Animal Welfare Research

Preventing predatory behaviour in greyhounds

Greyhounds can become good companion animals after their racing career is over. One of the behavioural issues that keeps some greyhounds from being adopted is predatory behaviour. Predatory behaviour is when greyhounds chase smaller animals such as rabbits or cats. Greyhound adoption programs find appropriate homes for greyhounds who need and are suitable for adoption. However, most adoption programs have limited resources and funding. It is currently unclear if greyhounds who show predatory behaviour can be rehabilitated to adequately reduce their predatory drive. This study explores the potential for greyhounds who show signs of predatory behaviour from repeating this behaviour in the future.

The study included a 23-question online survey of 84 dog training and behaviour experts with 12 of these experts participating in follow up interviews. The respondents (from Australia, UK/Ireland and USA) agreed that predatory behaviour is not associated with aggressiveness and can even be related to play. Respondents also agreed that greyhounds can be taught early in life to be friendly to small animals by being rewarded for not chasing them. Respondents who use positive, reward-based training methods were less inclined to believe that predatory behaviour could be resolved compared to those who used both aversive and reward-based methods. However, there was consensus that dogs who have shown predatory behaviour can still be adopted if the new owners carefully manage the environment so that the dogs are not exposed to conditions which would elicit predatory behaviour.

Overall, this study suggests that dogs who show predatory behaviour can still be suitable for adoption if their environment is managed appropriately.

Howell T, Bennett P (2020) Preventing predatory behaviour in greyhounds retired from the racing industry: Expert opinions collected using a survey and interviews. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 104988

Reported in RSPCA Animal Welfare Science Update