The big day has come. Your galgo will move in with you. Maybe you took them over from a foster home after good advice or picked them up directly from a transport or airport. Maybe they are your first sighthound from animal welfare, maybe you already have such a dog at home and would like to treat them to a suitable companion of the same attitude. Clubs may have advised you and friends reported on their own experiences. However, be aware: everything can be very different with this Galgo. Please never forget that.
Anyone who has read up a bit on the Internet or informed themselves in greyhound circles will quickly notice how much attention is paid to the subject of security/safety. And anyone who has never experienced a panicking galgo simply cannot imagine it and may feel that all the advice is grossly exaggerated or patronizing, but please never underestimate the enormous importance of this message.
Although most of the galgo mediators of all clubs do very conscientious education, a frightening number of galgos die in an accident shortly after moving to their families and that after animal rights activists in Spain have invested so much effort and heart and soul in the rescue, the health rehabilitation and mediation, this is so unbelievably sad.
Galgos have a delicate, fragile soul, can even be very squeamish, come in a delicate, beautiful shape, mostly still underweight, which inevitably awakens the protective instinct in many people.
However, a galgo can also turn into a wild, irrepressible, merciless hunter in the next moment, who has no mercy on his prey.
You might also be lucky enough to catch a totally cool galgo who will stand by you like a rock in the surf, whatever is happening around them. But we wouldn’t bank on this and even with a totally cool galgo, accidents can still happen.
Let us advise you when choosing your galgo. For a successful placement and a hopefully long and happy time together with your galgo, the nature of the dog is a hundred times more important than its appearance.
In the best case, the galgo that has just arrived from Spain is reasonably socialized, not traumatized and in moderate health. Even then, their behaviour is still miles away from Labrador, Spaniel and most other breeds. However, most of the rescued galgos have experienced extremely difficult times and some are always a new challenge, even for experienced galgo keepers. If a puppy is not sufficiently well socialized in the early development phase, they will probably always remain a little shy later on, this is generally true for all dogs. If a galgo puppy, which is more common in Spain, has only gotten to know very little in this important development phase of the brain, then these deficits cannot simply be “ironed out”. Quite a few galgos are terrified of men and children.
It is therefore absolutely justified that you offer your new galgo the best possible security when you take over the responsibility of their life. You have to imagine that a galgo, even if they seem unimpressed by everything at first, can develop an escape behaviour like a shy wild animal from one second to the next. Many of these galgos have little experience with humans, and when they do, the experiences tend to be bad, painful ones. In other words, most of the time they haven’t seen many happy things in the past that they associate with people. In addition, they only know an attitude in the house in exceptional cases.
A galgo does in the new environment what has brought them benefits in their old life. They behave as inconspicuously as possible. But that doesn’t mean that the dog is relaxed and feels safe. At the first overwhelm or a dangerous situation felt from a dog’s point of view, i.e. at the first opportunity that presents itself to him, they may do what we all fear: they run away.
You just can’t repeat it often enough. Secure your galgo! Keep them safe! The galgo also needs a well-fitting, escape-proof harness. Buy leads (NO FLEXI LEADS EVER) that are with quality fittings/clips and that don’t break the second jump on the line. Hold the lead firmly in one hand – put your hand through the loop and wrap the lead around your wrist. Be careful with the idea of attaching one of the leashes to the belt, as this can result in nasty falls with unforeseeable damage to your health.
Take your galgo for short walks in as quiet and boring an environment as possible. Of course, they should have enough opportunity to do their business, but save them too many new impressions at once. Understandably you would like to show off your beautiful galgo, but at the beginning please no Saturday shopping in the city, no folk festivals, no pubs or cafes, no public transport rides at rush hour, no loud wild children’s birthday parties with 25 little ones or similar activities that would only stress the galgo unduly. Please no visitors. Your dog will thank you.
They really have enough to deal with as it is. And for that they absolutely need an undisturbed retreat and sleep, lots of sleep. Preferably in a sheltered, slightly elevated place. Of course, all galgos appreciate a high level of living comfort. An armchair or sofa is always gladly accepted. Leave them be.
Please reflect on your behaviour towards the galgo. Many galgos initially perceive well-intentioned cuddles in their arms, or bend over the dog and pat its head from above as threatening. It takes a while before they can interpret touching and stroking as affection. Give them the opportunity to determine how much closeness they want. If they want to lie between you on the sofa to look at the scene of the crime on Sunday evening, they’ll show you but please again be mindful. And despite all the love, you cannot make up for what may have happened to the dog in their life so far in a few days. It just takes time, lots of sleep and lots of rest.
Be patient and give your galgo three months, not just 24 hours, a few days or weeks. We have had a Galgo handed back to us in less than 24 hours before.
