Greyhounds are perhaps one of the the oldest breeds of dogs in history. They are the second fastest land animal (second only to the cheetah) and are the fastest breed of dog, reaching speeds of up to 45 miles per hour in 3 strides. While in full stride they are in the air 75% of the time! The “secret” to their speed is a double suspension gallop in which all 4 feet are off the ground twice during each full stride. They are extremely streamlined, have a very flexible spine, and larger than normal lungs, heart and muscles. Despite this, the greyhound is one of the “laziest” animals on earth. Contrary to popular belief, these dogs are sprinters, not long distance runners, and would rather be lounging around your house than racing around your yard. They have a gentle, affectionate nature which makes them ideal as animal companions.
Please read “Reasons to Adopt/Not Adopt a Retired Racing Greyhound” before proceeding.
To understand the ex-racer and determine if one might be the perfect companion for you, you first have to understand a little about the racing environment in which they’ve spent all of their puppyhood and at least a portion of their adult lives. Greyhounds are bred on “farms” and spend much, if not all, of their time interacting with other greyhounds and people. They are extremely well socialized and often get along well with other breeds of dogs (even though they may look at them a little funny at first). It is also on the breeding farm that centuries worth of hunting instincts are reinforced to produce a dog that will often literally chase anything that moves. For this reason retired racing greyhounds should NEVER be let off leash except in a safe, fenced enclosure. Once their chase instinct kicks in there is no stopping it. They will become deaf and blind to everything except the chase and will not see or hear your frantic efforts to stop them. They will become oblivious to traffic and elapsed time and often if they don’t end up getting injured or killed during the chase will become hopelessly lost. Read TRUST – A Deadly Disease. (PDF format) It’s just not worth the chance.
Once they are trained to run, usually around the age of 15-18 months, greyhounds are transferred from the farm to the track. Here they will spend 20-23 hours a day in a crate in a strictly regimented kennel life. They are housed in open wire crates in a kennel that may contain upwards of 100 other dogs. They can hear, see, and smell the other dogs around them as well as any people who enter the building, and are rarely alone. Greyhounds are let out twice a day into a fenced enclosure to relieve themselves and often, upon retirement, need to be taught that it is ok to do so while being leash walked. They do not race every day but are “schooled” often for exercise. It is important to remember that they are sprinters, not long distance runners and rarely need a lot of exercise to be content.
Many, but not all, do like an occasional “fun run” in a safely enclosed area and most love a good leash walk as often as possible. The fact that greyhounds are already “crate trained” when they retire from the track makes housebreaking a fairly easy chore. Greyhounds are smart dogs and simply need to be acclimated to a house and taught that the house is their “crate” and the place to relieve themselves is outside. All of Kindred Spirits retired racers spend time in foster homes upon retirement and by the time that they are put up for adoption they should have a good grasp of this concept. Any relapses should be dealt with immediately when they are happening with a stern NO. Physical corrections are not necessary and scolding after the fact does no good. Praise and/or a treat when they go outside will accomplish a lot more than punishment after the fact. Kindred Spirits Greyhound Adoption HIGHLY RECOMMENDS that if you don’t already have a fenced in yard and are thinking about adopting a greyhound that you consider fencing in at least a portion of your yard. It has been our experience that greyhounds would prefer to do their business off leash and the transition to your home will be much smoother if they are allowed this freedom. It gets quite cold in the winter in Central New York and if you do not have a fenced in area, you must be prepared to bundle up your hound and walk him/her at least several times a day.
Because of their unique physical characteristics and upbringing, retired racing greyhounds do have a few “special” needs:
They must be kept leashed at all times except in a safely fenced in environment and should NEVER be tied out on a line of any sort. Even a short line can snap a greyhound’s neck if it sees something it wants to chase. (Remember – up to 45 MPH in 3 strides!)
Retired racing greyhounds have very little body fat – the least of any breed – and a very fine coat, and MUST be kept as indoor companions. They cannot tolerate temperature extremes and will need to wear coats when walking in cooler weather. If you are looking for a dog to spend most or all of his time outdoors then the greyhound is definitely NOT the breed for you and you should probably re-examine your motives for getting a dog in the first place.
Greyhounds have very bony builds and it is important that they have soft, warm, well cushioned places to lie down. These can be dog beds, pillows, old comforters or, if you allow it, your furniture. Greyhounds love to take up the whole sofa! (But they also love to share it with you!)
Because of their smaller heads and thinner necks, greyhounds should always wear sighthound collars called “martingale” collars. These are specifically designed to fit loosely around the neck, but will tighten just enough when pulled to keep a dog from slipping the collar. NEVER use a choke chain of any sort with a greyhound as they can easily sustain serious neck injuries from the force of the chain.
Remember – your greyhound will probably be a bit stressed for the first few weeks that it is with you. Even though they have lived in foster homes after coming off the track, your home may have things such as stairs, sliding glass doors, slick floors or mirror like surfaces that they have never experienced before. Patience and a lot of praise will help them overcome almost any obstacle!