All about greyhounds
Here are answers to some of the most common questions we are asked about our greyhounds…
HOW LONG DOES A GREYHOUND RACE? Many greyhounds race only a few races, some do not race at all, and a few that are very competitive race until they are four to five years old. Most greyhounds retire from racing between the ages of two and four.
WHY DOES A GREYHOUND RETIRE FROM RACING? Greyhounds retire because they are not fast enough compared to the other greyhounds at the race track, because they have sustained an injury, or because they lose interest in chasing the artificial lure.
HOW LARGE IS A GREYHOUND? Greyhounds stand between 24-29 inches at the shoulder. Females range from 52-70 pounds and males range from 65-90 pounds.
DO GREYHOUNDS REQUIRE A LOT OF EXERCISE? One of the great myths about greyhounds is that they need a lot of room to run. Nothing could be further from the truth! They actually require much less exercise than many breeds of similar size. Greyhounds have been bred and trained to run fast, short sprints. Therefore, they have very little stamina and require only a little exercise. A 20-30 minute walk each day is sufficient. They also enjoy short walks around the neighborhood and being allowed to run in a fenced area occasionally. If they are taken to a large fenced area, they will only run for a short sprint (maybe 5 minutes, tops!), but their speed and grace while running is breathtaking. Greyhounds truly are the athletes of the dog world, but they are also frequently described as “the world’s fastest couch potato.”
The photo below is of Quizi enjoying a quick sprint at the park. Greyhounds’ sheer speed and athletic ability is amazing, especially when you consider that five minutes later, they will be curled up beside you on the sofa or their dog bed, happily snoozing.
DO GREYHOUNDS REQUIRE A FENCED YARD? Not necessarily. However, some dogs and situations may require a fenced yard. If you are willing to leash-walk your greyhound regularly, he or she will do fine in a house, condominium, apartment, mobile home, or even in an RV. Please keep in mind that greyhounds are “sight” hounds, meaning that they hunt by sight rather than by scent. Like all sight hounds, greyhounds can see well for long distances, even up to one-quarter mile. They might take off to investigate an object in the distance. For this reason, greyhounds must always be on a leash unless they are in a totally fenced area. (We do not recommend that you use a retractable leash, which can be extremely dangerous for you and your dog.) Greyhounds walk so well on a leash that they are a joy to take with you on your exercise walks around the neighborhood.
DO I NEED A LARGE HOUSE FOR A GREYHOUND? You do not need a large house for a greyhound. Your greyhound will want to be wherever you are, so you only need enough space for their dog bed so they can lie down beside you. In fact, greyhounds have been named as one of the top five breeds for apartment living. We know adopters who travel around the country with their greyhounds in their motor homes.
ARE GREYHOUNDS GOOD WITH CATS AND SMALL DOGS? Although greyhounds have been trained to chase an artificial lure, this does not necessarily mean they will chase cats or small animals. Most greyhounds can live harmoniously with cats and small dogs, and sometimes even with rabbits! Racing greyhounds have never actually seen a live rabbit, and most likely have never seen a cat or a small dog at the greyhound farm or racing kennel. They do not typically experience cats, small dogs, or other small animals until we place them in foster homes. We test all of our greyhounds with cats and small dogs in a controlled environment prior to placing them for adoption. Many of our greyhounds will live in foster homes with cats and/or small dogs prior to coming to you for adoption. We will also test the greyhound you choose with your other pets during the home visit prior to adoption. About 20% of greyhounds will show a chase tendency. That means that they have an inherited trait of chasing small animals. We will place those greyhounds in homes without cats or small animals. Keep in mind however, that you cannot allow your cats, very small dogs, and greyhounds to run in the yard together, even if they are best buddies in the house.
The photos below show how well most greyhounds will adapt to homes with cats or small dogs—even bunnies.
ARE GREYHOUNDS SUITABLE PETS FOR CHILDREN? Because they are non-aggressive, gentle and tolerant, greyhounds normally make excellent pets for homes with well-mannered children. Please keep in mind that greyhounds have not been raised with children like a typical puppy, so they may not be a good fit for a family with toddlers that would not know not to fall on the family dog or pull its ears and tail. As with any pet, children should be taught to handle and pet the family greyhound gently and to respect the greyhound’s space while it is sleeping or eating. At the track, many greyhound trainers are women, and they often bring their children to the kennels. Thus, many of the greyhounds available for adoption have been around children of all ages. If you have children and are considering adopting a greyhound, please see our section on “Children And Greyhounds” on this website.
