What is sleep startle in greyhounds and how can you support them through it?

Have you ever been woken up from a deep sleep and had no idea where you were for a second? Did you feel confused, annoyed, or maybe even scared? Well, so can our doggos! 

Greyhounds often sleep for long stretches of time, and being woken up suddenly can be quite startling for some of our luffed ones. The good news is: there are some softer, smoother ways to wake your snoot. Plus, the comfier they become with their environment, the more likely they can grow out of sleep startle.


Why does sleep startle happen?


Some greyhounds are used to sleeping for long periods in their own private space, like a small kennel, so they get used to sleeping undisturbed. When these doggos make the transition into a home with people coming and going, they may feel on alert, even subconsciously, while they're sleeping.

Waking up your greyhound suddenly, even if it is to give them a cuddle or take them for a walk, can really take them by surprise and may lead to a burst of aggression, especially if they’re not yet used to their surroundings! Greyhounds sometimes sleep with their eyes open, so it’s best not to assume they're awake. 

Sleep startle is not a sign that your greyhound is naturally aggressive or violent. It is merely their instincts telling them they are under threat, and for rescue greyhounds it is usually their background that has led to sleep startle, not their personality. 


Can you train a greyhound out of sleep startle?


The more comfortable and safe a greyhound feels in their environment, the less likely they are to lash out when woken up. There's no 'fix' for sleep startle, and some greyhounds may never completely grow out of the tendency, even in a loving home. But if you know how to approach your sleeping greyhound, you can definitely minimise instances of sleep startle or manage to avoid them altogether.

Your doggo’s sleep startle reaction may come and go. The more ‘at home’ they begin to feel, it’s likely that they’ll startle less often. However, it’s important to always approach a sleeping greyhound cautiously, even when they haven’t shown sleep startle lately. You can't always know whether the instinct will kick in! 

Please don’t punish your greyhound for exhibiting sleep startle – this will not help train them out of it. Sleep startle occurs because on that subconscious level, a doggo feels the need to be on alert and have its guard up, so punishing them can make it worse! Patience and love is the recipe for helping your greyhound settle into their new home.


Ways to make your greyhound feel safe at home and minimise sleep startle


  • Give your greyhound their own dedicated sleep space.
  • To avoid territory issues, try not to let your greyhound sleep in places humans often occupy, like couches or beds.
  • Never share a bed with a greyhound that has shown signs of sleep  startle. While your greyhound is getting used to your home, keeping them sleeping in their separate space is best.
  • If your greyhound seems nervous or aggressive around sleep territory, try a kennel or crate so they can feel secure in their private space – but please keep the door open for them.
  • Maintaining a consistent routine around feeding your greyhound can help remove anxiety around when the next meal is coming, which can help them settle into a new home and feel more comfortable overall.


How to approach a sleeping greyhound


Remember, greyhounds can sleep with their eyes open, so don't assume they're awake when lying around (even if it does look like they're making puppy-dog eyes at you!). Make a habit of calling out your dog's name before approaching them. Please wait for a sign that they are awake and alert before you try to pat them or get too close.


Be aware of misconceptions!


As we know, this beautiful breed has a complex reputation. While they can be a little touch-sensitive due to their past experience, hound owners (AKA our very own team of snootologists) can tell you they’re also one of the calmest, most gentle breeds. With lots of luff and care, they can make a wonderful, derpy addition to their furever home.

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