History of Greyhounds
The Greyhound is one of the oldest dog breeds and appears in art and literature throughout history. It is the only breed mentioned by name in the Bible.
In ancient Egypt, Greyhounds were mummified and buried along with their owners, and tombs were often decorated with Greyhound figures. Alexander the Great had a Greyhound, and the only one to recognize Odysseus (Homer's Odyssey) upon his return was his Greyhound, Argus.
Greyhounds are also mentioned in Chaucer and Shakespeare, and have long been associated with royalty. They were initially bred to be hunting companions exclusively for noblemen, and from the 11th to the 14th century English law actually prohibited a "mean person" from keeping a Greyhound.
Greyhounds were introduced in America in the 1800s to help farmers control jackrabbit populations; formal Greyhound racing developed from neighborhood competitions. In the early races the dogs sported monkey "jockeys", but these were quickly discontinued.
Today's Greyhounds are recognized by all major kennel clubs around the world. Racing Greyhounds are registered by the National Greyhound Association and show Greyhounds by the American Kennel Club.
NGA Greyhounds average between 22 and 30 inches in height at the shoulder and weigh 55 - 80 pounds, with females being smaller than males. Both males and females race successfully.
The American Greyhound Track Operators recognize 18 coat colors and/or patterns; the most common is brindle, and the least common is grey (called "blue").
The Greyhounds placed by Lake Erie Greyhound Rescue, Inc. (LEGR) are retired, trained athletes, usually between the ages of two and five (life expectancy is 12 - 14 years). We generally do not have Greyhound puppies or dogs that have never been trained for racing.
Greyhounds are usually bred by professional breeders who look for speed, endurance and temperament. Good breeders pay close attention to physical soundness and emotional disposition of the puppies; as a result, hereditary physical and temperament problems have been avoided in Greyhounds.
Most dogs are bred on "farms" located throughout the country. During the first year of their lives, Greyhound puppies live with their littermates and are handled by the breeders and staff employed by the farms, but they are not exposed to other breeds of dog. Consequently, Greyhounds are socialized to people and to other Greyhounds and strangers to other dog breeds.
Sometime between four and eighteen months, the dogs are usually placed in individual crates in the kennel, and this is where they spend most of their time between exercise periods and training. The crate becomes the dog's private space where it cannot be bothered by other dogs.
Because they are accustomed to crates and because Greyhounds, like other dogs, normally don't "potty" in their crates (which they see as their dens), they have already taken the first steps toward housebreaking when they retire from racing.
Temperament and Training
Greyhounds which are in training or actively racing are generally not treated cruelly, although this is not always the case, and they do sometimes have to "run for their lives".
Their handling in training and on the track may be somewhat businesslike, and they usually do not get the amount of attention or affection that companion dogs receive. In spite of this, they love people and are quite sociable.
Greyhounds are often curious, sometimes shy, usually very sensitive and surprisingly gentle. If bothered by a persistent child, their tendency is to walk away rather than to snap (of course, small children should never be left alone with any dog).
They are intelligent and normally eager to please, but during obedience training they often exhibit the independence which makes them good hunters. A retired racer is generally not a dog whose spirit has been broken by its training or racing experience.
Racing Greyhounds go to work at a young age and therefore many retired racers, especially those under three years of age, often take the opportunity to revert to puppyhood after they are adopted. They act out puppy behavior such as chewing and general playfulness but typically quickly outgrow this phase.
Greyhounds can and should be trained to standard obedience commands, and contrary to a widespread misunderstanding, they can be taught to sit, and it does not hurt them! They do not know how to climb stairs and have to be introduced to things such as mirrors and sliding glass doors.
Like all other dogs, Greyhounds are pack animals, which means that they are social creatures living in a clearly defined social hierarchy. This social structure is particularly important for Greyhounds because they have been in the company of large numbers of other dogs since birth.
All dogs need to know who the "alpha" figure or pack leader is so that they will know how to behave. In a wolf pack, the "alpha" wolf sets the rules, enforces discipline and is responsible for the safety of the pack. There is always competition and testing in a pack for the role of leader, but the survival of the pack is ensured by the pack leader, and/or failure to fill that role.
If you are new to dog ownership, we recommend that you buy the book Good Owners, Great Dogs by Brian Kilcommons. Mr. Kilcommons' approach combines dog obedience training with behaviorism and is informative and easily readable for the novice and expert alike.
Other good resources for training are How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks, by Ian Dunbar, and Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies, by Lee Livingood. The Culture Clash: A Revolutionary New Way to Understanding the Relationship Between Humans and Domestic Dogs, by Jean Donaldson, is a good read for those interested in how dogs learn.
Frequently Asked Questions about Greyhounds
Are Greyhounds good with other dogs and cats?
Although they do not know other dog breeds, it does not take them long to learn that these too are dogs, and they normally get along fine with them. Greyhounds should be carefully introduced to cats and very small dogs, as at first glance they look very similar to the lure they were trained to chase.
