A survey of undesirable behaviors expressed by ex-racing greyhounds adopted in Italy

Tiffani Howell, Paolo Mongillo, Giulia Giacomini, Lieta Marinelli (2018) Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, 27:15-22


Previous research showed that behavior problems are a major reason for relinquishing adopted dogs to animal shelters, and it is possible that undesirable behaviors also affect the success of adoptions of retired racing greyhounds. The present study aimed to measure behaviors of ex-racing greyhounds adopted through the Greyhound Adoption Center Italy, as reported by 176 owners. Desirable behaviors were reported by a large percentage of participants as occurring always or almost always, such as being easy to manage (90.9%), being clean in the home (89.2%), and being good with children (89.2%). The only desirable behavior that was reported as occurring always or almost always by less than half of participants was being good with other animals (48.9%). A few undesirable behaviors were expressed by more than 40% of dogs at least sometimes. These were predatory behavior toward cats (79.6%), aggression toward unfamiliar animals (61.9%), fear of thunderstorms (46.6%), and following the owner around the house (69.3%). Several participants indicated that the problematic behavior had improved over time, and very few reported that it appeared or worsened long after adoption. A principal components analysis revealed 6 factors for undesirable behaviors. Few, and generally weak, significant correlations were found between factors and owner features or dog management practices, and only social fear (r = −0.180, P = 0.017) and nonsocial fear (r = −0.208, P = 0.006) correlated with overall satisfaction with the dog. In comparison with similar data previously collected in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), 8 undesirable behaviors were reported to occur more frequently by ANZ owners, and 2 by Italian owners. Predatory behavior toward cats was the only behavior reported as occurring by more than half of the sample at least sometimes among both ANZ and Italian owners. These findings are relevant for associations involved in the rehoming of ex-racing greyhounds and for perspective owners. In addition, the findings should be used to increase awareness about problematic behaviors among people who breed and/or train racing greyhounds.

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