There are many success stories of children and their greyhound buddies. Here are some photos:
WHAT IS THE LIFE EXPECTANCY OF A GREYHOUND? With proper care, greyhounds usually live to the age of 12 years or longer. Greyhounds are normally a healthy breed of dog. Since they have been bred for hundreds of years to be sound and fast, they are free of many of the other congenital ailments of other breeds, such as hip dysplasia. They rarely have skin or eye problems. Like all large-boned dogs, greyhounds may be prone to osteosarcoma (bone cancer) as they get older.
The photos below are of Kay (Y Two Kay), adopted at the age of 9 years. Kay raced in almost 300 races, and after that she went back to the breeding farm and had two litters of pups before she was adopted. Kay lived to be almost 14 years old and was a wonderful house pet.
WHAT IS THE TEMPERAMENT OF A GREYHOUND? Greyhounds are one of the gentlest and most affectionate of all dogs. They have become legendary for their gentle, quiet, docile nature. Most people that own greyhounds rave about them and usually adopt more than one! Greyhounds love other greyhounds, so you often see them in pairs.
The photo below is of littermates Stretch and Isis who were adopted into a loving home together. It doesn’t get much better than that!
INTERESTING INFORMATION ABOUT GREYHOUNDS
A greyhound is a sight hound related to Afghan Hounds, Salukis, and other sight hound, which are breeds of dogs who hunt by sight rather than by scent as do most dogs. They are one of the oldest, if not the oldest, of all dog breeds. There are drawings of greyhound-type dogs on caves in ancient Egypt dating back some 8,000 years. Greyhounds are the only breed of dog mentioned by name in the Bible.
As hunters, greyhounds work cooperatively with other hounds. They have exceptionally keen eyesight as well as keen hearing and sense of smell. Retired racing greyhounds have been trained to chase mechanical lures. They are not vicious predators, but chase small moving objects by nature and instinct. It is a greyhound’s nature to run. They can exceed speeds of 40 MPH for short distances and are the second fastest of all land animals (second only to the cheetah). Many greyhounds love to run for fun; others are simply not interested after they retire. We often say that greyhounds were bred to run, but born to love.
Because greyhound puppies are valuable as potential racing dogs, puppies are seldom available for adoption. Most greyhounds that come into our adoption program are between two and five years old, which is the age at which a greyhound will normally “retire” from racing. A greyhound may be too slow to qualify to race, or may have no interest in chasing the artificial lure. Those greyhounds normally come to us for adoption at the age of 18-22 months. We also take in older greyhounds that have been used for breeding or that have been returned to us because their owners could no longer keep them.
During their early training at the greyhound farm and race track, greyhounds are handled a great deal by the trainers, dog walkers, and others. They are used to being with people and learn to love them. Most greyhounds are quite social, and love all the attention they can get.
Greyhounds are quizzical, quiet, calm, funny, and sometimes shy until they get to know you, very sensitive, and very gentle. They have superior intelligence and can exhibit a quiet independence. Greyhounds in general are not abused or mistreated. Retired racers can sometimes have scars, but this is not in any way from abuse, but because they have very thin skin with no fat layer for protection. Like other dogs, they can sometimes play quite roughly with each other as puppies, and cuts and scrapes will occur. Because of their thin skin, greyhounds turned out together at the track will be wearing turn-out muzzles. Greyhounds also wear lightweight muzzles during the race. This does not mean that they are vicious. It is simply to protect the greyhounds.
Because of their early training, greyhounds have never been without the company of other greyhounds. They have never had the opportunity to really be a puppy and will sometimes exhibit puppy behavior such as chewing. This is especially true of the young hounds that come into our adoption program, such as the two-year olds. This is normally short-lived, but chances are good that if you adopt a very young greyhound, you will see some puppy behavior. You will need to provide your greyhound with stuffy toys, tennis balls, and chew bones or Nyla bones. It is also a good idea to keep such things as shoes, cell phones, and TV remotes out of your greyhound’s reach. Especially when they first come into foster care, some greyhounds will also be “kleptos.” They will often steal objects from around the house and take them to their bed or kennel for saf keeping.