Of course you have to find a healthy middle ground between going outside too much and not enough, because when training to be housebroken, just like when practicing staying at home on your own, you often have to start from scratch, as with puppies. Fortunately, most dogs figure it out quickly.
You are doing your galgo a great favour if all family members have previously agreed on a joint training course. Similar to children, cautious, calm, loving, but consistent, fixed rules. A repetitive everyday routine is good for insecure dogs.
Door and Fence – no obstacle for a galgo
But safety is not only an issue in the first few days and outside or in the car. No matter where you live, you have to get used to having doors and windows secured. Especially if there are children living in your household or if many people go in and out of your house. Especially when freedom beckons right behind the front door/apartment door. Even if it is annoying, you must prevent the dog from being able to leave the house or apartment alone for its safety. Their life may depend on it.
You just have to imagine that your galgo wasn’t looking forward to you as much as you were looking forward to them. They have been torn from their familiar surroundings, whether they were beautiful for them or not. Now everything is strange and unknown. If they can escape, they will, whether out of fear or curiosity, out of hunting instinct or simply because they may have been a stray for years and want to pursue their desire for freedom. A galgo does not need much space to escape, a tiny careless second and a 15 cm gap is enough! Once the galgo has run away, the probability of finding him alive is infinitesimally small.
It is also important to see the garden with completely new eyes. It is only really safe if it resembles the high-security wing in Stammheim. If the galgo wants to get out, they will probably make it. Galgos can jump enormously, they can climb and they can dig. If the fence has a weak spot, the galgo will find it. For us, new dogs must be on a long line and only accompanied in the garden. No dog should ever be unsupervised in the garden. You will read on the internet that a greyhound has to run free, otherwise they will not be happy. This certainly does not apply to a newly arrived galgo with no trust and no attachment. Don’t be too gullible. Many Forums and Facebook groups also work without quality control. Everyone can show off their half-knowledge there. And there is never serious, qualified dog training by remote diagnosis, valid for all dogs and free of charge. The same applies to health issues. Ideally, you should look for a veterinarian with sighthound experience.
What happens in an anxiety reaction?
Each of us has felt fear at some point. In order to visualize and empathize for a brief moment what is actually going on, please put yourself in the following situation:
Imagine you are going for a walk in a country, in an environment that is familiar to you. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a stroll through the city or a walk in a beautiful landscape – it makes no difference; it just depends on how you feel in that situation: relaxation, calm. Stroll your way relaxed, stop at shop windows or at flowers to look at them. You enjoy the moment, the here and now in this peaceful environment. But suddenly, out of nowhere, something appears in front of you, big, huge, dark, threatening, your worst nightmare, absolute horror! It’s getting closer, building up in front of you! Adrenaline rushes into your body, the environment around you no longer exists at that moment. You feel neither ground nor support under your feet, your knees become weak and your legs start to tremble. Stop! This is where we stop thinking about it because we are not able to think right now. Our brain switches to emergency mode, all kinds of thought processes no longer work at this moment. The last thing we want right now as people in such a life-threatening situation is for someone to hold out a piece of chocolate. Who could take this now, swallow it and forget the monster, alien, killer, robber, or whatever you just imagined? That does not work! In the state of fear, all other processes that are not vital are switched off and it is all about pure self-preservation: one reacts first by freezing, then either with flight, attack for self-defense or surrender as an expression of absolute helplessness. Access to the repertoire of what has been learned is only possible once the fear has been contained to such an extent that the thought process can start again. Only then can the brain evaluate the supposed dangerous situation and possibly report back: “It’s not that bad, a mistake, the thing is harmless”.
Now, in this case, it was just a fear trigger, a startle, and not a fear-triggering experience that you may have had repeatedly in your life. And yet each of us can feel the enormous stress that such a situation brings with it.
Just like in us, a fear reaction also takes place in a dog. If they are in such a state of anxiety, they can also react in a very extreme way, e.g. with panicked, headless flight or, on a lead, with senseless snapping, whereby in such a situation they seem to have forgotten who is friend and who is foe. In the best-case scenario, they freeze and remain there until the situation has been clarified for them. They cannot consciously control the fear response or act in a considered manner. Everything that happens just happens and erupts out of them. It is therefore up to us to guide the fearful dog through such a situation, to stand by them, to give them support or, if necessary, to lead them out of the situation completely by calmly and reassuringly building up an appropriate distance from the fear trigger.
If we manage to give our dog the necessary support and security that they still lack, they will trust us more and more over time and gradually start to rely on us. The better we succeed in defusing critical situations for them, the more they will have the opportunity to gain experience and learn under better controlled conditions. But there will always be moments when you just have to stand by them again and be their rock, their lifeline.
