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We often think that communicating with our dogs means we talk to them, but in fact we can recognize what our dog is saying - even what he's thinking - just by learning our Greyhound’s body language.  We need “listen” with our eyes to understand what they are telling us, and in the same way, we need to be conscious of our body language to be sure we are not inadvertently communicating something that we don’t mean!


#1. Hugs

Your Greyhound will probably not mind you hugging him, but many dogs get annoyed at tight hugging, especially from strangers or children. A dog’s first instinct in times of stress or threat is to run away. Behaviorists believe that depriving a dog of that course of action by immobilizing him with a hug can increase his stress level and, if the dog's anxiety becomes significantly intense, he may bite.

A recent study of 500 pictures of dogs being hugged by people posted on the internet showed that four out of five dogs exhibited signs of anxiety at the contact. These signs include yawning, looking away, “whale eye” (the whites show underneath the iris), panting, licking lips, paw raising or squirming away.  The clear recommendation is to save your hugs for people you care about. It is better from the dog's point of view if you express your fondness for your Greyhound with a pat, a kind word, and maybe a treat.

#2. Staring

Direct staring translates to a challenge or a command to stop that now!  This is different than normal eye contact. You and your dog make eye contact many times during the day, then you both look away and focus on another task. Polite eye contact lasts 1-2 seconds and moves fluidly with other friendly body language.

We are also not talking about when your Greyhound stares at you with longing eyes.  Most of the time when you catch your dog staring into your soul, it's because you've got something she wants. That could be a treat, a toy, or a hand that should be petting her. It could also be a sign that your dog wants to be let outside.

Staring is different, and considered rude to dogs. When a person stares into a dog’s eyes, the dog perceives it as a threat. Dogs will likely move away from a threat. If they catch someone staring at them, they’ll try to disengage from the person staring. Some dogs will look away from a staring person or slowly move away.  They may yawn, hold up a front paw, or shake it off. If this happens, the person unintentionally staring at the dog should turn sideways and look away from the worried dog.

#3. Shouting

Yelling and screaming is interpreted by your dog as angry barking, which creates an unstable environment. This causes stress and anxiety in your Greyhound. Tension builds in your dog, she gets frustrated and dog behavior problems surface.

Never use this as a training technique, because it does not stop unwanted behaviors and only serves to scare, confuse or agitate.  Instead of shouting, stay calm and adjust your tone. A deep tone to your voice means, “attention, please,” while a lighthearted tone means good things.  By adjusting vocal tone instead of volume, you’ll get your dog’s attention without annoying or scaring her

#4. Too Much Alone Time

Leaving your Greyhound home alone can be challenging! Greyhounds are social animals and you and your family members are your dog’s pack, but it’s not always possible to spend all of our time with our dogs. Dogs left alone for ten or more hours each day can develop numerous  behavioral and psychological issues, including separation anxiety, excessive barking or digging, destructive behavior, or escaping  If you work during the day and no one else can be home, have someone stop by once each day to take him for a walk. If that’s not possible, be sure to spend quality time with him when you return. A walk, some playtime—whatever makes him happy.

#5. Inconsistency

Consistency is critical to successful dog training. Dogs that get mixed messages never fully learn proper manners.  The results of inconsistent training are inconsistent manners. It is predictable and preventable. To avoid this, decide exactly on what you do and don’t want your Greyhound to do, then stick to it. If jumping is not allowed, then the behavior should never be tolerated. If begging is undesirable, never offer food from your plate. Be as consistent as possible with the rules, otherwise your dog is confused and can’t figure out what you want them to do. This goes for others in your household too.

In short, if we pay attention to what our dog’s body language is telling us, we will understand each other better.  Next week we will look at some other actions that our dogs would prefer we don’t do!

This blog was originally published on January 15, 2020.

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