We all read about how people should treat their dogs, what they should eat, how they should be kept, and where they should sleep. Before we had our hounds I had very firm ideas where dogs should or should not be, and most definitely not on the furniture. I read so much about people who put their dog’s beds in their bedrooms or even shared their beds with them, and that was definitely a no-go for me. However, Penny has taught us how important it is to adapt your living style around your hound, and that they should have a degree of say in how they live. After all, it’s their home too.
When we had our Sally, the first greyhound we had ever taken home, we soon found that we were on a steep learning curve. The family dog when I was a kid was a Shetland sheepdog who ate tinned dogfood, slept in a plastic basket in the kitchen, rarely went upstairs and never on the furniture. Before Sally arrived we had spoken to Greyhound Rescue Wales colleagues who had greyhounds, and to the people who had done our home check. Their greyhound had liked Weetabix for breakfast, and dried food at tea-time, so this is what we followed. Sally was pretty relaxed and this suited her. Over the years we tweaked things as she got bored of Weetabix, so would ring the changes with cut cornflakes, or frosties, or porridge, and add plain yoghurt. Sal would have s light snack dinnertime (crusts or leftovers if we were home) and then a main meal at 5 o’clock – and woe betide if we were late, as Sally’s stomach was more accurate than the atomic clock at Harwell! She would raise the roof with barking to remind us. Dried food was supplemented with scraps, and eventually became a mix of dried food and our food. She thrived on it. When Sammy arrived, she went on the same diet, two meals and light scraps/food if we were there lunchtime.
Just like my first dog, Sally was not allowed on the chairs or settee in the house. On the first evening she climbed up on a chair and I tipped her (gently I might add!) onto the floor. She never climbed on the chairs again. When she conquered the stairs (very quickly, I might add!) she was allowed up on our bed, but only when there was a cover on and we were there. Sally used to get bored lying upstairs on her own and always wanted to be where I was. I can remember working on the pc in the back bedroom (grandly called “The Office”!) with her lying right under the chair, terrifying me in case I rolled the castors over her ears. Sammy loved to sneak upstairs and would love to lie in the sunshine on our bed and would sleep there all day given the chance. After lunch she would cry by the living room door for Armelle to let her go upstairs, where she would stay until she either;
a) Demanded a walk
b) I got home from work
Sally loved her bed in the kitchen. From her first evening, she would go out to that bed in the evening usually before we went up to our own bed. Shew slept through the night until I got up the next morning when she would go out the garden for a toilet stop whilst I prepared her breakfast. Sammy, on the other hand, liked to come up to bed with us for a short cwtch, and then would come downstairs when I called her for a piece of cheese or a treat, when she would then go to the garden and then to her kitchen bed for the night.
In some respects we were quite strict about this. Even after Sammy had shared the bed in the motorhome with Armelle and I on her holidays she would still want her own kitchen bed when we were in the house. When we had our fosters we changed a bit; Queenie was badly abused by her owner and within days of being with us she tried to tear the kitchen door down at night. We let her sleep in the living room as she was more comfortable there. With her toileting issues too, she would only mess at night on a carpet and not on a hard floor – a legacy of her being locked in a concrete-floored shed. Rhys also decided that the kitchen was not for him so we had to patch up the kitchen door again! He liked to sleep on the settee in the living room, so for the first few weeks we assessed him that’s where he slept, until he discovered the upstairs bed, and for his last fortnight with us he slept on his blanket in between us.
Lizzie never left the kitchen for the first three weeks we fostered her and always saw the kitchen bed as her safe place. She was the very least adventurous of all her dogs, so quiet and scared of the world, and rarely went into the living room and never ever upstairs. And then there was The Penster.
We had learned over the years with experience that some things are more important than others. The rules we had strictly enforced with the other dogs were somewhat relaxed by Penny.
Firstly, we discovered that Penny really loved her food. And then some. Breakfast was fine but a light snack soon became insufficient and she would come and stare at you, or even bark for a bit more. Within a few months Penny had initiated a cereal breakfast with yoghurt, a light lunch – Armelle’s scraps but with kibble or later with a pack of pate dog food, and then a dinner just about 5 o’clock. She started to try it on a bit, and began demanding lunch earlier than 1 o’clock (sometimes as early as 11.15!), and the same for tea time (4 o’clock seemed right for her). Tea time she does now (mostly) wait for me to come home from work. She loves a mix of dried kibble with human food, usually 50/50 or even 30/70. Her favourite lunch is a deconstructed sardine sandwich (very Heston Blumenthal!), which consists of broken up bread (preferably wholemeal), and sardines (again, preferably with tomato sauce).
Penny is also not a walkies dog. Sally and Sam would nag if they did not have a walk. Penny, on the other hand, is happy to go out the garden and very reluctantly go for a walk round the block. She has never been keen to go out in the rain, or in the dark, and if she decides she does not want to walk, she splays her legs open and you won’t shift her. Even with bribery of her favourite treats. She has learnt to ask to go to the toilet so if she wants to go out, she asks. If we go out in the car then she will take a walk (preferably with another dog for company) and sometimes this is the only way we can get her to toilet if the garden is too wet and muddy.
The first evening Penny was with us she wandered into the living room and sat on the grey bed that had originally belonged to Sammy. This was on the floor next to my chair. For a few weeks this was sufficient. Then one evening Penny came in after scouring her food bowl and slipped onto the settee next to Armelle, on a fleece blanket we had initially put on for Rhys. This has become a regular and she will often walk up to me and either nudge me or walk past a couple of times until I go and sit on the settee too and she will lie on the cushion next to me, head in my lap.
She has also developed a love of the area behind my chair which has two walls and a cabinet on three sides and is quite sheltered. This is her cwtch where she goes when she feels insecure or just for some quiet. She has her second living room bed in there.
For the first few weeks Penny was happy to sleep in the kitchen but then she started banging the kitchen door and even started to chew it. So, we left the door into the living room open. This proved satisfactory and Penny would sleep there on her grey bed. Once the settee had been claimed she decided that this would be her night-time bed and so she slept there instead. She was a good dog, obedient, non-destructive, so we decided to cut her some slack and let her sleep where she was comfortable and quiet. However, when we went to Belgium in the motorhome with Penny she got to enjoy sleeping on the double bed with us. She would get really excited at 9 o’clock when it was time to put the bed out – Armelle would have to hold her back with all her strength whilst I put the bed together, and then Penny would be the first one on it. When we came home from Belgium the settee was no longer good enough and so we broke the last taboo of all and she began to come up and share the bed with us. Fortunately it’s a king-size but she does have a habit of trying to push Armelle out of bed if she gets the right angle and leverage.
This has actually become quite relaxing, having the whole pack together. It’s no coincidence that since Penny started coming up with us we have all slept better. She has started to vary her habits by sometimes sleeping downstairs and sometimes with us, which is again fine. Penny has taught us a lot, but we have also learned from the fosters with their issues.
I guess that’s what this article is all about; greyhounds need ground rules, a routine, so they know what the basics of the household are. With time, they might push the envelope a bit, and in return for them being well-behaved, I think it is fair to give them a bit of leeway. Penny is a real star; at the end of the day, she is a healthy, well-balanced and relaxed hound in the house who loves her home. Love your greyhound – and give them a break!
(for more on our rescued hounds, look up the book “A Hound in the House” available on this website here.