Everything at the Beginning
And suddenly everything is different! Something will change not only for you – also for the dog, which you give a chance for a completely different life. We describe our dogs to the best of our knowledge and belief. That doesn’t mean that you adopt your dog at this stage of being, though. Life in your family is a new beginning for the dog. We as humans are ourselves evolving, situations change us, we have good and bad days, it is the same for dogs.
These dogs from the sanctuary, unless in foster, do not know a family, a home, or it is linked to a bad experience. There will be more to the shyness that the dog will show towards you as a new caregiver. Noises in the house that they do not recognize. A TV, lights, changing floor coverings, street noise, etc. present challenges that you and your dog must overcome. It is you who will now lead them through a new world and as with any other dog, the more confident and calm you are, the more likely he will follow you and accept this lead with benevolence.
Despite everything, despite the progress they have already made in the sanctuary or foster home, you have to start anew. That means building trust, giving love, showing patience and giving time. From now on you will walk the path together with your dog. Your dog will set the pace and speed. There will come moments when you will despair and need to step backwards again, after which you will need new courage to start again. Every day will be special, every day will be different, every little sign of trust will become something very special.
Before an adoption
Before you adopt a Galgo, please consider whether whether they fit into your family environment and the life you lead. If you are expecting to take your dog everywhere, and for them to just slot in, please re-consider. You should be clear about your own motives that lead you to adoption. Also about the fact that taking in a new dog can fundamentally influence, restrict and change your own life, at least in the first few weeks and months.
Please understand that we only want to place our scared dogs in a home with a garden. The dog should slowly get used to its new surroundings and to you as a reference person; an immediate confrontation with traffic and walks in busy areas could overwhelm or even endanger him.
In the run-up, take a close look at the dogs’ body language. Understand what calming signals and other non-verbal communication signals are in dogs. Your dog can’t express himself in any other way to you and it is therefore of fundamental importance that you can understand and read them. Conversely, they will initially focus exclusively on your body language and observe you accordingly. Become aware of how you present yourself and appear to the outside world, especially from a dog’s point of view. Dogs and humans have completely different, almost opposite, ways of communicating, so misunderstandings can be inevitable. Behaviour that we humans classify as polite, meant to be nice or at least harmless, e.g. direct eye contact, affectionate patting on the head or direct approach from the front (usually even head first) can be taken as grossly impolite, very unpleasant, as a threat or even as aggression in the dog world. In order to prevent such misunderstandings, remind yourself again that a frontal approach is considered an attack for the dog, that mere looks are perceived as a threat and that touching is not permitted at first. Hugs and other caresses will therefore not be possible at the beginning and should not be forced.
Talk about this with the other family members and especially with your children. There are countless sad examples of biting incidents where the dog has previously desperately gone through all the steps of the escalation ladder (beginning with subtle appeasement), all of which have been ignored by the human. If the dog doesn’t know what to do other than to snap, a lot has usually been overlooked or gone wrong in advance. That would be a worst-case scenario, which we would not wish for either your family or any of our protégés.
A fear dog comes into the family
For the first time together we would like to give you a few points of reference that can help you in dealing with your anxiety dog:
- The dog should be allowed to choose its first resting place in the house. You can offer them various places to retreat to; they will then decide which one they feels is “safe” for them.
- Anxious dogs want rest first and will sleep a lot at first. This reduces stress hormones. Allow your dog this rest.
- In the early days, your dog may become nocturnal and wander around the house. They want to explore their home by themselves, so they waited until the house is quiet.
- For the first few days, maybe even weeks, it is not necessary for the scared dog to go for a walk. Give them time. It is enough to regularly lead the dog into the garden so that they can loosen themselves and get to know the garden at your side as a safe place.
- Also secure the dog in the house with a GPS device.
- Please no exaggerated expectations in the form of gratitude. A dog cannot show you gratitude for adoption – that would be purely human behaviour/thinking. They have no experience of you and most of the experiences they have been able to have in life so far have been determined by pain and fear.
- Be sure to use a harness when walking. The neck area is also very sensitive in dogs. Unnecessarily yanking on the collar is not only painful and damaging, it also causes additional stress and anxiety. Also on the lead, it can be useful to give the dog space, to allow an initial distance and to leave the lead long. In response to a fear response, your dog will shrink and instinctively back away. To counteract this, give in to their increasing distance from the fear trigger. Offer them shelter to defuse the situation for them.
- Introduce rituals into daily life together. Dogs love rituals because they give them security.
