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Greyhounds are fast and agile for a reason. They were originally bred to hunt fast prey, like rabbits and hares, as well as foxes. Today our fast Greyhounds are traditionally used as racing dogs that chase mechanical rabbits on the track. If you have an ex-racing Greyhound, he may already be motivated to chase a rabbit or rabbit-like critter, but being from the track, he may or may not have been exposed to a live rabbit, or know what to do with the rabbit once he catches it!
Some handlers like to use slower dogs when chasing rabbits so that the dog brings the rabbit back to them. Rabbits tend to loop around in a circle when being chased; if the dog can't catch the rabbit, the hunter can then shoot the rabbit, which makes the rabbit a lot more usable for human consumption. A Greyhound, however, is fast and agile and may catch the rabbit long before it loops back to a hunter to be harvested. If you are using a Greyhound to hunt rabbit then the rabbit may be more likely to be dog food than people food! Keep that in mind.
Greyhounds are sight hounds, bred to chase rabbits, or whatever moves across their field of vision, until they catch it. Motivating a Greyhound to hunt a rabbit is usually not that difficult, they do it instinctively, however directing your Greyhound can be more of a challenge. You will want to ensure your Greyhound has good off-leash recall and obedience commands established before teaching him to hunt rabbits. Taking your dog out and getting him used to running and exploring various terrain will also be important, especially for an ex-track dog that may not have been exposed to running on rough terrain or exploring brush. Once your Greyhound listens to you well and is experienced with the outdoors, you can take him out in forested or brushy areas to explore, sight a rabbit and chase the rabbit until he catches it or brings it back to handlers to be harvested.
You will want to ensure you do not lose your sighthound in wild areas where a Greyhound can easily become so focused on game he does not hear commands. Establishing good off-leash recall and control beforehand is very important, however, use of a GPS tracking collar for your speedy Greyhound is also advised, as your dog can easily be a long way away, very fast, and if you become separated you will need a way to locate him. Make sure your dog is in good shape and used to various terrain before hunting in the wild, so your dog does not become injured. A sighthound will run after a rabbit with little regard to his own safety or strain!
The Set Up For Success Method
Get used to wilderness
Take your Greyhound out in wilderness terrain and teach good off-leash recall. You will want to have good control over your Greyhound when you are hunting and have him used to exploring brush and forested areas.
Get in shape
Make sure your Greyhound is in top physical condition. Exercise frequently so he does not strain himself when chasing a rabbit.
Play with rabbit skin
Introduce your Greyhound to rabbits by giving him a rabbit skin to play with, to get him used to the scent and to use as a toy. Play tug or war and fetch with the rabbit skin to generate interest.
Take to game area
Take the dog to an area where your know rabbits are present. Wait for your Greyhound to sight a rabbit. Greyhounds can detect small prey movement many hundreds of yards away.
Reinforce rabbit hunting
When your dog sees the rabbit, let him loose to chase. Usually, rabbits will run in a circle and come back towards their original spot. When your Greyhound catches the rabbit, call him back to you and praise him.
The Live Rabbit Method
Introduce to protected rabbit
Put a tame rabbit in a wheeled cage. The cage is shaped like a wheel, similar to a hamster ball, this provides a visual stimulus for the Greyhound, while protecting the rabbit.
Allow your Greyhound loose with the caged rabbit, encourage him to get excited about reaching the rabbit. Supervise to ensure the caged rabbit is not injured.
Take to game areas
Once your Greyhound is accustomed to and interested in the rabbit, start taking your dog out in wilderness areas where rabbits are present.
Spot a rabbit
Wait for your Greyhound to spot a rabbit. Greyhounds are sight hounds and a dog that has already been introduced to a tame rabbit will be excited about chasing a wild rabbit.
Let your Greyhound off leash and allow him to flush and chase the rabbit. Use a tracking collar in case your dog becomes separated from you. Rabbits tend to run in a circular path and your dog will usually return to you. If not, be sure to have a way to recall or locate your dog.
The Learn From Others Method
Prepare for working with other dogs
Before taking your Greyhound out with other experienced hunting dogs, make sure you establish off-leash recall and obedience commands, and ensure your Greyhound is well socialized.
Meet experienced dog
Introduce your dog to another experienced Greyhound hunting dog. You may be able to find other handlers and dogs through local hunting clubs. Allow dogs to become familiar prior to going out in the field.
Hunt with other dog
Allow your Greyhound to hunt with the other dog, to locate the rabbit scent as part of the group, and participate in flushing the rabbit.
Provide solo experiences
Once your dog has some experience rabbit hunting with another dog, take your Greyhound out solo to give him individual experience, and work on directions and recall.
Once your Greyhound has had some experience working with another dog, and some solo experience to build confidence and experience, he is ready to start hunting rabbits alone or with a partner.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 04/05/2018, edited: 01/08/2021