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The Greyhound is what is referred to as a sighthound. They are extremely fast, highly prey driven dogs that were bred to chase small game that come into their line of sight--thus the term 'sighthound'! That is why they are used for racing and trained to chase a lure.
Many people believe that due to their breeding Greyhounds cannot be reliably trained to come back. While it can be more difficult to teach a Greyhound "recall", many owners successfully teach their dogs to come when they are off leash. Although this may be a challenge it is well worth it, as your Greyhound needs exercise and there is no way you are going to be able to run as fast as your quick canine! Allowing off-leash exercise to your dog will allow him the exercise and freedom he needs. Being able to get your Greyhound to come back when called will give you the peace of mind you need to ensure his safety, and that you go home with the same number of pets you left with!
Greyhounds can make very loyal, loving pets, and teaching them to come to you may not seem difficult at first, if you are in your home or fenced yard, or in an area free from distractions. The problem arises when you encounter small prey animals, cats, and other dogs. Then your Greyhound can quickly become fixated and suddenly deaf to your calls. Training your Greyhound a reliable 'come back' command is vital for his safety, so he does not run away and get lost or worse, run into a hazard like a busy roadway with traffic. To train your Greyhound to come back you need to train him to focus on you, not every moving critter that comes along. Training on and off-leash in controlled areas like large fenced yards or dog parks during off hours to achieve this focus, before exposing your dog to open areas where distraction and encounters with other animals are likely to occur, is an important step.
While training your Greyhound to come back you are going to need to ensure his safety. Because he is so highly prey driven, and because Greyhounds can be easily startled and gone in a flash, you will need to take precautions not to lose control of your speedy friend during training. Use a well-fitted harness with a secure long line, not a retractable line. Have high value treats available, or favorite toys to reinforce “come back” and work in a safe area, free from distractions, such as a fenced yard or even a large room in your house if necessary. You may be able to use a fenced dog park during off-peak hours to train, when other dogs are not present.
The Shape Focus Method
Start free from distractions
Start in an indoor area free from distractions with your Greyhound. Give your dog a few treats to start so he knows you have them.
Reinforce 'look at me'
Hold a treat in your closed fist in your outstretched arm. Do not give your dog the treat. Wait until your dog looks at you, then use a clicker or say “yes” and give him the treat. Repeat frequently.
Increase the length of time your dog needs to look at your face before rewarding him. Move the exercise outside into a fenced area or on a lead line.
Add hand signal
Start moving the treat with your hand to your face. Reinforce when your dog looks at your face with your hand and treat. Now move your hand to your face without a treat. When your dog looks at your face in response to the hand motion, reinforce. Add the command “look” .
On a long lead, start practicing in areas with distractions where there are squirrels, dogs, cats, and other animals, and people present. Get your dog to focus on you, use hand signal and “look” then add the command “come” or “come back” when you have your dogs attention. Reward when your Greyhound comes back to you.
The Long Lead Method
Walk on long line
Take your Greyhound out on a walk on a long lead with treats available in a pocket or pouch.
When your Greyhound focuses on someone or something and starts towards it, call his name and say “come”. Run backwards, or in the opposite direction, away from your dog and the object of interest.
Reward follow and come
When your dog runs over to you, produce and provide a high value treat.
While your dog is taking his treat, bend down and touch your dog's collar. Repeat this until your dog learns to come and that part of the command means standing while you take hold of his collar.
Repeat, gradually increasing the length of the long line and the level of distraction. Eventually, you can start working off-lead in a safe enclosed area. Once well established, you can reduce treats and replace with play with a toy and praise. When you are in an open, uncontrolled area, the well established “come” command can be used to recall your dog.
The Emergency Touch Method
Use a tasty treat on your hand
Put some peanut butter or cream cheese on your fingers. Start inside your house, in the same room as your dog, where there will be no distractions for your Greyhound.
Associate touch command
Give the command “touch” as your dog comes over and licks the treat off your hand.
Move to another room away from your dog,. Say “touch” and when your Greyhound comes to you from another part of the house, let him lick the treat from your hand. Touch his collar and pet him while he is licking off the treat so he knows this is part of the call.
Switch to a less messy treat, but still high value, like a piece of chicken or a hot dog. Keep saying "touch". Always reward the 'touch' command, it is an emergency recall command that will be reliable when needed.
Take the show on the road! Take your Greyhound out in the yard or in dog parks and practice 'touch', always providing a high value treat. If your dog does not respond to 'come' or other off leash recall commands that are rewarded with play or praise, you can use 'touch'. Your dog will always expect a high value treat, as he has always been provided with one in the past.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 03/06/2018, edited: 01/08/2021