Can you picture walking through your front door with a new canine friend? A loyal, gentle soul, that will follow you from room to room and curl up by your feet to sleep? Perhaps your new dog has never been in a house or an apartment before, and you are excited to show him around his new home. If you have recently adopted a former racing Greyhound, or a rescue dog, then this image is probably something that you have pictured before, or perhaps your new dog has not arrived yet, and this image is fresh in your mind right now.
Bringing a new dog into your home is a special experience. Whether that dog comes from a breeder, another home, or somewhere unique, like a race track kennel, it's exciting, and it can be a little bit frightening to wonder what challenges the two of you will face. Many Greyhounds who were former racers have never seen the inside of a home, and so have never experienced many of things that we consider perfectly normal, like stairs. You will need to teach your dog how to function in his new surroundings, and how to overcome any fears that he has. Teaching your Greyhound how to go up and down stairs will be an important first step. Being able to navigate stairs is not only practical, so that you do not have to carry your seventy-pound dog up and down your staircase, it is also important for bonding with your dog. It allows your dog to follow you while you move throughout your home, and that can be very important for a new dog that is feeling a bit insecure in a new place.
In addition to sparing you back pain from carrying a seventy-pound dog up your stairs, and in addition to allowing your dog to follow you more easily throughout your home, teaching your Greyhound how to go up stairs is also important for preventing potential injuries. If your dog has never navigated stairs before and finds himself in a situation where he needs to, then he is more likely to try to jump the stairs, run up them, or grip them with his nails, which can cause him to slip. The more comfortable and confident that he is climbing your stairs, the safer and more balanced he will be on other staircases also.
Some Greyhounds are simply confused by stairs and just need to be shown what to do, others are downright afraid of them. If your dog is afraid of the stairs, then be very gentle and patient. Do not force him into climbing them before he is ready, or you run the risk of only increasing his fears. Instead, wait patiently for him to take the initiative on his own, with your encouragement and enticement, then praise him and reward him for his efforts at overcoming his fears.
Climbing stairs requires certain muscle movements, and it can take practice for your Greyhound to develop the muscle memory necessary for him to stay balanced and safe on the stairs. If your dog is struggling with gripping the stairs, or is trying to jump over stairs, then getting him a padded harness to practice in can help. When you choose a harness, look for one that has a handle for you to hold onto on the back, is padded to prevent chafing, and offers support both under his chest and under his abdomen. Many harnesses designed for elderly, disabled, Search and Rescue, or Service Dogs fit these requirements. Make sure that the harness is adjustable enough that you can fit it to your lean greyhound's build, so that it will not chafe him.
To get started you will need lots of soft, tasty treats. If your Greyhound is very food motivated then you can use his own dog food as treats. If he is a picky eater, then you will need to experiment to find out what he likes. Many dogs love real chicken, freeze-dried liver, or pieces of cheese. If you are using the 'Assist' method or your dog is unsteady on the stairs, then you will need a padded harness with a handle on the back that supports your dog under his chest and abdomen. Look for harnesses made for disabled dogs, elderly dogs, Search and Rescue dogs, or Service Dogs. Harnesses made for these types of dogs more often include padding, good support, and a handle so that you, the dog's owner, can offer assistance. If you are using the 'Entice' method then you will need lots of your dog's favorite items. Choose his favorite toys, favorite treats, and his favorite person, you. If you have another dog in your home or a family member that your dog particularly loves, then recruit their help for this as well. For all of the methods, you will need patience, kindness, a positive, encouraging attitude, and gentleness. Greyhounds often have sensitive temperaments, so your dog might need for you to be both his cheerleader and his security.