Thoughts on Rescue Greyhound for Service Dog?

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Theodore Bear
Barked: Tue Aug 28, '12 9:35am PST 
This is my first post.. Sorry if it's long!

So I have been in search for a while for a new service dog in training candidate. I had to wash out my last SDiT (a Golden Retriever puppy) due to excessive noise sensitivity. When a sound spooked her, even with a head collar she was so strong she'd pull me over trying to get home. She was impossible to take on even a regular walk around the neighborhood. It was incredibly sad and I rehomed her with her foster mom from the rescue, so now at least she gets to live with her mother and next door to one of her littermates, gets to swim on the weekends and just be a dog!

But after going through such a huge 'failure,' I'm even more cautious about picking the right dog this time around. I have fibromyalgia (widespread muscle pain, weakness, my hands tremble if I exert myself, etc.). I also have hypermobile joints (flat feet, hyper-extended knees which causes my hips and knees to hurt a lot if I'm standing or walking too much). I'm 23 years old and LOOK healthy, but I find that I avoid going out as much as I'd like to because I'm just too tired. I have like one friend in town and frequently have to cancel plans to hang out with him because I'm just too exhausted. I'm always switching scheduled work days at my job with other employees last minute because my pain medication makes it hard to get up, or I don't sleep all night, or I'm in too much pain or too exhausted to go. I tend to skip college classes because our campus is huge and requires a lot of walking around to get where I need to go.

Well, I work at a pet supply store and we hosted a Greyhound rescue event last Saturday. I got to meet Jake, a relatively small, very calm Greyhound. He was born through a pretty unethical kennel and went into a home with a woman who mostly kept him in the backyard. Then he was surrendered to the Greyhound rescue when the owner couldn't afford to keep her home. Somehow, through all of it, he's maintained an incredible personality. The only quirk I know of that he acquired was that he was reluctant to walk on tiled floors at first. But when I met him and walked him around our store (all linoleum), I would never have known that once upon a time he had a problem with it.

He is technically not a retired racer because he never had a maiden race. He is very small for a male Greyhound (maybe 58 lbs? One rescue volunteer said 50, and someone else said 68--I don't think he's 68 by looking at him). He is all black with a little spot of white on his chest and the tips of his toes.

I would like a dog for momentum and counterbalance, and some additional psychiatric service dog tasks for PTSD (turning on a light with a foot pedal or touch lamp, deep pressure therapy, grounding, etc.). I'm 5'2" and 105 lbs. Jake is a smaller male Greyhound and I can just barely lay my palm flat on his back while standing up straight.

I did a modified version of the Volhard test with him at his foster's house. He is 3 years old. (Ideally the test is given in an unfamiliar environment but we didn't have that luxury in this situation.) My boyfriend administered the test because Jake had never met him before.

1. Reached over his back and picked his two front legs up off the floor for 10-15 seconds. Didn't phase him.
2. Held each paw off the ground and firmly squeezed from his paw up to his foreleg.
3. Looked inside his ear, tickled inside his ear, grabbed and gently tugged his tail, rubbed his belly and throat area. Seemed unphased.
4. Crouched down and called him by name. Jake came immediately.
5. Called him again and walked about five feet away. Jake followed immediately and eagerly.
6. I tested his affinity for food with a piece of cheese. (I also lured him with a piece of kibble.) He followed the treats with his nose, but I was unable to lure him into a down position. He has no obedience history. He took the food politely from my hand but licked gently and persistently when I held it in a closed fist.
7. I walked him on leash outside. He walks politely beside me. He has a tendency to lean into me a little bit, but does not forge ahead and will change directions easily if you call him or signal the direction change in some way.
8. The rescue volunteer's 8 year-old son bear-hugged Jake from over his back. Jake used to live with them, and patiently stood still while the kid hugged him. He didn't seem upset or really phased by it.
9. We tested his sensitivity to noise by banging the bottom of a pot several times loudly while standing behind him and out of view. He turned around and immediately came up to us to investigate, but was not scared.
10. We opened an umbrella and laid it on the ground. He came up and sniffed it but seemed disinterested.

On the Volhard scale, I would rank him mostly with 4's with maybe one or two 3's.

Other details given by the rescue staff:

-- He used to live with two cats in his last foster home and was left uncrated for 8 hours a day with them. He never chased or bothered them.
-- He currently lives with a Chihuahua and has not shown any high prey drive tendencies towards him.
-- He is completely house trained.
-- He has been walked next to busy roads and is not shy about cars, loud noises, etc.

MY BIGGEST FEAR.. is that he has no obedience history. Do you think that a dog like this would make a fine service dog for what I need him for? Any other input? Thanks in advance!wink

Edited by author Tue Aug 28, '12 3:20pm PST

Maverick- SD

Sweet Goober
Barked: Tue Aug 28, '12 11:29am PST 
Way to go on doing your homework! While I wouldn't usually reccommend a sight hound for SD Jake doesn't seem a typical greyhound. He is worth looking into further. On an off topic note, I'd like you to message me because I wanted to talk to you about your condition. If you don't have all the answers you're looking for about it I may be able to steer you in the right direction.
Rest in- Paradise- Voltaire.- 1/1

Did somebody say- deer??
Barked: Tue Aug 28, '12 12:31pm PST 
Sounds like a great candidate. You have already done lots of research and like the results of the test. Its time to put the dog in candidate status and see how far you get. That is the only way to tell indefinitely if the dog -will- cut it as a SD, not just -could- cut it.

