Greyhound adoption or Greyhound rescue programs
focus on helping
racing—where they live in
kennels on the
Many Greyhounds are adopted as
pets after they
retire from racing. A few pups are adopted directly into homes, most often due
to injury at a young age. Others are
euthanized due to injury or age that causes them to be no longer profitable
to their owners (often at 3 or 4 years old). A Greyhound can often live over 10
years after retirement if given proper medical care; there have been cases of
Greyhounds living to be over 18 years old.
Currently, most Greyhound adoption programs are based in the
United States. In other places in
groups often deal with dogs from a variety of sources; for example, in
dogs are often in need of rescuing along with Greyhounds.
Origins of the Greyhound adoption movement
The Greyhound adoption movement grew out of a concern by a few individuals
about the treatment of the dogs while racing. All early adoption groups opposed
racing. David Wolf, the founder of the
National Greyhound adoption program (NGAP), is often credited with starting
the movement. Wolf has become a very controversial figure in the greyhound
adoption community, and is one of the most outspoken critics of the greyhound
racing industry. Over time as the number of adoption groups has grown, a deep
ideological division regarding
Greyhound racing has developed. The older groups are generally opposed to
any form of Greyhound racing for any purpose other than the enjoyment of the
dog. The tracks and owners have started many of the more recently formed groups;
these groups (and some others) have started to accept money from the tracks and
tend not to advocate against greyhound racing.
When Greyhound adoption first started in the United States, many people
associated with racing argued that Greyhounds did not make suitable pets.
However, it has become clear that Greyhounds make excellent companions.
Care by adoption groups
Typically when a group or individual picks up a Greyhound from the racetrack
they need a significant amount of basic medical care:
- Treatment for
worms or other
Spaying and neutering
Vaccinations such as rabies
microchip implant to provide a record of ownership and identification
- Ear cleaning to remove dirt from the tracks
- Clipping nails,
- Treatment of existing injuries, as appropriate
Greyhounds living with adoption groups generally receive one of two types of
care: kennels or foster homes. Several adoption groups use kennels, which are
similar to those used by the tracks in the United States. These kennels
generally allow larger spaces for each dog, and the dogs are permitted much more
time in turn-out pens (outdoor runs for the dogs to play in). Other groups feel
that the best way to prepare the dogs for living in homes is to provide them
with a home to live in. These groups place the dog in a volunteer foster home.
The adoption group generally pays for the
veterinarian bills and food for the dogs in their care, while allowing the
foster "parents" to train the dog and provide its day-to-day needs.
There is some debate within the adoption community about which technique is
better. The trade off is essentially quality of living situation vs. number of
animals helped. It is generally accepted that by having kennels, the group can
handle a larger number of dogs more efficiently, while groups that have a foster
program can provide a better living situation for the dog more quickly.
Behavior of adopted greyhounds
Greyhounds that have been bred for performance on the track have been
maintained under unique circumstances. They are bred and raised from puppies for
Racing greyhounds are often caged as much as 22 hours out of the day, and
"turned out" for 1/2 hour or so at a time. During this time, they are usually
muzzled to reduce the chances of injury should there be any aggressive
behavior. While not violent, dogs that are successful at racing tend to be
highly competitive, and may challenge other dogs at any time. However, some
animals may be very shy and skittish. Additionally any dog that is part of a
large pack may become more aggressive then it would be individually.
As a result of these conditions, dogs that come off the track are very
different from ordinary dogs. Although usually well-socialized with other
greyhounds, they may not understand other dogs. As the
lure used to train
greyhounds for racing resembles a
rabbit, it is
not unknown for greyhounds to mistake smaller dogs for a lure, causing them to
set chase. As a result, muzzling of greyhounds is considered a courtesy when
there is the possibility of meeting other dogs. Further, greyhounds have very
thin skin, and may be easily harmed by biting or scratching from other
greyhounds or (more commonly) other dogs. As a result, interaction with other
dogs should be performed with great care. Similarly, small animals including
cats may also be
the subject of aggression by some greyhounds. Prior to adoption, agencies
generally screen greyhounds for this behavior before being "homed."
The combination of training and being caged (or "crated") much of their lives
alters the behavior of greyhounds in that many do not know how to play. Although
virtually all greyhounds show interest in squeaky toys (particularly furry ones)
as a function of their lure training, only a select few will chase balls with
any great interest. Most will not immediately know how to play with other dogs.
Greyhounds retain a strong chase instinct, and will act upon any sort of
motion--cats, rabbits, a leaf blowing across the street, even shadows at
night--with great interest, possibly for several weeks or months after leaving
the track. The instinct is rarely lost entirely, and as a result, a greyhound
may bolt with no warning. With an animal that can hit 45 miles an hour bolting
can be a large problem as greyhounds are sight hounds, and often will not be
able to find the way home even if it tries.
As greyhounds are trained to spring from an enclosed box at the start of a
race, the opening of a door or gate is an invitation to bolt. Similarly, not
restraining a greyhound while walking may cause the leash to be pulled from the
owner's hand at the appearance of a cat or other small animal. The greyhound can
achieve a velocity of 30 miles an hour in three strides, and with a weight
usually around 60-85 pounds, it may be difficult to adequately restrain a
determined dog that decides to bolt.
At home, greyhounds may consider the house to be an extension of their crate,
which they will usually not voluntarily urinate or defecate in. As a result,
housebreaking may be surprisingly easy. As with all breeds, there are
exceptions, and some greyhounds may be particularly difficult to housebreak.
This condition may be due to an
urinary tract infection, a behavioral disorder, or anxiety on the part of
the animal. With work, most greyhounds can be conditioned to be housebroken.
Like any dog greyhounds vary widely in their temperament, behavior, levels of
activity, and in virtually all other aspects of their personality. Some retired
racers seem to "collect" items, such as dolls, books, clothes, or whatever they
find around the house, and may hoard them in unlikely places. Racers may also
have certain behaviors, such as fearing ceiling fans, that often wear off after
a few weeks or months. Greyhounds will not immediately understand windows and
glass doors, and may attempt to run through them. Marking windows (usually with
opaque tape) at an appropriate height will help prevent injury.
Retired greyhounds are very sensitive animals, and should never be physically
Many owners also find that their greyhounds enjoy resting on beds and sofas.
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