Greyhounds do not know how to defend themselves except by flight. They often “freeze” if attacked. Greyhounds do not typically bite, but sometimes will grin. We refer to a greyhound that grins as a “smiler.” It is just a cute thing that some hounds do. They are not baring their teeth at you—they are happy and smiling! Other greyhounds will chatter their teeth when they are excited. Greyhounds show affection with their whole bodies and will often lean against you. They love to touch you and want to be near you.
By nature, greyhounds are quiet and relaxed and are not barkers. They will bark sometimes if excited (when you first come home), or if they are trying to tell you something (I need to go out), or if they hear a knock on the door or a strange noise outside the house.
Greyhounds have a very short hair coat and no undercoat. This means that they do not have any doggie odor like many other breeds. They are easy to care for and need minimal grooming. Because they have very little body fat and a short coat, greyhounds are sensitive to heat and cold. If it is cold enough for you to wear a sweater, they will need one too. Greyhounds can overheat quickly in hot weather and you will need to be careful not to exercise them in the heat of the day. At the race track, the greyhounds are cooled off with water immediately after they race. Many greyhounds enjoy a kiddie wading pool or love to splash in the water at the beach. We actually named one of our greyhounds “Splash” because he loved the water so much.
The photos below are of several greyhounds enjoying our BAGA outing to Love My Dog Water Park in St. Petersburg. This is a unique idea—a water park made especially for dogs. They love it!
Greyhounds will need a lightweight coat (for Florida) on cold winter mornings or evenings. Since greyhounds are long and deep-chested, they will need coats made especially for them. When you adopt your greyhound, you may want to purchase a coat from us, or you can find a great variety of greyhound coats online. Some greyhounds will be cold on winter nights, even in the house if you keep your house cool. Pajamas made especially for greyhounds are a perfect solution.
Greyhound safe collars: Because their heads and necks are virtually the same size, greyhounds can back out of a regular buckle collar. The solution is a “martingale” or limited slip collar. You will receive one when you adopt your greyhound. You can find all sorts of “fancy” martingale collars at our picnics, or there is a wide variety available on-line. Note the extra loop on the martingale collar shown below.
Racing greyhounds in North America are registered with the National Greyhound Association (NGA), which is headquartered in Abilene, KS. When you adopt your greyhound, we will provide information on how you can transfer your greyhound’s official registration into your name. Show greyhounds are registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC); however, they are relatively rare and there are so few of them that we almost never have AKC greyhounds come into our adoption program.
One of the first things you will notice about a greyhound is that they have tattoos in their ears. At the age of three months or a little earlier, the breeder of a litter of greyhound pups places tattoos in the ears of all the pups. This creates an easy and permanent ID for each potential racer. The right ear tells the month and year the greyhound was born, along with a letter, which indicates the order in which the greyhound was tattooed. For example, 92A would mean the pup was born in the ninth month (September) in the year 2012 and was the first pup in the litter that was tattooed. The left ear contains the litter registration number which was assigned by the National Greyhound Association. All pups in a litter will have the same litter number, and the same month and year of birth. Only the letter will be different. All greyhounds must be registered to race with the National Greyhound Association. It is important to keep a record of your greyhound’s ear tattoo numbers, which can positively identify your greyhound if it is ever lost.
Greyhounds are seldom available for adoption as puppies. Shown below is a photo of a litter of greyhound pups. These pups are very young and are shown in their whelping box. Notice the shredded paper, which is commonly used for bedding at the breeding farms and racing kennels. At this age, these pups do not even look like greyhounds. Soon, they will begin developing the long legs and nose that differentiate greyhounds from other breeds.
The photo on the upper right is Cookie as a three-month old pup. This photo was taken the day we picked her up at her breeding farm. The pup on the lower left is Flopsie. The photo on the lower right is Amber. Cookie, Flopsie, and Amber all had injuries as puppies or other medical reasons why they could not be trained for racing. We took them into our adoption program and found adoptive homes for them at an early age.
