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The wonderful thing about dogs that have been designed and bred for a specific purpose is that the very traits that make them good at their jobs are instinctual and do not need to be taught. That is not to say that any dog of any breed cannot be trained in a way to enhance and improve their natural instincts and skills, but it does mean that owners don't have to start at the very basics of training. This is also why some dogs learn specific types of tricks and commands quickly and master them immediately while other dogs never seem to get the hang of what is required in that specific command.
Those working with and training sight hounds need to consider the very instincts and natural traits and behaviors of these dogs. Unless you specifically want to train your dog to race, most people don't want a dog that is going to take off after every movement and run madly and heedlessly after the animal or object. Rather, they want a dog that is obedient, calm and relaxed, social and also playful and fun. Training a sight hound to be just such as dog will require patience and practice, but it is certainly not impossible or overly challenging.
The key to training and working with sight hounds is that people have to realize that they have been bred to have incredibly good eyesight and a focus on movement in their environment. It is estimated that the average Greyhound can spot movement up to a quarter of a mile away on flat terrain, and the other sight hounds have just as acute vision. This means that training has to take into consideration that these dogs are always going to be slightly distracted about movement both close and far away.
Training sight hounds in controlled type of environments to help them to focus in on what you are training them is key. Of course once the dog has mastered the command in a controlled setting such as a training room or indoor facility it is then time to take them outdoors into the real world. Training in puppy obedience classes is highly recommended for these dogs as there is some distraction that the puppy will learn to ignore combined with lots of socialization. Look for smaller classes and a trainer that has experience with sight hound breeds. You may also wish to consider looking for a specific breed club that may be able to provide information on trainers in the area or may offer their own training programs.
There are specialized training collars, known as Greyhound collars, which are a great way to train the dogs to stay on a lead to prevent chasing. A sight hound collar is made on a martingale design, which means they tighten as the dog pulls, but they are not like a choke collar. The collars are wide and soft, avoiding any harsh tugging, pinching or damage to the delicate skin of the neck. These collars are essential since a standard collar can be easily slipped by the dog since their head is actually narrower than their necks.
Sight hounds of all varieties are typically very sensitive to their owners and tend to be dogs that are highly in tune with the tone of voice used in training. While they are somewhat independent and more likely to take their time responding, as a whole they are highly obedient dogs. It is absolutely essential to train these dogs using only positive training methods. Any type of harsh treatment, including loud voices, yelling or physical punishment of these dogs will simply create confusion and distrust and will result in a dog that lacks trust in his or her owner or handler. Any sight hound can and will learn to respond to positives for a job well done and ignoring or a short verbal reprimand in a low, abrupt tone of voice is all that is required for correction. A dog that is constantly verbally punished or physically punished will be confused and unwilling to do anything for fear or bringing on more dissatisfaction from the pack leader, which is the owner or trainer.
It is, however, important to set firm guidelines and ground rules and to establish yourself as the pack leader. This means being very firm and consistent in training and not allowing the dog to make decision about where you are walking, what he or she is doing and whether or not to follow your commands. If this is started from the first contact with the dog and carried through consistently the dog will be very obedient and will enjoy working with the handler. Since these dogs are so gentle and submissive they can easily be trained with kids, providing the children also use a firm and gentle voice and don't become verbally aggressive towards the sight hound.
Early socialization is important for these dogs to avoid nervousness or the appearance of timidity when in new places and around new people. When the sight hound breeds are isolated or not provided with enough routine socialization they tend to be highly aloof around new people and lack self-confidence in new places and in new activities. Since they are a pack hunting dog socialization around other dogs is still important but it is typically not a problem. The sight hound may not get along well with all other dogs simply because their idea of play is much less typical than that of other dogs. Sight hounds tend to enjoy playing games that include running and chasing rather than the more rough and tumble play of other large sized dogs.
Socializing a sight hound with cats and other smaller animals is important when the dog is still a puppy. Without this type of supervised and careful socialization the sight hound will always see cats as prey animals, especially since most cats will bolt and run at the sight of a very large dog heading their way. This natural behavior of the cat triggers the chase behavior of the sight hound and they can and will kill animals they are able to catch. Even with sight hounds raised with a family cat, stray cats may still be seen as fair game.
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