- The domestic routine and also your behaviour should be calculable for the dog, so everything should be as normal as possible. Even if you have taken vacation, try to live your everyday life so that your dog does not have to adjust to a new life situation again. This also includes downtime. You don’t have to be available all day and in close proximity to the dog. If you take these breaks from your dog, you give him breaks from yourself.
- Keep reflecting on yourself. What effect do you have on the dog? What do you need to improve?
Assisting a dog in a fearful situation has nothing to do with validating the fear response. It doesn’t condition them to receive your attention as a reward for their fear. In a situation that is frightening for the dog, you should stand by them and give support and protection. We, too, expect a social partner to stand by us in a frightening moment, not ignore us completely and just walk away. So don’t ignore your dog either. Respond confidently and not exaggeratedly. Calmly give them the support he needs. You can also do this simply by being present, by recording and assessing the situation together with them. Stand in front of them if need be, shield them from the fear trigger, crouch down, support them. How you defuse this situation for your dog may look different depending on the situation, but in any case, let them know that you are with them and can offer protection. This will gain their trust, so that they will orientate more and more towards you.
Anyone who thinks they can train a Galgo to be strict or tough, to speak to them in a loud, angry voice or even to yell at them, will achieve exactly the opposite of what they want. Galgos are sensitive dogs. They react to the quiet sounds, observe the facial expressions, the body language, no loud words are needed to make a galgo understandable. But consistency is key! Galgos are extremely intelligent and observe well. In no time at all, that evening treat you gave before going to bed becomes an indispensable ritual.
Most Galgos from Spain have a very strong hunting instinct. This is due to a centuries-long selection for dogs that show just such behaviour. It is desired. A galgo that shows no hunting ambitions will be “sorted out” immediately and will not be used for breeding. It is therefore hardly possible, even with very obedient dogs, to let them run free in the field. This can be fine as long as no wild shows up. However, nothing escapes them. Sighthounds hunt by sight, which means that they usually spot game long before their owner. And then we take off, from 0 to 60 km/h, even before the master or mistress can react – the galgo is gone, after the game, which is then mercilessly chased. So a road that is 1 km away can suddenly very close – reachable in 1 minute for a galgo running after a hare. In principle, everything that is furry and runs can be considered as prey: hares, rabbits, squirrels, deer, and often cats. Birds are mostly not interesting, but there are also galgos that hunt birds.
If you want a dog that you can let loose anywhere, you should not get a galgo.
The Play and the Walk
Galgos are not retrievers. While they can be trained to fetch objects, a galgo will only do so a few times before becoming bored with this game. Galgos are intelligent strategists and also want to be challenged head-on. So you can certainly organize tracking searches with them or search games for treats. If you don’t offer them such a thing, they look for a replacement: galgos can spend hours looking for mice in meadows and are passionate diggers and trackers.
The galgo also loves variety when walking. Anyone who thinks they have to do the same 1 to 2 km round with their dog every day is better off either not getting a galgo or one that is already elderly or has restricted mobility.
Galgos are excellent physics teachers. Who with his dog on the sagging long line wanders around lost in thought, it can happen that the laws of physics are brought closer to him in an almost stunning way. A squirrel is quite enough for you to suddenly learn to understand the previously never understood principles of kinetics, especially the principle of momentum: A small 18 kg galga is quite capable of causing its owner to fall or at least snatch the leash out of his hand. That is why the flexible leads that are so popular in the dog world are extremely unsuitable for galgos. Infinitely many sad stories with a fatal end for the dog can be told about this. Hardly anyone is able to adequately intercept such an impulse with such a device. And when the Flexi falls, the “box” rattles
Learn to Trust
Galgos have big hearts. And this is not only meant in morphological terms. Many of them have not had good experiences with people in their previous lives. And yet they manage to “forgive” in most cases. Even with very fearful and suspicious dogs, one gets the impression that they want to trust, want to be close to their human despite everything. They need time to regain the broken trust after all the suffering they have experienced. You shouldn’t push them, but let them set the pace themselves. Patience is required here and not expectation. Anyone who manages not to have any expectations of the frightened, traumatized dog, but to be happy about what he offers himself, in small steps, he will be richly rewarded! There is nothing quite like seeing such a dog gradually shed its shell of fear, begin to develop joy, and learn to find support in its human. The only right approach here is not to push him, but to pick him up from where he is and take many small steps together with him in order to finally create milestones. And finally in the evening to cuddle together on the sofa and let the day end. is the only way to go here. And finally in the evening to cuddle together on the sofa and let the day end. is the only way to go here. And finally in the evening to cuddle together on the sofa and let the day end.
That’s what makes life with them so incomparable:
Galgos are soul dogs – they’re good for the soul!
(Translated from Galgorettung – https://www.galgorettung-fs.de/)