There are ex-racing Greyhounds that live with birds, cats, rabbits, ferrets...it simply depends on the dog. It has been estimated that 70% of retired racers have no interest in chasing cats, 20% can be trained to live safely with cats, and 10% should not live in a home with cats.
However, it's important to remember that even if you have trained your Greyhound not to chase the family cat indoors, it may still chase the neighbor's cat, or even your cat outdoors. LEGR prefers to place dogs that fall into the 70% category in homes with cats.
Why do Greyhounds need a fenced yard?
Greyhounds are basically like all other dogs, but because of their training and racing career, they have some unique characteristics. They are sighthounds (also called gazehounds), meaning that they hunt by sight rather than smell.
As hunters, they work cooperatively with other hounds and develop strategies of pursuit spontaneously during the chase. This natural instinct is reinforced in Greyhounds by training to chase lures (usually mechanical but sometimes live). Greyhounds are not vicious predators, but they do chase things that move by nature.
They are sprinters and can run up to 45 miles per hour for very short periods (the average speed on a dog track is generally in the 30's). Some retired racers love to run; others take retirement very seriously and move as little as possible.
Likewise, some dogs have a strong prey drive and chase squirrels and other small animals at every opportunity, where others would not give a cat a second glance. Even those dogs with a fairly healthy prey drive can be taught not to chase the family cat or Chihuahua.
However, it is important to know that a dog responding to the ancient call to chase will probably be oblivious to its owner's calls to come. This is why a Greyhound can never be allowed to run loose except in a securely fenced area. Even Greyhounds which have been through obedience training should never be trusted off leash in an unfenced area.
Potential adopters who do not have fenced yards should be prepared to take their Greyhound for a minimum of four on-leash potty walks and at least one longer walk (for exercise) daily, and will need to find a safely fenced area where the dog can run off-leash about once a week )or more or less, depending on the individual dog).
Do Greyhounds shed?
All dogs shed, and the amount that Greyhounds shed seems to vary from dog to dog. Some Greyhounds shed like any other short-haired breed, others hardly at all.
Some people think that lighter-colored Greyhounds shed more than dark ones do. However, even a Greyhound that sheds comparatively heavily would shed much less than a Dalmatian or German Shepherd Dog.
Are Greyhounds good with children?
Many books on dog breeds describe the Greyhound as being too "high-strung" for children, which is entirely false. Most Greyhounds have a very quiet, calm disposition and are good with well-mannered children.
However, any dog of any breed that has not been raised around children must be watched carefully, and all interaction between dogs and children, no matter how trustworthy the dog or the children, should be supervised by adults.
Most Greyhounds have never seen children before leaving the track, and because very young children can behave unpredictably and in ways that are frightening or threatening to dogs, we generally do not recommend placing Greyhounds in homes with children under the age of 6. Again, exceptions may be made depending on individual circumstances, such as prior experience with dogs.
Do Greyhounds need a lot of exercise?
Greyhounds are the fastest breed of dog for short distances, but they are sprinters and don't have a lot of endurance. Therefore, they require less exercise than many breeds, and much less than breeds such as the Dalmatian or the Labrador Retriever.
If your yard is large, a Greyhound could get all the exercise it needs there. Walks are important for socialization purposes, however, and most Greyhounds enjoy getting out into different surroundings. If you have a smaller yard, two or three long walks and an occasional run in a fenced neighborhood ball field will keep most Greyhounds happy.
Are Greyhounds good watchdogs?
Probably because of their laid-back, non-aggressive nature, Greyhounds do not make particularly good watchdogs. In fact, many owners have never heard their Greyhounds bark! Most Greyhounds love visitors and would not distinguish between those who are invited and those who are uninvited and unwelcome.
If they aren't aggressive, why are Greyhounds muzzled when they race?
Greyhounds are typically very excited immediately before and after and during a race, and may nip at other dogs running near them. Muzzles are also used to help determine the winner in a photo-finish race. Owners who get together to run their retired racers in fenced areas often muzzle their dogs to prevent excitement-induced bites, especially if the dogs don't know each other.
All the retired racers I've seen look too skinny. Shouldn't they gain more weight after they retire?
Generally, they should gain about three to five pounds after they retire, depending on the dog's build and racing weight. Greyhounds should always look lean; two or three ribs and vertebrae should be visible. Unlike other dog breeds, a Greyhound with even a thin layer of fat covering its ribs is overweight.
Compiled by Lake Erie Greyhound Rescue, Inc.
LAKE ERIE GREYHOUND RESCUE, INC. is a nonprofit Ohio corporation dedicated to promoting and facilitating adoption of Greyhounds when their racing careers end, and to educating the public about Greyhounds and what wonderful companions they are.
LEGR is tax-exempt under Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code and therefore all donations to LEGR are tax-deductible. Volunteers are welcome, particularly in the areas of fund-raising and publicity, and foster homes are especially needed.
Visit our web site at http://greyhound.marinar.com
If you live outside of Ohio, please visit http://www.adopt-a-greyhound.org for a geographical list of adoption groups.
Top of Page
Back to Dog and other Pet Resources