Identifying and managing abnormal behaviours in greyhounds
Abnormal behaviours, often also called stereotypies are behaviours that are:
- not normally seen in behaviourally healthy greyhounds; or
- normal behaviours repeated excessively; and/or
- normal behaviours that are being performed when they normally would not be.
Common examples include pacing, excessive barking, bopping, licking, panting or destructive chewing behaviour.
Some of the common reasons for the development of abnormal behaviours include boredom, prolonged anxiety or excitement, repeated or prolonged fear, a medical condition, an ongoing or repeated physical reasons such as heat, cold, hunger or thirst and frustration from a lack of opportunity to engage in normal behaviour.
Abnormal behaviours indicate that there is, or was, a problem with a greyhound’s environment at some time and is a coping mechanism. They allow the greyhound some relief from how it is feeling, and to adapt and cope with their environment. Yet, these behaviours use important energy and will impact on the greyhound’s ability to learn, race and enjoy life.
It is important not to suppress these coping behaviours as this will make the stress worse. The Abnormal behaviours in greyhounds FACT SHEET has some valuable information on identifying and managing abnormal behaviours. Once you understand why a greyhound has developed or is developing an abnormal behaviour, you can consider appropriate training, exercise and environmental enrichment strategies; as well as possible infrastructure or husbandry solutions.
Managing barking in the kennel environment
Excessive barking is one of the most common disruptions to a greyhound kennel. Often it is only one or two greyhounds who bark excessively, but their barking behaviour can influence and even teach younger dogs to bark.
They may be barking at other dogs, people walking past, seeking attention or alerting you to a threat. This is normal barking behaviour and is the way greyhounds communicate with each other and with people.
Abnormal barking behaviour is where a greyhound continues to bark long after they have made their communication. It may also be where they bark for extended periods of time for no apparent reason. It can be a sign that something is not quite right.
In a kennel where there are excessive barkers, the noise can be stressful and interfere with rest time for the whole kennel. This, in turn, can interfere with learning and race performance.
If you can get to the bottom of why your greyhounds are barking, you can put in place steps to reduce the barking triggers and address the barking response.
This booklet Barking in the racing greyhound kennel environment discusses excessive barking and presents different options for managing and retraining excessive barkers. With persistence and patience they should provide good results that are enduring through to retirement and re-homing.
Behaviour and racing success
The behaviour of the adult greyhound is affected by its early experiences with people, other dogs and animals, and a range of different environments. A greyhound’s ability to confidently cope and adapt to different situations as it prepares for, and undertakes, a racing career is key to racing success.
A well socialised greyhound:
- will recognise other breeds of dogs, particularly small dogs, as a dog and not as prey;
- is calm and relaxed in a learning (rearing, education and training) environment, as
well as in the race setting;
- will interact in positive way with other greyhounds and humans; and
- copes well in a variety of environments and situations.
This Socialising greyhounds for racing success provides valuable information on how to expose your greyhounds to positive experiences through socialisation and habituation. It talks about what socialisation means for racing success and what you can do to socialise greyhounds at any stage of their lifecycle.