Preventing Lost Greyhounds

It makes us nervous…..We never know when we will get that frantic phone call or email message informing us that a greyhound is lost.  We constantly see posts on web sites and Facebook pages about loose greyhounds.  While we as an organization have been extremely fortunate to have an extremely low rate of lost dogs, we know that at any moment we might get that call.  We now have a lost dog protocol that is included in every adoption folder (which is explained in detail when a dog is adopted), but we think the best information we can provide is how to prevent this from happening (or cut down on the chances).

Since the 4th of July is coming (along with all the noise), we thought this would be a timely subject for our forum.  We hope you will get some great advice from the following article:

How not to Become a Member of The Runaway’s Club
By Marcia Herman (Posted with Permission “as is”)

 We have visions of our Greyhounds following us around while we move from place to place, while working in our gardens, walking on the beach, or hiking in the woods. These are lovely fantasies, but they should never become realities unless our loyal, royal companions are in a fenced area or attached to leashes. Even highly-trained working law enforcement dogs have been known to bolt and be killed while on duty. Often, instinct is more powerful than training.
The vision of a Greyhound loose on the beach reminds me of a time when cries of “Suzi’s loose! Suzi’s loose!” echoed across the beachfront in Dewey Beach, Delaware. Hundreds of Greyhound-owning people who were attending the annual “Greyhounds Reach the Beach” event scampered around looking for her, hoping to catch her. As everyone knows, a loose Greyhound is a Greyhound who likely has a date with injury or death sooner rather than later. In this case, everyone knew Suzi Waddell wasn’t in any danger. Suzi was seventeen at the time and was simply tottering around the beach, sniffing the seaweed with her owner at her heels. We were just having fun with Suzi.

On the other hand, here are a few examples of true, not-so-amusing scenarios that occur repeatedly; a couple of these events have happened to our own dogs over the years. Sometimes these loose dogs return home; sometimes they don’t – not alive anyway. Even worse, some are never seen again.

“Our foster dog escaped while someone was looking at him and considering adopting him.”

“My Greyhound is afraid of thunder. He panicked, jumped through a window and climbed the fence to get away from the storm.”

“Our 9 year-old Greyhound got out while chasing a cat (or squirrel, or rabbit, or bird, or you-name-it).”

“Our 4-year-old (or visitor) opened the front door and our Greyhound ran out onto the road.”

“Our two Greyhounds were in the back yard doing their business. When I went to bring them inside a few minutes later, they were both gone. The fence gate was open.”

“Our mailman rang the doorbell. When I cracked open the door to take the mail, our Greyhound pushed the door open and ran away. I didn’t realize that a Greyhound could get through a slightly-opened door that easily!”

“We were walking our dogs when a loose dog charged us. One of our hounds backed right out of his martingale collar – the “safe” kind – and ran away. We found him waiting for us at home a half-mile away. He knew the route home because we walk it every day. His paws were bloody from running on pavement, but he was OK otherwise. Phew!”

“We’ve always let her out to do her business; we live in the country, after all. She never left the yard before. This time, she ran into the neighbor’s driveway and was killed by a delivery truck.”

The list of escape scenarios is endless but not to worry. Recognizing that “stuff happens” to even the most careful Greyhound owner, taking a few simple precautions will reduce the possibility of your Greyhound escaping to almost zero. The most common escape route is a door, gate, or window that’s slightly opened. Most escapes are made by newly-retired foster or recently-adopted Greyhounds. All these new retirees know is that an open door, window or gate is much the same as the starting gate at the track; they may think that opening means RUN! Fresh off-the-track Greyhounds know nothing about cars, highways, traffic, or even how to get back home if they are lucky enough to be unharmed. To them, “home” is the track kennel. Disoriented Greyhounds whose adoptive owners may not even know their kennel names run full speed to nowhere.

Sometimes Greyhounds who’ve been in homes for years will decide to run out the door, too. Although these Greyhounds will also be in danger from traffic, they will often know the way home if they’ve been walked or driven around the neighborhood.

Here are some suggestions for escape-proofing your Greyhound so he or she doesn’t become a member of the “Runaway’s Club.”

Escape-proofing While Outside

As soon as you adopt your hound, have it micro chipped. Tag collars (buckle or breakaway or a loose slip over-the-head type) while in the house or when on the road are added security. Reserve properly-fitted martingale collars for leash use. The extra loop that makes them wonderful for leash-walking is what can make them deadly in the house, crate, or yard. Dogs have been hung by the extra loop when wearing them while no one is supervising them.

Always go into the yard with your new newly-retired Greyhound, even if it’s fenced. Every dog is different; you have to watch and learn from each one by observing behaviors. Once you learn what each dog is capable of/interested in doing, especially near the fence, you can proceed with preventing escape by making your yard even more secure if need be.

Fence in at least one yard with a sturdy fence a minimum of 4 feet high; 6 feet is better. Secure even the narrowest openings; Greyhounds can squeeze through unbelievably narrow spaces.

Lock the fence gate with a brass padlock; brass doesn’t rust. Keep the key inside your home. Greyhounds are quite capable of flipping up an unlocked chain link gate latch in the blink of an eye. Other slide-and-hook-over latches are available and work well, but a lock is best.

