Dog Training Tips with Frankie

Feb 10, 2023

I used to work as a dog trainer, and I have honestly seen it all when it comes to dog behaviour. It is a common misconception that large breeds are more aggressive than small ones - but I completely and utterly disagree. The only dogs that have ever scared me have been chihuahuas and dachshunds - but in truth, a dog's temperament comes a LOT from its training.

I could preach to you all day about dog training and greyhounds, but I am a little biased. So, I went to one of my good friends, Frankie, who works at a doggy daycare and who runs dog training classes on the regular, to give you the low down.

Charlie: Ok, so - who are you and what do you do?

Frankie: I am Frankie, and I am a force-free, fear-free, positive-reinforcement dog trainer. I also work at a doggy daycare and am a professional dog sitter.

Charlie: Tell me about that style of training. How does it differ from punishment-style training?

Frankie: It builds a bond between the handler and the animal, creating trust and respect on each side, rather than fear or coercion. It is proven to be super effective across all breeds, especially when adopting an older dog rather than a puppy.

Charlie: Have you had much experience collaborating with greyhounds?

Frankie: Greyhounds were my first experience outside my family dogs, as TAFE SA Gilles Plains, where I studied, had foster greyhounds. We learned holds, husbandry, and handling on them and collaborated with them on basic leash manners and provided environmental enrichment and socialisation. After that, I helped a kid in my hometown with how to manage her new greyhound and have had several hounds come through the RSPCA training classes I assisted with. I have not had a hound myself, as I have collaborated with them a lot - and of course, I have dog-sat your four more than once.

Charlie: What would your advice to new greyhound owners be - especially those fostering?

Frankie: For the first few weeks of a foster, your best tool is just patience and love. There is no need to jump into "real" training straight away, just showing them that they are safe and comfortable is best. Toilet training may be your first challenge. Take them out to the toilet after eating and drinking, make sure they toilet before bed, alongside first thing when you get up in the morning, and never punish or be mad if they have an accident. Instead, reward them when they go outside ‘as you want! Get yourself a good enzyme cleaner and remember that progress is not linear!

Charlie: It can be so easy to shout when we catch a dog toileting inside, but you are right, fear is not the answer. On the topic of training, people often want to teach ‘sit’ as their first command… but greyhounds cannot sit, as they have tight back leg muscles that make this movement difficult for most.

Frankie: Sitting is so often the "default" behaviour for dogs, but you can teach another in its place. Most greyhounds love nothing more than a good lay down, so training a drop rather than sit can be a good start and teaching a stand-in place for things that require them to not be on the ground can also work. Greyhounds are no harder or easier to train than other breeds, and their easy-going nature makes them a delight to work with.

Charlie: Sorry to double back but tell me a bit more about how your basic structure for behaviour training works. What kind of treats do you use?

Frankie: When starting a new behaviour, I like an extremely high reward treat. My favourite is Prime 100 rolls, chopped into 1cm cubes. They are a complete and balanced food, so no need to worry about how much fat is in your dog's diet, just take out the equivalent amount of their usual meal! They are moist so dogs love them, and unlike some wet treats, they do not fall apart as you are working. They can also be frozen, so you can prepare them in advance in zip-lock bags and just take them out the night before. As your hound learns a particular behaviour, the reward can be lowered to something less valuable, such as a dry treat, like liver, and then praise. While most hounds are willing to work for food, there will always be exceptions, and for those, you just must work out what your dog is motivated by, such as toys or affection, i.e., pats or praise.

Charlie: I have also used tiny pieces of cheese and shredded roast chicken breast. I have seen you using a clicker before, what is that all about?

Frankie: Clicker/mark training is one of the most effective methods to train all animals. It uses a clicker or mark word, such as "yes," to bridge the behaviour and the reward. This is more effective than rewards alone because it marks the exact moment the animal performed the behaviour you want from them.

For example, if you are training a "place" cue, you click the instant their paw touches the bed, and then reward, or for a "watch" you can click as soon as they make eye contact. You can also use this to extend the duration of behaviour, by using a mark and reward at extending intervals as they perform a behaviour ("drop" - mark after 1, 3, 5, 10 seconds in position, for example). Once the behaviour is learned, you can then use lower-value rewards over time.

Other forms of positive reinforcement training are extremely valuable as well - I am currently learning more about free shaping and mimicking, which are both excellent confidence builders! Just avoid any trainers that use "balanced" training or "dominance/alpha theory," as they are unscientific and have been proven to be ineffective. Tools such as air cans, and prong/shock/spray collars should all be avoided also due to their ‘punishment’ nature.

Charlie: Thanks so much for your time, Frankie. And remember dear reader: if you ever need support with training or behaviours with your fostered or adopted greyhound, you can contact GAP any time and they will be more than happy to help.

Author: Charlie Jayde
Greyhound Owner for 4 years / GAP Volunteer
Experienced Dog Trainer

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