Polo and I picked up our greyhound Molly (racing name I Feel Great on Sunday 26th September 2004 from the GRWE kennels in Gloucestershire. In retrospect we should probably have taken a car crate or dog bars for our car: in fact we took an old blanket and luckily for us she happily jumped into the back of our car and sat there politely all the way home.
Must confess I wasn't wowed by the GRWE kennels. They were OK, I'm sure the dogs were fed and got necessary vet attention, just... well, a bit factory-like - one dog in, next dog out, that sort of thing. The guy we spoke to could tell us nothing about the dog, and admitted that although dogs often came in with lots of info about them, they had no process for recording it so it usually got forgotten. But still, GRWE are definitely one of the 'good rescues' - I particularly can't fault the advice and support we got from our homechecker.
The first week was pretty grim. At first we tried to get her to sleep downstairs, but as soon as we shut the door on her she went into panic mode and tried to take the door down to get to us. And went on doing it *all night*. Not barking, just crying and scrabbling in a fairly heartbreaking manner. Eventually we worked out that if we gave her free roam of upstairs so she could sit sadly outside our bedroom door, she calmed down. (We didn't want her in the bedroom, cos you have to set limits somewhere, and dogs in the bed - well, that's a step too far.) Although GRWE had cat-tested her and she isn't a keen chaser, she also barked at our cats particularly if they started scratching things. Admittedly, scratching things isn't encouraged cat behaviour in our house, but we didn't need the dog to tell them off.
My first impression was that she wasn't all that bright. This was pretty much what I was expecting of a greyhound, so I wasn't too surprised, though I had expected her to sleep more than she did - to begin with she was quite nervy and demanding. Greyhounds are famously laid back dozy animals, so this was a bit of a surprise. I spent a lot of time to begin with walking for miles, feeding treats, rubbing tummy etc.
We kind of overdid the walks to start with - she started to limp badly. I should have spent more time just reassuring her: she was very unfit having been in kennels. X-ray later confirmed this was arthritic - possibly a result of a small lump of metal embedded in her wrist joint - either stainless steel or lead. Not sure I want to know how that could have got there.
However, now she has settled in I think these first impressions were a bit misleading. She happily sleeps through the day while I work, (waking up at 11am to put one paw on my knee and demand a Bonio - which is remarkably cute and always works...), has developed almost perfect recall, and got the hang of 'sit' 'stay' 'leave it' and so on. I don't think I gave her enough credit for the fact that she was initially very confused and straight out of kennels.
She now goes to bed upstairs on command and sleeps through the night. She has stopped barking at the cats, though occasionally she will still growl if they come close while she is lying down. We are still hoping to get her sleeping downstairs eventually.
Something we found helped with Molly's night time crying and early morning singing was to teach her a 'bed' command. This helps her understand that it's still night time if you get up to go to the loo or something, and also that company time is over at the end of the evening. She has gradually become more confident about being left, and now sometimes will even go and sleep in a different room rather than next to me while I am working.
A couple of weeks ago she was spayed. Oh dear. I'd just assumed that the dog would need to be 'done' - I hadn't really thought about the reality of major surgery on her abdomen. Next time I have a bitch spayed:
- I will make sure the vet gives me pain killers for her and will give them for the first week
- I will take a box so she doesn't have to jump all the way into the car afterwards
- I will fill the car with soft comfy things to sit on
- I will feed chicken, yoghurt rice and egg afterwards, in case her internal flora is wiped out by antibiotics and she gets horrible painful runs for days.
Things we are still working on at the moment:
Weight - I think she's now just about the right weight and well muscled - when I got her you could see every rib and her back had no muscle to hide the knobbles. You can now see about 3 ribs. I am feeding rather more than the recommended daily amount of her food (currently trying Burns Chicken and Royal Canin Large Breeds) plus plenty of treats and yoghurt, carrots or sardines - but she doesn't seem to be getting any heavier.
- the recall is *almost* 100% but occasionally she takes her time to think about coming back and continues to have a sniff about before returning, which is not ideal if we suddenly come across a cliff face or a deep hole or something similarly scary.
- We are working on getting over her obsession with binbags. I almost wonder if she's lived rough at some point, such is her love of black rustly bags and the joys they contain. She will even race off into someone elses garden if she thinks there are binbags in the offing, and its the one thing that breaks her recall totally (much more so than rabbits or even squirrels).
- I'm wondering whether to try training her to speak on command. Some people like to have their dogs bark on command as a safety measure (you train the dog to bark when you say 'kill' or something similar - a safe but scary-sounding mugger-deterrent). Problem is she almost never barks, so it's hard to encourage the behaviour.
- Stay is good over short periods, but not reliable if you turn away or go out of sight. I don't need her to stay often, but sometimes it is handy, so will keep working on this.
- Retrieve is completely non-existent: she just doesn't understand the concept. Again, it's not vital, but she loves running so much I thought she might like playing with a ball. I have now got her running after thrown biscuits, which is a start!
Hah, that's a lot. At least I have it all down now.