GREYHOUNDS COME IN MANY COLORS
There are 18 recognized coat colors for greyhounds, so you will see greyhounds in a variety of colors—black, white, brindle, fawn, red, or a combination of these colors. The most common color is brindle (tan or brown with black striping). The next most common color is black and the third most common color is red or fawn. Greyhounds also come in white and one of the above colors. This could be white and black, white and brindle, white and fawn, white and red, etc. Sometimes, a greyhound with a white background color will have small spots, sort of like freckles. In greyhounds, this is known as “ticking.” A rare color in greyhounds is gray. It is interesting that a gray colored greyhound is known as a blue.
Pictured below is “Miley,” a rare blue brindle. An exceptionally beautiful greyhound, Miley was adopted through BAGA and won the 2013 Subaru national pet photo contest.
Some other greyhound colors are shown below:
GREYHOUNDS ARE INDOOR DOGS: Greyhounds do not have an undercoat like most dogs, and have little body fat. For this reason, greyhounds MUST be indoor dogs. If you are looking for a dog that can be kept outside, a greyhound is definitely not the right breed for you. Greyhounds love their families and their homes and very much enjoy lounging around, or following you from room to room.
A great lounging photo is Maddie Roo, shown below left in a typical greyhound pose. (We refer to this as a “dead cockroach” position.) On the right is Koby enjoying a nap.
One of the reasons that greyhounds do so well when they are adopted is that they quickly settle into their new lives as pets. They take retirement quite seriously and easily adapt to their new families and homes. In the photos below, these greyhounds are enjoying life in their adoption homes.
Greyhounds love to snuggle up with you and will usually find the softest spot in the house for a nap.
Shown below are Dori (left) impersonating a greyhound couch potato. On the right are Ontime and Overtime (brothers) relaxing together on the sofa.
GREYHOUNDS ARE CLEAN AND EASY TO CARE FOR: Since greyhounds do not have an undercoat, they have no doggie odor, shed very lightly, and do not have seasonal shedding like other breeds. They are very easy to groom, and will need only occasional brushing and bathing. Since they do not have the dander associated with an undercoat, people who are allergic to other breeds can often live with greyhounds in their homes. We recommend that you trim their nails once per month, or have this done for a nominal cost at any groomer’s or at your vet’s office. A Dremel woodworking tool also works well to grind their nails to the proper length.
GREYHOUNDS ADAPT WELL TO LIFE IN A HOME
Greyhounds have been handled many times every day at their racing kennels, so they are used to human contact and interaction. They are normally easy to house train since they are already kennel trained, meaning that they are trained not to soil their kennels and wait until they are let outside to relieve themselves. Once they come to our adoption program, we continue this process and they quickly learn how to be house greyhounds.
In our adoption program, we foster the greyhounds in our homes prior to adoption. Since they have been raised in a kennel environment, greyhounds do not know about many things they will encounter in a home. While in foster care, our greyhounds learn about such things as walking on hardwood, laminate, or tile floors. They learn about mirrors, getting along with the foster family’s other pets, and in many cases, how to walk up and down stairs and not to fall into the swimming pool. They also learn to walk quietly by your side while on a leash, to ride in cars, vans, and SUVs, and not to bolt out the door. We begin training them the “stay”, “wait”, and “come” commands. Greyhounds from our prison training program will know many more commands when they come to you. This early training in our foster homes and our prison program makes the transition to your home easy for both you and your greyhound.
YOUR GREYHOUND’S FORMER LIFE
Most greyhounds begin their lives on a greyhound breeding farm. Greyhounds usually produce litters of 4-10 puppies. Once the greyhounds are weaned, they are separated into male pups and female pups and placed in separate fenced areas referred to as “runs”. They are allowed to run and play with each other and to grow. As they get older, they are placed in longer runs, and the pups in one run will often have impromptu races with the pups in the adjacent run. To the pups, this is fun, but it is also their first experience of competing with other greyhounds to see who is fastest. Even if they never officially race, all greyhounds enjoy a short, fast sprint. The photo below shows the kennel building and runs at a greyhound farm.
When the greyhounds are about one year old, they are brought into the kennel and their track training begins. They are first taught to follow a moving object that is moved along the ground, and then they are taught to chase an artificial lure, sometimes referred to as a “whirley gig”. Since greyhound racing in the United States is counter clockwise, they are taught to chase the lure counter clockwise. It is usually apparent by this time whether the greyhound will be a racer. They may have no interest in chasing the lure, or may be too slow to be competitive on the race track. These greyhounds will be released to adoption groups like ours, and they will be placed in homes as pets.
