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House-Training Problems

By Fiona

One of the most common problems in both cats and dogs, that I am asked to advise on, is that of housetraining issues. This sometimes involves a breakdown in housetraining long after a new pet has come to stay. Sometimes this has a medical cause such as a urinary tract infection, or undiagnosed pain, so it is always best to consult your vet first to rule this out. Other common causes, especially in our greyhounds, can be as simple as the onset of winter weather – don’t our hounds just hate the cold wet weather!! So the ‘cure’ may be as simple as ensuring a warm winter coat even for toilet breaks, ensuring that the hound is still getting sufficient walking time, and being quite strict about toilet times in spite of these pleading eyes. Teach a cue word for performing. Some hounds benefit from crate training, as they rarely toilet in their bed. To crate train:

1. Set up the crate for a day or two so your dog gets used to its presence. Set it up in a reasonably busy area where the hound can see what is going on, and won’t feel abandoned. Place old blankets or similar over the top and two/three sides to create a snug safe den. Put a comfy duvet or bed inside.

2. Throw something that your hound loves into the crate – a favourite chew or uncooked marrow bone, a stuffed kong, or similar- then shut the crate door. When your hound is frustrated at not being able to access the goody and is giving you these reproachful eyes, open the door and the hound will likely dive in there quite happily!

3. Once your hound is going into the crate and lying there happily with his/her treat, start to shut the crate door for a short period, just a few minutes at first, then gradually increase the time. Stay close by at first, then start to leave the room for short spells.

Never let your hound out the crate when he/she is making a fuss, If he becomes upset, wait till he pauses for breath before letting him out, then move back to the previous training stage for a few days. NEVER use crating as a punishment. Most hounds will crate train easily within a week or so, and can then be left in the crate overnight, but through the day don’t leave your hound in a crate more than 2 hours at a stretch.. As long as there are no toilet or other problems, the crate can be left open and makes a very good overnight bed.

Another common cause of indoor toileting is stress. Many greyhounds have never lived in a house before, and they have had little opportunity to learn about the world and to get used to the everyday noises and sights we all take for granted. Also, we often forget that our new hound just doesn’t know what we want from him – we often unwittingly give conflicting messages which confuse and stress him. He really isn’t trying to put one over on you, or to ‘dominate’ you, he genuinely doesn’t know what you are expecting him to do. Don’t use domination reduction techniques, these can be harmful to our sensitive hounds and will stress them even more.

Observe your hound closely over a few days for signs of stress. These can include:

  • being excessively thirsty. This can be particularly noticeable on walks when your dog tries to drink frequently from puddles etc.

  • wet runny nose, especially when dripping is seen. Stress causes body changes which force out fluid. Increased urination and sweaty paws also result from these body changes.

  • frequent self- calming signals such as scratching (self, floor, bed), licking the nose, sniffing the ground a lot, turning the head away, nibbling at self (can develop into self-harming), yawning, stretching, shaking as if just come out of water, or head-shaking (but check ears for dirt/mites).

  • pulling straight ahead on walks and walking quickly with little attention to everything around him.

  • picky eating, refusing food, eating small amounts, refusal to take treats from you. Weight loss is common.

  • wide open eyes with large pupils, often appears as a staring look. Often the eyes look hard or startled.

  • being hyper vigilant, especially noticeable on walks, glancing in all directions and being disinterested in browsing or in you, and startling easily at noises or movements.

  • being irritable with other dogs in home.

  • sweaty paws. You can smell the sweat, and damp pawprints may be seen on hard floors.

  • ears pinned back and brow furrowed. Often indication of acute stress, stress trigger.

Keep a diary of the sounds and sights that seem to stress your hound, also brief notes on what happens each day, to help you identify stress triggers. To relieve stress, keep your hound in a strict daily routine so he knows what will happen next. A DAP (Adaptil) diffuser can be helpful. Help him to maintain a safe distance from things which he finds threatening. You can get a desensitisation cd to help with fear of noises. Go back to basic toilet training. Teach him a cue word for toileting so you can inform him when you expect him to perform. Take him out to toilet every two hours, after meals, and each time he gets up and starts sniffing around. Some hounds may need night-time outings for a short while. NEVER EVER scold or punish for toilet accidents, you will make things much worse, and he will start to hide to toilet indoors. Just take him outside as normal, and clean up the accident with biological detergent.

All hounds feel stress on going to a new home, or when the family routine becomes upset or changes, This is normal and is usually short-lived, but might cause temporary problems such as toilet accidents .Be calm and patient with your hound if this happens and don’t make a fuss or try to be too reassuring. Chronic (long-term) stress can lead to serious health problems for people and pets alike, and if severe, becomes a welfare issue, (one of the Five Freedoms). A dog which is exposed to severe unremitting chronic stress will lose weight and eventually die of the effects. While none of our hounds who have found loving, caring homes among the wonderful GAGAH family are going to be exposed to this level of severe stress, it is important for their health and well-being to act if you think your hound feels stressed out. If you are unsure about the causes of stress or how to deal with it, seek advice – your vet is the first port of call.


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