Foster carers are extremely important to Friends of the Hound.
They play a vital role in our adoption process by providing a temporary home for rescued Greyhounds until a permanent home is arranged. The fostering process allows us to continue our successful Greyhound rescue and homing efforts and means that we can save more of these beautiful dogs from destruction.
The foster carer role is to assist with the transition from racing product to family pet and companion, by taking the Greyhound into their home and introducing it to normal household life, and providing training, guidance and gentle exposure, along with affection, understanding and patience during this period.
Sometimes this adjustment period is easy, but at other times it can be more difficult. Each dog is an individual, and as most ‘racing dogs’ have never ventured into a house before joining the program, or had exposure to ‘normal life experiences’, becoming a house pet can be a major transition for some of them.
Others will happily come in and take over – adjusting to household routines, comforts and pleasures very readily! Your foster dog will likely have already spent some time in a home undergoing assessment and getting vet work done. Friends of the Hound match each rescued Greyhound to a suitable foster home after this initial assessment period. Foster carers must be mindful of the fact that these Greyhounds previously spent their lives in cages, kennels or small paddocks, often with little socialisation, engagement or enrichment.
Greyhounds are generally quiet, well mannered, affectionate dogs and are usually quite adaptable. Foster carers can give the dog the best opportunity to be placed into a loving permanent home by slowly and gently exposing the dog to as many “new” things as possible in a relaxed, safe environment and providing a thorough assessment of the dog to ensure it is adopted out to an appropriate home.
The Friends of the Hound volunteers want the absolute best for the Greyhounds saved from routine disposal and killing by the racing/gambling industry. This involves finding homes where the dogs are much loved members of the family and household, and involves them being predominantly indoor house pets, which they are well suited to with their sedentary, calm nature, low energy, and love of comfort and companionship.
Each foster carer has support or advice on hand in the form of the Friends of the Hound Coordinator who can be contacted for assistance or to discuss any concerns or problems at any time, either by phone or email. Our team members will try to conduct regular monitoring of the foster dog.
The foster dog will be desexed and vaccinated, and have a dental scale/clean and other treatment if necessary, before being placed into foster care. All worming and flea/tick treatment will be provided by Friends of the Hound. Donated dry dog food is supplied where possible and each foster dog is allocated a martingale collar, lead and muzzle, and a coat to wear in the colder months. Foster Greyhounds must wear the supplied collar and identification at all times.
The foster period required can vary, and is usually determined by the availability of suitable permanent homes. Foster carers can predetermine the time frame they are available to care for the Greyhound if necessary, and should advise the Coordinator of holidays or other commitments that impact the fostering period, as soon as practicable. The length of time a Greyhound needs to remain in foster care can vary according to how well the dog adapts, its suitability for homing and the availability of adoptive owners.
Carers must be prepared to return their foster dog to Friends of the Hound Inc. when and where requested. In some cases, where adoption is being arranged, the carer may be required to help ensure the dog meets, or is moved, to new owners.
Friends of the Hound Inc. understands that a great deal of flexibility on both sides is required and that holidays, family and personal commitments, and general ‘time out’ from the fostering process must be taken into consideration. Our Greyhound adoption group is extremely grateful for the commitment to fostering that our approved foster carers are willing to provide. It is important to remember that we are all volunteers, and saving these dogs can have a personal, emotional, and physical impact and create undue burdens and stress on rescuers.
Veterinary expenses are covered by Friends of the Hound Inc. In the event of an emergency (if the foster dog is severely injured), the foster carer should contact the Coordinator or Committee Member and immediately take the dog to the nearest Veterinary Clinic. For all other circumstances requiring veterinary care the foster carer should first contact the Foster Coordinator and arrange for the dog to attend the nominated veterinary clinic (where Friends of the Hound has an account and receives discounted services). The Foster Coordinator will provide instructions and assistance. Any other problems or incidents, such as the foster dog going missing, etc. should also be reported to the Coordinator or team member immediately or as soon as possible.
Foster carers may be required to transport a dog to the vet or to a promotion day at their own expense, if possible. It is greatly appreciated if foster dogs and their carers attend promotional events where possible or when invited, to help promote Greyhounds as pets, raise awareness and exposure, and increase the chances of the Greyhound finding a home.
Adopting Your Foster Dog
Friends of the Hound Inc. understand that foster carers can fall in love with their foster dog and want to keep it permanently. This does happen frequently, and is completely acceptable as long as the Coordinator approves, and the dog has not begun the adoption process with other potential adopters, and provided the usual adoption fee is paid and adoption process undertaken. Foster carers should advise the Coordinator or team member as soon as possible if they are thinking about keeping their fostered Greyhound.
