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 Let a Greyhound Race Into Your Heart

††††††††††††by Diane Bracuto, L.V.T.

  We have probably all seen the images, whether in person, or in the media, at a dog trackor even as the logo of a bus line. They are a well muscledpicture of grace and athletic ability and sheer speed. Their images have been captured by sculptures and painters throughout time and admired for their beauty and grace. I am talking of course about the Greyhound.


  Have you ever wondered however what happens tothese dogs when their racing days are over?For many greyhounds their racing days are over before they even start. If they are too slow or do not show the necessary competitive spirit and drive to win, they may never actually reach the track. Others may remain on the track for varied amounts of time, some being as short as months and others lasting years.


  One of the most common reasons for these dogs to have their career come to anend is an injury which interferes with their ability to run or more to the point, to win. At this point too many of them still end up euthanized, at times in a cruel and heartless manner, while others are lucky enough to find themselvespart of a greyhound adoption program. Greyhound adoption can be a wonderful experience, but first, let me give you a little background on the breed itself.


  Greyhounds are one of the oldest breeds and can be traced back to temple drawing in Southwest Turkey in the year 6000 B.C.It was in Egypt however that the breed really came into itís own and were cherished pets of Egyptian royaltyas well as hunting partners. Throughout history you can find references to this swift and noble beast.


  Greyhounds are part of a class of dogs which is known as "sight hounds" meaning dogs who hunt by sight rather then by scent.This is where their gift of speed proves beneficial since they need to keep their prey in sight. There are other members of the sight hound family which include Borzoi, Irish Wolfhounds, Scottish Deerhounds, Whippets, Salukis, Ibizan Hounds, Afghans and Pharaoh Hounds.Basenjis and Rhodesian Ridgebacks are considered members of the sight hound family since they also hunt by sight but do not share a physical resemblance to greyhounds the way the other breeds do. Italian greyhounds are also considered sight hounds and despite the fact that they share a physical resemblance, they do not hunt at all.


  It is this ability to keep their prey in sight and to have the natural instinct to do so which led to what is now the spectator "sport" of greyhound racing in this country. In the early 1900's it was realized that there was money to be made in wagering on these dogs as they flew around the track at speeds of up to 45 MPH. Unfortunately this ability has led to them being exploited in many ways as can happen when you depend on an animalís performance for your livelihood.


  Some greyhounds are trained using live lures such as rabbitswhile others are trained to chase a plastic lure which is used during the actual race. Despite the fact that the National Greyhound Association officially advises itís associates to use mechanical lures they also do not censure anyone for using live bait. Even people who are proponents of greyhound racing feel that this practice is inhumane, barbaric and unnecessary.

  Depending on which trainer a greyhound ends up with their life on the track can range from tolerable to quite harsh.There are many trainers who profess a love for their dogs and try to treat them as kindly as possible, while to others they are simply a means to an end. The trainer a greyhound is assigned to can make all the difference in the quality of their life.

  Racing greyhounds are tattooed for identification purposes on the inside flap oftheir ears. There have sadly been many reports offinding mass graves of greyhounds who have been euthanized in horrible ways such as electrocution, shooting or even starvation. The dogs killed in this manner usually have their ears removed so they could not be identified and traced back to any particular kennel. One of the most recent reports was printed in USA today and reported onthe mass graves of 45 greyhounds in OíFallon, Missouri, most of which had their ear flaps removed. There are also many greyhounds who end up being sold to laboratories at the end of their careers. They are in great demand for this purpose since they are calm, gentle, well socialized dogs who are of a good size and usually will stoically tolerateoften painful procedures. Such is the plight of these magnificent animals.To the people who have known and loved this breed this is particularly difficult to deal with.


  As more people become enlightened about the fate of these dogs thepopularity of racing greyhounds has begun to fade. In the last five years six states have banned greyhound racing including the state ofVirginia. The humane society estimates conservatively that there are over 16,000 healthy greyhounds being put to death each year needlessly. Adoption programs are trying to bring these numbers down but adoptions cannot keep pace with these figures.

  Many people hold the misconception that retired racers may be high strung, or elderly or are only suited for racing. I am happy to report that is not the case.


  In general I find sight hounds a very easy class of dog to live with. They are often very quiet, laid back and extremely fastidious about their personal habits which make them easy to housebreak. Many of the dogs who come off the track already seem housebroken to their new owners since they learn so quickly. They also have a great sense of humor. They can be clowns and will make you laugh and fill your heart with joy if you let them. Some of them even know how to "smile". Greyhounds can make wonderful family pets as well as loving companions for single or elderly people.They are not however for everyone.


  If you are looking for a dog who will be a great watchdog you may be disappointed.Although some greyhounds can perform this duty, others do not. Greys by nature are not aggressive animals so they are usually not suited for guard duty although some will bark if a stranger approaches.


  Sight hounds in general are very sensitive and do not usually respond to the same type of training that you might give a breed such as a Labrador retriever or German Shepherd or any one of a number of breeds who have a "working" type of attitude. This does not mean however that greyhounds are unintelligent or that they cannot be trained. It just means that you need to be flexible and find the methods which suit them best.


  They can neverbe trusted offleash. They must be exercised in a fencedenclosure. Donít forget that these dogs instinctively hunt by sight, so if they catch sightof a squirrel for instance, they can be gone in the blink of an eye. Because of the single mindedness to their running while in pursuit, they will run right into the path of oncoming vehicles. They also can run so farso quickly that they may become lost. It is not a good idea to let any dog roam free, but it is particularly dangerous in sight hounds.


