Charity Center

Greyhounds: A Quick Guide
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THE ATHLETE

Greyhound are the fastest breed of dog on the planet, the fittest racing greyhounds can reach speeds of up to 45mph.  A greyhound’s heart is slightly bigger than any other breed of dog. His cardiac output increases by 5 times during a race.  In one minute a greyhound pumps his whole bodyweight in blood. They have a thinner skin and shorter coat and an aerodynamic design that reduces wind resistance.  When they run all 4 of a greyhounds feet leave the ground twice in one full running cycle. They are one of the oldest breeds of dogs in the world dating back many thousands of years with very little change in their breeding.

THE PET

All that said the fact remains that they are sprinters bred for speed not stamina, like the cheetah they spend hours and hours conserving their energy before they build up to another sprint. As a racing dog they are used to spending long times kennelled and inactive. This doesn’t change in the home, on average a greyhound can sleep up to 18 hours a day. They very rarely bark and do not make the best watch dogs. They have very thin skin and a coat that doesn’t shed excessively and therefore doesn’t need much care. They have very little body odour almost none so none of that “doggy smell” However this thin skin and short coat means that when out walking in cold and or wet weather it is advisable to provide them with a greyhound coat of which there are many styles available.
FYI if it cold for you and you are fully clothed be assured your greyhound is freezing!  Again this skin thing, due to this your greyhound will need somewhere soft to sleep to avoid sores or calluses and no not just your lap. You can buy some lovely fluffy dog beds OR an old duvet that can be washed in the washing machine is ideal. They love to be cozy and even make “nests” out of their bedding before turning around several dozen times before settling down with a sigh. Please see “YOUR NEW GREYHOUND IN YOUR HOME” for a further guide into helping your dog settle.

EXERCISE

As I stated previously greyhounds are built for speed not stamina. They need exercise just like every dog and can easily cope with 3 x 20 minute walks a day, on saying that if you are able to give them longer then that’s great. Exercise releases endorphins, which make us feel happier and a happy greyhound is a more relaxed greyhound in your home. 


Many greyhounds have been retired due to an injury on the track and this should be taken into consideration when exercising them. 
However if you have a highly active lifestyle and want a doggy companion to accompany you while you “bag a few Munroes” then you may want to consider a lurcher. (see separate leaflet about lurchers for more info) there are always many lurchers waiting for new homes too, with us here in SGS and many other rescue organisations. Anyway all that hill climbing really does eat into nap time. They are “retired” after all. However when considering your dog tell the charity what your lifestyle is and take their advice as every dog is an individual and there may be the perfect one there for you. 
It’s a well used saying but it stands true greyhounds are 45mph couch potatoes, you don’t have to walk the legs off them every day, but now and again and if you have uninjured dog, then go for it. The majority of greyhounds are very good on the lead having been walked around before each race all their lives, there are some exceptions to this but they are rare. 
Now this takes me to

CHASING

Greyhounds have differing levels of “keenness” this is their chase instinct. It is very strong in all greyhounds because it is what they have been bred to do that and only that. The chase is triggered by movement and they can see clearly up to half a mile away, off lead your placid docile dog will instantly take off at a speed that will leave your head spinning. You never see it coming and it is both exhilarating and frightening. Because of this care must be taken before even considering letting your dog off the lead. Even a perfectly trained greyhound can’t fight this urge to chase, and worst of all they can be miles away before they turn around and bam they are lost. Many many greyhounds and lurchers go missing for this very reason every year. If you think keeping your dog on lead all the time is cruel then think on this, this dog for the first time in it’s life knows love, warmth a family. By keeping a high prey drive dog on lead you are doing it yet another kindness by keeping it safe. If you have a garden it can run around in there and it will, legs flying everywhere. I guarantee nothing has resulted into so many bouts of hysterical laughter when you see you previously dignified, noble perhaps timid dog turn into a goofy clown, get the camera ready. If you have no garden then again taking him longer walks now and again will do. Some greyhounds can eventually be let off lead but until you are 99% sure of your dog I wouldn’t recommend this, I say 99% because noone is 100%. Also there is always the “catching” of the prey, unfortunately this can be deadly for the rabbit or whatever has triggered the chase. So we go onto



MUZZLING

Now you will see racing dogs muzzled. This is done to protect them during the race although in the majority of cases aggression has been bred out of these dogs down over the years and if a dog even turns it’s head to nip another dog during the race it will be disqualified. These are expensive dogs a good racer can cost thousands and thousands of pounds, it is done for protection of the owners “property” . Dog aggression due to their breeding is rare. 

As pets it is always advisable to muzzle your dog at first, many greyhounds have only ever been in the company of other greyhounds and have spent the majority of their lives muzzled and can look upon it as a good thing as it means they are getting taken out. But due to their cloistered lives your neighbour’s teacup poodle just looks like a weird woolly rabbit or furry lure to your dog. Not every greyhound wants to kill small furries and many live with cats and small dogs but this takes time and patience, and if you DO have a high prey dog it will have lunged silently and swiftly much to everyone’s horror and could well attack the smaller animal. If you have taken the precaution of muzzling your dog then disaster will be averted. Not all greyhounds need muzzling and after a while in a home out here in the real world having socialised with dogs of all shapes and sizes, you can consider taking the muzzle off when out. This whole paragraph sounds frightening but don’t let it put you off, they are not killing machines. Collies round things up, labs retrieve things and greyhounds chase. Many after being acclimatised to the outside world end up perfectly fine. Look on the forum for the photos that prove it.

And finally it’s time to pat yourself on the back for taking in one of these beautiful animals. 

Thousand and thousands are bred each year. Some may make it to the track some never even get that far. Unsuccessful puppies if they are very lucky may be handed over to rescue facilities some are never that lucky and have their little lives cut short before ever knowing how to be a real puppy, never been played with. A sleepy, easy going or easily distracted little pup is exactly what the breeders don’t want and for these little ones their future is bleak. 

Then many get it right making a lot of money for their owners until something happens, more often or not an injury. Again like the pups they are walking a tightrope.

Not all trainers are like this some hand over their dogs to us AND give a donation and these people are very special, and they themselves realise how much damage “bad” owners/trainers do to racing.  However, they are a drop in ocean compared to the others.  I am sorry if this next bit offends but as it costs a lot of money to take your dog to be euthanised at the vet many owner/trainers resort to other means. Please see our link to GREYHOUND MUSES for further information and indeed lots of sage advice along with poems, true stories and happy rehomed greyhound photos.

  However, (and here is the happy bit) you have or are about to take one of these dogs into your home.  Do you realise what you have done? You haven’t just opened up an opportunity to save yet another dog (as our spaces are limited…oh to win the lottery) but you are taking this previously unloved dog into your home. Even with the best will in the world the kindest trainers do not view them as pets therefore the affection they receive is minimal. This is all about to change for them and they have no idea. You get to teach them how to play, how to give and receive affection, and believe me that is a big deal as greyhounds as a breed seem to just accept their lot and very often turn in on themselves. It is awful to see these magnificent creatures standing there shivering with dead eyes. As if to say “what now” when when they nuzzle you for a cuddle for the very first time it will fill your heart. When you see the wariness leave their expressions it is all worth it, when you have finally got your gentle greyhound to play with you for the first time you will realise just exactly what it is you have done.

More information on what to expect in the first few weeks is on another help sheet. 

SO from all of us here at the Scottish Greyhound Sanctuary a massive thanks for opening your heart and your home to a greyhound