Easing the Transition
To give a foster dog the best advantage integrating into a new home the foster carer can provide exposure to a number of household elements and teach the dog some basic guidelines. Our Foster Coordinator can provide assistance with any problems that carers or their foster hound may be experiencing.
Here are some helpful tips…
Many Greyhounds have never had to walk up or down stairs and some may find them awkward or frightening at first and will need a gradual introduction to them, beginning with a few steps initially and/or coaxing with food rewards. Practice on lead is often best for a dog that is not confident with stairs. Sometimes Greyhounds need physical assistance to overcome ungainliness on stairs, and carers can help to coordinate their long legs when attempting to ascend each step. Sometimes they find the descent more scary. It is best not to allow the dog to try to leap up or down to avoid negotiating the stairs, as injuries could occur. Carpet runners can sometimes provide more grip and therefore more confidence.
Like stairs, Greyhounds may not have experienced walking on slippery surfaces such as tiles, polished floorboards or linoleum. If a dog is extremely hesitant, placing towels or mats at intervals across the floor and increasing the distance over time may improve its confidence. Dogs that slip and injure themselves could develop a fear of slippery floor surfaces that is then difficult to overcome.
GLASS WINDOWS OR DOORS:
Some dogs may not recognise glass doors or windows as solid barriers at first and the foster carer may need to ensure the dog registers these glass barriers by leading it gently around each room and tapping on the windows or glass panels. Placing masking tape at the dog’s eye level can prevent accidents and injuries from dogs running into glass doors or glass pool fences.
Foster carers need to be aware that loud noises and the sound of household appliances such as televisions, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers etc may be frightening to a dog that has not experienced them before. Usually gentle exposure to such noises over a period of time, is all that is necessary.
Most Greyhounds are experienced travellers and usually love to go out in the car. However, most have probably travelled in a station wagon, van or dog trailer. Some may need to be taught how to safely get into and out of a car (they have usually always been lifted in and out by their trainer to avoid injuries, particularly to toes). Most dogs will learn to hop in the car themselves, but some may always expect help. This can be provided by lifting around the chest and placing the front legs up first, and then gently hoisting the back end up and in, whilst giving the command ‘up’. It is important that they only get in or out of the car when asked to do so.
When first brought into the home, the Greyhound should be treated in a similar manner to a new puppy. Do not expect the dog to be toilet trained, unless it has been taught in a previous foster situation. They are generally very clean and are often used to a routine for relieving themselves which makes toilet training quite easy. Take the dog outside every couple of hours for the first couple of days, particularly after meals, naps and periods of play. Praise the dog when it urinates or defecates outside. A mutually acceptable routine will be established after a few days, but it is important to watch the Greyhound carefully when it is inside so that you may correct it immediately if it tries to go to the toilet inside. Pacing and sniffing around are often signs of needing ‘to go’. Some dogs will automatically mark new territory, particularly if other dogs reside there. It is best to introduce the dog to your home on lead to avoid marking inside. Do not chastise the dog when an accident occurs inside and you are not there to try and stop it – corrections must only be made at the time, otherwise it will only cause confusion and fear in the dog.
It is important to ascertain a dog’s reaction to young children for the adoption process. Not all foster homes will have children, but this assessment can still be made when visiting local parks or sports fields or having friends or relatives visit. Young children tend to move quickly, often not very coordinated, and usually loudly, with high-pitched squeals. This may cause excitement, or sometimes fear, in the Greyhound.
Most Greyhounds are great with children, extremely tolerant and gentle, tending to move away if harassed by a pestering child. Close supervision of young children with any breed of dog is essential. Do not let your child take away the dog’s food or interfere with its meal-time in any way. Allowing the child to place the dog’s food dish in front of it whilst you have it under control is a good way to establish the child’s higher place in the ‘pack’. Any tendency for a dog to exhibit dominance posturing towards a child, ie. barking or growling, etc, should be corrected instantly. When starting to settle into a home a dog may try to establish it’s ‘place in the pack’ and test the situation by challenging the weakest or smallest in the family ie. a young child. Immediate action to discourage this behavior should maintain harmony in the household and let the dog understand its place and what is ‘acceptable’ behaviour.
It is not recommended for children to hang on the dog’s neck or climb on its back. Greyhounds can be injured or feel threatened and incidents can occur.
Remember… a child old enough to have a dog in the home is old enough to treat it with kindness.
DOORS & GATES:
Be extremely cautious about leaving doors and gates open (this goes for car doors also). Greyhounds move so quickly they will be out the door and down the street in a blink of the eye. Teach your children and their friends about the importance of keeping doors and gates closed at all times. It is also important to be careful of tail injuries when bringing your dog through doors and gates.
