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Greyhound Adoption

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Greyhound adoption or Greyhound rescue programs focus on helping Greyhounds move from racing—where they live in kennels on the track—to homes.


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 Kingdom, Australia, and the United States. In other places in Europe, the groups often deal with dogs from a variety of sources; for example, in Spain, ex-hunting 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

Medical care

Typically when a group or individual picks up a Greyhound from the racetrack they need a significant amount of basic medical care:

  • Dental cleaning
  • Treatment for worms or other parasites
  • Spaying and neutering
  • Vaccinations such as rabies
  • A microchip implant to provide a record of ownership and identification
  • Ear cleaning to remove dirt from the tracks
  • Clipping nails, flea bath
  • Treatment of existing injuries, as appropriate

Living conditions

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.

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 punished.

Many owners also find that their greyhounds enjoy resting on beds and sofas.

See also

External links

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