Advice on Shy or Spooky Greyhounds
by Lynda Adame

A shy or timid Greyhound will come around quickly.

A spooky Greyhound may take YEARS to come around.

A Spook is a Greyhound that, either because of genetics or abuse, cannot handle stress or anxiety appropriately. They over-react, in an anxious or fearful manner, to things that don't seem scary to us at all. A spook may take months (or longer) of exposure to a specific situation before they show any improvement in their stress level.

Shy dogs usually do not exhibit the physiological symptoms related to stress (panting, shaking, tail pinned under the body). They will not take to adjust to situations that.

Please don't assure adopters that all shy/spooky Greyhounds will come around in a week or two - this is just not true.



  • Greyhounds in general, and shy ones in particular, thrive on having a routine.
  • Low thyroid can create mood disturbances in dogs, making shy dogs worse.
  • Shy/spooky Greyhounds don't do well as "Only Dogs".
  • When approaching a shy/spooky Greyhound, come from the side. Don't initiate too much eye contact, this is VERY alpha and hard on shy dogs. Petting should be on the side of his face and on his chin. Gentle and slow.
  • Make the dog come to you to get affection. This takes patience, but it is important that the dog is the one who initiates contact.
  • Don't baby the dog when it is acting fearful. Talk to it in a confident, matter-of-fact way, to show it that there is nothing to fear.
  • Shy/Spooky dogs are the most likely to escape in their new homes. Explain this to the new owners and make sure you show them how to adjust the dogs collar so the dog cannot back out of it.
  • Give a shy/spooky dog a safe place to retreat to. This can be a crate set up in a quiet spot of the house or can even be a closet (some spooks prefer closets) with the door open. Over time, restrict the dog from his safe place, and offer him a new safe place that is closer to the family and the action. The key is to slowly introduce this dog to home life and activity.



Hal Hawley:

In some cases (perhaps many), shyness is either hereditary or the result of hypothyroidism. In this guy's case, it does sound like he was abused. We've had two similar cases, one of which was the result of abuse.

In the first case (*not* abuse) a female lived her first 10 days in a walk-
in closet, coming out only to eat and potty (never made a mistake in the house). After 10 days, the light dawned abruptly, and she literally woke up one morning with a different personality. No more shyness.

The second case was a male. He had been in a foster home for a month before we got him as a foster. The first thing I noticed about him (other than his size, etc.) was the look of absolute terror in his eyes. He didn't trust anyone, but was particularly terrified of men. This was about 2 years ago. I haven't seen him for about a year, but last time I saw him I was still the only man (except the Idaho foster dad) he trusted. It took him almost a month to fully trust me.

As for what to do, understand I'm no expert in this, but ...

  • Be patient and very gentle
  • While sitting down, encourage him to come to you
  • When he does, talk softly and stroke or gently scratch his face
  • Don't try to hold him or even put your hand behind his head unless you must lead him somewhere
  • Over time, touch him gently over more of his head, neck and body, but don't "box him in" or restrain him except when necessary
  • Get a collar that absolutely under no circumstances could he ever back out of
  • Take him for walks; get him out to see other people
  • Eventually, force him to "meet" other people; these frightening experiences hopefully will teach him that his worst fears won't come to pass
  • In his outings, try to maintain control of the situation (e.g., don't allow people of any size or age to just run up to him; they should approach slowly and unthreateningly)
  • Be patient
  • Get him together with other greyhounds; if necessary, consider fostering a greyhound -- he needs a normal greyhound in his life to provide an example of how to interact with people in general and you specifically
  • Be patient
  • Don't expect him to ever be normal; if he becomes normal count it as a real blessing.

Lynda Adame:

Bring her over to friends that you know will understand and will work with her...have them squat down and quietly speak to her and give her a treat. Take her to Meet & Greets with your local GH organization. If she balks, continue to walk on telling her in a light happy voice what a silly dog she is being. Get behind her and push her with your knees if you have to get her past a place that is normally OK but one day is too scary. Let her know that you are in charge and you will protect her.
I began to use a phrase with Tice: "You're OK" when I wanted her to
understand that something was OK and I wanted her to be brave. Over time, my spook will watch me when I say this and will try the activity even if it scared her at first. Love them, gain their trust and then build their confidence level. Lot's of praise when they are brave or reach a new plateau. Lot's of acceptance that they are doing the best they can and this is not personal. And lot's of socializing. All of these will help.

I think you should be respectful of her discomfort but don't give in to it. Don't avoid people or warn them - other than she is a shy dog. Bring her by them so she learns people are not going to hurt her.

I have a special place in my heart for the spooky dogs....when you earn their trust you will have a bond with this dog that is un-explainably special.

Michele Houghton:

Believe it or not--I just wrote an article for our newsletter about spooks. What I call a spook is a shy, fearful, timid dog that will cringe in the back of her crate to avoid all human contact. However being a spook has nothing to do with the dogs relationship with other dogs. Frequently a spook will have more confidence when they're out in the yard surrounded by other greys. Being afraid of humans has nothing to do with pack hierarchy. Spooks are slow to place because they don't show well.

Here's what has always worked for me (some slower than others, of course).

  • Let the dog settle in---hide in her crate for awhile--get to know the lay of the land, so to speak.
  • Keep the dog on a strict schedule so she knows what to expect.
  • The biggest mistake people make is to treat the dog like she's a poor abused dog, reassuring cooing noises and gentle pats are the worst thing you can do. The dog perceives this as praise and this reinforces the fearful behavior.
  • Keep your attitude upbeat, your voice matter of fact and laugh a lot (yes, laugh). Pretend you don't know the dog is a spook and treat her like any   other dog. After the dog has adjusted for a few weeks---don't allow her to hide any more. Go about your business.
  • Take the dog to obedience classes to get her out and give her confidence. I take my spooks to big pet stores and ask people to pat them. I take them for a car ride every day.

Most spooks "haven't" been abused - although everyone likes to think so. Spooks are spooks due to lack of socialization during critical periods of development in puppyhood. Combine that with an inherited shy temperament and you have a tough dog to place. They usually adjust quicker if there is another grey in the home but it is essential the spook is forced into bonding with their person and not just the dog.

Paul Byther:

Since we often get complete litters of greyhounds, minimal socialization or poor treatment would manifest through most of a litter. However, when there's a spook, it's usually only one or at the most two out of the litter. One will often deal with the same breeders every year for racers to be leased. Same breeder and "raiser"...most litters are free of spooks...but every now and then one comes along.