To truly understand the motivations behind our dogs' actions, it is wise to conduct a thorough study of the modern dog's origins. Since dog behavior is largely rooted in logic, there are invariably many different conclusions that we can draw about our dogs' penchant for hoarding. Does your dog have a problem with sharing? Is he worried there is going to be a worldwide toy dearth, and he must prepare for the future? Whatever the intent behind the hoarding, there is some payoff for our dogs that brings them great satisfaction.
The Root of the Behavior
Though Greyhounds are not any more prone to hoarding behavior than any other dog breed, there is little doubt that some of them do enjoy engaging in this activity. If your Greyhound loves to gather and guard his favorite things, what is his motivation for doing so? There are many different reasons why dogs choose to hoard things. One of the most logical explanations finds its origins in the wild dog and his instincts. Dogs living in the wild had to hunt to procure their food supply. Unfortunately, food was not always readily available. Because of this, the wild dog knew what true hunger meant. But at other times, the wild dog would score a "kill" which was far too substantial to be eaten in one meal alone. Remembering his formerly aching tummy when sustenance was not available, the wild dog would be unable to waste even a morsel of the "leftovers." As a result, he would seek a secure hiding spot to protect and camouflage the food for later meals when hunting attempts were less than fruitful. Most commonly, the wild dog would simply dig a hole to place the extra food in, thereby saving it for use at a later date. The hole carried the added benefits of disguising the smell from other predators seeking their next meal as well as keeping it cool to prevent spoiling.
Encouraging the Behavior
However, resource guarding is a serious problem, and it is better to prevent a fight from happening in the first place than to find yourself having to break one up. Sometimes dogs will hoard things simply because they are bored. Consider it Fido's version of hiding without the seeking part of the game. Dogs who are experiencing boredom will find things to amuse themselves in the absence of better things to do. From Fido's perspective, what could be more fun than travelling through the house and creating a pile of his favorite things in one central location? Still other dogs like to hoard things belonging to their owners. Typically, the items they select are ones that bear your unique scent. This could range from a pair of your favorite socks to your shoes and even dirty underwear. While we find this behavior perplexing and even a little gross and odd, the act of gathering items that smell like you brings great comfort to your dog. After all, you are Fido's favorite thing in the whole wide world, and if you can't be with him, your favorite t-shirt makes an adequate substitute as far as he is concerned.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Sometimes dogs don't just stop at hoarding your stuff, they like to chew on it too! For the safety of your Greyhound and to keep you from going broke replacing your wardrobe every few days, it is best to keep your personal clothing in a location where Fido cannot access it. If your dog is a hoarder but not a chewer, you might want to designate an old piece of clothing that Fido can claim as exclusively his. This will provide the satisfaction he is looking for and will keep you from spending untold hours trying to locate the place Fido has selected as the new home for your favorite pair of shoes. While it is true that hoarding is an age old instinct designed for self-preservation, it can become a nuisance behavior in our modern dogs. If your dog is an "only child," your biggest concern is that your Greyhound readily releases his toys to you when asked to do so. Since most Greyhounds are docile by nature, this is generally not a problem. But to ensure there are no future issues, it is wise to begin some training exercises with your Greyhound when he is still a puppy.
One of the best training games you can use to train your puppy to share resources is called "trading up." Trading up occurs when you ask your dog to relinquish his toy then immediately reward him with an extremely high value treat. In this manner, your dog learns that choosing to willingly give up his toys always leads to something better. This helps to establish trust between the two of you and instills good habits for the future. If you suspect your Greyhound may be developing resource guarding habits, it is important to seek professional help immediately. This is not something for the novice owner to attempt to work through on their own. A reputable behavior modification specialist can assist you in formulating a strategy to help your Greyhound learn that sharing can be fun. This will help prevent dangerous behaviors that could lead to tragic consequences for you and your "pack."