  Many people who adopt greys find themselves acquiringmore of them over time. They can become addictive!! Greyhounds are a good size dog with the range for females being as little as 40 to as much as 80 pounds. Males can range in size from 50 _ 90 pounds. They normally get along quite well with other dogs, but as with any addition to your household you need to explore your dogís temperament and your housing situation.Most greys are already used to being crated and adapt well to your using a crate as part of your training program while providing a safe haven for your new pet.


  Greyhounds come in variety of colors from whiteto solid black andalmost every color or mixture in between. However color should not be a consideration when considering an adoption. How that dog will suit your lifestyle is one of the most important criteria.


  While most greys do share some traits in common, there are differences to their personalities. You need to decide what type of a dog best suits your home environment and discuss this with an adoption agency.Do you want an extremely affectionate dog? Some people find it charming when a dog follows them from room to room while others find it an annoyance. Do you want a quiet dog? Companionable and low key to one person may be dull and boring to another. The best thing to do is to visit people who have greyhounds or to visit some adoption centers and see how they interact for yourself.

 There are many different types of adoption programs available today. There are wide variations in adoption fees as well as what is included for that fee. Some adoption groups charge a minimal fee and you basically get a dog who will still need to be spayed/neutered, may need to have their teeth cleaned (this is because of the diet they are fed on the track), ormay require heartworm tests or worming.. Other adoption groups may charge a higher fee but the dog you get may already be altered, have its teeth cleaned, be heartworm negative, bathed ,and be free of internal and external parasites.Each group sets its own fee schedule and provisions so you need to ask individual groups what their policies are in this regard.


  Some people express fear about adopting a greyhound if they own a cat or other small pets. The majority of greys get along fine with these small animals but there are some who may have been exposed to less then ideal training techniques or whose prey drive is particularly strong. For those dogs I would suggest placement in a home without small pets. I can tell you I have seen many greys snuggle and sleep with cats and become good friends with them. However, these same dogs may view these cats differently if they were in an open area together outside and the cat started to run. This is why you need to do you homework and connect with an adoption group that you feel you can trust and turn to with any questions or concerns that arise.

  Many greyhounds are placed in foster homes initially whenoff the track so their temperament and needs can be assessed. I started fostering greys back in the 70's while living in NJ and working as a veterinary technician. We worked with a greyhound adoption group and I got to see first hand how very sweet these dogs were and it made me want to lend a hand by being a foster mom.

  I adopted my present greyhound after moving to Virginia. I acquired her from an adoption group in Richmond in May of 1994 and she is almost 10 years old now. Greyhounds often live healthy lives of12 - 15 years. My greyhound is a very sweet and gentle creature and has brought enormous joy into my life. She has lived with up to 4 other dogs ranging in size and breed from a dachshund to a Bullmastiff and she gets along fine with them all.Her name is "Shadow" which came to me after the second day of her following me around everywhere! Manyof the dogs off the track do not respond to a "call" name at first since many are not treated as individuals so often you get to name them based on your preference and their temperament.


  I am going to list some resources that I think any prospective greyhound owner may want to check out. There are adoption center numbers, web pages and books that can all prove very useful.Some adoption centers have the facilities to let you visit all their dogs and bring your whole family including the four legged members to see how they interact with each other. (I prefer this type of arrangement when it is possible).Other adoption groups do not have the space or financial resources to offerthose types of facilities and the dogs will come directly to you from the track or from a foster home. As with anyrescue group, be prepared to be interviewed. These people have worked hard to give these dogs a better life so they want to be as careful as possible to see that the match that is made will last a lifetime. While you may be saving a life, you are also receiving a wonderful gift.

   I want to close by saying that everyone I know who has done greyhound adoption has found it to be a rewarding and positive experience. These are wonderful animals who ask very little of you and give so much in return. One slogan which you will hear often in the greyhound community is that adopting a greyhound is akin to adopting a"45 Mile Per Hour Couch Potato". Once you experience it for yourself you will see the truth in those words.


"Top Ten"†Reasons for Adopting a Greyhound


10. They truly know the meaning of retirement.

9. People will stare at your dog instead of at you.

8. They can curl up to the size of a ball if they need to.

7. They can expand to the size of the whole bed if they want to.

6. They don't bark, keeping your neighborhood safe for burglars.

5. You can play their ribs like an air guitar.

4. They are the only dogs that know how to really smile.

3. You can dress them up as a reindeer for Christmas.

2. They are never confused with poodles.


The # 1 reason for adopting a greyhound:


A Greyhound in flight is the

most amazing sightyou'll ever hope to see

in your own back yard.




Adopting the Racing Greyhoundby Cynthia Branigan published by Howell Books. This is a wonderful book that I strongly suggest reading first before making a decision about adoption. This bookgoes into a lot more detail then space allows me to here on various training guides, health issues, etc. It really explains what to expect when you get your greyhound home.

Greyhound by B. Rae Montgomery. CD-ROM (June 24, 2000)

The Greyhound : An Owner's Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet by Daniel Braun Stern

Greyhound Tales : True Stories of Rescue, Compassion and Love by Nora Star (Editor)

Guide to Adopting an Ex-Racing Greyhound by Carolyn Raeke. Paperback

The Reign of the Greyhound : A Popular History of the Oldest Family of Dog by Cynthia A. Branigan

The Ultimate Greyhound by Mark Sullivan



Have you visited the main adoption page? 


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