By Sean Cater
Last month, we started a breed of the month series for people who are thinking about owning a specific breed. Our Interactive Marketing Coordinator, Adrienne Bombard, covered the Siberian Husky in September. This month, Graphic Designer Sean Cater talks about owning a Greyhound.
If you are considering adopting a Greyhound, be sure to read this informative post first.
Advice on Owning a Greyhound
As soon as I graduated college, I was looking for a dog of my own. I’ve grown up with dogs my whole life (including a Greyhound when I was very young), and I felt as though I was ready to take on the responsibility. I didn’t really know where to start looking because I love every kind of dog. If I had unlimited funds and time, I would have dozens.
My younger sister found out I was looking for a dog and got very excited. At the time, she was volunteering at the local Greyhound shelter—Northern Greyhound Adoptions. She started going on and on about how awesome Greyhounds were, how their quirky personalities and loyalty would be a perfect match for my own personality. I started doing my own research online and got very excited about the prospect of adopting a Greyhound. All it took was one visit at the shelter, and as soon as I took one glance at her, I knew I had found the right dog. Her race name was Andrea’s Melody, so I called her Mel for short (aka Sharkface).
Mel has been my best friend for 3 years, and I have learned that there are some common misconceptions that often are associated with these amazing and intelligent dogs. This post is about what I’ve learned, but keep in mind a dog’s behavior will vary, depending on its history. Take this advice with a grain of salt.
1) Exercise: When I tell people I have a Greyhound, often the first response is “Oh my, she must need a lot of exercise,” and while it is true that she loves to go for walks and hikes and sprint around the yard, she also sleeps around 18 hours a day. The most common phrase I’ve heard used to describe a Greyhound is the 45 mile an hour couch potato.
Greyhounds make wonderful apartment dogs, but they should be taken out for exercise at least twice a day. Sometimes Greyhounds are frightened about strange things when you first bring them home, like the living room carpet, or the stairs. When I first took Mel home, she did not know how to climb stairs. This is fairly common with a retired racer. She now bounds up stairs four or five at a time.
2) Diet: I feed Mel Innova dog food, and I have found that not only does she still jump up and down every time I get her food out, but that it also keeps her coat soft and shiny. Greyhounds are very food oriented, and will learn the same tricks and commands as other dogs; it might just take them a little more time. Remember, they have not had the proper training that most dogs get when they are puppies.
Mel is also incredibly adept at finding and eating food. Keep in mind that Greyhounds are tall, and they will learn how to get to that sweet counter food. Some Greyhounds have been fed a very poor diet and have been muzzled often. This results in poor dental hygiene. A retired racer might need a good teeth cleaning after adoption.
3) Socialization: Greyhounds are incredibly sweet and loving dogs, and they are also loyal. Mel loves people, and she loves it when people pet her. One of favorite things to do with her is to let her meet a friend who has never interacted with a Greyhound. The reactions to her are always priceless.
Greyhounds sometimes come from a horrible racing life where all they know is the inside of a cage and a track. Some hounds live muzzled 24/7 and are only allowed without a muzzle if they are racing. I could go on about the mistreatment of Greyhounds on tracks, but a quick Google search will provide you with more information than you would like to know.
This kind of confinement and lack of regular exercise quite literally creates a dog eat dog atmosphere on the tracks. Mel came with her scars, and she also came slightly wary of other dogs. However, now she is much less anxious around other dogs. Patience goes a long way with these hounds.
4) Leash or No Leash: While some Greyhound owners never take their dog off leash, I find that Mel does okay off leash on a trail, and if she gets plenty of exercise. Again, patience and practice will go a long way with this. Greyhounds are incredible athletes. It is truly amazing to watch a Greyhound run full tilt, reaching speeds above 35 miles an hour.
It is always beneficial to have a fenced in back yard, or find a dog park or large open area where your Greyhound can run off leash. There is no substitute for a good sprint. They are short distance athletes and need to get the ‘lead’ out every now and then. I have also found that while being sometimes very clumsy and unaware of her surroundings (sort of like myself), Mel is incredibly agile and can hike just about any mountain I can. I’ve seen her scale giant 5-foot high rocks with just a single leap.
5) Special Considerations: Some Greyhounds have a strong prey drive, and used to be hunting companions hundreds of years ago. On tracks they are trained to chase a small rabbit like machine that travels on a metal track around the racetrack, causing the dogs to chase and race. Some Greyhounds will want to chase small animals like squirrels, rabbits, and cats. That being said, I have heard many stories of Greyhounds with particularly high prey drives coming to live harmoniously with cats.
Another factor to consider is skin and coat issues. Greyhounds have a very thin coat of hair, as well as thin skin, which can get cut easily. This does not mean they are particularly fragile dogs; they can just get scraped up more easily than some breeds. Although their skin is thin, their coats can be very soft.
6) Chewing: Some Greyhounds can be very anxious, depending on their history, but Mel has had zero issues with separation anxiety. She travels with me, and doesn’t chew up my shoes like some dogs do when they are anxious. Greyhounds can take some time to adjust to their new surroundings and may seem uncomfortable in their new home. Positive reinforcement in the form of petting or treats is very helpful.
7) Shedding: Greyhounds are cleaner than most dogs, and they hardly shed or have very little of that ‘dog’ odor. If you live in a colder climate, a good sweater or winter jacket is essential for those winter walks. You can see Mel pictured below in her new custom-made sweater that a coworker knitted for me.
8) Rewards: In summary, Greyhounds make amazing companions, and there is hardly ever a dull moment (when they are not sleeping). I believe they are actually quite independent dogs and do well on their own, but there is nothing like a Greyhound with another Greyhound buddy to hang out with. I love it when Mel meets new people, as they are always amazed with her even and mellow temperament. She loves exploring and smelling everything.
I truly believe that most of these retired racers have some kind of appreciation deep down for being in a better environment than on the track. Just keep in mind that Greyhounds are not small, and they are very good at hogging a bed or couch. I will end with this: Adopt a Greyhound, and lose a couch. But you will gain an immeasurable amount of joy in your life.