beef jerky in her presence (that’ll get her attention!). If she gets up and leaves, try again later or tomorrow. 

4. Walks: what to do depends on if she’s getting her ‘business’ done. Maybe you could start back for home as soon as she’s ‘done?’ Then maybe sneak in a little more, incrementally?”  

Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these ideas and ways to implement them.

The Way to your Greyhound’s Heart is Through his Stomach

It can be a tricky matter when a new greyhound shies away from one family member.  One’s first impulse may be to smother the dog with more affection, when what he really needs is a gradual, patient approach.  

You want to think in terms of lateral activities; daily things to do with the dog that don’t necessarily entail a lot of contact.  Feeding and giving treats are perfect for this.

If your greyhound is very shy, she may not even want to eat what you’ve just given her, if you are too close by.  That’s all right – Just talk to her cheerfully while you prepare her food, set it out, and leave her alone to eat.

There are endless ways to win your greyhound through treats.  First, you can let her sample a few things, to find out what she likes.  Keep the treats small when you do this, so you can keep the fun going for longer.  Little dog cookies and soft treats are good, of course.  Then, you can let her try a few nibbles of people food.  Here are some foods that are often a big hit with greyhounds:

  • peanut butter
  • pepperoni and other cold cuts
  • cream cheese
  • cheese
  • yogurt
  • small cheese crackers
  • toast
  • sardines
  • bread

My son bonded with our Lily by using treats to teach her how to climb stairs.  He placed a small dog cookie on each stair.  Lily figured out how to go up the stairs very quickly, and then startled us by barrelling back down the stairs for more!

Try tossing her a treat.  Greyhounds can be very good at snapping a treat out of the air…. or she might give you a puzzled look, as if to say, “why did you just bounce a cookie off my nose?”

A really good game for bonding is to see if she can guess in which hand you are hiding the treat.  This gets her to come to you on her own terms.

“My Greyhound Won’t Eat from my Hand”

Some greyhounds are funny about this.  My first one usually would not.  The next one would, tentatively.  Lily had to learn to not take my hand off. 

One time, I arrived at our local greyhound kennel with a box of cookies.  I stopped at each dog’s crate for a quick pat and a treat.  Interestingly, only half the dogs took the cookie from my hand.  Each of the rest looked from the cookie, to me, to a spot in front of him.  This particular behavior is called “targeting,” and it is a sign of a very smart dog.

Targeting may, in fact, be a good way to connect with your shy greyhound.  Greyhounds love games that involve their natural abilities.  Dog trainer Pat Koven describes targeting’s usefulness well:

‘Targeting is a fun and easy behavior to teach and is a basic skill or building block that can be used as part of teaching many different behaviors; such as getting off the furniture, going into her crate, coming to you, or even opening doors, such as the refrigerator…’

Pat Koven

…I wouldn’t advise teaching a greyhound that last one, if you know what’s good for you….Anyway, Koven has written quite an involved article about targeting, which I link to below.  Warning – Don’t take a lot of dog-training advice seriously for greyhounds.  Thier minds often do not work like conventional dogs. Focus on building trust with your greyhound, and you won’t need much training. 

Hanging Out is your Greyhound’s Favorite Activity

Commit to spending ten minutes a day, joining your greyhound in her favorite activity – Just quietly hanging out. It will do wonders for both of you!  A study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information tells us…

“Recent research on human-dog interactions showed that talking to and petting a dog are accompanied by lower blood pressure (BP) in the person than human conversation.”

National Center for Biotechnology Information 

I discovered the value of this myself, purely by accident. I had just had my first child, when I realized I wasn’t spending any time with Peaches. It soon became apparent that this 10-minute hangout was a win/win idea, because it assured that I would be able to get off my feet for 10 straight minutes, not an easy task when a new baby is home. 

Peaches and I really did become closer from this simple, regular time together. By then, she’d been with us for two years, we were already bonded, so this was a great time of snuggling and talking to her. 

My Greyhound Doesn’t Like to be Petted

She’ll like it, once she gets used to you; so this is another area where a gradual approach may be needed.  There are several reasons for this, none of which have to do with abuse.

The first thing to remember is that your greyhound has only half the body fat of the average dog.  In addition, greyhounds usually have only a single coat, where most dogs have two layers of coat.  Without all this extra padding, your petting feels much more intense to your grey than it would to other dogs you’ve petted in the past.

Another factor is that she may not understand your intentions…and I think this holds true anytime we adopt adult dogs.  Unless a new dog is practically sitting on you to be petted, it’s good to start very gradually, with small, light touches in short (but regular) sessions.  

One occasion on which many greyhounds dislike being touched is when they are distracted. If he smells food on your hands, his dinner is being prepared, or he scents something outside, don’t be surprised if he shies away from your petting.

One thing Lily was very touchy about was being embraced, or handled from behind, or being touched when she didn’t see it coming.  These would actually be greeted with a growl.  We never felt like she was going to bite; it sounded more like “I don’t like that, it makes me uncomfortable.” It took a while, but she likes all kinds of hugging now.

The final thing I would caution about is touching your grey while she’s resting on her bed.  Greyhounds are often asleep, even when they don’t appear to be; and may startle and lash out, if touched unexpectedly.  Of course, you’ll never get any petting done if you wait for them to wake up, they sleep so much!  If you want to hang out with your grey while she’s resting, call her name and gently toss a few soft toys at her while you approach her, to bring her around.

Breaking Through with Petting the Shy Greyhound

Go over your greyhound, including his toes, using your fingertips gently; and watch his face for any expressions of discomfort. There is usually one place where a grey dislikes being touched. Some love having their ears rubbed, some hate it. Lily and Peaches both were sensitive behind the shoulder blades, Peaches being particularly sensitive there.

Often, the dislike manifests in ways that are easy to overlook

Pet MD

An article over at the Pet MD website had some good advice on this kind of observation of your pet:

“Cuddle-averse dogs can show their dislike in obvious ways, like walking away if a person reaches for them, or ducking their heads as if they’re about to get swatted instead of snuggled. Often, the dislike manifests in ways that are easy to overlook, like a series of behaviors called ‘calming signals’ that are subtle and happen quickly.

“For example, if you notice your dog leaning away and licking her lips when you pet her, it’s possible she’s not enjoying it. She might also avoid looking at you, or take a few steps away so that you’re not able to touch her with the same intensity.”

Little by little, you will figure out what your greyhound likes.  It’s really a very rewarding process.

Another Strategy for Greyhounds who are Balky on Walks

Having a new dog call off the walk after 5 – 10 minutes creates a vicious circle – An insecure dog who feels she has to be the one to set the parameters of the walk will only become more insecure.  Yet, you don’t want to be dragging her around town against her will.  

Sometimes, it’s best to just meet your hound right on his level.  Try this strategy: when you start the walk, set the timer on your phone for 3 minutes.  When it goes off, you make the decision to turn around and head for home.  In other words, start with a six-minute walk.  Increase by one minute every day or two.  It’s OK if you have a setback and need to build up again.

The only catch with this plan is that I don’t want to create problems with her toileting, because that is the Number 1 (excuse the pun) thing that you do not want to untrain!  If she doesn’t go while on these brief “starter walks,” do you have an enclosed area where she can pad around until she goes?  If not, maybe you can walk her around your property until she goes.  

With time and patience, this period of uncertainty will pass.  In the meantime, enjoy every day for its little successes.

Resources for Further Exploration

Categorized as Behavior

By 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!