The Joys of Owning a Retired Greyhound - Part One
Another day, another post featuring Thunder Blackie…
When I launched Pooches Unleashed, I always said that I would try to raise the awareness of what wonderful pets ex-racing greyhounds make as I have to admit, it’s not something I would have considered had it not have fallen in my lap.
I support all routes of bringing a dog in to your life, be that a puppy from a breeder or a rescue dog. Everybody has different requirements for their new pet and researching different breeds/rescue dogs available etc. is important.
I find that there are a lot of misconceptions around Greyhounds that unless you know a Greyhound, are difficult to shift. Hopefully I’ll dispel some regular ones in this post – including ones I thought before Thunder Blackie joined me!
Remember, every dog is different and an individual, so there will be exceptions, as with every breed!
MYTH – They need a lot of exercise or they’ll be bouncing off the walls!
FACT - They’ll probably tire before you do. They’re unlikely to be destructive due to excess energy, as, well, they don’t have the biggest energy tank.
People often think that Greyhounds require a lot of exercise. They are fast (and can reach speeds of over 40MPH!) but they’re also sprinters. They tend to only race once a week, and whilst they will most likely enjoy paddock time on a daily basis with their trainer (although every trainer is different), they are not bothered about a lot of exercise. It turns out that napping is a Greyhounds favourite pastime…
Most greyhounds are happy with 40-60 minutes of exercise a day – even if this is broken in to a couple of 20 minute walks a day. Thunder Blackie does enjoy joining me on a long walk but he more than makes up for it with sleep time afterwards. They ARE adaptable, and whilst they’re probably not going to be the best long distance running partner (although Blackie will roll his eyes at my short distance attempts), they will enjoy any length walk you take them on as long as they are with YOU.
MYTH – That dog is wearing a muzzle, it must be dangerous OR Greyhounds must wear a muzzle at all times.
FACT – Some greyhounds wear muzzles when out and about until their new owner gets to know them. Simply because they’re used to them and associate them with pleasurable walks and until the new owners is sure of their prey instinct.
When I first got Thunder Blackie, I popped his muzzle on whenever we went on walks or visited new places. My reasoning was that he was used to it and associated it with going out already, and it offered me reassurance as everything we encountered was new to him – including different breeds of dogs, cats etc. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure how he would react and it was better to be safe than sorry considering he was happy to wear it.
We never had a problem with Blackie showing any aggression, and I would still put his muzzle on if he was off lead in a public area, or when visiting my mum’s house where the cat is loose.
What surprised me when I took him out in his muzzle was the way people automatically assumed he was a dangerous dog and gave him a very wide berth whilst shooting him glares. It is certainly a good idea to give a muzzled dog space, and actually worked in our favour whilst building Blackie’s confidence, but muzzled dogs may be muzzled for other reasons other than aggression. A lot of children asked why he was muzzled which was a great chance to explain he was an ex-racer – he got a lot of new friends this way once they realised he was friendly!
FACT – Greyhounds are naturally gentle and loving
Getting an ex-racing greyhound is similar to a puppy in many ways, something that struck me when Thunder Blackie joined me. They’ve most likely never lived in a house or with their humans before, so everything is new to them and they can be nervous to start with. One thing that is apparent when you meet greyhounds, be that at the track or when they first come home, is that they have a very gentle nature and love very easily.
To begin with, Blackie was nervous of everything – he’s still not a fan of the Roomba. From day one, he has dealt with his nervousness by leaning on me for confidence. They adore their owners so quickly, just as their owners fall for them!
Greyhounds tend to be very affectionate – it seems to be a breed trait that they love to have head and back rubs! In Blackie’s case, I have no choice but to give him his ear/head rubs when he wants them as he just rubs himself on me even if I’m busy!
Greyhounds are also fairly quiet dogs, they don’t demand a lot of their owner (with the exception of food…) and are just grateful to have a warm bed and a cuddle every so often.
One thing to note is that Greyhounds can be sensitive souls and so positive training is key with them.
MYTH – Greyhounds are too lively and big to have around children
FACT – Greyhounds are just like any other breed
Whilst the same precautions of children around dogs apply (not leaving them alone etc.), greyhounds do make great family pets due to their affectionate, gentle nature. They love their families, children included, and due to their quiet natures are unlikely to knock a child over or play rough with them.
Due to their quiet, gentle nature, it’s important that children are taught to give the dog their own space and not try to rough play.
To begin with, a new ex-racing greyhound may never have been around children, so patience, gentle reassurance and cuddles will get them to quickly fall in love!
CATS AND SMALL ANIMALS
MYTH – All greyhounds will kill cats and small animals
FACT – Whilst many greyhounds live with cats/small animals quite happily, SOME greyhounds may always have a strong prey drive.
The beauty of rehoming through the Retired Greyhound Trust is that they will recommend dogs that will fit your needs. If you tell them that you have cats, they may have cat-tested, but not cat-trained, dogs. You will need to be involved in the training of your dog to get it to accept your cat as a member of the family.
Some dogs may never be suitable to live with cats and small animals, due to a strong prey instinct. Luckily, many greyhounds do adapt very quickly and can live happily alongside them.
In my experience with Blackie, he was fascinated with the family cat and captivated by him. We followed the advice given by RGT, and he is pretty much there with being fully safe with the cat, although I would not fully trust him just yet. He hasn’t dared go near the cat since he scratched Blackie’s nose…
He has travelled in the car with chickens no problem, and shows no interest in the chickens in the garden, although I wouldn’t have them together loose, and probably never will. It’s not worth the risk.
In summary, it is possible for many greyhounds to co-exist peacefully with cats and small animals.
MYTH – Greyhounds are big dogs and need a lot of space and a big garden
FACT – It’s surprising how small Greyhounds can make themselves…
Whilst it is true that Greyhounds are big dogs, they are mostly all legs and so really don’t seem that big at all once you get them in to a house.
As a greyhounds favourite thing to do is sleep, they really do not require much space at all. A comfy bed is at the top of their list.
In regards to garden size, whilst a big garden is great to play in, it is not essential in rehoming a greyhound. If you do have a small garden, I would recommend having somewhere safe and secure that you can take them on a walk, and even better if you have somewhere safe for off-lead time. The main thing is making sure that your garden has secure fencing – whilst not a regular thing, it has been known for greyhounds to clear a fence when they want to.
Many greyhounds (unfortunately Blackie included) refuse to poo in their garden, and so you end up taking them out for a street/park walk at ridiculous times anyway…
So that's some of the most regular concerns people have when faced with the option of rehoming a retired greyhound covered. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me for my experiences, or you can go direct to the Retired Greyhound Trust as they are obviously A LOT more experienced with this than I am.
My next post will cover my personal experience of an ex-racer joining the family.