My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Understanding Your Sighthound

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Breeds: Afghan Hound, Azawakh, Borzoi , Greyhound, Ibizan Hound, Irish Wolfhound, Italian Greyhound, Pharaoh Hound, Saluki, Scottish Deerhound, Whippet

Sight hounds chase animals down. Once these dogs are released, they take off like a shot. Nothing can tear their eyes off their prize. When the prey is caught, they do not retrieve it, instead the owner must come to the dog. Sighthounds, many of which are ancient breeds, lived closely with their human companions, often both highly prized and carefully cared for.

​What kind of dog does this history create?

Visually Stimulated

Suddenly a sight hound’s head snaps up and they are scanning something on the horizon. If it moves, a sight hound will watch it. If they can, they may well give chase. The good news is that often when it disappears from sight, it also disappears from mind.

Running-Related “Deafness”

A sight hound usually comes back in his own good time and normally in a huge circle. When they are in hot pursuit, few will listen. If you want proof of this go to just about any lure coursing event (where sighthounds race after mechanical prey) and watch owners trying to retrieve their dogs.

Comfort Seeking

In most cases, low body fat and little coat means they have no padding or fur. Who can blame them for seeking out a soft, sleeping spot? They will sleep on your furniture and bed, arguing about that will only lead to frustration on both sides. Toss a sheet over an old chair and make it theirs.

Sensitive

Emotionally? Physically? Mentally? Yes, to all of the above. Speak harshly to an Irish Wolfhound and she may be in despair for hours. When a friend reacted with loud surprise when our Deerhound, Piper, hopped onto him when he was napping (Piper did not see him underneath the thick down comforter) Piper was traumatized. For months, literally months, he would not even walk down the hall to that room.

Such a reaction is quite typical. A retriever would have flung himself down, licking my friend’s face; a sighthound decides that whole end of the house is suspect.

Daily handling from puppyhood is an excellent idea. Make surprises a game. Teach him what you want him to do if he is startled. Don’t use a lot of force on these dogs; it is neither justified nor useful. These simple things can go a long way to making his life, and yours, easier.

Common Problems: Not coming when called, destructiveness, defensive aggression, chasing animals.

The Good Home: People who appreciate the beauty of these animals, have access to fenced areas, and don’t mind the dog on the furniture will love sighthounds. These are not the dogs for tricks, retrieving, or protection. They are wonderful dogs to love and cherish. With the right methods and the attitude, they are absolutely trainable.

In the exercise department, the good news is that sighthounds don’t have a ton of endurance; they are built for bursts of brilliant speed rather then daylong marathons. A few moderate walks and a half hour run every day, or even every other day once a sighthound is mature, are all that is usually required.

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