If your dog is a climber or a jumper, avoid chain link fences. Get a high, solid panel fence with no cross members that allow getting a foot up.

If your dog is a digger, place stone or concrete under the fence.

Keep lawn furniture and equipment away from fences. They make excellent jump-over-the-fence points.

If you have no fence, a leash is mandatory – always, even if obedience-trained. Greyhounds have remarkably poor recall because of their ability to focus on whatever has their attention. Their intelligence and independence can be their downfall when their focus isn’t on the owner.

Check to see if your dog’s collar is properly fitted. Greyhounds can easily back out of poorly-adjusted martingale collars. The material on properly-fitted martingale collars also stretches over time, so those collars do need to be checked and readjusted periodically.

When walking your hound, place your hand through the leash loop, wrap the leash around your wrist, and hold the leash firmly. Allow a bit of slack between your hand and the dog’s neck so the dog will not feel like you have a stranglehold on him. If the hound is startled, hang on. You will not be able to run after and catch your loose Greyhound. If it gets loose, do the opposite of what you want to do; do not chase.

Keep house and vehicle windows opened no more than 6.” Greyhounds have been known to escape through partially-opened car and van windows and doors. They can even push house windows open if they get their needle-nose underneath.

Escape-proofing While Inside

Be paranoid about open doors and windows. It takes a split second for a Greyhound – particularly a recently-retired one – to blindly charge out the door or a window because of an interesting new sight, sound or scent.

Be sure children or adults who are not Greyhound-knowledgeable don’t open doors leading to the street. Most will not be able to restrain a Greyhound who wants to get out and run.

Be aware of where your dog is whenever anyone opens a door. Front doors are particularly dangerous as they usually lead to an unfenced yard and the street or to a fenced one with an opened gate. A Greyhound nose is very capable of pushing open a door or a gate opened only an inch or a door that has not been clicked shut by the last person going through the door. A gated foyer or vestibule with a second door is ideal if you can arrange that.

Ideally, rooms leading to exterior areas could have half doors that can be shut when people are coming and going. However, some clever Greyhounds can operate door knobs; they grasp and turn them as well as we can! Doors with lever-type handles are a piece of cake for the determined Greyhound. These need to be dog-proofed as well. Child-proof door knob and door lever guards are available in baby and toddler departments at the mall or hardware store.

Workmen need to be as dog-savvy as you are. Many dogs escape while workers go back and forth from the house to their trucks or to their “workshop” in the garage. If they can’t be trusted to be as paranoid about open doors as you are, find some workmen who are.

Garage doors need to be kept closed if an interior door leading to it is ajar. Greyhounds have been killed on moving days because of doors and garage doors needing to be open. Kennel your dogs and other pets on moving day.

It sure sounds like Greyhounds aren’t much fun if one has to be so careful about them getting loose. But really, once the preliminary Greyhound escape-proofing is done and you’ve become accustomed to watching for open doors and gates and checking for properly fitted collars, you won’t even think about doing it; it will just become second nature to you. By taking a few precautions your Greyhound is highly unlikely to be hurt or lost and you won’t ever need to be separated from your fast friend.

Summer Safety for Hounds

As the summer months are now in full swing, our concerns for our hounds change direction. Instead of ice, snow and winter woes, we have now arrived at the time of year when another set of issues come into play.  Here are a few items we would like to share.

 Bee Stings

Watch out for bee stings! Yellow jackets can sting several times and still live. Other bees, like honey bees, sting once and die; some wasps and hornets can sting many times as well. If a hound were to have an allergic reaction to a bee sting, it would only take about 30 seconds to happen. If you know or suspect your grey may have been stung give Benadryl (one tablet for up to 60 pounds, 2 tablets for over that) and rush them to the vet.
If you know your grey is allergic, ask your vet to prescribe a “bee sting emergency kit” for you to keep at home. 
The most important areas of concern are the mouth, eyes and ingestion of a multi-sting bee (they can keep stinging all the way down the esophagus and cause swelling which then cuts off the airway).

 Mulch (and other Interesting Items)

Mulch seems pretty harmless unless you are using the “red cocoa mulch” which was so popular last year. This product is made from the husk of the cocoa tree which is what produces CHOCOLATE. If any of this red mulch is ingested, it acts just like a chocolate candy bar and can cause upset stomachs, seizures and even death.

Some greyhounds love to eat anything interesting in the garden. Any type of mulch that is ingested can make a hound sick. If your hound likes to chew on things out in the yard (grass, plants, acorns, rocks, seed pods, sticks, etc.), you may want to use the kennel muzzle (with a stool cup inside) that you received in your adoption kit. This will prevent a hound from snacking on items that are not good for the digestion.

 Fertilizer/Weed Killer

We all want beautiful plants and grass. Don’t forget your greyhound(s) when you are working in your yard and garden. Keep in mind that some lawn care products can be hazardous to your hounds. If you have a lawn care service, please ask them what types of fertilizers and pest sprays they use. Most chemicals today are safe for pets, but remember that our hounds have much thinner skin and can get sicker faster if subjected to strong doses of even safe chemicals. Your hound may not ingest any chemicals directly from your landscape, but a dog licking its paws can unwittingly dose itself with the chemical it walked in.

