Sighthounds

Video

Introduction

Your dog is this type if he:
Has a great willingness to run, occasionally setting off on very fast sprints; he constantly watches out for moving targets to chase outdoors, but he is generally quite placid and relaxed indoors. He has an athletic, slender and streamlined shape with proportionally long legs, and a long, narrow face with close-set, forward-pointing eyes.

Exercise and play

Sighthounds are the short-distance, high-speed sprinters of the canine world. They hunt by sight and are spurred to chase fast-moving objects. Perhaps surprisingly, they do not need a lot of exercise. The the type of exercise, rather than the length, is what’s important.

The Greyhound, for example, is sometimes known as the ‘60kph couch potato’ as his short, intense bursts of running intersperse hours of happy snoozing. Two 20-minute walks a day can be sufficient, provided he can run free in a flat area with no nearby roads. When running in pursuit of a small, furry animal, sighthounds will often chase flat-out, deaf to their owners’ calls, until the chase comes to a natural end.

Despite their hunting tendencies, these dogs are usually a pleasure to walk and can easily be trained to walk to heel. But keep a good hold of that lead, as a surprise cat encounter or a passing cyclist or jogger can trigger their chase instincts without warning.

Some breeds in this category, such as the Whippet, have very thin coats, so may need a warm dog-coat when the temperature falls in autumn and winter. Others, such as the Deerhound, Afghan and Borzoi, are protected with a thicker coat and are happier running around in colder weather.

Independent play

Sighthounds enjoy exploring the garden and will happily amuse themselves chasing falling leaves, squirrels or other fast-moving birds and creatures that dare to enter. Neighbourhood cats are also seen as fair game, even if your dog is otherwise very friendly with the cats that he shares his home with.

Sighthounds can be quite amusing just to watch in the garden. They can spend hours snoozing in a shady patch, scraping their own comfortable spot if you’ve put their bed in the wrong place or the sun moves, and then suddenly stand up, stretch and be bolting laps around the garden in seconds.

Sometimes they will also create their own prey, tossing or flinging balls and toys into the air and then chasing and pouncing on them as they land and roll. Leave a variety of safe toys in the garden for them to play with, particularly soft toys (though remember to bring them in during wet weather!), soft throwing balls and light chews.

Sighthounds enjoy digging too, so place some treat-filled toys around the garden, ideally in his own dedicated digging sandpit or area of soft earth. This should be in the sunniest area of your garden, but out of bounds for children. Installing one of these ‘doggy digging areas’ in your garden might just save your prize flowers and vegetables, as he will dig where he gets most rewards.

Two or more sighthounds are likely to enjoy games of ‘cat and mouse’ with one another, delightful to watch.

Playing with the owner

As well as enjoying on-lead walks in urban areas or along footpaths in the countryside, your Sighthound needs to enjoy letting off steam, haring after a thrown ball or Frisbee on a regular basis. He may struggle with recall when focussed on his quarry at full speed (it is, after all, what he has been bred for) so you may find yourself fetching your own throws at first. But training your dog to bring back a toy at home can reinforce his recall ability and, if successful, is well worth the effort. A long-handled ball ‘chucker’ is a good investment, too, as it will enable you to throw the ball much further and will give your dog a chance to reach top speed.

Finding safe, suitable places for exercise away from your own garden can be difficult, but some breed organisations hire Greyhound race tracks for fun racing days; indeed, watching Afghans or any sight hounds racing at full speed around a track is quite an enthralling sight. Finding a safe, dog-friendly beach or nearby field is also worth the effort.

Some sighthounds enjoy Canicross – cross-country running with your dog wearing a padded harness and attached to your belt via a bungee lead. Verbal direction instructions can also be taught to add some mental stimulation and to increase the bond created. Although sighthounds are more short-distance runners than long-distance joggers, and although the pace of canicross is more of an ambling trot than a 40mph sprint, this sport can add variety to their exercise routine and help to burn off some energy. You can read more about Canicross in our Spitz Dog article.

Sighthounds are often quite cat-like in their play, stalking, chasing and pouncing on their toys in a similar manner to a cat. Using a lure-pole with a toy on the end of an attached rope is similar to using a fishing-rod toy to play with cats, and your dog may enjoy this enormously.

Emotional bonding

Sighthounds have a reputation for being somewhat haughty, but usually form close, loving bonds with their family. They might not be as overtly demonstrative as a tail-wagging, present-carrying Labrador, but that doesn’t mean the attachment is any less. They enjoy physical contact with their owners and may lean against you for a stroke or sleep with their head on your feet or lap.

When he’s not racing around, your dog will enjoy relaxing with a chewtoy or sleeping curled up or on his back with his legs sticking straight up in the air. These are dogs that crave comfort and love comfy beds – especially yours. Failing that, an old duvet folded up to make a bed will do and even the larger sighthounds can curl up surprisingly tightly into a heat-saving ball like a cat.

The perfect time for a grooming session is just after your dog has been exercised. For short-haired Sighthounds, a rub-over with a ‘hound glove’ should suffice, but take the time to stroke and gently massage him while you check for cuts, burs or other changes. Longer-coated Sighthounds will need more brushing, and Afghan’s especially can be quite time-intensive. To keep the experience relaxing and stress-free, introduce short, rewarding grooming sessions from early puppyhood with plenty of reassuring praise and treats to reward calm acceptance of all over grooming.

Sighthounds can form close bonds with other dogs, although Toy Dogs risk triggering their hunting instincts if they act too much like fast-moving toys. Ex-racing Greyhounds especially enjoy the company of other ex-racers having been raised and trained in kennels with their own kind.

Cats and even house-rabbits have all lived happily in homes with Sighthounds, but it very much depends on whether they have been raised together or how carefully they are introduced and supervised. If you want a puppy and have cats, make sure your pup has grown up with cats in a breeder’s home to give you the best chance of a successful introduction. Even then, a good deal of careful training and great vigilance are required once the pup arrives. Be very careful indeed if contemplating taking on a rescue sighthound if you already have cats or small dogs and perhaps seek the advice of a behaviourist on referal from your vet to assist with introductions and management.

Sighthounds are usually very quiet dogs. Larger breeds, including retired adult racing Greyhounds, tend to snooze for a lot of the time, so they are usually adaptable to many different home environments and make great pets. As long as they have sufficiently intense bursts of exercise, as outlined above, and are trained to view an indoor kennel as a safe place to relax, they will be happy and enjoy just being in your company.

Nutrition and health

Sighthounds aren’t usually food-motivated unless they are hungry from plentiful exercise. Some can be quite picky about their food and seem to almost deliberately control their calorie intake to maintain their lean figures. But they are certainly motivated by fast-moving toys, so you can make mealtimes more interesting by feeding half of their daily food allocation in throwable or rollable food-dispensing toys. Use another 10 per cent as rewards when training, especially recall. The remaining amount can be split into two meals and presented in a bowl to reinforce your role as a parental provider.

Key Facts: Sighthounds

Your dog is this type if he:
Has a great willingness to run, occasionally setting off on very fast sprints; he constantly watches out for moving targets to chase outdoors, but he is generally quite placid and relaxed indoors. He has an athletic, slender and streamlined shape with proportionally long legs, and a long, narrow face with close-set, forward-pointing eyes.

Download PDF

Download this article as a PDF to save or print.

The PRO PLAN® range

Find your dog’s ideal food.

Learn about your dog type