Greyhounds are well used to being around other Greyhounds and usually enjoy the company of another canine. They are quite sociable and will normally mix readily with other dogs when introduced correctly. Some Greyhounds will get along well with cats and other small animals, but others are too ‘keen’ or have too much prey drive or chase training to live successfully with them. Any introductions should be carried out with the Greyhound on a lead and properly muzzled until the dog’s reactions can be accurately assessed. Risks should never be taken with the safety of other pets until you are totally confident that the Greyhound does not pose a threat. Your foster greyhound should be walked on-leash at all times – we do not condone off-leash running for fostered Greyhounds, unless in a safe, enclosed yard.
Introducing your new Greyhound to your other pet
It is best to introduce your greyhound to your other dog(s) on neutral territory initially. With all dogs on lead, have them meet outside under control and take them for a walk together. When arriving back home walk them around your property on lead and then bring them into the house.
A controlled introduction is necessary – introduce your greyhound to your cat indoors with the greyhound muzzled and leashed. Keep hold of the leash. Leave the cat on the floor – do not pick it up. Do not rush the introduction – it is best done over time – let the animals meet, sniff, and relax.
Keep them separated
For the first several weeks, keep the dogs and/or cats separated when you are not at home or cannot supervise their interaction. Watch them carefully when they are interacting.
Never let your greyhound chase any of your small animals, even in play. Play can turn to hunt quickly and no cat or small dog is fast enough to get out of the way of a determined greyhound.
Feed your cats/dogs in separate areas and be vigilant when supervising – be careful not to leave food out to create a dispute. Do not grow complacent around animals and food.
Caring for your new Greyhound
GREYHOUNDS AND THE ELEMENTS
Greyhounds have little or no body fat, and short, smooth coats, and as a consequence tend to feel the elements more than other dogs. They should sleep indoors at night and have adequate shelter (from all weather – heat, wind, storms) during the day if left alone. A Greyhound that gets overheated or too cold can lose condition very quickly and their health can deteriorate rapidly. A warm coat is required for those cold winter days and nights.
Most racing dogs are quite used to being bathed and groomed. However, it is important to determine that your dog does not have any ‘sensitive’ areas. The Greyhound should accept being handled all over – feet, ears, eyes, mouth inspected, nails clipped and brushed or groomed softly all over.
A Greyhound may be possessive about food and/or bed. The dog should learn to accept its food and food bowl being handled. The Greyhound should also accept its bedding and toys being handled. Be very careful with dogs and their highly prized food or toys.
There has been reports of sleep/space startle in some Greyhounds. This is a reaction to being disturbed when sleeping – a fright or startle response in which levels of aggression may be experienced. Greyhounds are accustomed to sleeping undisturbed in individual kennels or cages and are generally not used to being touched or startled in their sleep. It is best to ensure the dog is awake and aware before touching or surprising it. If your dog awakes with the ‘fight’ reaction when disturbed whilst sleeping – ie. a startled growl or snap – then work with the dog to desensitize it to being touched or disturbed when asleep by gently touching a leg or foot from a distance until it understands or accepts that there is no need for a fear response. Be careful with young children if a dog shows sleep-space startle.
EXERCISE, SOCIALISATION AND OUTINGS
Regular daily walks of 20-30 minutes are sufficient for your Greyhound, although some will happily take more outings and walking if offered. Some greys have had enough after 15 minutes while others will happily go for 45 minutes. Always build up to longer walks. Greyhounds are not really the best choice for jogging companions, as they are a low- energy dog – built for short bursts of speed, not endurance.
We do not condone exercising your Greyhound in off-leash dog parks as this is where many incidences can occur (and expensive vet bills).
You should never put a greyhound on an overhead run or tie them out to a stake or a tree as they can take off running at high speeds and result in serious injury. Retractable or long dog leads are not recommended for this same reason.
Take short walks in the early morning or late evening. Be alert to any signs of heat stress in your foster dog. Many Greyhounds enjoy cooling off by walking or lying in a shallow pool of water. A child’s wading pool can be an ideal addition to the yard.
Sand pits can also be a good idea for those dogs that discover they like to dig.
GREYHOUNDS ARE SIGHTHOUNDS
Many will chase a plastic bag! Your new pet can go from standing to 60km very quickly. It is therefore recommended that they be kept on a lead at all times when out of the yard or not in an enclosed or secure yard. With typical hound nature – they do not always come when they are called, and will have no road sense.
TEETH, NAILS & EARS
As with any breed of dog, it is important to look after your Greyhounds teeth, nails and ears and to check them on a regular basis.