Also, be aware of the types of specialized products you are using. For instance, although some lawn fertilizers are safe, some products used for specific garden applications could mean a dose of poison for a greyhound. Reports have been published recently of greyhounds dying when they ate snail bait spread around the base of plants in the garden.

If you don’t use fertilizers, pesticides or weed killers on your yard, you still need to be vigilant if you walk your hound in the neighborhood. Many people do use these products. Pay careful attention to this as your dog traverses the neighborhood lawns or grassy areas along curbs. If you notice any spraying going on, please avoid walking near these areas as lawn chemicals can be transported by wind.

 Garden Tools and Lawn Furniture

This one hurts deeply. Several years ago a friend was cleaning up her yard. She had her wheelbarrow out for the debris she was gathering. She thought it would be nice to have the dogs out in the yard with her. The dogs began playing and suddenly her 10 year old grey streaked by and impaled itself on the handles of her wheelbarrow.  Another adopter last summer lost her greyhound when she ran full speed into the corner of a concrete bench. Remember that your hounds can reach speeds up to 35-45 MPH in three strides. That speed is enough to turn a harmless tool handle into a death sentence for a greyhound. The same applies to garden tools with points. No matter how careful you are, the possibility is always there.

 Poisonous Plants

Dieffenbachia, philodendron, and other pretty plants are deadly to greyhounds and other pets. If you go to the National Poison Control web site, you can get the entire list of plants that are hazardous to your animals.

 Water Hoses

Seems safe enough, right?  Have you ever felt the water coming out of a hose that sat in the sun for a few hours? It can be hot enough to burn your skin not to mention the tender mouth tissue of any person or animal. Another concern with hoses are the loops can get caught around skinny necks and in trying to get away can be twisted and tighten until the dog literally hangs itself.

 Ice Cold Water/Ice cubes

 For years it was common to give dog’s ice cubes. At dog shows, breeders and owners sometimes give their dogs ice cubes after coming out of the ring to cool them off; that is, until one dog ate ice cubes and it caused the stomach to twist and the dog died of bloat before it could reach medical treatment. The dog’s body temperature on the inside was very high and the affect from the ice was the same as giving the dog a drink of water or food before or after running. It produced an atmosphere to allow gas to build up and the intestines twisted. 

 Feeding and Watering

We all have been told not to feed or water our greyhounds or any dog one hour before or one hour after they eat, but it is worth repeating. Always make sure you dog has access to water when outside on a hot day.

 Heat Exhaustion/Heat Stroke; do you know the difference? 

This is one of our biggest concerns! In the spring and summer many of us like to take our hounds with us to outdoor events and parks. Often, on a hot day, we don’t think of how the heat may be affecting our hounds. Please take a moment to think about this important topic.

Heat Stroke is an emergency! Saliva is thick and tenacious and the dog vomits frequently, fainting or unconsciousness. Rectal temps are high often over 106 degrees. If untreated the dog becomes unsteady, staggers, has diarrhea which is often bloody, becomes weaker.  Brain damage, coma and death can occur.

 Heat Exhaustion: Excessive panting, skin inside the ears becomes flushed and red, weakness, staggering. If left untreated can become heat stroke

 Treatment

Treatments are the same for both.  DON’T wait for vet treatment; start at once. Cool the dog’s body with cool wet towels or hose the dog with cool water. Apply an ice pack to the dogs head. Remove the dog to a cool place. Continue treatment until your dog’s temperature reaches normal (102-103 degrees). Transport to the vet as soon as the dog’s temperature is stabilized. This is the most dangerous problem we face in summer. Our hounds do not have the body fat or the fur to protect them from the sun’s heat. We must be vigilant.

 Pools

Greyhounds are not usually great swimmers. Some may be able to paddle around but on the whole they can not swim or float.  There is no body fat to keep them afloat. If you have an in-ground pool, be sure to take your dog into the water with you and show them how to get out. Show them where the steps are located, teach them that if they fall in the deep end they can walk to the shallow end and get out. For those with above-ground pools, you need to have extra vigilance that your ladder is not left down.

Hot Pavement

Don’t forget, on a hot day, walking your hound on hot pavement may result in blistered paws! We’ve seen many greyhounds suffer from blistered paws at some of the outdoor greyhound events that take place in the spring and summer months. If you want to test how hot the pavement is, take off your shoes and stand on the pavement for a moment in your bare feet. If it’s too hot for you, it is certainly too hot for your greyhound!

Sunburns

Since greyhounds don’t have thick fur to protect their skin from sunburns, many can burn very easily and quickly out in the hot sun. Watch their ears as well as ears will burn (and blister) quickly before other parts of the body. A sunburned greyhound will suffer much pain – if you’ve ever had a bad sun burn, you certainly can understand what you hound might be feeling.

 The advice offered here is not designed to frighten you or discourage you from having summer fun with your greyhound. Just a little attention to all of these warnings will ensure that you have a Greyt Safe Summer!