Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Save a Life: Adopt a Retired Racing Greyhound

By Ruthie Bently

An associate of mine in Colorado mentioned recently that two of the dog tracks in the state had gone out of business. He was concerned about where the greyhound dogs would be going. Now there are organizations that will try to get the racers from the track so they can help the dogs live out their lives in a good home. I have had personal experience with retired racing Greyhounds, and they are wonderful dogs. However, as retired racers they do need some special consideration due to their unique characteristics.

While all dogs are pack animals, track Greyhounds are used to being with large groups of dogs since birth. It is very important to let them know early on that you are the alpha dog, as they will take over if you let them. It is not uncommon for a Greyhound to follow you, the pack leader, from room to room.

A Greyhound is related to Salukis, Afghans and other sight hounds, and is descended from southern wolf strains. They have an independent nature due to originally being raised to hunt with other hounds and develop pursuit strategies spontaneously while chasing prey. Their eyesight and senses of smell and hearing, are all very keen. They are not predators, though they have been trained to chase lures, which is in their nature.

It has been reported that some retired Greyhounds no longer wish to race. Don’t let that fool you and trust them off leash; it is a Greyhound’s natural instinct to run. They can sprint for short periods of time at a speed of 45 miles an hour. No matter how well-behaved you may think the dog is, if a Greyhound sees something to chase, nothing will bring them back to you if they are off leash. It can even be a challenge when they are leashed, since they are so strong.

Because they have never known a breed other than Greyhounds, they may be shy, frightened or confused around other dogs, and they are usually not familiar with cats. Most have never been able to be carefree puppies. As such, you may find they have some behaviors that need to be acted out (like chewing), but they do outgrow them. They also do not know how to play games, climb stairs or sit, because they were never taught; they can learn, however.

Greyhounds are very smart dogs. Though sensitive, they can be independent, are sometimes shy, inquisitive and gentle. They love walking (always leashed!), are usually used to a leash, and can learn simple commands quickly. Since they are taught to race at a very young age, a class in obedience training is recommended. You may also have to reinforce their house training by walking them outside several times a day, until they understand that the house belongs to you so they don’t mark there. Though they may be several years old when you adopt them, there are things they didn’t have a chance to learn as puppies, so remember to be especially patient with them.

Greyhounds are great learners, and like cats they will rub up against you. They need to wear a coat or sweater when outside, because they are so lean they don’t have a layer of fat, and can be affected by rain or cold weather. They are used to being crated from a young age and you should continue the practice, since they see their crate as a safe haven. Depending on what they were being fed at the track, they may not be used to eating kibble and may need a period of adjustment. This deep-chested breed can be susceptible to bloat, so it’s best to feed them at least twice a day.

Since they will probably not be getting the same exercise at your house that they did at the track, watch the food and treats closely so you don’t overfeed them. A small dog treat like CANIDAE Snap-Bits™ has few calories and is a tasty addition to the biscuit jar. Due to their height they can knock things off tables with their tail and may want to counter surf. It’s also a good idea to put the garbage can out of reach, and put a gate up when they are in a room by themselves.

Greyhounds love to sleep with their owners if they are allowed. Just make sure there is enough room on the bed for both of you. I have known several Greyhound dogs, and they make wonderful companions. When you take the time to adopt a retired racing Greyhound, you have not only made a friend for life, you have saved a beautiful creature.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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