Sighthounds, which include the greyhound, borzoi, saluki, whippet, afghan hound, italian greyhound, and many others, are believed to be decended from the oldest domesticated dog breeds. As their name suggests, sighthounds are adept at hunting by sight, and pursuing prey with speed, unlike scent hounds which track their prey over longer distances using their strong sense of smell. Sighthounds have long, lean bodies with strong musculature, deep chests, and small heads. Because of their unique physical and behavioral characteristics, sighthounds present their owners with unique challenges. If you are interested in keeping a sighthound as a pet, the following tips will help you create a safe environment for your new four-legged family member.
Use the Proper Collar
Sighthounds have thick, muscular necks and small heads. In many cases these dogs’ necks are wider than their heads, and regular buckle collars have a tendency to slip off if a dog becomes frightened and pulls away. A special collar called a Martingale is designed to tighten around a sighthound’s neck as it pulls tighter on leash. Unlike metal choke chains, the Martingale is designed for maximum comfort. Nevertheless, these collars can be a choking hazard if an unattended dog’s collar becomes entangled. You should use a Martingale when walking your sighthound on leash, but replace it with a regular tag collar when the hound is in your home or enclosed yard.
Never Unleash Your Sighthound
All dog owners, not just sighthound owners, should practice this piece of advice for the safety of their pets. However, due to the sighthound’s tendency to chase small objects, leashing your hound any time you are outside of a secure fenced enclosure is especially important. If you have trained your dog well, you may develop a false sense of trust that you have control over him even when he is off leash. Please do not make this mistake. Without warning, a sighthound may chase a squirrel, cat, bird, or other small object onto a busy street or into other dangerous areas, without regard for its own safety. Once your hound locks onto its target, his focus can be almost impossible to break.
Lock Your Fences
As a frequent volunteer for my local greyhound adoption organization, I am always amazed at how commonly sighthounds are reported missing after a gate has been left open. Sighthounds are hunters, and tend to explore when they are left free to roam. This particular adoption group has sometimes located a lost greyhound several miles from its home. In other unfortunate cases, the dog is never found. A sighthound on the loose can suffer any number of fates, from being hit by cars, to getting caught in wire fences, to being injured by wild animals. Almost always these escape incidents are accidental, and a gate was mistakenly left ajar by a neighbor, gardener, or repair person. A five dollar padlock on each gate is a sure way to prevent your sighthound from suffering this fate.
Check The Perimeter
Just as an open gate can allow a sighthound to get loose, so can an unknown gap in your fence or other enclosure. Furthermore, protruding nails or other unseen objects can cut into your sighthound’s thin skin as she runs and plays in the yard. This danger is considerably multiplied by the speed at which these animals move. Before you bring a sighthound into your home, check your backyard to make sure it is free from obstacles that could be dangerous to your new friend.
Sighthounds are Indoor Pets
Sighthounds have thin skin, and many breeds have very short coats. For this reason, most sighthound breeds are highly sensitive to changes in temperature. A good rule of thumb is that sighthounds feel the same way you do about temperature. If you feel too cold or too hot, chances are your sighthound does too. During the winter months, sighthounds should wear coats and other clothing to guard against the cold. In summer, make sure your dog does not stay too long in the sun, as these animals are prone to sunburn and heat exhaustion. In any case, your sighthound prefers to be inside with you where the temperature is comfortable.
Sighthounds make wonderful companions, and could be a great addition to your family. Following these tips will ensure that your sighthound has a safe, comfortable environment both in your home and outside.