There are various techniques you can use; with a clicker or without, in structured sessions or just in daily life.
The most important thing is to make sure other members of your household are aware of your training; that they use the same commands out on walks or around the house, and stick to the same rules. For example I never let my dog beg for food or lick plates - and it's important that others reinforce that. The dog will be learning all the time from what he sees and hears, so consistency is crucial.
Greyhounds are desparate to please. Therefore, the easiest way to train him is simply to praise good behaviour, and not to punish bad behaviour but instead to simply ignore it. He will soon learn to use behaviour which is rewarded by fuss and attention. If there is anything you are really struggling with (like barking) you could use a very small waterpistol, but NEVER hit your dog (he will not trust you or let you handle him when he is sick), and NEVER use an "anti-bark" collar (he cannot escape from it and may panic - how cruel!)
Remember that your dog has never been in a home before. There are so many new things to explore, and he doesn't know what he may and may not do. It's up to you to teach him. This relies on you being there the first time he tries something, with a firm message of praise or discouragement. If he does something wrong (and you will be amazed how inventive he can be) chances are you haven't taught him not to do it yet - this is your fault, not his. If you find something he has done after the event - be it a shredded newspaper or a pee - simply clear up and work out ways to stop this happening again, or make sure if it does happen again you are around to tell him no as he starts to do it. A comment I read which amused me said "But why is she shouting at me? Is the paper not shredded finely enough? Didn't I do a good job? Next time I'll tear the paper up REALLY small!" which illustrated that if you tell the dog off after the event he will not understand why you are unhappy. You have to catch him in the act!
If you are interested in clicker training you can download a free "e-book" about it from Dogschool.co.uk. Personally I tried it - to go "click and treat" - but every time I had a treat the dog was so excited about the treat that he stopped listening to me and training was impossible! I also forgot to keep it up in regular daily training sessions, so I stopped.
However I train my dog by saying the command word whenever he does the right thing, then praising him for doing it. For example, saying "lie down" as the dog lies down, then "well done!". Eventually it sinks in and the dog begins to lie down on command. Make sure everyone who spends time with the dog knows the command, so if you aren't there someone else is ready to say "lie down!" or "busy!" at the right time. It took around 4 months from the date of adoption before my dog would lie down reliably every time, but it does work! Once the command is learnt, mix it in with others so he has to listen (for example sometimes he must lie down for a treat, sometimes he must wait for one) and then when each command is obeyed perfectly, continue to produce a treat for doing them now and then, so he still has the incentive to obey.
Whether you use clickers, treats, or simply praise, you must use the command at the second your dog thinks about doing something such as lying down. If you say it after he has already gone down, it's too late! His mind will be onto other things and he won't associate what you have said with the right thing. Or he might think "but I am lying down, you idiot! What do you want me to do?!" If you need to teach a command which you can only really say when he is already doing it (such as "quiet") then you can say "Good-boy-quiet" to enforce that he is doing something good at present. I regularly treat my dog when he is lying quietly in bed, to show how much I like this behaviour. I simply tell him "good boy" and surprise him with a choccy drop!
If you have a problem such as barking, you can use a deterrent. If you shout at the dog, or go to him to tell him off, he will think "great! Barking got my owner's attention!" and he will keep doing it. Instead ignore him - just walk away. If he persists (or it is late and you don't want to annoy the neighbours) use a deterrent such as a water pistol - he will soon stop barking when he gets sprayed! If possible, stop the dog from seeing you firing it and so associating you with the water - instead it should be a surprise, so he can only associate the water with the barking. On the other hand, my dog has worked it out very quickly. If he barks all he merely has to see or hear me touch the water pistol, and he is quiet again. I don't like this as it seems like a bullying tactic, but it can be useful to have as a backup. My dog barks when other people get attention, such as when I am on the phone, or having an intimate moment with my partner; at these times the water pistol is useful - and the person on the other end of the phone doesn't notice anything happening!
In order of priority, these are the most commands I find most useful:
- Off. This should be the first thing you teach - stops the dog bothering you when you are eating, sticking his nose in the bins, or nuzzling the neighbours. One word with a wide range of uses!
- Stop. Useful near roads (but probably won't get a reaction near really exciting things like small animals - greyhounds can just shut you out when they are very focussed).
- Lie down. Not essential but useful to get the dog out from under foot e.g. with visitors, or to tell him "we are stopping for a while, settle down" e.g. at the pub. Also useful in the car.
- Wait. Gives you a chance to catch up if he is a way ahead of you. Also useful in giving him treats and meals so he doesn't push for them but waits until you are ready to give them.
- Coming to his name. Useful in the house - but hard to teach outdoors unless you have a large enclosed area, and even then he may not come when distracted e.g. by a furry creature. (However I find "come here for a treat" works every time!)
It is difficult to teach a greyhound to sit as they find it physically awkward. My own dog rarely sits, so lie down is much more useful. You can find out whether yours might sit by backing it into a corner and holding a treat in the air so it looks up. If he still won't sit with its back against the wall, it's probably not comfortable for him.
Other commands will be picked up over time, and "walk" is one of my dog's favourite words! Walking to heel can be taught but start when your dog is on the way back from a walk and is already tiring, to make it easy for him. My own dog now understands forward, stop, heel, and come-along; we are working on "this way" (come right) and "get over" (go left). He will also give me a paw when I ask him, and I'm using this to teach him to "paw" open the back door rather than being stuck behind it!
If you want to learn more about training, I recommend the techniques in Retired Greyhound Racing for Dummies - which is where I learnt that "off" should be his first word!
Here is a list of the commands my dog knows - it's amazing how much you can teach them!
At all times, remember he has come to a strange home with strange people - and now we are talking to him in a strange language! So be patient, and be ready with praise and treats.
If all else fails, Battersea Dogs Home have a behaviour hotline which is charged at 25p per minute.
If you're in East London, I can highly recommend Hazel Palmer.
This page last updated: 25 February 2013
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