Theres nothing I've read that says the dog couldn't possibly be a SD.

Maverick I'm interested in hearing why you wouldn't reccomend a sighthound as a sd??? What is it you think about them that fuels such a blanket statement?

Maverick- SD

Sweet Goober
Barked: Tue Aug 28, '12 1:41pm PST 
Sight hounds are actually some of my fave breeds (I would give an arm and a leg for a Borzoi), Their temperament and trainability can be more difficult for the average dog owner. They are fantastic dogs but generally high prey drive, emotional sensitivity, and independent nature are counterproductive to SD. I'm absolutely not advocating against sight hounds for SD but, as a general rule, they are less suited to SD work than other working breeds.

Theodore Bear
Barked: Tue Aug 28, '12 2:35pm PST 
EDIT: I'm the OP, by the way. Just added my other dog to Dogster! smile

Two friends (both SD handlers) had recommended the Greyhound breed for me about a year ago. I kept saying no because 1) they are so large and I live in an apartment, 2) I have a Chihuahua as my non-SD companion and he weighs 5 lbs. I worry about having a large dog around with high prey drive, but I was pleased that Jake doesn't seem to have high prey drive.

What other qualities should I look for? The Greyhound rescue is giving me the option of paying for him via check and having them hold the check for up to 2 weeks while I finalize my decision. That gives me some time to work with him and make sure the decision is permanent before proceeding.

Edited by author Tue Aug 28, '12 2:36pm PST


Yeah, I can do- that, but I- won't!

Barked: Tue Aug 28, '12 4:36pm PST 
you know my opinion.. great pick smile

Member Since
Barked: Tue Aug 28, '12 7:59pm PST 
Actually he sounds very typically greyhound to me, except for his size. Our greys are 80lbs (Princeton, male) and 65lbs (Lily, female). I've been training Princeton as my assistance dog, and he's great! I'm not sure I'll ever really want or need him for public access work, and I'm not sure he'd be happy doing that, but as far as helping at home, he's fantastic. He's a very fast learner, very smart. I'm using clicker training, all positive methods. He retrieves things for me, finds my cell phone (I scented the case with a drop of a scented oil), gets my slippers from the bedroom, turns the light switches on and off (he's tall enough that he doesn't even need to put his feet up on the wall for that, he just hops up a little, briefly), takes my socks off and helps pull off long-sleeved shirts and jackets... And of course he knows down, sphinx, sit, stay, leave it, wait, paws-cross, paw / shake hands... Many cues.

He is also very tuned in and attached to me. Which makes him a wonderful dog for someone with chronic illness. I was told that male greyhounds tend to be more suited to that than females, as the males are more oriented toward paying attention to their human and "taking care" of them, while the females are more interested in themselves. That's a generalization and I can't believe it's universal, but it's proved pretty true with our two, at least.

Lily is a good learner, too, though not as fast as Princeton.

For everything but the weight-bearing work, I say go for it! Greyhounds are WONDERFUL. For balance work and such, you need to be very careful. I understand that some people recommend you not do that at all with any dog, now. And that any dog who does any kind of human-weight-bearing work has to be retired years earlier than otherwise. Pulling is fine, it's downward pressure that can cause problems. Do your research, and be careful. I'd say look for a much larger dog if you need one for that.

-- Angi

Theodore Bear
Barked: Wed Aug 29, '12 7:17am PST 
Thanks for the reply, Angi. smile No, I don't intend to use a service dog for any bracing or weight bearing work. I know someone with a Greyhound service dog who assists her in getting up by pulling forward when she grabs the handle of her harness. In that way, she can still assist her in rising without having to push down on her or rest her weight on her spine/hips/shoulders at all. Mostly, I would really benefit from momentum work while walking on campus (or the park, or shopping, or anywhere that requires that I be on my feet walking for long periods of time). I doubt I would need to take him with me to work because I work in short bursts and am able to sit down frequently in-between. My medication helps me enough that I can actually HAVE a work schedule. A few months ago, before I was prescribed medication for more restorative sleep/antidepressant/pain relief, I was barely able to get out of bed.

Do you feel that Greyhounds (or sighthounds in general) take longer than most breeds to learn commands? As I said, my last SDiT was a Golden Retriever! She was incredibly intelligent and picked up new commands very quickly, even complex tasks at 10 weeks old like flipping a light switch. I need to prepare myself to be incredibly patient and not get discouraged if I'm going to be dealing with a breed that might learn slower than most, but still fits my needs in every other way.

Angi, did Princeton know any commands before he came to you? How old was he when you adopted him?

By the way, here is a picture of me standing with Jake:


Edited by author Wed Aug 29, '12 7:20am PST


Lady Killer
Barked: Mon Sep 17, '12 5:11pm PST 
I actually know a few people who have sighthounds as SDs. (afghan, borzoi, irish wolfhound to name a few) and they are great if you find one with the right temperament (as you would with any dog)
They are so caring and sensitive when it comes to people. cloud 9

Lolly girl
Barked: Wed Sep 19, '12 7:58pm PST 
He sounds good...and I have seen some very smart grey hounds in Obedience trials..good luck dog