Sleep startle and aggression

Sleep startle, or sleep aggression as it is also known, can occur when your dog is woken abruptly from their sleep.

Greyhounds are deep sleepers and often sleep with their eyes open. Reduce the chances of sleep aggression in your hound by ensuring that they hear you approaching, before making contact with them. 

It is not uncommon for a resting dog to bite or growl when woken suddenly from physical interaction such as petting or kissing, even more so if your dog is newly adopted and has not yet formed a bond of trust.

Throughout their racing careers, many greyhounds would have lived their life in kennels -by themselves- and would not have had any physical interaction with anyone whilst they were sleeping. It is likely that they always would have been woken by a door closing, a gate opening and possibly other dogs barking before coming into contact with humans; giving them time to adjust to being woken up from the safety of their own space.

Avoiding this behaviour may seem tricky, particularly if your hound shares a home with children. Unfortunately, greyhounds are unable to learn to listen out for someone approaching whilst they are sleeping. However, with a few adjustments and a bit of training, you can help reduce the risk and even fix this behaviour.

Top tips to avoid Sleep aggression:

  1. Quiet zones: make a quiet zone so your dog can get out of the hustle of daily lives. It can be a simple arrangement, just by moving the dog bed from a central location.
  2. Have your hound sleep in a separate room, this reduces the chances of anyone accidentally coming into contact with them whilst they are asleep.
  3. If your hound sleeps on your bed, teach them “off.” Call them on to the bed and reward them, encourage them off with a reward. Then you can command them to get off the bed before you go to sleep or as a consequence for growling at you.
  4. Before you approach a sleeping hound, make yourself known by making a noise or calling their name, wait until their head is up. Ensure they have time and space to adjust to being woken up out of a deep sleep.
  5. If you can, avoid approaching your dog whilst they are on their bed. Explain to children and guests that your hounds’ sleeping space is their personal space and much like humans, dogs can get angry and snappy when woken up when they are not ready to.
  6. If your dog has not responded to your calls to come for a fuss, leave them.

“Let sleeping dogs lie…”

The old proverb; to let sleeping dogs lie means to not meddle with something that is currently causing no problems, but may well create difficulties as a result of interference.