Nails should be trimmed regularly, particularly if not getting much natural wear on rough or hard surfaces. If nails overgrow, they will cause discomfort and pain for your foster Greyhound, and clipping can then become painful and traumatic. Pointy nail tips should be removed every 3-4 weeks with care not to cut too short into the blood supply, however, if you are uneasy about trimming your dog’s nails, then talk with your Foster Coordinator about what can be arranged to ensure regular nail care. Be vigilant about lameness or foot soreness that may indicate a corn.
BEHAVIOUR & BASIC OBEDIENCE TRAINING
Consistency and firmness will create a happy, well-mannered dog (as set rules and routines reduce confusion for the dog and promote desirable behaviour). It is important that some basic ground rules are established for the dog early in the foster period and that all members of the family abide by them. Start how you intend to carry on – and do not set the dog up to fail.
It is great if each foster carer can teach their dog basic instructions, ie. wait – leave – stay – on your bed. The Foster Coordinator can provide further instruction on how to use commands, and they should be used consistently during the fostering period.
Greyhounds tend to prefer to stand or lay down rather than the sit position and sitting can be difficult to teach them unless they adopt the position naturally, so forget trying to teach them this!
Walking on Lead
Greyhounds are used to walking on a lead and generally do not pull. It is important to ensure that the foster dog responds well on a lead and walks calmly beside you when required, without pulling or lurching or spinning. Your fostered Greyhound should NEVER be allowed to run off lead unless in a fully fenced yard or enclosure and should be properly muzzled when out in public, in accordance with the NSW Companion Animals Act 1998 and Queensland Local Laws (pet Greyhounds in Queensland and New South Wales, once adopted, can undergo an assessment in order to qualify for a muzzling exemption and be issued with a ‘green collar’). Their amazing speed and a lack of understanding about roads and traffic make a dangerous combination, particularly in busy suburbs. It is wise to never forget they are sighthounds, with varying levels of ‘chase’ or prey drive.
Creatures of habit
Greyhounds are used to a fairly regimented life, with the majority of them being creatures of habit, and most relaxed when a set routine is in place. Establishment of set meal times and regular exercise and toileting opportunities will help a new Greyhound to feel at ease. A Greyhound suddenly given the freedom of an entire house and a choice in what it does may feel quite anxious or revert to a second puppyhood (temporarily) – “Yeehaa!” Although any destructive or inquisitive behaviour should abate in a short period of time.
Greyhounds are the ultimate ‘lounge lizards’ or ‘couch potatoes’ and opportunists, so will generally make themselves at home on your bed or lounge fairly quickly. Provide the dog with a comfortable, soft bed of their own and position the bed so that the dog can take in most of the household activities without being in the way. The optimum situation involves dog beds scattered throughout the house and outdoor space.
‘Counter surfing’ is another vice of some newly introduced Greyhounds – where they steal food from bench tops or tables. They can reach quite easily and naturally believe that any food they come across is theirs for the taking. Limit access to the kitchen, where possible, and discourage counter surfing. Most Greyhounds are quite sensitive and gentle disciplinary measures are usually sufficient. Baby gates are excellent tools for keeping dogs from certain areas of the house.
Employ positive reinforcement with gentle training methods. Any training should occur in short sessions only, ending positively, before the dog gets bored or distracted, and the intelligent Greyhound will learn quickly.
Many Greyhounds have never learned to “play” – their lives have been all business and confinement. Giving them time to learn how to play is a vital part of adapting to life as a family pet. However, Friends of the Hound prefer that squeaky toys are not given to foster hounds. A squeaky toy emulates the sound of a distressed animal and can heighten the senses or predatory behaviour of a Greyhound, particularly one that has been trained in the racing industry using squeakers or squawkers to ‘stir them up’ and increase their energy/adrenaline before a race.
Behaviour that should be discouraged or corrected…
- Constant barking
- Jumping up
- Pushing or barging through doorways
- Leaping into the car before being asked
- Proprietary behaviour or aggression
PRAISE THE DOG WHEN IT DOES THE RIGHT THING 🙂
With your COMPASSION, PATIENCE and UNDERSTANDING, you will help save the life of another beautiful Greyhound and form an integral part of the adoption process.
It has been said that “Greyhounds are the dog world’s best kept secret” and, as a Friends of the Hound Volunteer Foster Carer, you will learn how true this is!
YOUR SUPPORT FOR THIS WORTHY CAUSE IS MUCH APPRECIATED
Apply to become a Greyhound foster carer
Once you’ve submitted your application, a Friends of the Hound representative will make contact to discuss the foster care program further, and, if suitable, arrange a convenient time to conduct a home visit. This is the initial step in the fostering process.