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Toileting Problems in Greyhounds

Many greyhounds are very ‘clean’ when it comes to their toileting habits, but others may take a little time to learn not to mess in the house.  Many racing greyhounds have only ever lived in a kennel environment, with regular ‘let-outs’ for a run and toilet break during the day.  Some greyhounds never receive any formal toilet training, and for a few of them, all the world is one big concrete toilet!

Research has shown that dogs that are toilet trained are more likely to be included in family life and activities, and less likely to be shut outside on their own.  For this reason greyhounds in foster care are all given lessons in toilet training – similar to training a young puppy.  When you adopt your greyhound, it may have already started to understand what is expected, but they may be still a ‘work in progress’, so it is important that you don’t expect perfection, and work hard to continue to teach your greyhound good toilet habits.

So how do dogs learn what is a toilet and what isn’t?
Puppies actually start learning about what is a toilet and what is not when they are still with their mother.   At 3-4 weeks of age they start leaving the nest to toilet, and quickly learn what surfaces to use.  Hopefully, the breeder of your greyhound provided a different surface to the bedding so that the pups could learn what is called ‘substrate preference’.

For puppies that have been raised on one surface only, such as newspaper or concrete, there is less difference between bed and toilet, and these dogs can be harder to toilet train because to them the whole world is a toilet!  Often small breeds of dog and those from pet stores or kennels fall into this category.

Set yourself up for success
Before you even bring your greyhound home it is important to decide where you would like it to go to the toilet.  Some people are happy as long as the greyhound goes outside, others are very specific about where outside the dog should be going.

When your greyhound first comes home it is really important to try to establish a routine straight away.  In those first few days, if you can get a schedule of feeding, exercise and toileting started, toilet training becomes a little easier, and mistakes are far less likely to happen.

Your greyhound should have set meal times if possible, as what ‘goes in’ on time, usually ‘comes out’ on time.  With young dogs and puppies, it is not uncommon for them to use their bowels after a meal.  Each time they eat, their bowel will become active and not long after this meal he will probably want to pass a stool.  Older dogs may vary from this, but you will soon learn when your dog is likely to toilet.

My greyhound is not great with the toilet training…..
If your greyhound is still learning his toilet manners, you will need to treat him in the same way as you would a little puppy.  Every time he wakes up, the first thing you should do is head straight for your toileting area.  You do not want him to get distracted or wander into the wrong room, so the best method is to pop him on the lead and quickly walk him outside to the area you want him to use.  You can then reward him with a food treat and some praise when he has ‘performed’.
As we have already discussed, after meals is another time the greyhound should be escorted to the toilet.  Other times include after a game, before bed or confinement, and any other time when it has been a while since the last puddle.  Most greyhounds are used to toileting on leash, so you should not have any problems with this aspect of the process.

What if your greyhound makes a ‘mistake’?
When you find a puddle (or worse) inside, it is important to think of it as an error that could probably be prevented if you had managed the dog a bit better – rather than get angry at your greyhound.  Usually a mistake occurs because you were not watching the dog, and did not see the warning signs that he needed to toilet (sniffing, circling), or there is an impediment stopping the dog reaching the correct toilet area (such as a closed door!)

In any case, you will have to re-think the way you manage your greyhound.  There is no point scolding or punishing the dog as usually by the time you find the mistake/puddle quite some time has elapsed and any yelling or scolding will not be associated with the act of toileting.  Instead you need to think about why the mistake occurred and do what you can to prevent it happening again.

Maybe you needed to confine your greyhound so it does not wander about the house where you cannot supervise.  Maybe you should have taken the dog to the toilet earlier, or maybe you should be watching more closely.

Regardless of the cause of the error, you will need to thoroughly clean the area so that the greyhound is not attracted back to this area by the smell.  Avoid products that contain Ammonia or ammonium as when these products breakdown they smell just like another animal’s urine.  Instead look for enzymatic cleaners, or products designed for cleaning up after puppies.  Your vet may be able to recommend an odour neutraliser to further remove the evidence.

I have heard that crate training can help with toilet training…
Crate training, where the dog is confined when it cannot be supervised, is a great adjunct to toilet training.  Most dogs instinctively avoid soiling their own bed, so by having them confined in a crate, they are more likely to try to hold on until they get out of the crate.  Being confined to a crate also stops them from wandering unsupervised around the house.  The crate becomes a comfortable rest area with a warm bed and some toys for the puppy to play with or chew on.  As soon as the dog is released from the crate, he is taken straight to the toileting area on the leash, and encouraged to toilet.  Your greyhound should never be confined to his crate so long that he needs to relieve himself in there.

My greyhound wants to go out at night, do I have to get up and take him?
Many newly adopted greyhounds are not used to having to ‘hold on’ right through the night.  Making sure that the last thing that you do before your greyhound is put to bed is take him to the toilet can help, along with avoiding exciting games that are followed by a big drink of water just before bedtime.  If your greyhound is in a crate or confinement area over night, it is important that you get up and take him to the toilet if he is restless.  This can be very tiring for you, but it is worth it in the long run as the greyhound will soon learn to hold on.

It is important that you do not teach your greyhound that 2am is a good time for a game or a quick zoomie around the yard.  Night-time toilet trips should be all business.  Simply hook on the lead, walk him to the toilet and stand there waiting for him to go.  Do not play or pet your greyhound.  Once he has finished relieving himself, you can reward him with a food treat or a quick pat, and it is back to bed.

Some people choose to confine their greyhound to a room such as the laundry over night, and put paper down for them to use as a toilet.  This is fine, but it does slow the learning process as the greyhound is still learning that toileting in the house is acceptable.  It also adds another step to the training sequence as you have to later teach them not to use the paper.

I let my greyhound out to go to the toilet, but when he comes back in he piddles just inside the door.  What am I doing wrong?
Often owners just put their greyhound outside the back door and expect it to head off to the toilet on its own.  After five or ten minutes they assume the dog has relieved himself and let the dog back in, only to find he immediately piddles on the floor.  Sometimes the reason the owner does not want to go outside is that it is cold, dark or rainy.

This is a problem of supervision.  If it is cold, dark or rainy the greyhound probably does not want to go out into the weather either!  The owner assumes the greyhound has emptied out, but in fact he might have sat at the back door wanting to get back inside, and as soon as he does, he remembers he needs to go to the toilet.

The answer is to escort your greyhound to the toilet – regardless of the weather.  This way you can be sure that he has actually been to the toilet before he is allowed back inside.

Simply pop the lead on, grab a coat, jacket or umbrella and head outside to the doggy toilet with your dog.  This way the toilet trip can be completed successfully and you can all return inside.

When should I expect my greyhound to be trained?
At the age that most greyhounds are adopted, they do have the physical ability to hold-on, unlike little puppies who may not have full bladder control.

Some greyhounds seem to take longer to toilet train than others, often due to the lack of early substrate preference learning.  These dogs can take months to really get the idea that the toilet is outside – but patience is the key.  Of course upset tummies, and the stress of changing homes can lead to some accidents, as can some medical problems such as bladder infections.  If you are doing everything right and your greyhound is still having problems, a trip to the vet may be in order.  This is also true of dogs that have been very reliable, and suddenly seem to lose their training.

The other problem that some owners face is when their male greyhound decides to ‘mark’ (lift their leg) inside the house.  These boys may need to be reminded that the toilet is outside, and that marking is fine for trees, but not allowed inside on the leg of the dining room table.  Once again supervision is the key.