By the time the greyhound is 16-18 months old, he will move to the race track. Trainers at the track will usually care for 60 or more greyhounds in each kennel. Each pup is kept in its own kennel, and is turned out with the other greyhounds four or five times each day to exercise and relive themselves. Male greyhounds and female greyhounds have separate turn-out areas known as turn-out pens.
When turned out, the greyhounds wear turn-out muzzles which are for safety. Since a greyhound’s skin is so thin, what would be a small scratch for a dog with more hair and thicker skin can be a large gash on a greyhound. Once they come back into their kennel, the muzzles are removed and the greyhounds relax until their next turn out time or time for dinner.
The photo below shows some greyhounds in a turn-out pen like the ones at most racetracks.
At the race tracks, the greyhounds stay in air-conditioned buildings, with the kennels stacked two high. Usually the male greyhounds are in the bottom kennels since they are larger, and the female greyhounds are in the upper kennels. The kennels are bedded with carpets and/or shredded paper. While at the track, the greyhounds are not neutered or spayed. A few of the outstanding racers will be chosen to go back to the breeding farms. A racing greyhound normally races twice a week. They may also “sprint” with another greyhound to keep them in good physical condition between races. The racing greyhounds are treated like the professional athletes they are. They receive whirlpool baths and massages and are cooled off with water immediately after each race.
At the track, the greyhounds are fed once per day with a high-protein diet consisting or raw meat, kibble, vegetables, and supplements. Once the greyhounds retire from racing, they no longer need the high protein food required for the racers. We transition the greyhounds to a good quality dry dog food while they are in our foster homes. We recommend feeding twice per day. Most greyhounds will need 3 ½ – 4 1/2 cups per day.
In Florida, there are currently 13 greyhound tracks. Greyhounds often move from one track to another. The racing season may be over at one track and the racing kennels move to another track for the start of that track’s racing season. Greyhounds that are not fast enough to be competitive on one track may be moved to another track where they meet lesser competition. You will notice that most greyhounds love to ride in cars and SUV’s. This is because they are used to riding in the kennel trucks and dog haulers from one track to another. Below is a photo of a large dog hauler of the type that transports greyhounds from track to track.
Shown below is BAGA’s kennel truck, which we use to move greyhounds that we are getting ready for adoption. It is air-conditioned and has space for six greyhounds. Our kennel truck was donated to us by a greyhound kennel owner who sent many of her retired racing greyhounds to us for adoption.
Because the greyhounds are used to traveling from one track to another, greyhounds adapt easily to traveling with us, and make wonderful traveling companions. Usually, greyhounds ride well on motor trips right from the start. They will normally look around at the sights for a few minutes then settle down for a nap.
Below is a photo of two greyhounds, Bella and Steppin, who are traveling together. The photo on the right shows that greyhounds will ride anywhere, even in the back of a Volkswagen!
Once a greyhound is home with you, he or she will adapt readily and enjoy being a part of the family. If you have thought about adopting a greyhound but are still not quite sure, we recommend that you come out to our events and meet some of our adoptable greyhounds. They are truly fantastic family companions.
OUR LIFETIME COMMITMENT TO YOUR GREYHOUND
At Bay Area Greyhound Adoptions, we have a lifetime commitment to each greyhound we place in a home. We understand that family circumstances change, and there are times when, through no fault of your own, you may have to give up your pets. It is also possible that the greyhound you choose may not be quite the right fit for your home. We want to help you and your greyhound through these difficult times. Our commitment to our greyhounds is for life. That means that we will always take your greyhound back into our adoption program in the event that you are no longer able to care for your hound. This is also our commitment to you. We want you to know that your greyhound will be loved and cared for by another family in the event that you can no longer care for him or her.
FOR MORE INFORMATION. . .
For information about the differences in anatomy and blood chemistry between greyhounds and other breeds, click here.
For complete information on greyhounds as pets, we recommend the following publication: “Adopting the Racing Greyhound” by Cynthia Branigan. This book is available from many local book stores or from Amazon.com.