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Shh! Should We Let Sleeping Dogs Lie? (The Answer Is…)



The origins of the idiom let sleeping dogs lie dates back as old as the 1300’s: "It is nought good a slepyng hound to wake" (G Chaucer).

A misconception is that greyhounds suffer from sleep startle because of their upbringing.

In reality, dogs with sound upbringings can exhibit sleep startle when approached in the wrong way.

Why Shouldn’t We Approach Sleeping Dogs?

It's a good practice to not approach any breed of dog while they’re asleep.

This includes waking up a dog by smothering them with kisses/cuddles or bearing over the top of them, as these are primate behaviours. They are not behaviours that canines can fully understand or appreciate.

While dogs may be able to rationalise your affection because they've experienced it when they're fully awake, it can come as a surprise when they are asleep and in a dream state. They may not instantly remember who you are. As such, this can be an unwanted experience for the dog and cause varying responses.

Greyhound Anatomy

A dog’s ability to physically remove themselves from a perceived threat will have an effect on their response.

Compared to many breeds, greyhounds have very long limbs. This causes them to be slow to rise from the ground, they literally require more time to “get up”, which is another reason to let sleeping dogs lie.

As most breeds of dog’s get older, they tend to appreciate their bedtime more and more. Owners should also be mindful of conditions such as arthritis, which can make it painful for a dog to move quickly and increase the feeling of vulnerability.

Creating a Safe Physical Space

For greyhounds and most breeds, it's important to give them a safe space where they know they will not be interfered with or subjected to interactions they perceive as interruptive.

An easy way to create a safe space is to use a crate, bed or a kennel, whereby the greyhound can receive all their favourite snacks and toys, so it becomes their safe space.

The dog will soon associate that space with an area that belongs solely to them where they can sleep and not be interfered with while they're in that safe space. It provides a calm and comfortable environment they can retreat to. You may find the greyhound retreats to this space if the house gets busy with other people.

Once the dog knows that's their safe space, they will actively seek it out when they're looking for a bit of quiet time. It’s like when we go to our bedroom to read a book and get away from the noisy telly.

How to Wake a Sleeping Greyhound

We recommend calling the greyhound’s name and speaking in a voice that is calm however loud enough to be heard.

Try to avoid interacting with them in their own safe space. Instead, try calling their name out and then encourage them to come off the bed to come and interact with you. This allows them to willingly engage with you instead of being forcibly awakened.

We always recommend giving space and seeking consent from dogs. After the dog has woken up, it’s best to let it gather its bearings before approaching it. You can seek consent from the dog by offering a treat, a verbal cue or by crouching low to see if the dog approaches you of its own volition.

How to Wake a Deaf Greyhound

Deafness is actually extremely rare in greyhounds.

To awaken a deaf greyhound, we recommend placing nice-smelling food near them, as typically they will have a heightened sense of smell. You can also walk near them and use the vibrations on the floor to wake them where you’ll be greeted with a big wagging tail.

Interested in Meeting or Fostering a Sleepy GAP Greyhound?

We would love to hear from you. We have many wonderful dogs that are looking for their forever home.
  • We offer a 14-day foster experience
  • We can assist with all training questions
  • We have multiple facilities throughout NSW

Please use our adoption page to get started looking for your new best mate!