Supporting a Greyhound That Freezes During Walking

May 13, 2023 14:38
Freezing, also called inhibition,  refers to a stress response where the dog will stop moving in an attempt for them to collect information about the particular situation

Freezing is a stress response. If a greyhound freezes during a walk, it's typically an indication that the dog is overwhelmed with their current situation. Whilst there are other causes, such as discomfort, pain or medical concern, typically the cause is fear and/or anxiety.

In this article, let’s dive deeper into this behaviour and learn how to support our wonderful greys when it happens!

Freezing Symptoms to Recognise

Usually, it's obvious when your greyhound is freezing because they're not moving and they previously were able to walk along comfortably.

As we have learned, fear and anxiety is the most common reason why your greyhound is freezing, this comes with other behavioural signs such as:
  • Tense in their body
  • Ears pinned back
  • Downward tail
  • Looking away or avoiding looking in a direction
If you notice any of these signs of stress or freezing in your greyhound, there are several ways you can support them and make them feel more comfortable in their environment.

Effective Techniques to Support a Greyhound that Freezes

If a greyhound has frozen on a walk, it's important to take them out of that situation as soon as possible.

When dogs are stressed to the point that they're showing an overt reaction such as freezing, it's very unlikely that they're able to think and learn effectively.

The best thing you can do in response to freezing is take the dog out of the situation and help get them to calm down.

Now, after that, what you can do is you can examine the situation and think about what factors might have caused your dog to feel overwhelmed.

Were you taking a different route than normal? 
Was it particularly noisy that day? 
Was there a dog barking that your dog or thing your dog has had a negative experience with? 

Then, you can manage your dog's environment around the factors, you might decide to walk a different route, choose a different time of day, or so on.

Mastering the Emergency U-Turn

If you anticipate a situation that your dog may find uncomfortable, you should practice calling your dog, performing a U-turn and walking in the opposite direction.

By doing this preemptively, you can avoid triggering stress in your dog and create a positive experience instead. It's important to use rewards during training to create a positive emotional association.

This will have the added benefit of supporting the greyhound to walk well on leash, as well as improving your relationship.

The Role of Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a highly effective training technique because it can change your dog's emotional associations with specific stimuli.

Food is especially useful in positive reinforcement because it activates pleasure centres in the brain, making it a valuable reward for dogs. By delivering food rewards when your dog performs desired behaviours, such as walking beside you or turning around when called, you can create a reliable history of positive experiences.

This encourages your dog to continue performing these behaviours even when rewards aren't immediately available, as they have developed a positive emotional association with them.

Over time, positive reinforcement can help your dog become a well-behaved and happy companion.

Freezing During Settling in Periods for New Adopters

When you first bring home a greyhound, it's best to start with short walks and gradually increase the duration, distance, and intensity over time.

This can include exposure to new sights and sounds along the way. It's important to remember that each greyhound is different and some may need more time to adjust to their new environment than others. At GAP NSW, this is part of our assessment and will be advised during adoption.

By taking a gradual approach to walks, you can help your greyhound feel more comfortable and build their confidence in exploring their surroundings.

How New Greyhound Adopters Can Likely Prevent Freezing in the First Place

To prevent freezing during walks, it's important to have a good understanding of your greyhound's resilience and plan accordingly.

If your dog is sensitive, it's best to plan walks that are quieter and have more natural surroundings. Walking bonded dogs together can also be helpful.

By setting your greyhound up for success with these strategies, they are less likely to feel overwhelmed and freeze midway through a walk, making it easier to keep them moving and enjoy a positive walking experience.

The Relationship Between Fear, Anxiety and Freezing

Fear and anxiety can cause a range of behavioural responses in mammals, including poochies. These can include fight, flight, freeze, and fawn (also known as fiddle).

When a greyhound suddenly stops moving during a walk, this is known as freezing, and it's their way of gathering information about the situation.

It's similar to the feeling of being like a deer in headlights, which many people experience when they're afraid or nervous, such as during public speaking.

By understanding this response, we can help our greyhounds feel more comfortable and confident during walks.

Improving Freezing & Factors that Influence This

The time for a dog that freezes on walks to develop more confidence depends on its learning history and emotional resilience.

To speed up the process, it's best to prevent freezing by anticipating triggers and avoiding them, as well as providing positive experiences on walks.

Although there are general signs of fear and anxiety, every dog is different, and their responses may vary. Knowing how your dog behaves when they're uncomfortable allows you to intervene early and have a great time together!

Interested in Adopting a Your New Best Mate?

At GAP NSW, we have many wonderful greyhounds that would love to meet you.
  • We have multiple facilities throughout NSW
  • We match the ideal dog to your preferences
  • You can meet and greet our poochies before adoption
  • We provide a wealth of training resources and support